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Jul 01

Female Solo Travel in the Digital Age: Just Flipping Go

Image courtesy MicrosoftWhile the Internet can be given credit for revolutionizing oh-so-many things, one of the biggies is travel. How the heck did we do it, back in the old days? When we relied on outdated, five-pound printed guide books? And made international calls from telephone booth pay phones? (Or, maybe like me, you just “disappeared” for six or eight weeks at a time.) What about before the age of smart phones, when we had to wait for seats in “stinky internet cafés with sticky keyboards?” (wait, that’s a line from my book.) Note to the World Wide Web generation: Travel used to be even harder than walking up the hill both ways to go to school.

Arguably, the demographic which has benefited the most from technology is that of the female solo traveler. A recent report-slash-marketing-release by Booking.com (in PDF download format) cites that half of the women asked said they’re more likely to travel alone than they were five years ago. And a 2011 study done by CAP Strategic Research found that women represent the fastest-growing segment of both the business and leisure travel market.

When you consider the process involved just to agree on a restaurant or movie with your best friend and/or partner, the fact that female solo travel is on the rise is very good news. From my own personal research, whenever a woman has said, “I’d love to go to X,” and I then ask, “Why don’t you?” the answer that usually follows is that they have no one with whom to go. Skipping the prom that is your life because you don’t have a date is pure tragedy. Carpe diem. Or YOLO, if you’re part of the Web gen. Whatever your age, just flipping go.

Another heartening piece of information that emerged from Booking.com’s survey is that the women involved said they feel more empowered and confident from traveling alone. You only have to do it once, and then you know you can do it again (except if it’s a zip line over the Nam Song river in Vang Vieng, Laos, your hands are wet, and you’ve had beer, then, unless you desire a purple thigh, you should stop after the first time). Plus, think of the mental doors that solo travel opens. Go ahead, finish this sentence (in the comments below): “If I can handle a trip by myself, then I know for sure that I can totally slay ___________.”

 

 

On the more serious side (only for a second), before a woman hits that “Book” button, security considerations will come to mind. Of course, the market is already responding accordingly. You can now purchase a lightweight, packable door security device from DoorJammer.com (but must everything be compared to an iPhone for scale nowadays?! What happened to using a pencil sharpener?). Some hotels have even dedicated entire floors as “ladies only,” complete with restricted access and cotton-candy-colored décor. This move has already been deemed discriminatory by a court in Denmark, however, with the CEO of the hotel involved, Bella Sky, now deciding to open the floor to all guests, saying, “If for some reason a male guest should find it interesting to stay there in the pink environment, they are welcome to do so.”

Friends with Fallopian tubes, have you traveled alone? Or would you? And what are your reasons?   

18 comments

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  1. Debbie Young

    “Skipping the prom that is your life because you don’t have a date is pure tragedy” – that is a classic Laura Zera line and sums it up so well!

    I have often travelled alone for business purposes and never had any qualms about doing so, albeit all my trips were within Europe and none of them involved zipwires.

    But, to my dismay, I can’t think of a time when I went off for a lone adventure just for adventure’s sake – and I really think I should. Just need to work out now how to sell that idea to my family…
    Debbie Young recently posted…The Scent of a GrandmaMy Profile

    1. Laura Zera

      Debbie, sell it by getting agreement that you try it once and then debrief afterward. And pick a place that your husband and Laura don’t really want to go! :)

  2. Jeri

    I’ve not traveled alone per se, but probably should give it a go one of these days. I did just up and get a job in Yellowstone my freshmen year in college, so that’s the biggest striking out on my own that I ever did. Best thing I ever did as well :)
    Jeri recently posted…#AmReading: What are your guilty pleasure books?My Profile

    1. Laura Zera

      Where do you think you’d go, if you did a solo trip, Jeri? I’m curious! :)

  3. Belinda Pollard

    I’ve travelled alone so much in the past 20 years that I now find it slightly odd to travel WITH someone and have to take their needs and wishes into account. “Oh, you want to TALK on the 24 hour flight? But, um, er, I have this really good book…”

    I’m not as bold as you, Laura. A timid soul, I kid you not. ;-) So the way I make it work is to always travel for a purpose. I’m either meeting with someone, or researching something, or both. That gives me the confidence I need to walk up to a complete stranger and ask stuff, and I also have interviews/meetings arranged before I go, so there’s more people contact. It means I always have somewhere to be and something to do, not just rattling around at a loose end feeling Alone, plus I get to experience foreign cultures at a different level than merely lookin’ at museums.

