Erica Gragg, founder of the luxury wellness travel company, Escape to Shape, calls herself a “gypsetter.” Travel has been a passion of hers since she was young, and she has always loved to explore places before they become too popular, too mainstream, or too over-crowded.
She caught the travel bug when she first visited South Africa, Borneo, and Indonesia (Bali and Java) in her mid 20’s. At 31 she moved to Mexico and temporarily fulfilled her passion for travel by living abroad, until the yearning to experience more of the world and share it with others was too strong to ignore.
In 2008, with her partner Francesco Anchisi, Gragg founded Escape to Shape, a leader in authentic and memorable wellness experience-based holidays. Breaking the mold of a ‘yoga retreat’, Escape to Shape set the standard for luxury small-group wellness travel through its combination of physical activities (yoga, Pilates, barre, cardio, circuit training, hiking, biking, etc.), meditation, mindful eating, and exploration of the unique culture of each destination.
While the travel industry has shifted towards wellness vacations in the past few years, Escape to Shape remains a leader in wellness tourism because of its deeply immersive travel experiences that take guests beyond the guidebook in the most captivating locales. Each Escape is personally scouted, curated, and hosted by Gragg and Anchisi, so guests experience the best each country has to offer, as well as insider access to off-the-beaten path cultural gems, designers and artisans, chefs, and experiences.
While experiences are a natural part of travel, Gragg believes it’s important for people to ‘travel deeper.’ This could be establishing personal connections – whether with like-minded people or people different from those within the confines of one’s day-to-day life – or authentically witnessing a culture and being able to interact with it as well, to get in shape, or stay in shape, along the way – for one’s body, mind, and spirit.
“Travel can profoundly impact a person’s life, offering them the rare opportunity to disconnect from their day-to-day routine, shift perspective, connect to people they may have never met otherwise, and most importantly, reconnect to themselves in the process,” says Gragg. “It can make a person’s soul sing.”
Just imagine taking African dance lessons in Cape Town, South Africa; trekking horseback through the vineyards in Colonia, Uruguay; experiencing an authentic Berber meal in the peaks of the Atlas Mountains in Marrakech; journeying inside a volcano in Iceland; swimming with baby sea lions in Galapagos, Ecuador; hiking peaks & valleys in breathtaking Bhutan, and more.
When it comes to traveling alone, Gragg says no one should be afraid. “It’s so empowering! Traveling solo allows people to be more open to new experiences and meeting new people. One of the most rewarding things that I see over and over again on our Escapes, whether in Africa, Bhutan, Ecuador, Iceland, Italy, Morocco, or anywhere else we travel, is how a group of people arrive as strangers yet depart as lifelong friends.”
Another thing Gragg stresses is that traveling should not be stressful – at all. You should never feel that you need a vacation to recover from your vacation. “One of the things we always strive to accomplish is to offer a well-rounded vacation,” adds Gragg. “We believe in moderation, not deprivation, and the guests who join us typically embrace this motto.”
For Gragg, the ideal location offers, “A sense of place. It must have its own personality, so to speak.” When asked about her favorite destination, she had difficulty answering. But, if she was forced to pick just one, she says, “Right now I am obsessed with India.”