Sometime in the not too recent past, the definition of solo travel morphed from hiking the Appalachian Trail all by yourself to include the meaning of taking a trip with a group of total strangers. Which is more challenging? Well, if you’ve ever tried to divide a dinner check with a table of female friends, you can probably recall the discomfort or even summon up a mild form of PTSD.
Nicole Wineland-Thomson is the owner, along with her sister and mother, of AdventureWomen, a 30-year-old tour company that plans worldwide adventures for the not so fairer sex. Most of their clients fall between the ages of 35-75, with the occasional inspirational octogenarian. Wineland-Thomson says that “ the experience of sharing new adventures with strangers seems, not only, to alleviate the usual aches and pains of women in group situations but they almost never encounter them.” This must hold fairly true as 70% of their solo travelers are repeat travelers, and Wineland-Thompson adds, “many of them are busy planning their next trip together before the current one has even ended.”
Women over 50 are the fastest growing, healthiest and wealthiest demographic in history and travel organizations are stepping up to the plate with a vast array of experiences for women to share because, go figure, women like the company of women. There are so many options for small group “solo” travel, even Mario Perillo (Mr. Italy) is offering a group solo called “Eat, Pray, Love.”
Traveling with women is where relationship magic happens. Time is compressed just like it was during those weeks at sleep-away camp. Lifelong friendships are created within the confines of a structure: first we meet, go here and there, then we all climb a mountain or paddle down a river. The women with whom we share those “firsts” are burned into our consciousness.
Some people like the option of a bit more independent planning than even small group tours can offer but also want the comfort of not going it entirely alone. Finding a like-minded citizen with whom to travel is a trend that’s also on the rise. Thelma & Louise (love that name) has been matching up solo female travelers since 2006, so they know a bit about travel matchmaking and their site is fun to use.
For the backpack crowd: Solo Traveller and Tourlina are the newest women-only apps for finding non-fellow travelers.
The penalties for having your own room seem to be falling, too. Abercrombie & Kent recently lowered the cost of their single supplement charge and several cruise lines are eliminating them entirely in 2018. Leyla of Women On The Road, has been traveling the world alone for 40 years. Her advice for women is thoughtful and inspiring. She suggests that when making reservations, begging for a waiver on the single supplement directly with hotel properties can work, especially on the grounds of fairness. A new list of companies that do not charge a single supplement can be found on her terrific site.
Cultural anthropologists might say that men travel to hunt, gather and check world domination off their bucket lists. Conversely, women are committed to the idea of immersive travel; they want to have meaningful cultural exchanges and female–only tour operators seem to be focused on how they might enrich the lives of life-long learning women with home kitchen visits, art studio exchanges etc.
A she-who-shall-remain-nameless, intrepid world traveler recently admitted to making a point of having her hair done when she travels. “Blown dry on seven continents” is her battle cry. A few years back, she wandered behind a stained and tattered curtain in the old market of Fez to have a shampoo. Not quite the spic and span bright yellow of a Manhattan DryBar but the service resulted in an exchange of photos of children, ballpoint pens, lip gloss and a barely translated dirty joke. Her traveling companions, all women and all strangers, returned the following day to enjoy the same “makeover.” Guess we’re all pretty much the same.