Sitting on a bus in Penang recently, I was once again asked why I was travelling on my own. The lovely young woman who had struck up a conversation with me, seemed perplexed to why I was travelling solo as an older woman. The barrage of questions being asked of me; Aren’t you afraid? (No) Why does your husband allow you to travel alone? (He’s my long term boyfriend not my husband and he’s fine with it) got me thinking about solo travel and why more women are wandering alone.
Two thirds of solo travellers are women
The authors of the Wander Women Index Ampersand, highlight that two thirds of travellers are women. We are travelling all over the world more than any other time in history. Inspired by others, more and more older women are taking off to destinations across the planet. But why?
We live in a different world
Traditional roles of women have changed and are changing in many cultures across the world. The juxtaposition of male/female public/private and the exclusion of women from the public sphere, has been challenged for many years. Whilst sadly women still struggle with equality and in some places still suffer in highly patriarchal societies, many of us are afforded freedoms that our ancestors could only dream of.
For older women, we’ve done things our mothers and grandmothers weren’t able to. We’ve been able to have both careers and families. For the most part, we are more financially independent than at any point in history and for many of us, the ability to make decisions on our lives without having to ask permission of anyone else. Travel for older women is arguably just more doable, so we’re doing it.
Women are happy to be left to their own devices
Older women are more likely to have a desire for self reflection than their male counterparts. Solo travel allows us the time for self reflection. It also makes us more aware of others. With this comes an interest in seeing how others live, a desire to experience new things and the ability to appreciate the beauty in the world. We no longer care what the “Jones’” are doing and what people think of us.
Our circumstances are different from our younger counterparts
For some, solo travel comes after losing a life partner. For others a divorce. As our families grow and our children are less reliant on us, women often look for new adventures in their lives. Let’s face it, all those years looking after both a family and a career can leave you a little lost when the pressure is off. Solo travel allows us to fill the gap.
We have more information available to us
I remember when I was 18, my girl friend and I wanted to travel from Brisbane to Sydney. In order to book our trip we needed to take a bus into the city to buy our bus ticket and get our hands on an interstate telephone book to look up the phone numbers of accommodation providers. Armed with a phone number, address and a handful of coins we then had to find a phone booth to call and book our stay. We really had no clue about what the hotel looked like, the area it was in or whether we’d be safe in the place we had chosen. On this trip we ended up staying in the middle of the red light district, welcome to 18.
Today we have an abundance of information literally at our fingertips. We can research destinations, hotels, flights food, safety from the comfort of our homes. We no longer have to rely on travel agents if we don’t want to. We can oops did I really just book that flight 24/7. We can ask others about their experiences on social media and get our inspiration from photos by other travellers. Is it any wonder more and more older women are travelling solo?
With the luxury of more free time and the advantages of a lived experience, more and more of us are going it alone. Why not try it for yourself?