Have you ever thought the perfect shade of blue is actually found at the sea? This is how this solo travel for women begins…
Let me tell you how it started. I looked at my phone to check the time. Two hours in Home Depot, and all I had to show for it was a paintbrush. I stared at the color wall. What shade of blue would be the perfect shade for the kitchen cabinets? Was there an ideal shade? Probably not, I reasoned; it’s just paint. It’s just a kitchen. Why can’t I make this simple decision? My eyes blurred. Then, I realized what the problem was.
Right there in front of all the DIY’ers I declared, “I don’t want to paint my kitchen cabinets. I want to go to Greece!”
I put the paintbrush down, set my paint chips on the counter as fellow shoppers glanced at me either thinking I was a bit crazy or that perhaps I was onto something, drove home, and booked my flight to Athens. Yes, there is a perfect shade of blue, and I was sure to find it somewhere in the Mediterranean!
Have you ever wondered what could happen if you “just do it” as they say, and follow the spirit of wanderlust tugging at your heart? Even if you are a woman traveling alone?
In this article I’ll share tips for a woman traveling alone and some of the things I did for my trip to Greece that you may consider using for your next journey. Let’s get started!
Should a Woman Travel Alone?
Traveling alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. Solo female travelers experience a destination in their own way…
When a woman travels alone, there is no telling what could happen! You could drive the wrong way on a one-way street, talk to strangers, climb up a mountain, mainly sharing the trail with goats, take a morning run before the city wakes up, and then sit at a cafe sipping your first cup of coffee.
You might jump naked into the sea under the light of a full moon, linger at an art gallery or museum, take your camera for a walk to see the world through your own lens, talk to more strangers, and get lost as you wander from street to street with no real destination in mind.
You may drive an ATV past cows and (more) goats to reach a little piece of beach next to turquoise waters to enjoy a lunch of octopus and wine at a little fisherman’s cafe and then shop at the local stores taking time to learn about the women who own them. You may even shop for fresh food at the market and make a picnic to enjoy at a little spot in the shade.
A woman traveling solo might do all of this and more. In the process, they discover something about the world and themselves within that space of unencumbered travel. A solo female trip can touch or transform you, uncover truths, reveal strengths, bring clarity, and move you closer to the path you are meant to travel during this one precious life.
A woman traveling solo does not mean they are lonely, struggling, or something is wrong. In fact, it could be the exact opposite because traveling allows you to build confidence and grow in a way that ultimately strengthens all of your relationships, personal and business.
Solo travel is just another way to travel.
During my latest solo trip to Greece, I met many women who were married like me or in a relationship who chose to travel by themselves simply because they wanted to, their partner was not able to join them, or they intended to do part of the trip solo and then part with others.
There is no “one right way” for a woman to travel, which is precisely how it should be! Aren’t we lucky to live in a time when travel is accessible in so many ways?
Is Solo Travel For Women Over 50 Different Than Other Female Travelers?
Every woman experiences travel in their own way – Under 50 or Over 50, Solo female travel is on the rise…
If you’re a woman over 50 traveling alone, your experience may or may not be different from that of a younger woman. It depends on the traveler and the experiences they choose.
If you’re traveling solo for the first time, you or the people around you may be fearful of all the unknown things you may or may not encounter. Of course, there are safety measures you can and should take when traveling alone; however, once that is taken care of, you will quickly realize that many of the things you do as a solo traveler are just like things you already do at home.
For example, have you ever gone grocery shopping alone, made plans for a day trip somewhere, or taken a trip by plane, bus, or train for an event or to see family? “This” is often just like “that,” only it’s a different place, and you don’t have to plan or worry about everyone else and what they want to do. There is a lot of freedom in that.
An older woman may look at younger women traveling and believe they don’t have a care in the world; therefore, they are free to go on a whim. The younger woman may look at older women traveling and believe they have all the money in the world; therefore, they have more choices. Both may be right or wrong, but what they think should not get in the way of their decision to travel. No matter the number of responsibilities you have at home or the balance in your bank account, travel can expand your outlook on life.
That’s good for all women!
Solo Female Safety Tips for Traveling Alone
Simple safety tips you may already use at home, like staying aware of your surroundings (even when capturing photos) can also be used when traveling solo
Simple safety tips for traveling solo go a long way:
- Leave copies of your itinerary with someone so, as I jokingly say, they will know where to find you because you are having so much fun, they have to pick you up and bring you home!
