THE RISE AND RISE OF SOLO ADVENTURES
An incredible 75% of women are planning solo travel trips – and women over 50 are leading the boom.
If you’re planning a solo adventure you’re part of a growing trend. Because although solo travel has become more popular with travellers of all ages, women are driving a huge amount of the growth.
Research from 2018 by 101 Singles Holidays found that the average age of a singles holidaymaker was 57. Solo female holidays increased by 131%, with three in five women stating travel is “essential” to health and wellbeing.
Says Cathy Winston, Editor of 101 Singles Holidays, who helped launch the specialist site due to the volume of users asking about solo travel: “The stigma surrounding singles holidays has largely disappeared. The number of single people in the UK has risen steadily over the past 15 years, plus many people in a relationship are also choosing to travel solo – often to pursue a favourite pastime such as skiing or yoga.
The biggest growth area is in women over 50. In previous generations, this group might have been reluctant to travel alone, but these women are now more empowered, confident and financially independent than ever before”.
Attitudes to solo travel have changed. A generation ago, perhaps even a decade ago, travelling solo as a woman was something to be pitied – either dismissed as a singles holiday to find a man or an assumption that they couldn’t find anyone to go with them.
The reality is quite different: it’s confident women choosing to do something they’ve always wanted to try. “Perhaps they haven’t had time before, between career or kids, sometimes it is the end of a relationship, whether divorce or bereavement which triggers it, but often it’s women deciding to put themselves first – to travel as they’ve always wanted to, to visit a bucket list destination, or indulge a particular interest, whether that’s horse riding or opera, wine-tasting or walking,” says Cathy.
“It’s become something of a badge of honour to be the kind of woman who’ll set out on an adventure.”
Women have more financial independence as well as more independence in general these days. It’s become something of a badge of honour to be the kind of woman who’ll set out on an adventure, not to be held back because she doesn’t want to go alone. “Of course, you needn’t be literally alone, especially if you’re new to solo travel – there are group tours, some solos-only, some small groups and more and more female-only tours,” says Cathy.
“There are singles specialists who have house party-style hotel escapes or the chance to cruise around the Greek and Turkish coastline with a small group on a traditional gulet boat. There are themed tours if you’re fascinated by art or literature, or if you fancy exploring little visited locations like Ethopia, Georgia or the Silk Road, or even the chance to spot gorillas in the wild,” she adds.
There are so many reasons women might head off to travel solo – some are looking to meet others, not necessarily in a romantic sense but to make friendships and enjoy spending time with others who love travel or have similar interests. ““We know that not everyone who travels alone is single. Many choose to travel by themselves, even if they are married or in a long-term relationship,” says Cathy.
For some, it’s a life-changing moment which sparks it, whether that’s children leaving home, a relationship ending, or even a milestone birthday and the realisation they haven’t done some of the things they’d always expected or wanted to.
“It’s life affirming to finally put yourself first. Solo travel can be very enjoyably selfish.”
Equally many do find themselves with fewer commitments and more time, so it’s easier to take a block of time and travel if you don’t have to worry about school holidays for instance, or a partner who grumbles if you’re away for more than a week. “I think the key is women doing something for themselves. It’s life affirming to finally put yourself first. Solo travel can be very enjoyably selfish: you’re not constrained by what other people want to do – if you want to spend a week on a beach reading books, or visit every museum and art gallery in a city, or blow off the ‘must-visit’ sight to do something quirky which you find far more interesting, you can. Guilt-free. It’s a very liberating experience,” says Cathy.
While previous generations might have been reluctant to set off and see the world solo, women these days are more empowered – and less likely to be put off ticking off their bucket list destinations simply because they don’t have a travel companion to hand.
“But also there’s more choice,” says Cathy. “I think there has been a demand for years but the options have been far more limited until recently. Now the travel industry is waking up to this growing market, giving solo travellers a variety of new ways to see the world, whether you prefer to explore as part of a group, on a private tour or a singles-friendly beach break”.
“There’s a sense of curiosity persuading these women to travel – it could be a favourite TV series which is the final persuasion to visit a country that’s always fascinated them, it could be the desire to see somewhere completely new,” says Cathy. “I think by this stage of life, many have a clearer idea of what they enjoy and what they want to do, so trips are often more focused than a gap year backpack venturing from country to country. That desire for independent adventure and discovery can be totally galvanising”.
Cathy Winston is editor of 101 Singles Holidays.