The Thrill and Reality of Solo Travel

A bunch of my friends asked me this week about solo travel advice for women since I often travel by myself. Traveling solo as a woman of a certain vintage is a unique experience. There are many points in a woman’s life where traveling alone may seem depressing or scary. Not in your 50s. It is, honestly, the golden age for solo travel as a woman. Here’s why, at least for me.


Solo Travel Advice For Women Over 50

What I learned on my second solo trip to France:

  1. It sounds odd, but no one pays any attention to you. In a youth-focused beauty culture, older women aren’t cat-called, followed, propositioned, or really noticed at all. We can go about our business and enjoy our lives without being constantly sexualized and, frankly, it’s a win all over the place.
  2. Women my age are taken seriously. When I walked into a space with inquiries or requests, I got quick, thorough and thoughtful responses. I had access to places most tourists don’t have access. I got recommendations, had really provocative discussions, met all kinds of people. Which leads me to #3.
  3. Solo travel can be a much richer experience because it allows you to adjust your plans based on who you meet, your energy levels, unexpected opportunities to create community, often leading to even richer experiences. I stayed in BNBs and Air BNBs that I knew I would have the chance to chat with the owners and get to know people. That sense of having friends abroad is something no hotel experience offers.
  4. It gives you lots of opportunity to see what you are capable of managing. I’m not going to create a romantic, carefree notion of solo travel. It is about being diligent, smart, taking calculated risks, having back-up plans for the back-up plans, leaving itineraries with people who can find you if you get lost or something more serious happens. It tests you, sometimes in ways that are supremely problematic or have tomorrow-related consequences. However, I love a good challenge. And, frankly, I’m normally a back-ups for the back-up sort of person.
  5. It is hard, sometimes, and that is important. I had several supreme screw ups. Big events I had planned ended up being privately traumatic because I hadn’t anticipated crowds or heat or blisters or train strikes. I embarrassed myself, paid waaaaay too much for a thing or two because I didn’t understand how to pay for them. Cried a few times. All of these moments are now great stories and forced me to choose if I was going to let things like these own me, or if I could accept them as being human and living the full range of that. There were definitely times when I had to smack myself around to get out of a screw-up related funk. Sometimes it required collapsing into bed with an apple and half a bottle of wine for dinner. Sometimes, I let it all roll off me.
  6. I am okay with coming home to the quiet, edge-of-the-earth life here in Vancouver. I honestly don’t really want to travel again for a while, and that is weird for me. I am looking forward to these quiet winter months of writing and family and transforming this experience into a fictional world. Finding that ebb and flow is new for me. I’m going to really lean in to it all and create for a while. Then, when the time is right, head back out for another adventure.

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