By Kaye Olsson, I Start Wondering Columnist
If you are like me and other women who have reached (or passed) middle age, you’re at a point in life where you feel an urge to get out and fully experience your fleeting existence. You want to explore everything this wonderful world has to offer. You want to break out of the daily routine and travel—you want to do something adventurous!
The only problem? You don’t have a suitable travel companion. Perhaps your spouse or partner is unwilling (or unable) to travel with you. Or your friends and family have different priorities and are not interested in the same destinations as you are.
Another possibility is that you are surrounded by people all day, every day, and you need a change. Maybe you simply crave some time to yourself.
Whatever the reason, how about considering a solo adventure? I personally find solo travel quite empowering and a great way to practice self-reliance. These adventures have boosted my self-confidence and are a satisfying way to explore the world at my own pace.
Benefits of Traveling Alone
The idea might sound intimidating at first. However, I’ve discovered quite a few benefits to traveling alone as a seasoned woman.
You are in complete control of your own schedule by traveling solo
without having to plan around others. This gives you the freedom to be selfish with your time and leaves plenty of room for spontaneity. No one is there to criticize or judge your decisions.
A solo travel experience offers an opportunity
to get to know yourself better. You’ll have quiet times for introspection, uninterrupted by the conversations of others.
This type of travel opens you up to meeting new people
as you step outside your normal comfort zone. Your attention will be on the experience itself, which can lead to an increased awareness of your surroundings.
Once you’ve decided to take a solo adventure, there are many things to consider when preparing for a trip. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Developing a Solo Itinerary
First, where do you want to go?
Start by looking at your bucket list to see if there are places or events you want to experience. Ask friends for recommendations. Or you can simply close your eyes and point to a place on the map.
What is the best time of year to visit?
We all have an affinity for certain seasons and climates. If you don’t like snow, don’t go to Montana in January. And if you don’t like heat, you may want to avoid Arizona in July. When I plan a solo adventure, I do quite a bit of research on the weather so I know what clothes are most appropriate to pack.
What about the logistics?
After you’ve decided where to go and when you want to travel, you can start building an itinerary. Checking sites such as Google Flights and Expedia will help you compare prices on flights, rental cars, and hotels. There are often discounts available for bundling items together.
Planning the Details
Once you’ve reserved your transportation and accommodations online, it’s time to do a bit more planning.
What if you are traveling internationally?
Be sure you have the appropriate shots (if necessary) and travel documents, including an up-to-date passport, when you plan to travel to another country. It is also important to do some research on the money, language, and cultural norms of the area to avoid being THAT tourist. Map and translator apps on your smartphone can be valuable tools as well. My personal favorite is Google Translate, which will translate phrases that you type or speak into the app. This wonderful technology also allows you to use the camera function to translate signs or labels, which extremely helpful in airports and shops.
How will you spend your time?
The next step is to decide what you’d like to do once you get there. Do you want to sit in a beach chair with a good book? Or would you rather actively explore various aspects of a new place? I’ve found that websites such as TripAdvisor and Atlas Obscura can be helpful resources for discovering various sightseeing options.
Do you want to interact with others?
Traveling solo doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend all your time alone. You may also want to consider participating in a group activity. I’ve had great luck booking through Airbnb Experiences and GetYourGuide, which connect you with locals who host group classes, tours, hikes, or other activities. Most larger cities also offer foodie tours or cooking classes that allow you to learn about an area through its culinary culture.
What if you want to escape without the hassles of planning an entire trip yourself?
In this case, I’d recommend enlisting the help of travel professionals. Booking a cruise through a company such as Windstar or Viking can be an all-inclusive experience with pre-set itineraries, shore excursions, meals, and even flight arrangements done for you. Other companies such as National Geographic Expeditions and Alaska Railroad offer similar packages for travel by train instead of a boat. You may also want to consider pre-arranged walking or bicycling tours as a more intimate method of exploring a locale.
if you would prefer a travel experience with all female companions,
Adventures in Good Company and Wild Women Expeditions are two excellent companies that arrange both domestic and international trips for women of all ages. I’ve used these types of services to plan my trip to explore Appalachian Trail with a group of women.
Packing Traveling Solo
How to make sure you remember the basics?
Always keep a small toiletry bag packed with essentials such as a toothbrush, travel-size shampoo, razor, etc. I find this small step saves time and prevents me from accidentally forgetting something important when I travel. I also include basic first aid items such as pain relievers, Band-aids, and motion sickness pills.
If you are considering a solo adventure, my best advice to you is to DO IT. It can be a liberating experience to travel unencumbered by the needs of others. Wake up at dawn or choose to stay up late with the night owls. Join a group experience or relish a time of solitude. Whatever your choice, you’ll end up learning as much about yourself as the places you visit.
Have you traveled on a solo excursion? Or do you want to? Please share below.