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Single ladies, get out there and see the world in complete safety

July, 2010

For senior women, solo traveling can be a daunting, overwhelming consideration, particularly if you are newly single. But if you’re committed to challenging yourself, traveling alone can open up worlds outside and inside yourself.

Maxene Rodrigues, a Montreal high school teacher who will be retiring in a couple of years, finds traveling solo the only way to go.

“I don’t like to do group things and follow a tourist itinerary,” she says.

She’s traveled Europe, India, Asia, parts of South America and Latin America and believes the best safeguard for women traveling solo is to err on the side of caution and to be smart about your decisions.

You just have to use good old-fashioned common sense. “Traveling alone offers wonderful ways to meet different people, you just have to choose the right people to tag along with for awhile.”

Maxene meets fellow travelers at breakfast as they are planning their day. “I’ve often hooked up with someone for the day and I’ve also joined groups that happen to be heading to the same destination. Travelers are very inclusive types.”

Many guidebooks present gathering locations that are festooned with posters and bulletin boards for the independent traveler. “You can easily strike up a conversation, because people are generally very friendly when they travel. One conversation is usually enough to see if the chemistry works,” she says.

Maxene avoids ‘needy’ people, who only want to talk about their heartbreak stories.

Donna Davidson, an English as a second language and drama teacher, is a solo senior traveler who’s explored many countries, in part to supply her small handicrafts import business.

She likes to take two- and three-day mini-tours. “You can save money on your overall trip that way.” Donna avoids public transportation because “it’s really easy to get ripped off by pickpockets and be buttonholed by overly aggressive men.”

She studies her guidebooks carefully and takes along at least two. “One I use as a regular guidebook to choose places to stay or eat. The other is a lot more pictorial, so I’ll have a good idea of what I intend to see,” she says.

“I also like to book a reputable and regulated taxi service to get around and see the sights. I feel safe and comfortable and I’ve never been ripped off. I never pick up taxis from the street. In most third-world countries, guide taxis are really cheap.”

Maxene runs away from anything that sounds too good to be true. “You have to keep your wits about you and your radar on. Trust your feelings. If you don’t feel comfortable about something, the best thing is to back off. Avoid people who come up to you and want to show you the sights or places where you can get some ‘real’ bargains. But you also can’t be scared all the time or you’ll never do anything.”

Most guidebooks afford solo female travelers advice on the places and areas to avoid. Maxene follows the advice to a T. “My basic instinct is to not trust anyone, and I’ve always had a safe time traveling.”

She says it’s important to know what you’re doing. Be confident, look, act and move as though you know where you’re going. This will prevent you from looking like an easy target. Maxene and Donna warn women never to wear expensive jewelry or clothes. Some travel alerts recommend that women wear a wedding ring to avoid the wrong kind of male attention. Advances can be avoided by silence and the lack of eye contact.

Be discrete about showing your wallet when making purchases and make sure your daypack is properly secured to your body and zipped up.

If you’re hesitant about traveling alone yet still feel an unfulfilled wanderlust, there is one way you can jumpstart yourself: Organize a short, well-planned hop away from home.

Your mini-vacation will be a good way to build up confidence for that special journey you’ve always dreamed about.

Travelling solo is an open book

Since many women over 55 are taking the solo leap, you’ll find a number of websites and travel books devoted to them. These two books have received thumbs-up from

A Foxy Old Woman’s Guide to Traveling Alone by Jay Ben-Lesser provides insightful basics.

Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo by Beth Whitman is a lighthearted approach with anecdotes and advice.



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