Solo traveling is one of the greatest gift a woman can give herself. It’s empowering, freeing and amazing regardless the length of trip, destination, and your age. Today, I’d like to share the story of Jessica, a fearless solo female traveler in her 60s who continues to live life to the fullest by making everyday an adventure for herself:
Tell us about yourself!
I’m a small-town girl, raised in Gettysburg, PA, and I get bored easily—which has led to a number of career changes over my lifetime.
Because I’m a horse lover, I first majored in veterinary technology and landed my dream job at a state-of-the-art horse hospital. It didn’t take long to figure out that working at a horse hospital is not a great career choice for someone who loves horses.
I went back to school and pursued a career in journalism. After spending 18 years working as a newspaper editor, I did another career change by publishing a Civil War novel that I’d been working on (off and on) for more than 10 years.
I’m having a great time combining my passions for history, travel and writing.
What was your first solo trip experience like?
I have been traveling solo for so long, I honestly don’t remember my first solo trip. It was probably driving to New York City right after I graduated from high school. At the time, I didn’t even know there were five different boroughs in “New York City,” but I managed to get lost in every one of them (no GPS back then), so I figured things eventually.
Of course, NYC is a big, scary city to small-town folks, and my family and friends were sure I was going to be killed. It was scary, but I lived to tell about it.
I guess that’s what gave me the confidence to continue to travel solo.
What are some of the things you love most about traveling solo in your 60s?
One of the main things I love about traveling solo in my 60s is the luxury of time. When I was younger, travel was always about the destination. I didn’t enjoy the span of time spent getting from Point A to Point B. I just wanted to get to where I was going.
Now in my 60s, I’ve learned how to SLOW down and enjoy the journey. In fact, I’ve learned that the journey is often the best part of my trips. The things I discover when I take the time to do a U-turn are the ones I remember the most from my travels.
Would I have pulled over for a little country store in the middle of nowhere in my 20s, and found the most delicious homemade cookies on earth? (To be honest, I probably wouldn’t even have seen it as I went speeding by). Or would I have turned onto a dirt road with ornate gates to discover a hidden cemetery where a signer of the Declaration of Independence is buried? No way.
Travel is so much more enjoyable now! There’s a real freedom to slowing down and enjoying the “trip”—not just the destination.
Time is a luxury that I never felt I had before, but now it’s my greatest travel companion.
Also, I think at my age I have a little better idea of what my interests are. The typical places that tourists go don’t interest me (whereas they did when I was young). I prefer to find the hidden gems and explore the culture of an area.
I never know what I’m going to discover off the beaten path from one day to the next, which adds an element of mystery and adventure to my travels.
Which misconceptions did you have about traveling as a mature solo female traveler that you now realize were untrue?
I think the biggest misconception I had—and most people probably have—is that older people can’t navigate today’s fast-paced world. All of the new technology out there is the one place I stumble the most, but it’s not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Yes, it can be a little intimidating since the technology is constantly changing and shows up in unexpected places. I’m sure the younger generation doesn’t realize that something as simple as a parking meter can be confusing to a mature traveler. Pay the meter with your phone? WHAT?
I’ll never forget the first time I rented a keyless car. As someone who grew up using a manual shift, (and who reluctantly parted with my 5-speed Jeep in my 40s), it was a little baffling.
On the other hand, being a “mature” solo traveler, in some ways makes traveling easier. People don’t expect “old folks” to understand technology or how to operate things, so they help out more readily. Age shouldn’t dictate your ability to navigate this modern world. Yes, it might make you go outside your comfort zone, but travel is worth the effort.
I think another misconception is that many people think age limits you from trying new things. I’ve received strange looks when I’m first in line on the zipline platform or make it to the end of a strenuous hike.
Age should never be an excuse for holding you back. If anything, age should make you more adaptable to whatever comes up.
What are some of your advice to women in their 60s out there who want to give solo traveling a try?
If you’re in your 60s and have never traveled solo before, I would start small. Do a road trip to a new city a few hours away. I say this because, if you’ve relied on a spouse or a companion your entire life, traveling solo truly is an entirely different experience.
(For one thing, you’ll find out quickly there’s no one to blame when you get lost, and you’ll have to figure out where you are all on your own).
Younger generations can throw a backpack into their car and take off for their destination, but you may have a different packing list now that includes things like prescriptions, or a special down pillow that ensures a good night’s sleep no matter where you are (yes, that’s me).
If you’re over 60 and your main concern is getting lost, you can have backup directions ready. I usually have an old-fashioned GPS, as well as google maps on my phone for traffic information. I also print out directions before-hand and have a physical map.
May seem like overkill, but I’ve lost satellite reception more times than I can count and I like having a paper backup. It relieves the panic when modern technology fails.
As a side note, those who are over 60, probably don’t worry much about getting a flat tire. Back in the day, it was pretty commonplace, and we didn’t have cell phones to call for assistance. We just changed it.
Solo travel is really empowering, and can open new worlds for those over 60. It’s never too late to gain confidence and learn how to be self-reliant. Yes, it can be a bit terrifying. That’s a normal feeling. But you’ll never know if you can do it unless you try.
Where are some of your favorite countries to travel alone, and why?
I travel almost exclusively domestically because my interest is in American history.
But as a solo traveler I have ridden horseback across battlefields, gone target shooting out of a helicopter, hiked the cliffs on an island off Maine, swam with dolphins and flown in a Vietnam era Huey.
There is really no limit to what you can see and do.
I think once you travel solo, you find out that the only thing that’s been holding you back from seeing new places, discovering different cultures, and learning new things…is yourself.
Thank you, Jessica, for the words of encouragement and an inspiring attitude! Stories like Jessica’s are wonderful reminder that solo travel is viable for all backgrounds and walks of life.