Am I too old to travel solo? I'm just a few months shy of fifty....
I have been alone for more than four years after leaving an abusive marriage of 13 years. I was an at home mother and only worked part-time most of my marriage life. I came out of divorce with not much due to a pre-nup. I retrained and currently in the Travel Industry.
My kids are all grown-up. I don't own anything but my car. I'm saying that I don't owe a single cent, no mortgage or hire purchase that could tie me back. I am no longer happy with my job and I'm getting old! I have spent the last three years visiting places I could not while I was married. I wanted to see the rest of the world; he wouldn't let me travel without him.
I can travel now but all my travels are quite limited due to being restricted with annual leave. I would like to be able to go away for a considerable length of time. It's a dream that has stayed dormant in my heart all my life!
Before I start using a walking stick to get me from A to B, I thought I should just give up my job, pack my bag and go! I have a little bit of money but I would prefer to earn enough to finance my trip while I am away. I would rather keep my savings to fall back on when I return. I am not a degree holder but I know a few trades, I was a hairdresser and did some training as massage therapist. I thought about Travel Writing (I have signed in with your 7 day lessons by the way) but English is not my Mother Tongue. Besides I have not written anything before. Is there any hope for me?
My second greatest concern is my age. Am I too old to go solo on the road? Are there options available for women my age? I would be most grateful if you can help me.
Answer: Old at less than fifty? I don't think so...
I did exactly what you're describing at the age of 43. A bit younger than you, perhaps, but not much. As I traveled, I met plenty of women who were far older than I was, and many of them were traveling solo - they were on their own, kids grown up... Many of them were younger in spirit that the 20-year-olds in the same hostel! And if you're a bit nervous about tackling the world on your own, you could try to find a travel buddy for at least part of your trip (I recently answered a question about travel buddies here).
Money is definitely a concern. When I decided to quit everything and leave, I spent an entire year downsizing and counting every penny. Even so, I left with very little and was on a tight budget as I traveled, especially the first year.
I'm glad you've decided to try my free travel writing course - I think you will benefit. English may not be your mother tongue but you write it better than many people who were brought up speaking it! You'd be surprised at the number of writers who become saleable yet had never written before... it's hard work and it's not for everyone - but it is definitely worth a try, and I think you'll have fun learning.
As for being too old... well... I think I made my point of view clear at the start of this answer: in my opinion, NO, you are not too old... and you won't be until you can't board a plane or walk down the street.
Travelling overland in Africa as a 60 year old woman?
by Wilna Wilkinson
I have spent the last week studying all the websites of companies that provide transport for overland travel through Africa, trying to decide which company would suit me best. I plan to start this journey around November this year.
The biggest consideration for me is the itinerary -- but my concerns are:
1. Fellow travellers - I am not too keen on a group of gap year kids who have suddenly been given unlimited funds and freedom and all that that entails.
2. As much as I am yearning to travel over Africa, I have to admit I would love to do it in a slightly different and novel way - or go places not too well trodden by the countless who go before me. A big ask, I know, but I think you will definitely know what I am trying to say here!
I see you backpacked this journey - but confess I do not think that is for me. If for no other reason than to not to have to worry about getting through borders and past bureaucracy while on the road, I think I would prefer to be on a slightly more 'organised' trip. Any suggestions???
First, Wilna, let me congratulate you for even thinking of traveling overland in Africa! Younger women are often daunted by this trip, even though they shouldn't be. I was in my 40s when I backpacked across Africa and had the time of my life. I also ran into many women who were far older, into their 80s.
I understand you'd rather not backpack - it's not the easiest way to travel, even though I love it. And you're right to be concerned about choosing the right tour operator. The last thing you want is to be mismatched with a group that doesn't have much in common with you.
I can't speak personally, since I've never taken this kind of tour. I can tell you that explore.co.uk has a good reputation. I have several friends who have traveled with them and have loved it. I've just checked and they have tours that last up to 23 days and cover 4 countries.
However, that may not be what you're looking for. Doing a bit of surfing I've found the following - but please note, I have no personal knowledge of any of these groups at all!
Africa in Focus - they specifically state they don't cater to the gap year market
I also recommend you check out the Senior Travel or Overland Africa sections on both BootsNAll and Thorn Tree travel forums. Just post your questions and see what comes in. I'd also try Trip Adviser's Senior Travel Forum and Africa travel reviews, where readers post questions about specific tour operators and review them.
By the way, 'senior' doesn't mean old in any way - usually they start at 50 and we know how young that is these days. It's more of a shorthand to say physical effort will be watched closely and you won't be going to bars every night - unless you want to, of course!
Happy travels, and if you do go on an overland trip, other Women on the Road would love to share your travel stories!
It is safe for a 74-yr-old woman to travel halfway around the world?