- Text someone if your plans change on the road, if you’re going to meet a new friend somewhere, or if you have any concerns. At the very least, it gives you peace of mind. It could be vital to your safety and well-being if something happens.
- Bring a whistle – great for getting found or deterring someone with bad intentions.
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially when taking photos or otherwise distracted.
- Consider a self-defense course. There is value in learning skills you are prepared to use even though you may never have to.
- Take care of your health and fitness because you carry yourself differently when you feel good and strong. When you are confident or carry yourself in a confident manner, you don’t present yourself as a good victim.
- When you get unwanted attention, it’s okay to firmly tell the person to leave you alone.
- Be mindful of how much you tell someone you meet while traveling and how loudly you share that information (be aware of who else may be listening). Information like where you are staying, your plans for the day, and if you are traveling alone is harmless to share with most people; however, it doesn’t hurt to avoid oversharing. Use your gut and your judgment.
- And speaking of guts…trust yours. If it doesn’t feel right, walk away.
Planning for Female Travel Alone
Planning for you solo trip is both exciting and dauting…there are many sources to help you with your itinerary
Because everything I read online and in forums suggested that Greece is a safe country for travel, including for a solo woman traveler, I had few concerns about traveling solo and safety. What took longer was deciding where I should go!
It was my first time in Greece, but not my first time traveling solo. I have traveled by myself, even internationally, but this was the first time it was longer than a week. In addition to preparing for travel with safety in mind, copying travel documents, deciding what to pack, and advising my family of my travel plans, I had to choose where to go.
Every destination has the potential to be amazing in its own way. When you travel alone, you can decide the pace and locations you want to visit based on what travel experience you want. Researching all the possibilities is fun; in the end, just click your mouse and make the reservations. Or, if you choose, enlist the help of a travel professional to help you plan.
For this trip, I chose to plan the itinerary and make reservations myself.
The planning logistics can seem daunting. Keeping three things in mind will help ease your transition from place to place.
Lodging Considerations: When picking your lodging, read through the reviews to ensure you get the desired experience. Use Google Maps’ street view feature to get a good idea of where the hotel, hostel, or short-term rental is located. You can see the neighborhood, what amenities are nearby, public transportation options, and how close it is to the places you want to visit. Consider lodging in a different area if the neighborhood looks sketchy for your tastes.
Transportation Options: When you know how and when you’re getting from A to B, you’ll experience peace of mind. For example, when booking your initial flight, consider what time you will arrive at your destination so that you are comfortable with the type of transportation needed to get from the airport to your hotel. If you arrive at 11:00 pm, will you rent a car and drive unfamiliar roads in the dark, hire a taxi, or use public transportation? If there is a delay with your flight, what are your car rental options and rental desk hours? Sometimes, although one company’s desk may be closed, you can go to another, or they may have a self-check-in. Call ahead to find out their policy and options.
When transition times seem too short for your liking, or arrivals and departures occur during a time of day you are uncomfortable with, choose something else. If you are taking a ferry, train, or bus with scheduled departures, know which one you plan to take and other options before or after in case your plans change. Planning takes time, but ultimately, it allows for flexibility if needed because you already have an idea of what alternate options are available.
It’s okay to pivot. Sometimes, what you planned may not work once you arrive. Or there may be unforeseeable events that throw your plans out the window. Trust there is a solution because everything can be figured out. Just communicate what you are trying to accomplish with optimism and courtesy, then let the universe, client care, or helpful local help to solve the problem.
You may hear that little voice in your head saying, “What if there is something better and you book the ‘wrong’ thing?”
Don’t let that voice stop you from making a decision! What do you do when you buy something that doesn’t fit? This is just like that! You may be able to return it. Just like at home, read and understand the cancellation and refund policies and, if needed, ask for what you want when you get there.
For example, I booked a hotel in California several years back that was nothing like what was advertised online. In fact, rather than a hotel, it was part hostel/part hotel (which was not advertised) and had a different clientele. Note: A hostel in the US can be a different experience than a European hostel. Even ownership of the hotel had changed, and everything online still reflected the previous company. As I drove up, my gut told me “no,” and as a woman over 50, I trust my gut. So rather than pile furniture against the door to ensure my safety, I checked into a different hotel (at 1:00 am) and sorted out the refund later. Safety comes first.
