When we think of solo travel, the young millennial, backpacking across Europe and sleeping in hostels is usually what comes to mind. A recent study has shown that 71% of women who travel solo were shall we say….”mature women”.
This should come as no surprise, as their children are grown and gone from home, they are set in their careers (or if lucky enough – retired). Simply put, mature women just have the time, the means, and the confidence, to travel solo more often.
“I learned my strengths and weaknesses. I experienced the exhilaration of the ups and the despairs of the lows and most of the feelings in between….I learned courage and I learned it myself” – Ann Stirk
While mature women are heading out on their own more frequently, that doesn’t mean that they have a backpack in hand and are sleeping in hostels – although some still do. Solo travel for the older woman is much different than that of a younger woman, and the reasons for travelling solo also vary from those of a younger woman. Perhaps she has lost her spouse, been divorced, has friends who prefer to travel with their spouse, or she just needs or wants time for herself.
Solo travel as a mature woman is not a topic that you read much about, so I have teamed up with some of my more “mature” solo travel bloggers to have them share their solo travel stories with you. Let’s see what they have to say:
NOTE: You will notice that there are different spellings for travelling/traveling, favourite/favorite, savour/savor. This is intentional based on the Country of origin of the blogger.
Sage Scott: Everyday Wanderer
After growing up living all over the United States and Europe, Sage Scott writes her travel blog with a midlife traveler’s perspective from America’s Heartland. From Kansas City, the Midwestern city affectionately called the Paris of the Plains (and the undisputed Barbeque Capital of the World), Sage shares her experiences and provides helpful travel tips on her blog, Everyday Wanderer.
While female solo travel is a growing trend among travelers, I didn’t intentionally embark on my first solo trip. Instead, life — or more accurately, a death — happened. And when a friend had to back out of a planned trip to attend a funeral, I went on our non-refundable trip myself.
So many solo travel articles are written by Millennial’s and Zoomers. Often half my age, they credit solo travel with encouraging them to slow down and more deeply explore a destination. They say traveling solo helps them build confidence, be independent, and have more control over their travel budget.
As a Gen Xer, I’m simply at a different stage of life. After more than two decades as a single working mother of four, I know how to manage a budget, be responsible for four other humans, and confidently navigate any curveball that life throws at me. But what I don’t get is a lot of selfish all-about-me time. What I enjoy most about traveling alone is the opportunity to do what I want, for as long as I want, without any complaints.
The one challenge I face when I travel by myself is eating alone at restaurants. Sure, I can stick my nose in my phone or read a book on my Kindle, but it just feels rude to have electronics at the table, even when I’m dining solo and not disturbing anyone else. From fast-casual to elegant dining, I’m grateful that nearly every eating establishment I’ve ever wanted to try has a carry-out option that’s allowed me to have the best of both worlds: delicious local cuisine and the chance to enjoy it alone back at my hotel or vacation rental.
Wander Your Way
Lynne Nieman: Wander Your Way
Lynne is a travel addict, Europe lover, photographer, writer, runner, hiker and nature lover. She is happiest in the mountains but also loves having the sand between her toes. Lynne believes in the transformative power of travel, independent travel that connects the traveler to the locals, and documents her travels and expertise on her blog, Wander Your Way.
I began traveling alone in my 30’s when I first moved to Colorado from Ohio. I traveled locally around Colorado mostly because no one else could go with me. At the time I was unattached and my friends weren’t always available to join me. So I just went.
At the age of 39, I traveled alone overseas – from US to Spain – because I simply wanted to go alone. I was living with my boyfriend at the time who was unable to join me. But I was okay with this as I truly wanted to go by myself – to have the experience of a solo female traveler. This first overseas trip opened the doors of solo female travel and helped me build confidence in myself in every aspect of my life. I’ll repeat that – every aspect of my life.
Fast forward 15 years and now I travel alone all of the time (almost). I am single, never married. I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. This is one of the best benefits of solo travel!
As a photographer, I hate feeling pressure from others to go at a certain pace. I take my time, stop to really look around or linger in a spot if there are interesting things to capture with my camera. As a travel planner, I tend to have my own agenda as I travel. Being alone enables me to do my own thing, in my own time, and in my own way. The benefits of solo travel far outweigh any disadvantages.
If I want some company during my travels, I find it is easy enough to meet locals or other travelers. Couples are usually open to chatting with a single women, as are groups of women. As a mature solo female, you may be seen as even more interesting to chat with just because you simply have more life experience.
