By Deborah Ives
It’s great to travel with friends and family or join a group trip for a favourite pastime such as diving or skiing, but sometimes you just can’t find the holiday you want or you’d prefer to simply go it alone. Personally, I don’t backpack, I don’t want to be too organised in a group, I don’t want to cruise and I don’t want to share a room.
I remember my first solo trip as if it was yesterday! Coming out of a very unexpected divorce there was no way I was prepared to lose the deposit already paid on a trip of a lifetime for 2 to Borneo, so I decided to go alone – even if I was menopausal and the other side of 50! I remember sitting at the airport feeling absolutely petrified, looking and feeling like a nervous wreck, wondering why the hell I had thought it was such a good idea. I called a couple of friends and my sister and then I was off.
There were some moments of sheer panic. Instances of sadness at being in such a fabulous place on my own. But so many more fantastic and rewarding experiences, which gave me the confidence to continue my solo travels and to really embrace the freedom and enjoyment that it brings. I’ve been hooked ever since and I’m so passionate about it that I want to share my experiences and if that inspires just one of us ‘more mature’ ladies to take the plunge and travel solo, well I’d be very happy!
Here are my top tips for the female solo traveller
1. Chose your destination and accommodation carefully
Things to consider – do you want to be alone on a honeymoon island surrounded by loved-up couples? Do you want to be in a resort or do you prefer to be in a hotel and if so how big? Should it have a restaurant and bar? Is Airbnb an option?
I think it’s horses for courses – I’ve tried them all and have had great experiences in each situation – even on a honeymoon island in the Maldives – I became pally with the watersports team and had the best week diving, snorkelling and sailing while everyone else was otherwise occupied!
2. Travel out of season
Weather patterns are changing and even if you find yourself landing in the middle of the rainy season, often the showers are intense but short-lived. You get a much better rate on single occupancy and if you are only a few in a resort or hotel you will get that extra bit of special attention.
I was once the only person staying in an amazing wildlife lodge in the wildernesses of Borneo. At first, I panicked but once I relaxed I had the most amazing time – private wildlife safaris every day and dinner every night with the lovely lodge owner. Read my 5 top tips for travelling out of season.
3. Have someone meet you at the airport on arrival
Personally, I always like to have someone meet me when I arrive at the airport. It’s a bit of a security blanket – I’m sure others are more adventurous with local transport – but when you’re tired and feeling unsure of local currency and/or language I find it helps me to relax and feel more comfortable in my new surroundings. It’s part of my preferred way of travelling – independently but with the security and peace of mind of having booked with a tour operator.
4. Eating out can be tricky – if dinner is too much do the long lunch
I am a BIG fan of the long lunch! It may not always be appropriate or possible but in some situations, if dinner out alone is difficult to enjoy, the answer may be to have a leisurely, late lunch. Often you can get some great lunchtime deals so you can end up trying all the local food at the best price!
This was a great strategy for me when I spent a long weekend in Lisbon, especially as the portions were so huge that I could take my leftovers back to my Airbnb and enjoy as a later dinner chez moi.
5. Volunteering is a great way to travel solo
I really, really wanted to visit Rio. It had been on my list of places to visit for a long time but I was struggling, as usual, with all the scheduled solo group tours and their jam-packed itineraries not quite fitting the bill, and I was not at all comfortable about going alone. I’d also been thinking about volunteering, so I was thrilled to find an opportunity where I could combine both.
It worked out perfectly and I know from doing my research there are hundreds of volunteer options available, covering a wide array of incredible causes. You can check out my Brazil blog posts or read more here about my experiences.
6. Dress and act appropriately
Not much more to add here. Always respect the dress codes and customs as well as local opinions on females drinking alone. Be aware of your surroundings, stay safe and don’t break the law! All pretty obvious.
7. Be brave. Trust your gut instincts. If it feels uncomfortable, leave. And don’t be afraid to say no.
There’s no doubt that in many places the solo female traveller is a bit of a novelty. The first time I went solo almost every local woman I met asked me why I didn’t have a husband. In other places, you can attract unwanted male attention. I still laugh at my day trip with 80-year-old Charlie whose boat I hired for a sail around the Croatian islands.
It started with him taking me to the only nudist beach in the vicinity and ended with him stripping naked and jumping overboard for a swim! He was completely harmless and I still dine out on that story, but I know if that were to happen to me now I would most definitely handle it a very differently!
I simply refuse to accept that once we hit midlife the only solo holiday options for us ladies are cruises, craft weeks or gentle walking holidays in Tuscany. We should be confident to go and do whatever we want. If you’d like some help getting started, I’m offering a free 1-2-1 travel strategy session to the first 10 ladies who contact me via email. Tell me your solo travel dilemmas and we can talk it through. You can also like my Facebook page Solo In Style and join the conversation!
Deborah Ives is a 50 something female who loves to travel solo. That wasn’t always the case. She came to it fairly late in life after a very unexpected divorce. Finding herself left with a booking for 2 on a trip of a lifetime to Borneo, Deborah decided, sod it, she wasn’t going to lose the deposit, she would go alone. That first solo trip had many highs and lows but turned out to be one the most inspirational and fabulous adventures of Deborah’s life and she’s been travelling solo ever since. Deborah has started Solo In Style, where she blogs about her travels and share experiences which she hopes will inspire and help women who, for whatever reason, may be looking to travel solo for the first time later in life.