Female Solo Travel: What it’s like to travel solo in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s
Female solo travel is on the rise worldwide, and it's something that can be enjoyed by women of all ages. Five women who love to travel solo share a few of their stories and explain what it's like to travel solo in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.
While each woman is navigating a different decade in life, they have one common message for women considering solo travel. Just pack your bags and go – you won't regret it!
20s – Fabiana Palmieri
Fabiana Palmieri (26) is from Turin and she works as a commercial controller in the automotive industry. She fell in love with travel when she won an Erasmus scholarship to study in Lisbon for six months, and then went on to further her studies in Sydney as an exchange student.
'I first travelled solo while I was studying in Sydney because it was too hard to get my flatmates’ schedules to coincide. I became a member of a Facebook group where girls from all over the world were sharing experiences of their solo travel. That night, I booked my first solo trip to the Gold Coast.'
'The best experiences happened to me when I wasn't planning them, and they include singing a Bob Marley song on a bus to Nimbin, the hippiest city in Australia, seeing koalas in nature and staring at the whales jumping in the ocean. And I danced barefoot at sunset in Byron Bay, while the purple sun was getting ready to go to sleep.'
'My favourite travel experience was when I decided to book the snorkelling experience in the Great Barrier Reef. We sailed first to a Whitsundays' beach – a paradise straight out of heaven – and after that came the snorkelling experience. The excitement of diving down there made me forget that I can't swim. I overcame my fears and it was the best experience ever.'
'My family and friends worry about me and I’m glad they do. The secret is always to update them about where I am and where I want to go. I haven’t had any bad experiences, but my advice is to keep your eyes open and try to learn who you can trust. Buy data for your phone and never go around with money. Most countries accept credit cards, but consider having two different cards for emergencies.'
'The advantage of travelling solo is that you’re in charge. If you want to stop, you stop, and if that place doesn't suit you, you move to somewhere else. The disadvantage is that loneliness is part of the game at times. For example, I saw amazing sunsets in the Australian east coast that I would have loved to share with my friends or my partner back home.'
'The sense of freedom and fearlessness that travelling solo in your 20s gives you is indescribable. You feel powerful and know that there is nothing you can't really overcome. In your 20s, deciding where you want to be and with whom is not easy. Mine was an incredible and sometimes tiring journey, and travelling solo helped me more than I could ever imagine. At the end of each day, no matter how hard it was, I did it by myself and I’m glad.'
'If your fear is mostly about feeling alone, then don't worry about that, even for a second. The network of backpackers is solid and helpful when you need them. Travelling has taught me about my power as a single human, how to stand alone and how to overcome problems and worries without the help of someone else. My advice to anyone considering travelling solo is not to overthink it. Close your eyes, breathe – and book that flight!'
30s – Rachel Hill
Rachel Hill (32) is an entrepreneur from Florida. She began traveling solo in graduate school when she took a semester off to teach elementary school in Nairobi. She now lives between Florida and Mexico.
'For a woman in her 30s, traveling solo is fantastic. I learned so much about myself in my 20s that my outlook and perspective going into this decade of my life is from a place of wholeness and completeness. Traveling solo in my 20s was fun, but I was still seeking that sense of understanding of who I truly am, what I wanted out of life, and my level of worthiness. Now, I can easily create the experiences I desire in my travels.'
'Every woman needs to travel solo at least once in her lifetime. My advice would be to find the type of experience you want to have and the destinations that offer that experience, then develop a budget and work from there. I have been to over 30 countries traveling solo. Some of my favorites have been Zambia, Thailand, Philippines and Curacao. I want to go to Antarctica next.'
'One of my favorite travel experiences was going to the Arctic Circle in Lapland. It was freezing, but incredible, and I went dog-sledding, ice-fishing, riding snowmobiles and more. Some of the unique experiences that I’ve had while traveling solo is meeting new people and creating beautiful and genuine friendships, or even being adopted by a family! Once I ended up 'crashing' a wedding in Egypt, and danced with the bride, groom and guests all night long. I still communicate with them on Facebook from time to time.'
'I believe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to traveling solo. The advantages include the ability to move at your own pace, expanding your dating pool if you’re single, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and the ability to sort through your thoughts and mental clutter. You also get to increase your self-esteem and confidence – I mean, you’re traveling. That’s badass!'
'The few disadvantages are that you can get homesick and/or lonely. It can also be expensive depending on what you want to enjoy – for example, you’re not splitting the cost of accommodation.'
