I’ve been flying alone since I was six years old, when my parents put me on a plane from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia to visit my grandparents. When I spilled a glass of milk all over my yellow organdy dress it spoiled the fantasy that I was just like the other “grownup” passengers. I was a UM—an unaccompanied minor—and a friendly flight attendant cleaned me up, gave me a pair of wings, and took good care of me.
Traveling solo has its challenges, even as an adult. But if you try it just once you may find yourself saying, “Why did I wait so long to do this?” The secret is to align your travel spend to your personal goals.
One of my best friends travels solo everywhere, and in the last few years she has enrolled in local language schools for a few weeks to a few months at a time. She says it’s her form of self-care. It gives her a sense of purpose and a community so she won’t feel lonely on the road. This is a grown-ass woman who could afford to stay anywhere in the world, has never married, and has been her own boss most of her life. She has the packing, ticketing, and logistics down to a science, and because she does days and days of research to build her own itinerary, she is rarely disappointed. This is what makes her feel safe and comfortable on her trips.
Traveling Solo Doesn’t Have to be Lonely
Traveling solo can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be lonely or require a lot of advance prep. You could hire a professional travel agent to plan everything for you (yes, they still exist, even with all the free information and cheap rates available through the online travel agencies like Kayak and Expedia.)
Price isn’t the only consideration.
Some women enjoy travel planning and love finding deals. I get it. I’m a consignment-store ho and I love a bargain, but price isn’t the only consideration. Other factors like the designer, quality, and condition of the item are all important, too. Smart shoppers know how to find real value.
When Jeannie Ralston started putting together NextTribe trips for women our age, she thought long and hard about how to make them a great experience for everyone. Friends, sisters, strangers, mothers and daughters, traveling alone or traveling together, she wanted everyone to have a good time, to connect with each other and with local women, and to feel safe and well taken care of.
A New Posse
Becky Rutland took a chance on a NextTribe travel experience by signing up for a long weekend in Charleston, S.C. this past spring. “Since retirement, I’ve had trouble finding a good travel companion,” she says. “My friends are caring for grandchildren or they travel only with their families.” She adds, “NextTribe provides me with the adventure and fun I see with warm and interesting women, with just the right amount of energy and exercise.”
Combining the best aspects of solo travel with the fun, community and camaraderie of a girlfriend trip.
She signed up for another NextTribe trip this year and says, “The relationships we formed in Paris were the lasting kind. When I went to Austin to see my sons, I was able to connect over brunch with Laura, who I met in Paris. She told me that she and another Paris traveler were signed up for the Marfa and Big Bend trip. I hadn’t considered going on that trip but when I saw they were going, I signed up, too. These trips through NextTribe offer you opportunities to travel with friends from other trips, even if you live across the country from each other.”
Frequent solo travelers find that when they travel alone, they’re much more likely to meet other travelers and engage with locals. As a solo traveler you might find yourself invited into people’s homes, to experience a place as the locals do, making the visit so much more memorable. Jeannie Ralston has managed to merge the best aspects of solo travel with the fun, community and camaraderie of a girlfriend trip, without the awful aspects she can’t stand about group travel: playing follow the leader, rushing from one “must-see” location to another, feeling like a tourist on a treadmill.
The first time I traveled with NextTribe there was a woman on our trip who was brave enough to come alone even though she was still reeling from the shock of a personal loss a couple of months prior. Renée Brune says she made the decision to go after joining one of our Zoom calls, where she met some of the other women planning to go on the Troncones, Mexico, beach retreat, which NextTribe is offering in December with a twist—sessions on reinventing yourself with expert coaches. “At first I was afraid these were all women who knew each other and it would be cliquey, but when I said I was 60 and about to get divorced, everybody cheered. I could see all the personalities and I really wanted to give myself this gift.” she says.
I felt immediately embraced, and that I had friends there right away.
All of us gave her her space when she needed it, and gave her that oxytocin boost when she was ready for some support. “I felt I could participate or not, no obligations,” she says.
The change in her in just one week was striking.”I felt immediately embraced, and that I had friends there right away,” she continues. “One of the group was an executive from Phoenix, very pretty, and I thought, ‘Oh, she’s beautiful, she’s never going to want to talk to me.’ But then she came up to me in yoga class and we sat around the pool and she told me how she got through her divorce plus breast cancer. She was talking to me about forgiveness, and it was just a special bond,” she says.
Renée Brune enjoyed it so much that she signed up for another trip to spend time with her new-found friend. They’re both going on the San Miguel de Allende trip for Day of the Dead later this year (sorry, it’s sold out, but there’s one spot left for the following week). And since Renée works for REI and is an experienced hiker, she led one the NextTribe hiking trips to the top of a 14,000 ft mountain in Colorado in June.
The Troncones trip is so easygoing and popular, Wendy Levine signed up for it as her first trip with NextTribe, even though she’d never been to Mexico before. “My husband is a terrible travel companion,” she says. “His idea of going on a trip is to go somewhere and do nothing. I like to be doing things. I had never been on a trip with a bunch of strangers, or an all-women trip before. I had faith that I wouldn’t be the only one coming who didn’t know anyone and I was right. Now Bridget Morin, my roommate, will be on a trip with me again next year!”
Best of Both Worlds
Traveling with NextTribe seems to offer solo women travelers the best of both worlds: a group of women with common shared experiences of love and loss, triumph and tragedy, sickness and health. In this season of our lives, we have all earned the title of “wise women” because we’ve all paid our dues. The real testament to the value of these trips is how many women are repeat travelers, earning new stamps in their NextTribe passports (better than a pair of wings…a major discounted trip at the end of that rainbow!)
I had faith that I wouldn’t be the only one coming who didn’t know anyone and I was right.
So if you haven’t traveled with NextTribe yet, don’t let your lack of a travel companion stop you. Who knows? Your roommate just might become your best future travel companion.
As much as I love traveling with my husband, I can’t wait to go on another NextTribe trip, to meet and spend time with women I don’t know. Sometimes it’s even better when the other women aren’t your friends or family members. No history = no drama.
I read recently that people used to choose trips by destination and time of year. Now they’re choosing trips based on the experiences they’ll have. No matter where you go or how much you spend on a trip, connecting with women our age can be just the experience you’ve been waiting for.