(Sydney, NSW, Australia)
I have travelled many times before but this time I seem to have lost my confidence and have fearful nerves. I'm planning to travel Sydney/Singapore/Sicily/London/Chiang Mai/Sydney. I guess it's the logistics of it all. Two medium suitcases, then London to Italy only allows one - just a bit fearful, but have spent the money! I feel a little frightened now that it's near.
Answer: Feeling a bit of fear and anxiety before such a major trip is perfectly normal, whether you're 74 or 24. You'd be surprised at the number of email I get from young women in their early twenties expressing the same fears - and more!
Lets deconstruct a bit. First, your itinerary sounds wonderful. All these places are as safe for women as they are for men, and as safe for older women as for younger ones.
The first thing you need to deal with are the long flights. Avoiding jet lag and deep-vein thrombosis are things you should take seriously. Take the proper precautions and you should be just fine.
Then there's your luggage. You basically have two possibilities: either you cut back to a single suitcase, or you pay the extra luggage charge on your European leg. Check the airline's website to see how much it would cost and then decide. The less comfortable option would be to change one of those suitcases into a backpack with rollers and take it on board, while checking the other one.
I can't help you on the logistics but I can tell you that the places you're visiting are all interesting, welcoming, fun - everything you could possibly wish for. London and Singapore have excellent public transportation, so you'll easily get around. Chieng Mai is cheap so you'll be able to get around everywhere by cab.
Everything appears poised to provide you with a fabulous trip to wonderful destinations. If you're more tired now than you were a few years ago, just take it easy. You don't have to see everything in a single day. Cut back on the sightseeing and make sure you stay within your comfort zone. Make sure you're comfortable at all times - especially while walking. Keep your money and cards partly in your hotel safe and partly in a travel money belt so you won't have to worry about waving around wads of cash. No bum bags - they're easy to dip into. These are standard precautions for anyone and there's no reason you should travel any differently than the thousands of other women - of all ages - you'll be coming across.
I would guess that your itinerary may have been chosen because you know people in those places. If you do, that's great. If not, you might try making contact with a few people before you go, through services like Hermail or Hospitality Club. And remember - senior travel doesn't have to be different: a lot of it is about attitude. Writer Dervla Murphy can't have been too far from 80 when I ran across her in Uganda a few years ago. And as of this writing she's still going strong.
I'm qualified but poor and (considered) old. Can I live in France?
(The Dalles, OR, U.S.A.)
Okay, so I'm 33, single, and I have a lower class background (i.e. no expendable income). I've long wanted to live in rural France, and last summer I was lucky enough to do a study abroad program on Romanesque architecture in northern and central France--and fell even further in love. I'm a visual artist and I recently completed my M.A. in English Literature. And I'm adventurous and not particularly spoiled, so I'm open to lots of possibilities. Is there any hope for me?
From where I stand 33 is hardly old... But lets get to your question about France. There's good and bad news.
The good news is that as an American, you can live in France for up to three months with no paperwork. You're a tourist, and whether you choose to stay in an old farmhouse the entire time or travel around the country is your business.
Anything longer than that requires either a job, registration in an institution of higher learning, or an independent income. Basically the French state wants to make sure you can support yourself and won't become a public burden.
With the enlargement of the European Union, it is becoming increasingly difficult for non-Europeans to find jobs. Teaching English in France is pretty much the only option, and a difficult one at that. Difficult, but not absolutely impossible. Another option is the occasional agricultural work, but if you don't speak French you'll be vying with thousands of other job-seekers who will all have first swipe at jobs so at the very least you should try to learn a bit of the language.
I would suggest you spend a bit of time on expat forums, which are often the best way of finding out about local requirements and possible loopholes and options. Here are a few: Expat Forum, Expat France, the France Forum on Expat Blog, and Expat Exchange. They should be able to help!
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Women over 70?
How about women over 70 - is there a place for us as independent travellers?
Sylvia, there's no such thing as too old for independent travel! Some years ago, I woke up in a dorm room in Durban to find a man getting ready and slipping on his backpack - he must have been well over 80, and going strong.
Often, in Africa or Asia or Latin America, I ran into older women on their own, or in pairs. On they trudged, cutting a swathe through the backpacker trail with a gusto that beat that of women less than half their age. They stayed in hostels like the rest of us, clambered onto pickup trucks - albeit a bit more slowly, doing everything we did.
Remember Dervla Murphy? As of this writing she's still going strong. She has traveled solo well into her 80s - and written bestsellers after each trip.
The thing about getting older is that we have to be more careful. If you're less active, climbing Kilimanjaro might not be the best trip for you. If you have health problems, you might want to stick to cities with good medical facilities. But these days, women in their 70s can be more fit than women half their age - age on the road is often relative, more a state of mind than a state of body.
