The Rise of the Female Solo Traveller

September 1, 2015

There’s a new travel market emerging. An increasing number of women are hitting the road and the skies independently with nothing but their luggage and passports in hand.

For Shelby Monita, the decision to travel alone was easy. The 25-year-old writer went on a train trip across North America last summer, crossing eight states and nine cities in the span of six weeks. Her travels took her from New York to New Orleans, eventually landing her in sunny California. She picked up rare zines, a passion of hers, at a small shop in San Francisco. She sang in the late, great Elvis Presley’s microphone in Memphis, Tennessee.

Monita is part of a growing number of women hitting the roads and the skies alone—independent from their friends, families, children and partners. It’s a trend the travel industry is eager to capitalize on. Some are calling it the rise of the “wander woman,” while others are catering to a group of slightly more affluent women the industry has coined as “PANK” (Professional Aunt, No Kids).

Whatever you call it, women of all ages are embracing independent travel.

74 per cent of women have travelled solo or plan to soon

Earlier this year, TripAdvisor polled 9,181 women in the U.S., Australia, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Russia and Southeast Asia about their travel habits. The survey found that 41 per cent of those surveyed said they’ve travelled alone in the past, but that number climbs to 74 per cent when the number of respondents who plan to travel solo in 2015 was factored in.

Women cited various reasons for travelling alone:

  • 56 per cent said it gives them more independence
  • 54 per cent said they love being able to do whatever they want
  • 43 per cent said they became more confident
  • 35 per cent said they value the challenge of solo travel

Monita agrees. “It was a really great opportunity to get to know myself better,” she says.

Tips for the first-time solo traveller

Additionally, Visa’s Global Travel Intentions Study 2015 found solo travel in general is skyrocketing, doubling among affluent and first-time travellers. If you’re thinking of travelling alone for the first time, Monita offers the following tips:

1. Don’t look like a tourist. One of Monita’s safety tricks is to blend in. “I don’t put myself in this situation where I might stand out to somebody and that people would target because they think I’m not from there,” she says before adding, “It’s more fun that way anyway.

2. Be open-minded. One of Monita’s favourite memories was completely unplanned. She met a man on the train from Chicago to Memphis. They got to talking and he asked her if she’d ever seen the movie Mystery Train, which happens to be her favourite movie of all time. He mentioned the diner featured in the film was directly across from the station and asked her to join him there for breakfast. She was enthralled by the experience and wrote about it in detail on her blog.

3. Trust your gut. Monita says she rarely feels afraid when she travels alone, something she attributes to knowing the difference between instinct and fear. “Gut instincts will keep you safe and out of harm’s way, you always have to trust your gut,” she says. “But if you’re always afraid of everything you’re never going to try anything new. Before you go, listen to that voice inside of you and say, is this really gut instinct telling me I shouldn’t do this, or is this me holding myself back?” Of course, always be cautious and don’t intentionally put yourself in danger.

4. Know where you’re going. Monita got lost a few times on her travels and said while she didn’t panic over it, it’s always better to know where you’re going first.

5. Research, research, research. Before you confirm your booking, talk to people who have previously been to the places you’d like to visit and try to learn more about a destination than what meets the eye.

Helpful resources from the Canadian government:

Up next: Monita heads to Spain

Monita is in the process of planning her next expedition, a month-long pilgrimage through Spain’s Camino trail. She’s hoping to do the journey with her stepmother, but if that doesn’t pan out she fully intends to do it alone.

Travel insurance is especially important when you’re travelling alone. Look for a policy that has wide coverage options including covering any costs associated with an injury or illness that requires a family member to travel to visit you in a hospital. It sounds scary, but like everything else travel related, it pays to be prepared.