When I was in my 20s, I sold all of my worldly possessions and bought the cheapest ticket that I could find to India. After completing a degree in Comparative Religion at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I decided to dive into one of the most fascinating cultures on the planet.
In the months that followed, I made lifelong friendships, experienced heartbreak, felt my spirits sour and fell in love with people, places and things. At the same time, despite the power of my first real experience as a solo traveler, I can’t help but feel that my trip could have been so much more.
When I traveled alone in my 20s, I was a sponge. I tried on new ideas as often as I changed my clothes. I basked in others’ wisdom and all I was able to offer in return was a genuine smile and an open heart.
None of this is meant to imply that my earliest travel adventures were shallow. They weren’t. It’s just that I enjoy travel in my late 60s even more than I did in my early 20s. More importantly, I now feel like I have the wisdom necessary to put new cultures, ideas and places in perspective. I also feel like I can give back as much as I take.
Sitting here on my balcony in Ubud, Bali, steaming cup of mint tea on the table in front of me, I can’t help but be grateful that I have had the opportunity to continue to travel in my 50s and 60s.
At the same time, I realize that there are many of you who are thinking about traveling alone as a woman for the first time. Perhaps you lost your husband or have recently gone through a separation. Maybe you are happily married and simply want to explore, while your husband continues his career. Whatever the reasons, I hope that I can convince you that traveling alone as a woman over 50 rocks!
Here are a few of the reasons that I personally appreciate traveling by myself at this point in my life.
No More Compromises or Expectations
As a mother, all of my vacations were centered on my family. The kids wanted to be entertained. The parents just wanted to stay sane. Then, when my kids left the house, I always seemed to follow my husband as he pursued his passions – astronomy, photography and fast cars.
In my 50s, with my kids out of the house and my ex-husband no longer in my life, I was finally free to explore the world in my own way. So, I took textile tours in India and Myanmar. I spent several nights in the rainforests of Bali. I learned yoga, took a cooking class in Italy and spent one month traveling through Europe by train.
Every one of these adventures was precious to me. I didn’t have to compromise with anyone to make them a reality. I just followed my heart.
Where have you always wanted to visit? Nothing is stopping you now!
Helping Others as You Accept the Generosity of Others
When I was a young woman, it felt like everyone around me was so worldly and wise. In addition, I lost count of the number of times that someone helped me while I was on the road. From the stranger who paid for my bus ticket when I ran out of money in a faraway land to the many friends who offered me a place on their sofas to the people who simply offered encouragement or advice, I was truly blessed by the generosity of others.
Travelling alone as a woman over 50 feels different. More often than not, I am the one that young people turn to for advice. Nothing makes me happier than helping someone who I meet on the road to make a business connection or form a friendship. I have paid for dinners, been a shoulder to cry on and looked after children on 4 continents.
It is so wonderful to be able to give back a little bit! As a woman over 50, you have so much to offer the world! At home, you are one of many people living a normal life. On the road, you can be a hero!
Embracing the Silence
When you travel with other people – your kids, spouse or friends – you are surrounded by constant noise and activity. These conversations draw you out of your own thoughts and into the world.
There is nothing “wrong” with this. It’s just that traveling alone as a woman in her 50s, 60s or better offers an entirely different experience.
When you travel alone, you are forced to face yourself. Sometimes the little girl that you find on the inside is fearful or timid. Other times, she is surprisingly brave and energized. Either way, she is wonderfully complex and worth talking to. You just need to remove the distractions to that you can hear her tiny voice.
The Freedom to Be Yourself… Without Embarrassment or Apology
On my last trip to Bali, I ended up singing 1970s songs in the back of a VW bus with my fake husband Alex. If that description sounds fascinating, trust me, it was much wilder in person!
I sometimes think that my kids (grown up now) are shocked by the photos I take on my trips. They would never imagine that I would receive a waterfall blessing or climb a volcano. They probably never expected to see me feed elephants at a sanctuary or learn Italian cooking.
These activities are like the pieces of my soul – diverse, complex, curious and wild. I hope that I will continue to travel alone as a woman well into my 80s.
If you are just getting started with solo travel after 50, I am so happy for you! You are at the beginning of an amazing adventure. Enjoy every minute of it!
How would you describe the experience of traveling alone as a woman? Do you agree that life after 50 is one of the best times to travel solo as a woman? Where are your favorite places to travel to? Please join the conversation!