If I'm still around, I have every intention of traveling into my 60s, my 70s, my 80s, and onward from there. I really believe that the only thing ever holding you back is yourself.
SOS... My first big overseas trip...I am 59!!!
by Shakona Rose
(Byron Bay NSW, Australia)
Finally a life long dream has come to fruition. My eldest daughter has gifted me an airfare to the destination of my choice in 2011. I live in Australia have only been to NZ.
I have several destinations in mind although would love to see it all!!!
2. Thailand/Cambodia etc
3. Sth America...Peru
4. Central America
to name some of the destinations top of my list.
I will be travelling on a small budget plus I do get my widow's allowance for 3 mths whilst I am overseas. Also I am only small in stature and light framed and know that a backpack would be too much of a burden for me. I feel one of those bags with wheels and the handle would be more appropriate for me.
I need some good honest helpful advice and suggestions to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.
Answer: First things first. At 59, you're a spring chicken when it comes to travel. It seems as though hordes of women your age have decided to take off and travel - welcome to you all! You'd be amazed at the number of mature women on the road.
Here are some of them:
Am I too old to travel solo? I'm just a few months shy of 50
Women over 70?
A woman in her fifties traveling to South Asia...
Traveling overland in Africa as a 60-year-old woman
As you can see, you are NOT alone!
Now, age apart, if you're traveling overseas on your own for the first time (and I'd give this advice at any age) I wouldn't start with India. It's a glorious country but much harder to travel in than others. Southeast Asia would be my pick for a first-timer.
Now for the backpack. I understand your concern but I'd think twice. The great thing about a backpack is that it leaves your hands free, and you might be grateful for that. The problem with the wheeled suitcases or packs is that they only really work properly when the ground is smooth, for example in an airport. Having traveled extensively around Southeast Asia (and Central and South America for that matter) I can confirm that where there are sidewalks (and that's not everywhere) they're often uneven or downright full of potholes. If you're backpacking you could easily reduce your pack's weight to something virtually negligible.
That said, others out there might disagree... Hina in the USA is also small and she asked, What backpack should I buy? The resources in my answer to her might help you too.
l think this will do for a start - but please don't hesitate to come back if you have more questions. And when you do travel, we'd love to hear about your experiences as a first-time Golden Girl!
I am a mid-age (50s) woman planning travel to South Asia
I'm interested in other women's experiences as to how age impacts travel in various other countries/continents. I have not traveled outside of America much since I was "young" and know it will be different!
Jordan, I'm not sure whether this is a question but I'm assuming you're asking whether other women travelers have had age-related issues or experiences while traveling. Just a quick answer to that: I've traveled since I was 15, and continue to travel solo in my 50s. In some countries, age is highly respected, for example in parts of Asia, so you should have no problems at all. On the contrary, being younger would probably attract far greater attention. Stick with the women in that region - use women's accommodation where you can or women's transportation (carriages, taxi services and the like) and you should be fine. If anyone else can share experience about age and travel in South Asia, please do!
How can I find out about solo travel for senior citizens?
Are there articles for senior citizens traveling solo?
Answer: Virtually all the articles you'll find on Women on the Road are as suitable for seniors as they are for young people, with a very few exceptions. In fact, my website was partly inspired by the many older solo women I met while traveling across Africa and Asia. Their courage and indomitable spirit convinced there was no reason anyone should be concerned about traveling solo!
I can also recommend certain resources that are either aimed at solo seniors, or that are highly suitable, for example the excellent site Transitions Abroad and its section on senior travel. I would also check out the indomitable Maggie Counihan, author of Backpacking to Freedom: Solo at Sixty. One site that isn't specifically for senior citizens but whose author is over 70 and still traveling strong is Journeywoman, created and maintained by Evelyn Hannon. You'll also find some senior solo travel resources at Simplifying Life Choices and if you'd like your solo travel to be a bit more organized, try checking around Senior Travel Hub.
Another good place to find tips and interact is online - try the Still Going thread on Bootsnall or Older Travelers over on the Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree.
You might also be interested in reading Travelling overland in Africa as a 60-year-old woman? and my page on Senior Volunteering. Hope this helps!
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Senior woman wanting to live in travel trailer
I want to do some traveling around the US but I'm totally new at towing and living in a travel trailer. I would also like the option of staying for a few months at a time in various locations but don't know how to begin finding out information on all this. I'm 65 and I would be living only on my social security so my funds are very limited. My adrenaline was over the top in looking for and finding my trailer, a vintage 1965 Santa Fe. Now I need to do some work on it, get myself organized and make my move but I can't seem to do it! What do I do?
Answer: Now this is really not in my area of expertise, Helen, as I've never traveled in a trailer! But let me see if I can point you towards a few good and friendly sites out there managed by people who seem ultra-nice and whom you could approach for this kind of information, since they're RVers themselves. I would try...