I don’t feel like there are any downfalls to traveling solo as a mature woman. Maybe the one thing for me is that I really want to have my own bathroom in my room which could result in paying a bit more for accommodation. Hostels with shared bathrooms aren’t always fun when you have to get up in the middle of the night to pee!
My one regret is that I didn’t travel overseas in my 20’s as I was in and out of school – grad school, then photography school. But gosh, I wish that had prioritized travel and saved so that I could have traveled abroad when I was younger. I would have told myself to stop buying clothes and saved my money for travel. I know my path would have been different if I had traveled to Europe (my love!) when I was younger.
Your path is your path and you simply have to embrace the journey.
Renata Green: bye:myself
Renata has been a solo traveller, flashpacker, and poverty jetsetter for ages, which has made her a planner and organizer of world-wide travel. Renata has been an author and journalist most of her life which has prompted, her to put her travel experiences in writing on her blog, bye:myself , in order to inspire, encourage and assist others.
Not long ago, I was re-arranging my flat which is in Hamburg, Germany when I’m not out exploring the world. A book suddenly fell into my hands. It was a much thumbed paperback, and its 379 pages promised “Inexpensive Accommodation USA”.
Thirty years later, some of the pages are still marked with what are now rusty paperclips so that to this date I am able to trace the route of my first solo roadtrip from South Carolina to Louisiana, all by Greyhound.
The reason that I travelled solo back then are the same reasons that I have continued to travel solo ever since: my friends just can’t time off work, they prefer to travel with their families, or they simply don’t want to spend their money. When they do want to travel, they want to go to different destinations than I do. I know that I wouldn’t last more than one day with some of them. Solo travel is not a philosophy. It at first was a necessity and it eventually became a choice.
After having travelled to approximately 40 countries by myself, I know that I would find it difficult to adapt to another person’s habits, schedules, needs, and quirks. Travelling solo is much like living by yourself: you develop your own routines, and have your own requirements. You get used to having your private time and your own personal space. Yes, I dare to say the word that makes me look bad: I do not want to compromise. It’s my way or the highway.
Hence, to me, the advantages of solo travel as a mature woman are very clear. You have your freedom, your own independence, and a little bit of exciting insecurity.
Nevertheless, I personally see two disadvantages to travelling solo. Firstly, solo travel is more expensive than travelling with others. As a mature solo traveller, I am wiser and tired enough that I choose comfort over price. I no longer do hostels or dorms. I insist on having a wall and a closed door between myself and other travellers. However, I pay for a hotel room or a vacation rental as much as couple who are able to split the cost of the accommodations. This is also true for cabs, tours, and many other expenses. My space and my freedom come with a price tag.
The second downside to solo travelling as a mature woman is dining solo. It’s not that I am too bashful or feel embarrassed sitting alone at a table. No way! But dining out means ordering some wine, studying the menu, being deliberate on what you choose, having a chat, and sharing a laugh. It is a social thing. When dining alone, I order, I eat, I drink, I pay, and I leave. In twenty minutes I’m in and out. Obviously, enjoyable dining requires enjoyable company.
During all of my years travelling solo, and all of the countries I have visited, I have never encountered any real issue. I actually think that travelling solo as a mature woman is bliss – at least as long as you aren’t looking for a romantic adventure. How that works I actually don’t know as I never did.
I have noticed that although people might tend to be irritated by an elderly woman travelling by herself, they treat me with more respect. Even in countries where younger women suffer from constant
harassmentcompliments, they leave me alone. I seldom receive inappropriate questions or advances, and I don’t get scammed often. After all, I could be their mother and they certainly don’t want a spanking. The fact that a mature woman is considered sexually less attractive and kind of invisible works in my favour when travelling alone. I am less of a target. If men didn’t bother me in Cuba then that’s proof of my theory.
Just One Passport
Kelly Francois: Just One Passport
Kelly has been travelling solo for the past 10 years and some might even call her a bit of a travel addict. Even though she is from the baby boomer era, Kelly loves adventures especially when they are out in nature, and she continually keeps her 3 adult children on their toes. Although Kelly still sits behind a desk in the corporate world, she likes to let loose and loves to meet new people whenever given the opportunity. She is passionate about inspiring other “mature” women to do the same and through her blog, Just One Passport encourages them to escape their comfort zone and to live their best life, just one step at a time.