In Greece, I spent three to five nights in each location. For my last stay, I wanted an experience with an expansive ocean view in a traditional village for time to write and savor my last week in the country. The Airbnb I booked promised those views and was close to the town; however, when I arrived, it didn’t match my expectations. There was nothing wrong with the lodging, I just wasn’t feeling it. So, rather than end the trip without experiencing what I really wanted, I found and booked a different Airbnb that was further from town but had everything I envisioned. It turned out to be the best decision. I had no problems checking out early from the first choice, paying only for the one night I stayed even though I had reserved more days. It’s okay to ask for what you want rather than settle for something else.
Once I decided which towns and islands I would explore and booked the lodging, packing came next.
Packing for Your Female Solo Trip
As you’re packing for you solo trip, the less you have to think about or carry, the better.
Traveling alone as a woman, I suggest packing as light as what’s practical for your trip. While others are often more than willing to help you, be sure you can handle your baggage on your own (pun intended!) *wink
But seriously, pack light. This is for convenience and safety because the less you have to think about or carry, the better. Your destination is likely to have places to shop. Anything you need or forget can be purchased. If not, you can likely find an alternative or find that you can do without it. I take an empty duffle-type bag in my luggage in case I need extra space to carry what I purchase. If needed, I can check this in for the trip home.
When I packed for three weeks in Greece, my goal was to bring only my smallest carry-on (16″), which is what I usually bring for a weekend getaway, and a day pack. In addition to clothing, I had my camera gear and laptop. It was an ambitious goal!
I packed and repacked until I finally ended up using a (21″) carry-on and my daypack.
Simple things I did for this extended trip:
Color coordinate clothing options to reduce how much you bring. For example, one pair of black/white/tan pants or jeans and/or shorts that you can match with a couple of tops, a loose cardigan or blazer, and scarves or costume jewelry to add color and change the “look” of any outfit. One dress or skirt for when you want to change it up, and I brought a pair of leggings and running shorts with a couple of workout tops. I packed what I would pack for a weekend, intending to wash items as needed and leave space for some new purchases.
Most likely, the only person who will know or care that you’re wearing the same thing twice, is you! A fun option is to bring an empty suitcase and do all your clothes shopping when you get there…a gal can dream, right?
I also read about a single mom who traveled with her kids for months at a time. Her trick was to purchase clothing from thrift or second-hand stores when she got to her destination, which she then left behind or donated if they were no longer needed. So rather than carry heavy jackets in anticipation of a planned winter destination months in the future, she would purchase something when they arrived. The benefit was they avoided taking a lot of different types of clothing from place to place.
Buy your toiletries at your destination, except for specialty items or prescriptions. I packed my toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, and some basic cosmetics, then purchased everything else once I arrived in Athens. This allows you to get through security without taking out a baggie of liquids, and it could save you money. Because I was gone for a month, three ounces of shampoo wouldn’t do much good. As a bonus, your destination may have your soon-to-be favorite products! I found a new brand of hair care and body lotion that I love!
Pack a small flashlight. Yes, your phone can function as a flashlight, but a small flashlight won’t drain your phone’s battery. I used mine a couple of times and was glad I had it.
Pack a solar battery recharger for your phone and other electronic devices. I initially purchased my recharger as a backup when hurricanes hit our area in the southeast. For a solo woman traveler, this cell phone-sized solar charger is small and powerful, so you never have to worry about losing battery power in your phone while traveling. Great for convenience and safety. Plus, the less you have to worry about when you travel, like finding an outlet, the better!
Make adapter and converter concerns easy: use what the locals use! There are two global standards for electronics, 110V, and 220V. Because the United States uses 110V, our electronic devices are made for that system, so traveling internationally requires a travel adapter and/or converter. While these adapters are small, they always have warnings about whether or not the device converts the wattage (from 220V to 110V in this case), so you avoid frying your device. Having my phone or computer’s electronics ruined doesn’t sound like a fun day, so what to do?
I learned that most computers are made with power bricks rated from 100VAC to 230VAC, so if yours falls into this range, you don’t need a converter but will require an adapter to fit the plug of your host country. It seems a converter is more important for higher output devices like hair dryers, which can use much power.