- Frugal RV Travel
- Your RV Lifestyle
And strictly for women:
- RVing Women
- Women RV Forum
and the Solo Woman RV Blog
Most of these sites have Contact forms or Questions sections so please use them - and get it from the horse's mouth!
How can a US senior citizen spend 9 months in France?
(Boston, MA, USA)
I have done a lot of travelling alone...from home exchanges to couchsurfing! People ask me, "Are you afraid?", "Are you lonely?" and so on and so forth....And the answer to both is a resounding "NO!" Now I have an opportunity to go to Nice for nine months-September 2013-June 2014. This is a new but wonderful opportunity that has just developed today. I had said not too long ago that, if I had my "druthers", I would love to live in France for a year. Well, many more important events have happened in nine months than me going to France for nine months! Still I find the challenge quite thrilling!
So at this early point in this possible-and VERY-exciting-journey, I have a multitude of things to sort out. Where can I go to figure out exactly what I need to do to decide and then prepare to go? Can't find this in Rick Steeves! So far I've emailed the French Embassy in Boston to see when I would need to apply for a visa, because I think I will need one to stay more than three months, although I'll not be working. I've also emailed a friend who has been living and working in France for four years for some ideas. At that time I will be approaching my 73th birthday.
I will start a blog to see how this puzzle comes together, but this is my first written exploration. I would love any ideas and suggestions from the womenontheroad as I see if the road IS going to take me to Nice in nineteen months.
My Answer: You're right, Deborah, it doesn't get much more exciting than that! I've done a bit of digging and while I can't tell you exactly when you'd need to apply for your visa (3 months ahead of time seems to be the norm - at the very least!), I would advise you do a few things in preparation.
First, you WILL need a visa for 9 months so start gathering the papers. You'll need a birth certificate and police clearance. You'll also need to prove that your health insurance provider will cover you in France if there's something wrong. And here's the hitch - you'll need to prove you can support yourself during that time. I would assume there's a number attached to that but you'll have to reach the French authorities to find out what they mean by 'enough to support yourself'.
Then, make sure your passport will be valid for the duration of your stay before you apply for your visa or it might get turned down. Also once you get to France, you'll have to report to the authorities within the first couple of months and register. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
This article is a good place to start, but check with the embassy first. For example, it mentions you need a police clearance from your local police station yet other guides say you'll need one from the FBI. It also says you'll need a carte de sejour but as a retiree who won't be working, you won't need one. So check first!
If you read French, this is the official page for long stay visas by the government of France. This one goes into more detail but both are distinctly unhelpful. If you can't read it, use Google Translate to turn it into 'semi' English… Here is the actual form but I wouldn't try to get the visa online before talking to the embassy.
Finally, one thing I would do if I were resettling in a new country is try to talk to as many expats as possible. The good news is that there are plenty online. Just search for 'expat blogs' and 'expat forums' and you'll find plenty of threads that resonate. Those who have been there, done that will be your best guides.
Enjoy and have a wonderful trip!
Is 65 too old to stay in a NZ hostel?
I plan to go to New Zealand Feb/March 2013 for 6 weeks. I would like to find a travelling partner but if not will go alone. I have looked at hotel prices and they seem pretty steep for singles. I don't particularly want to share with strangers but think maybe it might be better to share a twin room in hostels half of the time. Also that way I might meet up with some other travellers to converse with. Do single women of 64/65 go to youth hostels?
My answer: Yes they do! That's the short answer… and that's why most of them aren't called 'youth' hostels anymore. Few if any have upper age limits but if you're concerned most have websites so you can check.
In my younger hosteling years (not that long ago) I would always marvel at the older women I met along the way, sharing dorms with the rest of us, pitching in in the kitchen, hanging out in the evenings, going on short trips together - and usually more adventurous and fun than the rest of us! Think of Dervla Murphy, in her eighties and still trekking around the world (until at least recently).
I can't speak about New Zealand specifically but generally hostels will have a range of accommodation, from full-fledged dorm rooms to private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, depending on the hostel. There are also plenty of styles, for the more nature-oriented to the urban chic to the party hostel (bring earplugs).
Another alternative would be with Airbnb.com at prices ranging from a $10 room to an $800 house, but with plenty in the $20-$60 range. Some rooms are cheaper than hostels!
If that's not what you're up to, how about couch surfing or similar hospitality groups? They're actually free, and you can easily meet up with people who share your interests.
Finally, the following pages may also be of interest:
Couchsurfing for women?
Female Travel Companions
Cheap Hostel Beds
Cheap Travel in Australia and New Zealand
Become a Housesitter
Wherever you decide to stay, just be yourself and you'll find a world of acceptance. Travelers love other travelers and if you love being on the road, that's your calling card.