MO/AD Magazine

Why Women Travel Solo More than Men

It’s Not Where, It’s How

People love making bucket lists of iconic places they want to see. We have one to add—but it has nothing to do with where you go, it’s about how you go. We asked solo travel expert Janice Waugh, founder of the Solo Travel Society, to explain what it all means.

Is it true that women travel solo more frequently than men?

Yes! Solo travel is travel empowering and everyone should try it. But it turns out women are far more likely to travel solo than men. Solo travel by women is also growing—by more than 50% from 2016 to 2017. This is true around the world, not just in the United States. Female Chinese solo travelers, for example, now make up nearly 60% of all Chinese independent travelers.

Why is it that women travel solo more than men?

The most common response women give when asked is “to do what I want, when I want.” Women also travel solo to express their sense of identity, part of the trends of individualism and independence bubbling up in the 1960s and ’70s, and part of every generation of women since then. Beyond that, because traditional roles still exist with women as primary caretakers of children and parents in need, women travel solo to take a break and do a little self-care.

You meet a lot of people traveling. Have you met an inspiring solo woman traveler recently that made YOU just stop in your tracks?

Yes! The most recent experience of this was at a talk I gave in Toronto. After the talk a woman in her 80s came up to me to tell me of her upcoming trip. She was going to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain for her sixteenth consecutive year. She doesn’t walk as far as she once did, but she still goes. She is a true inspiration!

Can you describe the difference of traveling to a place with friends or family, then returning solo. How is it different?

In 2001, I traveled Europe for 10 months with my husband and various combinations of our sons. It was a great trip, but it was also demanding as I spent a lot of energy caring for the needs of everyone. Since traveling solo, I’ve been to Europe at least 10 times and every time it’s a richer experience. I love wandering and even getting lost. That would have driven my family crazy!

Safety always seems to be a big issue that surrounds women travel? Is it overblown?

Actually, concern for feeling lonely and feeling awkward when eating alone come higher on the list of concerns of solo female travelers. Concern about being able to handle all the logistics alone is also a mentioned. Safety itself is not raised as a concern as much as you might think.

Has solo travel in general become easier in the last decade, since your site began?

Absolutely, solo travel is much easier than it was. With smartphones and apps, free WiFi everywhere, no need to buy a SIM card in every country, it’s much easier today. Technology has made a big difference. But there’s more. Solo travel has become understood and accepted. It’s no longer considered a little odd to travel solo.