A friend of mine, whose husband absolutely hates to fly, just returned from her first solo vacation to Thailand, for two incredible weeks.
Another friend, who closed the chapter on a 25-year marriage with a messy divorce, hopped on a flight to Italy — a country she’d never been to. She stayed there for weeks, and she even began to learn Italian. Now, she goes back annually, by herself, to experience new areas of Italy in-depth.
A teacher I know has been house-swapping her small home on Cape Cod for a few weeks each summer to vacation, lodging-cost free, everywhere from an elegant Parisian apartment to a quaint country home in Provence. (Tip: France ranks high on lists of countries recommended for solo women travelers.)
Does this sound tempting? Do you have a someone or a something that’s holding you back? Do you have friends or family who aren’t interested in or available to travel with you?
If you think traveling solo will be risky, lonely or too daunting to navigate, think again. The world is yours, you just have to head out to explore it.
Traveling Solo Is Hot
There are many reasons that more women today, of all ages, are choosing to travel solo. Top ones include needing a break by yourself from work or family obligations, transitioning through life passages such as divorce or death of a loved one, or simply wanting to feed your wanderlust and challenge yourself with new life experiences.
In fact, the Travel Industry Association reports that 32 million American women travel alone each year. And, according to one study, 72 percent of women are likely to travel alone, compared to just 27 percent of men.
Personally, I totally get why.
At 19, I flew solo from Boston to L.A. for the first time to board a no-frills, reconditioned passenger liner with 200 other college students from campuses across the U.S. — of whom I knew not one. With a non-English speaking Taiwanese crew managing all things ship-related, we voyaged around the world aboard the S.S. Universe for three months, attending a full semester of classes while at sea and docking in 11 different ports of call. Back then, I’d stepped aboard as an average-in-everything recent high school grad, a shy non-matriculated freshman who was unsure of who she was and what she could do. I disembarked an A-student with adventures and stories she owned and a new-found sense of confidence in what she could do and be.
Benefits of Going It Alone
By shaking up your day-to-day lives with new, fun, somewhat challenging, and, sometimes, life-transforming experiences — free from anyone else’s expectations or input — you increase your own self-confidence and self-awareness.
Here’s the best news, if you’re game to try a solo vacay: Many websites and resources can help you plan your perfect trip, and, there’s no need to go big with months on a ship (though you can do my voyage as an adult passenger, or find other cruises recommended for solo women travelers). You don’t need to be athletically daring like Cheryl Strayed was for her “Wild” hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, and you don’t have to have the funds for an Elizabeth Gilbert-style “Eat, Pray Love” meandering through Italy, India, and Indonesia. However, journaling your own travel experiences is highly recommended.
Give It A Trial Run
Do you like yoga, painting or cooking? There are extensive domestic and foreign destination options for these and other areas of specific interest that provide perfect test-run opportunities where you’re likely to meet other solo travelers.
Want to travel abroad within a foreign country or region, but worry about language barriers and personal safety? Yippee for Google Translate — definitely plan to stay connected while you’re abroad.
Since women traveling alone are generally not perceived as a threat, solo women travelers report that locals tend to be extra helpful with travel assistance and friendly with in-the-know tips that might even include invitations to join them for a meal.
When it comes to the risk of harassment and theft, authoritative guidebook author and TV host Rick Steves says the same safety-savvy smarts you use at home apply abroad, with the addition that it’s always wise to fully familiarize yourself with where you’re staying overnight and with a country’s cultural norms for women so you can blend in like a local.