Consider purchasing chargers for your electronic devices that fit local plugs. This tip won’t work for everyone, and it is unnecessary if you don’t plan on returning to your destination. I left my phone and computer chargers at home, so although I did have an adapter, I still had to purchase the plug. Because European travel is something I do at least once a year, and I plan for longer trips in the future, it made sense to purchase a charger that conforms to the host country’s outlets. Now, I have a small travel pouch with my European plug with USB portals to charge my phone and computer with no concerns about voltage.
As for hair styling, I purchased a small curling iron when I got to Greece, so again, I didn’t need an extra converter and can bring it with me on future travels.
Bring a daypack. I found a small to medium-sized stylish backpack that fits my phone, glasses, camera, laptop, wallet/passport, water bottle, reusable bag, and other items I use when exploring. Everything zips up nice and neat with nothing dangling or tempting to potential pick-pockets. For nighttime, or when I wouldn’t need my DSLR, I have a purse that holds my phone, wallet, small flashlight, and eyeglasses, allowing me to carry it hands-free.
Bring good shoes. If your plans include walking, bring what’s sturdy and comfortable. I brought running shoes and a pair of sneakers for everyday use. I use inserts in my running shoes that provide extra cushion and arch support and then place those in my walking shoes as needed. With the amount of walking I did, my feet were never sore. The arch support inserts helped make that possible! Then, bring a pair of light sandals. Shoes can be bulky and heavy; being strategic helps keep it under control.
International phone plans. I wanted to use my phone the same way in Greece as I do in the states (remember, I like easy!). While some online sources talk about sim cards from the destination country, I chose to get a 30-day international plan from my current provider, Verizon. It was about $100 for me and everything worked just as I expected. If you’re traveling less than 30 days, you can price out their daily rate vs. the monthly rate to see what’s best for you. The only time I didn’t have internet service was during my time in some of the islands; however, I think that was user error, not the plan. My last two island destinations fell into a different zone. At the time, I forgot that Verizon told me that if I lost service, to turn my phone off and then on again so it could find the new signal. I didn’t remember this until I got back to the mainland. I still had phone and text services, I just couldn’t use my phone as a hotspot or pull up information online using only my phone’s wifi.
What’s Possible for a Woman Traveling Solo?
You hold the key to a lifetime of travel experiences…
The bottom line is this: You hold the key to the world, so why not use it to unlock the door that leads to a level of self-care and self-discovery that you never thought possible?
For solo female travelers over 50, we may hesitate to use that key because of our obligations toward everything and everyone else. After all, we have dedicated most of our adult lives in service to others, whether that is our spouse, partner, kids, job, business, pets, home, garden…whatever. The list is probably long!
And when you are (happily) the go-to person in your family or business, it’s often easy to defer what you want to do to what you believe is best for everyone else. The biggest hurdle to embracing your solo female journey may be mental. You must get comfortable reserving time and money resources for you and you alone. That might feel uncomfortable in the beginning.
But becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is just one of the rewards of traveling solo.
On the surface, solo travel for a woman with obligations and responsibilities on the homefront or in your business can feel selfish, even irresponsible. I mean, how will everyone “survive” without you? But just beyond that thin layer of resistance is a deep knowing that this journey will be good for you and everyone else. Just like the often-used airplane safety tip: put on your oxygen mask first before helping everyone around you.
You have to make the conscious decision to breathe.
And face it, when traveling with the people you love, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking on the same role while traveling as you do at home: problem solver, caretaker, or last-in-line. Mentally bringing “home” with you to your destination is easy because it’s familiar, but it’s fatal to the true spirit of travel.
You need to step back and give space for your travel companions to grow in their travel experience and do that often, or else you risk returning from your vacation more exhausted than when you left. Everyone in your group could miss the real benefits of travel.
Solo-woman travel experiences will give you a taste of what a vacation is supposed to feel like for you. Once you bite into that apple, the flavor of personal freedom and self-discovery will linger.
You’ll appreciate the opportunity to see a place your way. And while that is good for you, the full value of that feeling is that you will understand how important it is for every person in your family to experience a destination in their own way, including you. Knowing that, you can easily step out of “mom” mode, “wife” mode, or “partner” mode while traveling with your loved ones, allowing everyone to grow in the journey as they develop their abilities to solve problems and make decisions rather than deferring that to you. Imagine how your next trip can be different because of this!
Heck, imagine how that little shift can transform everything…
I’d love to hear from you. What tips and suggestions would you add for a woman traveling solo?