    One that I’d been longing to do for ages was walk the Milford Track in NZ, but I could never get friends available at the right time. That’s not just me being a scaredy-cat (which I am, I admit it! ;-) ), it actually is dangerous and against recommendations to hike alone in the wilderness. Eventually, I just stumped up the money and booked the “guided walk”. It was much more expensive than the independent alternative, but allowed me to do a Bucket List item without waiting for friends to be available at the same time.

    So there’s always a way for a woman to travel alone, whether she has the heart of a lion or of a mouse. :-)

    Great post, Laura. I’ve loved being able to think back over some of my adventures!
    Belinda Pollard recently posted…The other reason book editors are SO expensiveMy Profile

    1. Laura Zera

      What a fabulous share, thank you, Belinda! You’re absolutely right, there are different ways to go about it, depending on what suits you. And the world needs all the different kinds of us. Also, good point about the hiking alone — it’s never good to be alone somewhere where the chance of injury is present and the ability for communication and/or for someone to reach you is limited. Did you ever see the movie 127 Hours? Eek. No, solo hiking is not endorsed here. ;)

      1. Belinda Pollard

        Omigosh, no, I didn’t watch the movie. Just reading the news reports made all my eyebrows fall out. =:-O

        Actually, I think back now to my first snowfall, which occurred on my first big overseas solo journey, in Whistler, Canada. (The story involves lone hiking; stay with me, we’ll get there.) I had driven a hire car up there from Vancouver, and it was early snow, so they’d sent me off without chains for the tyres or anything (not that I knew anything about chains etc anyway). I managed to get there in one piece (discovered it’s a bit like driving in mud), and then the next day after it had snowed all night, the owners of the pensione I was staying in lent me some snow boots so I could go for a walk, because I’d been up looking out the window half the night, so excited by SNOW, and they found me quite amusing. So I went for a walk in the woods. On my own. Got completely lost because every gap in the trees looked like it could have been a path, and the thought flitted across my tiny mind that I might not be found till the thaw but I never for a moment thought about BEARS. (That occurred to me later. Much later.) (We don’t have bears in Australia, other than Drop Bears, which are mutant, flesh-eating koalas that rarely attack locals.)

        So even timid travellers can be doggone stoopid at times. ;-)
        Belinda Pollard recently posted…The other reason book editors are SO expensiveMy Profile

        1. Laura Zera

          That’s okay, snow has that effect on even the weary and jaded, but I am laughing a bit at your expense. Did you know that B.C. has 25% of Canada’s black bear population, and 50% of its grizzly population?

          Ahhhh, the infamous drop bears. Sort of like our jackalopes.

  4. Heather Duncan

    I agree with Debbie – “Skipping the prom that is your life because you don’t have a date is pure tragedy”. What a FANTASTIC line!

    I’m really taking YOLO to heart. It hit me hard this past month. I’m in Nova Scotia getting Dad settled into a care facility. It’s like this stage of life snuck up on him. In his lucid moment the day he went in, he actually said, “I never thought it would come to this.” Now, because he has dementia, he has slipped into the semi-permanent glazed look and preference for watching out of a window as other people go about their daily lives. That panicked me.

    Thanks, Laura for the lead-in line. Here’s mine:
    “If I can handle a trip by myself, then I know for sure that I can totally slay managing a cottage.”

    I’ve often travelled solo for business, but I now find myself solo and having to look after a cottage in a hamlet that’s very red neck. You can just hear the comments: “There she is alone. Her sons aren’t here this time, and I’ve seen her husband maybe twice.” I think it’s the perception I always need help that amuses me. Men do look out for you, and around here I think they have good intentions, but that means you’re being watched – even if it’s to make sure you’re ok.