Way back in another lifetime (2010), I was living my best life. I was happily married, my 3 children were either in university or starting to raise a family of their own, I had a good job, and I was finally able to travel whenever and wherever I wanted. Then just like that life changed. My husband unexpectedly left to move to another Province across Canada and I found myself alone. I became an “empty-nester” literally overnight. Once the panic subsided, I had a choice to make. Do I sit at home and drown in my sorrows? Or do I say the hell with this, I’m not letting being alone stop me from doing what I love most. Travel! So at 50 years old off I went on my first solo journey. I love the sun, sand, and fruity drinks, so St. Lucia it was.
I surprisingly did very little planning – actually none. I rented a home and I booked my flights, that was it. When I think back to that time now I just have to shake my head. But what did I know, it was the first time in my life that I found myself on my own and as it turned out I loved it! As any solo traveller will tell you, solo travel allows you to do what you want when you want, and this is true. For me though, travelling solo for the first time was much more. It made me realize how independent I actually was.
Unlike many other “mature” women who travel solo, that first time I did have to be careful. I was surprised to learn that at 50 men were still hitting on me. I guess that since it had been almost 30 years since I had been single, I was a little naive. I am happy to report that now that I am 60, this no longer happens. Thank God!
Even though I am now 60 and travel very differently than I did when I was younger, one thing remains the same. I LOVE sports and adventures. Travelling solo provides me with the opportunity to meet new people while playing volleyball on the beach, or hiking through a rain forest, without having to entertain a travelling companion.
While the days of backpacking from Country to Country and sleeping in hostels may be long gone, I still love the freedom of meeting new people and experiencing new cultures that solo travel provides.
Enjoy Travel Life
Jackie Gately: Enjoy Travel Life
Jackie is an empty-nester currently embarking on new adventures. She is a photographer, writer, and designer. Jackie describes herself as being a creative adventuress sharing her journey on her blog, Enjoy Travel Life, aiming to inspire and encourage others to enjoy travel life too.
I have always been an independent woman, long before I began traveling solo. I guess I have never needed a partner or companion to enjoy living my life, and it has never held me back from doing the things that I like to do. That includes travel, dining out, raising my kids, and other activities.
Let me sum it up like this: You know all of those ladies who go to the restroom together? I am not one of them. I do my own thing.
I have been divorced since 2003 and now am an empty-nester, but I am in a long-term committed relationship. Still, solo travel is one of my favorite things to do. You will find me thoroughly enjoying a day trip to the nearby boat launch at the lake or criss-crossing Italy on my own – by choice.
Don’t get me wrong. I love traveling with family and loved ones. Yet, it is a completely different experience. Many women my generation (Gen X) put others’ needs before their own, and I am no exception: it gives me great pleasure to compromise with my long-time boyfriend or children, because it is important to me that they are happy too!
When I travel alone though, I indulge 100% in the things that I want to do. Whether that means rising with the birds to meander cobblestone streets at dawn, ordering delicious grilled octopus for dinner, exploring three art museums in a day – or not, I relish the guilt-free opportunity to be self-indulgent. Solo travel allows me to savor this complete freedom of decision, which is not possible otherwise.
That is not to say that traveling solo hasn’t presented a few challenges on occasion.
To name a few minor irritations, I have encountered:
- raised eyebrows on tours of mostly couples
- faux pas questions about whether my husband will join me for dinner
- feeling less than or even completely ignored by waitstaff
I have even put myself in a handful of unsafe situations when I knew better than to take the chance.
But I have also met the most incredible hosts who have gone to extra lengths to ensure that they met my every need.
I have engaged in genuine, fulfilling, and enlightening conversation with complete strangers in a foreign land. And I have covered far more ground around the globe than I ever would have within travel partner(s) in tow.
The positive experiences, for which I am so grateful, are the ones that I give priority to.
Finally, if there were something I would like to tell my younger self, I would assure her:
“This journey – in life or while traveling – is yours to create, even. Envision it. Plan it. Own it. Love it. Embrace the adventure you have created with confidence and grace, even when it is not exactly what you had in mind (sometimes that is all the better). And surround yourself with the right people who love and appreciate you even more for just being you.” – Jackie Gately
I remind myself of these same things every day. They are equally important, and perhaps even more so in mid-life.
As you can see, it is not only the Millennial’s who travel solo. More and more frequently “mature” women are also travelling solo. Sometimes it is because life just happens, and sometimes it is because solo travel is our choice. Whatever the reason, we hope that we have inspired you to escape your comfort zone.
SAFE TRAVELS 🙂
Join us on Facebook at Just One Boomer Travels. A community of middle aged solo travellers exchanging ideas, and offering encouragement and inspiration to other “mature” solo travellers (or want to be solo travellers).