Yes Unicorns Do Exist: Tales From Solo Female Travelers Over 40

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.

 Well I Guess I’ll Go First

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?

 

Read More: You’re Not Too Old to Quit Your Job to Travel

The Ups and Downs of Solo Travel

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.

 

Read More:  I’m over 40 and a Solo Female Traveler. Stop Being Weird About It.

 

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:

Julie from A Not So Young Woman Abroad

Solo Female Travelers over 40

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

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.

Reactions From Others

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.

See more from Julie on Facebook

Jill from Reading The Book Travel

Solo Female Travelers Over 40

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.

Bernadette from A Packed Life

Solo Female Travel over 40

It was by far the longest long haul I’d ever done: nearly a day in the air from London to Adelaide via Singapore.  I wasn’t looking forward to a day of “coffee please” being my most meaningful
interaction with another human.  When I shuffled reluctantly to my seat for the first leg, I was surprised to find myself among a group of people off to work: medical students off on an elective to Sydney.  Before the seat belt signs were off, I’d been introduced to everyone, offered the first of many snacks, and started a conversation that would see the miles to Singapore disappear in an instant.
Coming back, I got trapped in the window seat beside two comatose fisherman, dosed on sleeping pills.  My legs were firmly crossed from Singapore on that one.  But before that, I’d flown with a row to myself, across the big Red Centre from Adelaide to Singapore.  I had never seen so many riotously glorious shades of red as in the striations of the empty heart of Australia.  And I got to enjoy it alone in my head, pinned to the window and intoxicated by the grandeur of this earth.

Reactions from Others

I was staying near Atocha in Madrid, and had popped out for some food.  My Spanish isn’t stunning, but I did study it until I was 18, so like many people, I understand a lot more than I’d willingly attempt to speak.  As I was working my way through a couple of tapas, I could hear conversation, and realized there was a lot of discussion of “la rubia”.  A quick glance in the mirror established that I was the only blonde in the room.  So I began to listen a bit more carefully.  It transpired that they thought I was from the tax office (who must dress more informally than their UK equivalent).  After a few hidden chuckles to myself, as I was actually a government auditor at the time, I decided to defuse the situation by asking directions to somewhere fairly local and clearly not ready for a tax inspection.  There was a definite sense of relaxation in the air at that point.
 As for people in my life, I think they’re accepting of it now. I’ve had quite a few comments that I take after my mum, who got bored after retirement, took a job in Australia, and became an expat for a while.  I get a bit of the standard “Aren’t you scared”  “Ooh, I couldn’t do that.”  But as I’ve returned each time, largely unscathed, I think that’s got less and less. My husband thinks it’s great.  He likes that I still have an adventurous spirit (as does he).  We love traveling together, but accept that’s not always either feasible or desirable.
See more from Bernadette on Instagram

Megan from WanderToes

Traveling over 40

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 teen, non-yet-driving, homeschooled girls, while my husband’s job requires him to travel all over the world.  So, I’m 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, judgement 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.

Always Needed, Even When Away

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 Solo Travel Mindset

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.

40 Is The New Awesome!

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 limit! 

What do you think? Do you see yourself ever traveling solo at any age? Tell me your thoughts!

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Solo Female Travel Over 40

About The Author

csaradar

11 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, I’m Over 40 And A Solo Female Traveler. Stop Being Weird About It. | Updated 24 | 21st Nov 17

    […] Read More: Yes Unicorns Exist: Tales From Solo Female Travelers Over 40 […]

  2. maureen100 | 9th Nov 17

    I’m so glad I found your blog! I hate being made to feel weird when I travel. I never wanted to be tied down with kids (although I am married and my husband doesn’t like travelling so I go on my own haha).

    • csaradar | 9th Nov 17

      Thanks Maureen! There are all kinds of us out there doing our thing. I think it’s great you have the best of both worlds:)

  3. viajando together | 9th Oct 17

    What a wonderful, inspirational and complete post. I needed to read something like this. I have never travel alone in my life. I can relate to each of you ladies in some ways. I’m a mother, wife, teacher and also older than 40 (46) but I want to be a real traveler and don’t want to wait much longer. No everybody understand what we feel when traveling. Thanks for your words and support.

    • csaradar | 10th Oct 17

      Comments like yours make me so happy! You are exactly the person I’m hoping to reach! There are so many different ways to enjoy travel and you just need to find the way that suits your personality and lifestyle. Please reach out if I can be of any help:)

      • viajando together | 10th Oct 17

        thanks. I’m looking forward to plan my own escape. Thanks for replying

  4. Anne @TravelTheGlobe (@TTGLOBE4L) | 24th Sep 17

    I’m 44 and still travelling solo as I have been on and off since I was 17. I love travelling with my husband but also love going off to retreat in India alone and having time for me.

    • csaradar | 26th Sep 17

      It’s so great that you have the best of both worlds!!

  5. Carmelatte | 24th Sep 17

    Ohh what a great experience <3

    Carmelatte

  6. awomanafoot | 22nd Sep 17

    Wonderful to see other ladies my age out and about! I’m 40 myself and I love to travel and trek solo. I’m not a full-time traveler, but as a teacher I get to go for longer trips during summer and winter breaks. I see more and more solo women in the great outdoors and more people over 40 but rarely alone. I get sometimes questions and a lot of worried looks but some friends understand. I love the freedom of solo travel – not to stop for anyone, no stress about stopping others… I do what I want to – and it’s just beautiful!

    • csaradar | 26th Sep 17

      I’m so happy to hear from people like you! We are becoming the new norm!

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