Are You Ever Too Old to Travel Solo?

by gigigriffis

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.

I also wrote The Solo Traveler’s Handbook. I moderate the Solo Travel Society on Facebook which has over 40,000 members. And, with that community, published The Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide.

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.

Janice Waugh

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.

Janice Waugh digging for clams

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.)

Janice Waugh traveling

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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7 comments

Steve May 5, 2014 - 7:59 am

I am 48 and I would consider myself a mature solo traveller. My view is that I could not wait for people to travel with me. So far, my travel experience has been positive. A lot seem to admire the fact that I still travel solo at my age. Age is just a number. I am looking forward to my next trip in June when I am off to Portugal.

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gigigriffis May 5, 2014 - 9:43 am

Absolutely!

Enjoy Portugal – I’ve heard it’s stunning.

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lee May 5, 2014 - 10:13 am

well if you think 50 is mature, send me a ‘mind message’ (in 20 yrs we will send email by mind waves) when you hit 50………
becoming ‘mature’ was like walking through a door way……….everything changes…………but most disappointing was the reaction from others. Most of the time I am invisible to others…………..difficult to explain until you experience it.
But after traveling solo for more than 30 years I can compare the travel styles that have changed (for me). Often solo travelers are penalized (pricing) for going solo.
So I have started to post any travel offer that might be ‘affordable’ for other solo travelers. Since i dont hostel, camp or couch surf, my daily costs are higher than other travelers. But we all TRAVEL DIFFERENTLY.

so if you think you cant afford to travel solo, are too old to travel solo you need to rethink this. the alternative is to wait for someone to ‘go with you’. and then you only have 1/2 a trip, or what most do is ‘stay home’……………..

Janice does a great monthly post on solo travel deals. My goal is $100 us a day, if this fits your style, let me know what you find. (where can you live in the USA on 36.5k a year….? ) i would rather travel than sit at home.

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gigigriffis May 6, 2014 - 9:04 am

I’m sorry to hear about the invisible thing. I think that happens in stages. I’m definitely not someone that the super young travelers (20/21 yr olds) approach, myself.

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dawn hamilton May 7, 2014 - 8:35 am

I have been a solo traveller since my divorce in my late 20s my friends were all in relationships so I got used to travelling on my own. I used to go on hillwalking holidays in Austria and there was no single supplement and i would either meet people on organised walks or go myself on trails. For the last couple of years i have taken 2 week volunteering holidays with animals in Africa and love it. This year I turn 50 and I shall be doing a charity cycle across Costa Rica. I would say that so many people are in awe of me doing these trips on my own and having so many stories to tell. I just wish I had been so adventurous when I was younger!!

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gigigriffis May 7, 2014 - 9:18 am

Oh, I love that!

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ann knight May 7, 2014 - 10:40 am

I am 67yrs old female. and once a year I enjoy a trail horse riding holiday , as none of my friends/family share my interest I travel alone meeting like minded people when there, in such destinations as morocco spain france usa and namibia where i did volunteer work at a wild life sanctuary for a month, and as long as I stay fit/healthy will continue to travel solo , the feeling of independence is amazing.

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