When you imagine the type of person who decides to drop everything and go travelling around the world, a very clear stereotype probably springs to mind. They are young, quite possibly a student, school leaver or recent graduate. They have a backpack, a ‘bohemian’ look about them….
Ok, so we should be careful about lazy typecasting. But you get the idea. Solo travel is for the young, confident, footloose and fancy free. Or is it?
Actually, as is so often the case, statistics show that many of the assumptions we make about solo travel are actually myths. A surprisingly high proportion of people aged 50 and over like to travel or have travelled alone, and the number is growing all the time.
One study by Booking.com found that two in five people surveyed between the ages of 55 and 64 had travelled solo, and another 21% were planning on doing so. That makes over 50s the biggest demographic as far as solo travel is concerned.
So if you’re one of the 40% who has never taken a trip alone and has not really considered doing so, what exactly is it that you are missing out on? Why are so many people of a similar age to you flying solo? There are lots of reasons why solo travel makes sense as you reach the prime of your life. Here are four of the best ones.
For a majority of people, life changes significantly as they hit their 50s and 60s. Children grow up and leave home, you reach retirement age, you may choose to move out of the family home into something smaller, freeing up capital. A lot of people go through a separation or divorce in their middle aged years, or, as they get older again, the spectre of losing a partner to ill-health rears its head.
All of this means that your 50s and 60s are often a time when people reassess their priorities, often to re-focus on themselves again after years of putting work and family first. Why not follow that dream you’ve always had to travel the world? And if you find yourself single again, why should that stop you?
If you reach a point where you no longer have dependent kids and/or a job to think about, you will suddenly find you have a lot more time on your hands. Some people struggle with this and can feel their life lacks purpose. But this is usually just a case of readjusting after so long living life to the same patterns. For others, the freedom that returns in later life is a cause for celebration, and what better way to embrace it than follow your dreams and see the world?
Solo travel is not just for people of a certain age who find themselves single and don’t have a partner to jet off with. A lot of lone travellers in their 50s and 60s are actually still married or in a long-term relationship, but decide that exploring solo works best for them. This might simply be because their partner does not share their passion for travelling. In a loving, trusting relationship, that shouldn’t be a barrier to one of a pair indulging their passion.
Equally, after years of having your identity defined by parenthood and being one half of a couple, a lot of people reach a point where they want to rediscover who they are aside from those responsibilities again. It doesn’t mean you want to separate or disown your family – it’s just part and parcel of adjusting to a new phase of your life. Having a little independence is important to a lot of us, and solo travel can be a great way to exercise that.
Although one of the things that puts people off the idea of solo travel is the perception that it’s a pretty lonely thing to do, in reality it is often just the opposite. We’re social creatures and if we do spend any length of time on our own, we often naturally gravitate to putting ourselves out there and meeting new people. Travel presents numerous opportunities to do this – you don’t travel to spend your time cooped up in a hotel room, you mingle in communal areas, you frequent bars and restaurants, you get out and about to see the sights and take trips where you get the opportunity to interact with fellow travellers and locals alike.
Another reason that solo travel is great for making new friends is that there is a whole industry dedicated to arranging group tours specifically for lone mature travellers. This means that you are not, in fact, travelling alone – you are travelling with acquaintances you haven’t met yet. This is perfect for singles and those of a more shy disposition who don’t feel confident about being left to fend for themselves as they travel.
Enough to convince you to get on board and join in the solo travel adventure? One last piece of advice if you do – whatever type of trip you book, make sure you protect yourself with a comprehensive level of travel insurance. Lost luggage, stolen personal items, last-minute cancellations (especially with COVID still around), medical treatment if you fall ill abroad – these are all potential costs that could easily turn your dream trip into a nightmare.
One thing to be aware of is that travel insurance costs do start to rise once you reach 50 – and get steeper and steeper the older you get. The best way to avoid some of the shocking stories that are around of older travellers being charged more than the cost of their trip just for a travel policy is to go to a provider that specialises in over-50s travel insurance. Click here for more details.