I am 43 and a solo female traveler. Until recently, I thought I was the only one, but there are others! Solo female travel is much more common among millennials, since older generations, for the most part, think it’s odd. Thanks to the magic of social media, I have connected with women of all ages who do this. Here are some tales from solo female travelers over 40 years old.
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I started solo traveling at the age of 41, out of frustration at having undesirable travel partners and other’s lack of ability to plan. Nothing worse than trying to plan a trip with someone who won’t commit until a week before when the tickets have now tripled in price and you’re stuck dealing with that or not going at all (yes I’m looking at you ex-husband). Once I planned a trip, getting the time off of work, only to have my travel partner decide she couldn’t go. I was not in a “solo travel” mind frame at the time, so I didn’t go. Sad, right?
My first solo trip was to the Balkans, (Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia) and guess what? It was incredible! I’m an addict now. I just completed three months solo-ing it up in Southeast Asia and it was marvelous. I stayed in hostels hanging with 19 year olds and nobody gave a s#*t! Yes, I was by far the oldest person just about everywhere.
At times there’s a downside to being a unicorn. The questions. The surprise. The looks. Sometimes sympathy, because clearly I must be lonely. Certain people in my life didn’t get it. I heard ridiculous comments. Mainly “when are you going to just settle down?” or “what are you looking for” and the worst (said behind my back of course) “oh, she is doing this because she can’t find a man!”. Wow. Just wow.
The other people who couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around a solo female traveler over 40 were the locals in southeast Asia. This is how I found myself caught up in such a web of lies that I could barely keep up with it. I discuss this in more depth in the Huffington Post. I promise you will laugh.
I have recruited some other unicorns out there, i.e. solo female travelers over the age of 40. I was curious about others’ experiences. Without further ado, here are their stories:
We often hear of the things that happen to young travelers on their journeys. We see the articles about the things to see and do around the world ‘before you turn 40’ as if 40 is the magic number where travel just becomes a thing you do to occupy your twilight years. It would seem that the travel industry as a whole considers over 40’s as a homogenous group that should be having ‘fun’ on their tours or cruises; To experience the world through a scheduled timetable, staying safe and hanging out with people from their own age and country when traveling abroad. I’ll never have fun or experience anything funny, because I am over 40.
I started traveling solo in my mid 40’s. No, not on a tour, not on a cruise; I booked my own travel and took off into the world all on my lonesome and guess what, I’ve actually had fun and had many funny things happen. Go figure!
Who would have thought, I’d have I’d have people asking to take their photo with me and for my autograph on Rodeo Drive in LA, or have to ward off the advances of amorous French men across France; or that I’d be asked to go behind an ancient fort for a roll in the hay. Or that I would flash my underpants at security officers after having to take off my beautiful and totally unpractical boots at LAX airport. Who would have thought that I’d miss my flight out of Turkey and end up sleeping in the airport among the backpackers in Kuala Lumpur? Who would have thought that I would meet and have fun with people from other countries, or have anything funny happen to me on my travels, because hey I’m over 40.
I often get asked by strangers why I don’t have a nice man to travel with. I actually do have a man in my life but still prefer to travel solo. With regards to my solo travels, my friends and family wouldn’t expect anything different from me.
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I turned 40 a few years back, and it’s been liberating, especially with regard to travel. I’m not sure I would have had the maturity in my earlier years to travel the way I do now, with the skills to keep myself safe and the life experience to understand the countries I visit a little better. There’s less pressure to do things the way you’re “supposed to”, to visit the same locations and have the same experiences as travelers a generation younger than me. I can use hostels when I want to (never in a dormitory!), cheap hotels when it suits me, but also nicer places if I feel like splashing out, because I have a decent salary and can afford it occasionally. My age also makes me less of a target for sleazy men than I was in my 20s – always a bonus!
I travel solo but also on group tours, and I’ve met many newly-retired people who are seeing the world in their 60s, which is definitely a life goal. It’s easy to see the world of backpacker-style travel as only being for younger people, but there are plenty of older travelers out there, and I look forward to having more leisure time to see the world. Looking back 20 years I can see how much some countries have changed, so I’m also hopeful that some of the countries currently off-limits will become accessible again by the time I retire. Another reason to keep going!
See more from Jill on Instagram.
A few months ago, at the ripe age (by solo-female-traveler standards) of 45, I went on my first solo trip. The unique part of my travel is that I’m not just a solo female traveler, I’m what I call a solo-Mom-traveler, which is an entirely different animal. I am a mom of two teens, non-yet-driving, homeschooled girls, while my husband’s job requires him to travel all over the world. So, I’m the chauffeur, nurse, tutor, therapist, chief cook & bottle washer. I’m still an in-the-trenches mom.
Because of this, just getting out the door had a list of challenges, judgment by others (one lady convinced I was having a secret tryst with someone I met on the internet), and my own hesitations about whether I really should be doing this. (I wrote all about that here: https://wandertoes.com/2017/06/14/get-real-moms-solo-female-travel-part-2/ ) That, I pretty much expected from the inception of the idea. But, I also found that being away from the family, on my own, challenged me.
Being away from kids doesn’t stop the flow of both actually being needed, and the habit of being needed. My first morning in Quebec City, Canada, I went for a walk all by myself. I was taking all the pictures I wanted, enjoying the view, and I wound up fielding questions via text for over an hour from the girls, coaches, and other parents. All the things I usually deal with in a day flooding my phone. Ah, connectivity, you blessing and curse. I had to put the phone back in my pocket and fight the urge to check it constantly. I had to assure myself that if one of them was hit by a car or bleeding out the eyes, my husband would call me, and until that happened I needed to let it go. It took amazing restraint at the beginning of the trip!
The biggest surprise of solo-travel was how difficult it was to make a decision based solely on my own desires. At the beginning of the week, it’s like I was rusty at the whole concept. Not having to factor in that this one won’t want to walk any further than this far, and that one will despair at the thought of an art museum, and I can only get away with this much time taking pictures as we pass by whatever; I’ve been internally doing that mental adjusting for so long, I honestly froze up trying to figure out what I wanted to do.
Bit by bit through the week, these things became easier. I wasn’t a totally different person or anything melodramatic like that, but I began to feel more comfortable listening to my own mind. The week was an exercise in peeking in at the me that exists apart from them. What I would choose, for me, to do. And, shhhhh…. Don’t tell anyone but… it was kind of… wonderful.
Well, it seems that us 40 and over gals are still out there living it up on our terms. Whether we are single, married or moms, we aren’t letting anything get in our way of living our dreams. I hope the younger generations realize that their exciting lives don’t end at 30, 40 or whatever seems old. I see way too many young travelers trying to do everything “now”, and setting somewhat unrealistic goals. Seeing “x” by a certain age or thinking that the only time in life they have to see the world is in their early twenties is putting way too much pressure on themselves, in my not so humble opinion. Why do we have these limits?
Age should never be a limitation!
What do you think? Do you see yourself ever traveling solo at any age? Tell me your thoughts!
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