How many people do you know that opt to travel solo? I’m going to guess that it isn’t many.
There’s a general perception that travelling solo is something to be suffered, typically because the traveller is without a partner. This may be due to divorce, death, or personal choice.
When I think about solo travel, I’m not talking about travelling in organised group trips, or on a cruise, which are considered acceptable modes of going solo.
Instead, I see solo travel as intrepid trips needing planning and organising the itinerary, and negotiating all the possible pitfalls along the way without the security of a tour guide, or company, that you can bring your troubles to.
A feeling of safety
While few think anything of men going off on their own, the same opinion does doesn’t seem to apply for women.
According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Business Traveller Sentiment Index from January 2017, only 55% of women always feel safe when on a business trip, compared with 63% of males, Marissa Carruthers wrote in her South China Morning Post article about safe travel in Asia for women.
It’s probably thought to be more difficult for women to travel alone in some parts of the world. Paris or Venice may be seen as ‘safe’, while Marrakech may feel more challenging.
More solo travellers in general
The number of all genders travelling solo is on the increase. A 2017 study by Princeton University showed that 58% of millennials are willing to travel alone, compared with 47% of older generations. The same study also found that 26% of millennial women have already travelled solo, while a further 27% said they haven’t but would consider holidaying by themselves.
It seems we over 50s have some catching up to do with millennials in terms of what might be called ‘travel confidence’. It’s unsurprising really, as our generation grew up in a less sophisticated age of travel, especially to exotic destinations. But it’s refreshing to see our children and grandchildren are more intrepid, especially women!
Women are a rising force
A 2015 TripAdvisor report revealed that 74% of the women it surveyed had already travelled solo, or were planning to.
In 2016, VBT Bicycling & Walking Vacations and Country Walkers reported to Conde Nast Traveler that solo female travellers made up 40% and 58% of bookings respectively, with a 5% increase in female travellers each year.
If you Google search ‘solo female travel’, Google returns over 2.42 million results.
Google Trends also tells us that in the UK there were over 30% more searches for ‘solo female travel’ in 2018 than in 2017. (Source: Google Search Trends) So, we can see from these figures that there has been an increased interest in solo female travel year on year.
Safe solo travel for women
For those of you who fancy going solo, Janice Waugh has some very useful safety tips. She became a solo traveller when she was widowed and her children left home, both events happening almost simultaneously. Now, she runs the website Solo Traveller.
Janice’s tips focus on ‘prevention’ and forward thinking about how to handle situations that arise. But, she is clear about one thing; solo travel is no less safe than travelling with a companion. Perhaps the trick is to focus on that, and start with a short trip to test the waters, before plunging into the depths of a longer solo adventure.
Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She’s worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between “there” and “their”. Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor’s life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.