This is part of my new interview series, designed to demonstrate the wildly varied ways we can live, work, and chase our dreams. Please keep in mind that, since these are interviews, the opinions, methods, and websites contained within do not necessarily reflect my own views or experiences. (Which is, in my opinion, part of what makes them wonderful.)
In my reader survey early this year, I asked you what questions you had that I hadn’t tackled on the blog.
To my surprise, several of you asked—quietly, hopefully—”are you ever too old to travel solo?”
Of course, my heart’s immediate and passionate response was hell, no! (Pardon my French.)
I’ve personally met solo travelers spanning every age group – and all of them seemed to be having the time of their lives. And it just so happens that one of those solo travelers, who traveled solo in her twenties and then started again in her fifties and who I met at a conference in 2012, also happens to be a popular blogger and book author.
Happily, she agreed to share some of her solo travel experiences and tips in today’s unconventional interview, so you don’t have to take my word for it: solo travel isn’t just for kids.
Without further ado, then, I’d like to introduce Janice Waugh:
Tell us a little about yourself.
I started my blog, Solo Traveler, in 2009. It brings together my love of travel, my background as a freelance writer, my entrepreneurial experience, and a love of learning something new.
When did you first start traveling and what made you fall in love with it?
I took my first trip at the age of 15 after saving up for over 10 months. It was a month-long cycling trip to England and Wales. It’s also where I learned to love hostels. What made me fall in love with travel was the opportunity to step outside the ordinary and meet people for all sorts of backgrounds.
What kind of traveling do you like to do?
For most of my life I have done city travel, but in recent years I have discovered mountains. I love exploring small towns and high mountains.
What made you decide to travel solo? How often do you travel on your own?
While I traveled solo in my twenties, the decision to do so in my fifties was actually made for me. My husband passed away in late 2006 and just over two years later I was still mourning him. I found myself falling into another cycle of grief in early 2009, but this time I bounced back. For some reason I thought, “I guess I’m traveling solo.” I picked up my computer and Googled solo travel to discover a site filled with spam. It took me all of a day to decide to start a blog that would reflect what I felt about solo travel.
What do you love most about solo travel? Any particular joys that mature travelers will appreciate?
I like meeting people. I always meet more people traveling solo than I do when I’m with someone else. I also like feeling capable. Being responsible for every aspect and every minute of your trip makes you realize how capable your are.
For mature travelers I believe one of the great joys of solo travel is being able to do what you want when you want. Many people live for decades tending to other people’s needs. That doesn’t happen when you travel solo.
What have been the biggest challenges of solo travel? Any specific challenges that mature travelers will face?
It’s important to be patient and that’s not always easy. Every time time I enter a new city or destination I have to be patient as I learn how it works and what I really want to do there. When things don’t go smoothly I have to be patient as I work them out. Patience can be a challenge. It’s also a wonderful lesson that solo travel offers.
Is safety ever a concern? How do you feel about being a woman and traveling solo?
Safety is everyone’s concern and my advice is the same for everyone.
What tips do you have for solo travelers? What about for mature travelers? For women?
Choose your accommodation so that you’re staying in places that are naturally social. Don’t discount hostels. They aren’t just for young people anymore. They are for the young at heart and offer a wonderful opportunity for meeting and mixing with interesting people. (Check out the recommendations of my community of readers and bloggers in our free Solo Traveler’s Accommodation Guide.)
Any favorite places to travel solo?
Oh, there are so many places that I love to travel. Northern Italy, the Lakes District of England, and Patagonia in Chile are among my favorites.
Where are you off to next?
I’m going to Java and Bali in June. I can’t wait.
Are you a mature solo traveler? What have your experiences been? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments!
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