'I can honestly say that I’ve never had any bad experiences while traveling solo. There were a few situations where I thought men were staring at me for a few seconds too long, but I have never felt a sense of danger. My greatest asset is my intuition.'
'Even when I feel an inkling that something is off, I completely trust it. I also share my locations with my family and friends. My posts on social media are typically delayed by several days or weeks, and I use the common sense you would use when going somewhere alone in your home country.'
'By traveling solo, I have learned that I am resilient and confident. Having to rely on yourself while navigating an unfamiliar environment makes you feel empowered to do and accomplish anything. The best way I can inspire women in their 30s to travel solo is for them to look at me and so many other 30-somethings doing it. It will expand your life so much, and you’re never really alone, unless you desire to be.'
40s – Claudia Tavani
Claudia Tavani (44) is from Cagliari, Sardinia. She began travelling solo aged 38 and is a full-time travel blogger.
'When I finally decided I wanted to travel solo, it was because I was overwhelmed by the need to travel on my own terms, being 100% selfish and not having to accommodate someone else's needs. It had to be just about me.'
'Travelling solo in your 40s is fabulous. I do what I want, when I want. I finally have the means to travel more comfortably than I did before. I can decide if I want to share part of my trip with people I meet on the road or continue enjoying solitude. It's pure bliss.'
'I truly enjoyed my first major solo trip, when I visited Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Last February I visited Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. I took a couple of tours with a nice company and I became friends with the owner, who took pride in showing me what fueguino hospitality was all about. It was a week of eating asado, drinking great wine and hanging with friends. So much more than a simple trip.'
'The main advantage to me of travelling solo is the fact that I don't have to compromise on anything. There's nobody telling me to do something or go somewhere – or not. Travelling solo makes me significantly more open-minded to new experiences and meeting new people, because I have more freedom and time to talk to people who are not my travel companions.'
'The main disadvantage, other than the fact that I don't get to share any costs, is the feeling that I have nobody to count on nearby if something unfortunate was to happen to me. The only bad experience I can remember was trying to couchsurf in Santiago de Chile and having to leave abruptly in the middle of the night.'
'When it comes to safety, I trust my instincts on the road. If I don't feel comfortable doing something or going somewhere, I just don't. If someone doesn't send me a good vibe, I don't hang out with him or her. I try to dress modestly and not to flash my possessions.'
'Just because you're 40 or older, it doesn't mean that you don't deserve some proper 'me' time. I have changed since I first started travelling because I travel much slower now, because I realised that trying to squeeze in too much in a short time makes me tired. I value conversations with locals and I value quality. I don't avoid hostels altogether, but it's liberating to know that I don't have to rely on them.'
'When it comes to energy levels, I now focus on quality over quantity. I visit fewer places, but spend more time in each destination. It's not about ticking things off that bucket list – I hate that expression – it’s about doing something that is meaningful. Travelling has taught me that I am way more open-minded and generous than I thought. My advice to any woman considering a solo trip is just go! It will be the trip of a lifetime.'
50s – Marie-France Roy
'I went on my first solo trip to Paris in 1992, when I was 29. I had to go through many years of studying, working and saving money first, and then I spent a few more years trying to convince boyfriends and friends to come with me. It seemed like everybody I knew had other priorities, and finally, I made the decision to go solo. It was either travel alone or not travel at all, and I had already waited way too long. I’ve visited around 65 countries now, most of those solo.'
'When you’re traveling solo, you don’t have to consult anyone or compromise, and you’re also a lot more approachable to other travelers and locals. So although it may seem counterintuitive, you actually end up meeting more people when solo. You also tend to be a lot more aware of your surroundings. You’re more observant, you notice small details and you reflect on your discoveries, without a buddy to distract you.'
'There are distinct advantages to traveling solo as an older woman. Over the last few years, fellow passengers on my flights have started helping me getting my bag in and out of the overhead bin, without me even asking. And I’m sure looking older helps avoid harassment in some countries.'
'The safety precautions I take include not walking alone in deserted places at night, and taking heed of any special dangers or bad areas for the countries I visit. I keep all my vaccinations up to date and carry a basic medical kit with me. I split up my cards so they’re not all in the same place and only carry a small amount of cash with me. And I always trust my instincts.'
'You can’t travel for three decades and not have any negative experiences, and mine occurred when I got bitten by a stray dog in Puerto Iguazú, a week before my Antarctica cruise was to begin. It was stressful and scary, but I tried to keep a clear head, and went to a clinic and got myself the necessary rabies shots and antibiotics.'