    So I’m muddling through a sump pump repair, a drainage issue involving tapping through the foundation, water sealing the deck, patching the roof where I lost a couple of shingles, cleaning out the garage (and believe me, recycling sure is weird in NS) and getting rid of a mouse. Oh, and there’s an effing HURRICANE coming Saturday (Arthur).

    My YOLO treat to me right now? Concerts. Must be tourist season in Canada’s Ocean Playground cuz there are some good ones. Peter Frampton and BB King are booked. Other multi-day festivals have the likes of Sam Roberts, Death Cab for Cutie and the Killers. But you know, when I booked a single seat on-line (in a spot where there were two spaces), I got a message: Please don’t leave a seat. And it wouldn’t let me book a single seat in that spot. I had to find another single seat that apparently someone was able to leave. The up-side: it didn’t matter that I was a lone woman. A man would have got the same message.

    1. Laura Zera

      I’m so sorry that your dad is slipping away. It’s a hard thing to watch. At the same time, I think being the caregiver of an aging, and ill, parent is one of the best triggers for a life reevaluation.

      That cottage is going to live through two hurricanes (Hurrican Heather being the first one), and come out all the better for it! I imagine you’re doing much more than muddling, my dear.

      The concert scene sounds fantastic, and what a great idea to “load up.” No better time than summer for that. I’m surprised about your seat booking issue. I’ve always found booking a single seat to be no problem, and also a bonus because I could get much closer to the stage than if booking two seats. I snuck in to third row seating for the musical Chicago when it was here some years ago. Hope that booking message was just a one-time thing and that you get rock star seating for the rest of the shows!

  5. Kris McCann

    You inspired me to go to London by myself. I figured if you could travel solo in West Africa for 3 months, I could certainly go to an English speaking first world country, for a few days. So glad I did. I really wanted to see London.

    1. Laura Zera

      I LOVE that I had a small hand in your going to London, that makes me so happy (or “chuffed,” as the Brits say).

  6. Kathy @ SMART Living 365

    YOLO is so much better than FOMO! I confess that the only times I traveled alone was before I met my DH 38 years ago. YIKES! The good news is that we have very similar tastes and he is my BFF so I do love that we travel often together. But if he didn’t want to I would DEFINITELY do it again by myself. Life is way too short to stay home! And now with technology we have no excuse….
    Kathy @ SMART Living 365 recently posted…Simple Living–A Cure For FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)My Profile

    1. Laura Zera

      That’s fantastic if your husband is also your ideal travel partner, lucky you! That’s something that a lot of people don’t have. Cheers, Kathy!

  7. Jagoda Perich-Anderson, M.A.

    Here’s the thing with me–I like company when traveling. I like having someone along with whom to share the adventure, meals and just plain dealing with those pesky travel logistics. I like trying something I might not have chosen on my own to accommodate my travel companion–it’s usually good. Plus I work independently so much that I get plenty of alone time.

    I too have traveled alone on business trips but that gets old pretty fast–not at all the glamour some people imagine.

    Still–if I really wanted to go someplace and couldn’t find a partner to join up, I’d do it. Life’s too short to miss out on the good stuff.
    Jagoda Perich-Anderson, M.A. recently posted…Relationships Are A DanceMy Profile

    1. Laura Zera

      Hear, hear, Jagoda, to pretend we’re in British Parliament for a moment.

  8. Jodi from Heal Now and Forever

    I have traveled alone and do often, not to places that you have been, but around Australia. And then around the US, doing whatever. It is completely empowering and I can’t wait to do it again. I can get over anything! I am going to Haiti next fall but not alone. This trip will slay all of my fears. My biggest fear is experiencing trauma but I am sure it will go OK.

    1. Laura Zera

      Do you mean experiencing trauma, as in harm to your physical self? I think as a woman, the risk/fear of sexual assault is a big one. When I’m in cities, I don’t even go out after dark anymore, unless I’ve met up with some other travelers and can tag along with them.

      What’s cookin’ in Haiti? That sounds exciting, Jodi!!

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