The scents of travelling with Catriona Rowntree

The scents of travelling with Catriona Rowntree

What are your strongest scent memories in all your travels – either positive or negative? 

The first scent of summer in Sydney is my fondest scent memory. And it is the scent of jasmine in first bloom that heralds in the Sydney summer. Here on the farm in country Victoria jasmine doesn't grow easily, so it is one I associate from my childhood home of Sydney. 

Another memorable fragrance experience was the Jovoy Perfumery in Paris where they guide you to discover the perfect scent for you. Mine was ‘Nuits Andalouse’ which reminds me of all the flowers in my garden growing up – gardenia, jasmine and rose.

In Egypt I learnt that it was the Ancient Egyptians who were the first to give us aromatherapy. They truly lived life knowing the benefits of scent.   Like frankincense is great for memory, rosemary is good for concentration. Everywhere you go in Egypt there is scent. While there I visited the Temple of Horus, which was found in perfect condition. It had been an apothecary and all over the walls were perfume recipes in hieroglyphics. These recipes have been used as inspiration to create some of the greatest perfumes in the world.

One of the great joys of travelling is trying new foods. I’m not a fussy eater and I think that’s one of the reasons I have stayed at Getaway so long. I was in Taipei in their famous night markets and tried Choudoufo (stinky tofu omelette). It was like eating a fart in an omelette – not pleasant. 

What scent do you associate with being home?

I adore the scent of freshly mown grass – and we have a lot of grass. I doesn’t take a lot to please me. I also adore the smell of the shearing sheds. I love to play with the wool and get my hands softened by the lanolin.

You’ve been working on Getaway for 22 years now. Of all the places you’ve travelled which is your favourite?

The answer often varies depending on where I have been recently but right now my answer would be Bhutan. It is a colourful, mystical kingdom tucked in amongst the foothills of the Himalayas.   It is one country that I found taught me and altered me. I love their approach to measuring their economy in terms of happiness – the Gross Domestic Happiness Indicator instead of GDP. It is a Buddhist country and they believe in and gain strength from the concept of karma. The people wear traditional dress and adore their king. As a traveller you can stay there in luxury as the country in dotted with beautiful Aman resorts. I begged Getaway to let me go.

What are the some of the choices you make to try and keep your home and family healthy?

We try to eat food grown close to home and as fresh and healthy as possible including meat and produce from our farm.

We also have an olive plantation and I’ll have a daily dose of olive oil – usually from Cobram Estate.

In the home we chose natural products. We have Bondi Wash in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry. My favourite is the Bench Spray. Sometimes I’ll also drop some lavender or eucalyptus essential oils into the laundry for a scent boost.

How do you stay healthy with all the travel you do? 

I eat everything! I am careful with not drinking the water and I am wary of ice in drinks. But I often look to what the locals are doing and follow that. For example when we were in Peru’s Cuzco about to trek up to Machu Picchu, you could choose to take pills or to drink the local coca tea – it is native to South America and is from the same plant that cocaine is sourced from, and it does give a natural buzz. It’s a beautiful refreshing infused tea – and was far more effective than the pills.

We also know to take a few days to acclimatise to locations. You need to build up to a dramatic environment like that.

In transit, I’ll also use a sanitiser like the Bondi Wash Hand Spray or a lemongrass spray on airline seats and tables.

You manage to stay in terrific shape, how do you do it, what are your secrets?

It has been a huge challenge all my life. I come from a family with a body shape that means I just have to look at food and I put on weight. I’m also allergic to exercise. It is not my thing.

Every day after I shower I do 5 minutes of exercise. And I make an effort not to have a sedentary lifestyle. I’m always very conscious to move, little things like taking the stairs if they are there. Or finding a fun form of exercise like kayaking or horse riding.

Every morning, I blend a lemon tea by mixing freshly squeezed lemon juice with cold water then add a dollop of boiling water so its warm but not too hot. Breakfast every day is 2 boiled eggs. This manages to fill me up until midday. It is also a great thing to eat when travelling. It is one of the few things you can eat that you trust.

I eat very little wheat and dairy, because I have long suffered from asthma. And I make sure I have olive oil every day because it is wonderful for the skin. I add it to everything. I do take collagen tablets every day (Nature’s Way). Being a working Mum, I’m up for any shortcuts I can get.

What’s next for you?

I am so grateful every time the phone rings offering me work, which it has to my surprise. When I fell in love and made the move to the country I really thought my career would be over.

I’m just putting the finishing touches on a book ‘Best Cruises of the World’ – due for release next March.

And I am already booked for my 23rd year of Getaway next year.

It makes me so happy I live somewhere that I adore, I have a family but I can still show my children that it is possible to make your passion into your profession.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Professionally: ‘Persistence leads to victory’ which I credit to Napoleon.

Personally: My grandma was my mentor. At her funeral I reflected on her legacy and thought it was ‘Always choose kindness’ – I try to live by these words.


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