'That cruise was without a doubt my most amazing trip. The pristine nature of the place, with its blue icebergs, glaciers, and hundreds of penguins and other wildlife, made it feel like we were the first humans there. My most special experiences seemed to occur when I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. For example, doing a tandem skydive when I was 46, or hitchhiking for the first time at 52 in New Zealand, which I feel is a safe country to try new things.'
'Another great experience was visiting The Galápagos Islands on a small motorsailer boat, and hiking The Inca Trail. Other special experiences involved meeting locals and being treated to a home meal or being taken to a favourite local hangout. Even for an introvert like me, what you remember the most about trips are the human connections you make.'
'When I began traveling, I stayed in budget hotels and guesthouses. I only discovered hostels in my mid-30s and stayed in dorms a few times, but always preferred having my own room. These days, I usually stay in an AirBnB room or apartment, or find a cheap hotel or guesthouse on Booking.com. I like to have my private bathroom now as well. Occasionally, I’ll house-sit in exchange for free accommodation through an online platform called Trusted Housesitters. As a mature woman, it’s easier to get people to trust you.'
'When I first started traveling, everything was new and I wanted to see as much as possible, so I moved to a different town every few days. My energy levels were probably higher then as well. I had a better quality of sleep before 50, so that certainly helped. Having said that, I usually sleep much better while travelling, probably because I expend more energy and find myself in a different environment, away from homelife worries.'
'I like to stay longer in a place now, and discover it slowly by walking around neighborhoods and people-watching in coffee shops. I still enjoy joining a cooking class, guided hike or day trip, but I don’t feel obligated to visit every tourist attraction.'
'For women in their 50s, I would say that if you want to see the world, get out there now. I don’t want to sound morbid, but people start dying in their 50s. My favourite aunt died at 57 and a friend of mine passed away at 61 last year. By the time you’re 50, you have to stop procrastinating.'
'There are tons of solo travellers out there of all ages, and most seem to be women. You won’t really be alone. If you have people around all the time, a good way to get used to being on your own is to explore your own city alone. If you’re nervous the first time you venture abroad, join a small group tour in a country of your choice, then spend some extra time on your own after the tour ends.'
'Like anything else in life, the more often you travel solo, the easier it becomes, both logistically and psychologically. Doing it repeatedly makes it normal. Traveling solo has taught me that I’m stronger and more resourceful than I once thought, and can deal with whatever comes my way, solving problems as they occur. This has helped me develop my self-confidence a lot over the years.'
60s – Isabel Conway
'I fell into solo travel by accident. My friend and I were going to San Francisco, but there was a banking strike and she got stuck on the picket lines. I gathered up my holiday money and just took off, and when I arrived in San Francisco, I felt totally alone at first.'
'I took a city tour, and had to escape this ghastly man who took a shine to me and was chasing me around Alcatraz. I was 21 and he was my grandfather's age. Nightlife is a difficult thing on your own. I missed being able to go into bars and chill out, as in those days, if you were on your own, you were there to be picked up; it’s very different now.'
'I regularly hitched lifts to college in Dublin when I was 18, but you wouldn’t do that now, and I feel that some countries I visited were safer for women back then compared to now. The great thing about getting older is that you develop a sixth sense about places and people who aren’t safe to be around. My advice is that you always have to look purposeful, and never look lost, standing around consulting a map on the street. Don’t have shoulder bags and cameras hanging from your person either.'
'Even so, I still have the feeling that you just go out there and trust people, because while you have to be careful not to put yourself in dangerous situations, people in general are good and helpful when you’re travelling abroad.'
'Compared to when I started travelling 40 years ago, there is a lot more information available now through the internet and social media, which helps you to plan your trips better. I’ve been all over the world by myself, and even if I go on a press trip for work, I usually stay on and see a bit of the country by myself. I like to see the world through my own eyes and talk to people.
'What I would say to women of my age who want to travel is that if you get the chance and have the money, just go! Don’t wait for your best friend to free herself up from a bad marriage or become widowed, because you'll be left waiting and you’ll lose out. To begin with, maybe go with a small tour company that specialises in arranging trips for single people, so you'll have a ready-made group to hang out with it.'
'The more middle-aged you are, the easier you can blend anonymously into the world, invoking genuine help and friendliness from strangers. Travel is wonderful and it’s a fabulous thing to just take off. You can find yourself, make new friends and develop your knowledge. They say that travel boosts people’s happiness threshold, and travelling solo has definitely helped me to learn how to enjoy my own company, become more self-confident and observe the world around me properly.'
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This article was originally published in September 2019 and updated in June 2020.