One of the best parts of being the AARP Travel Ambassador is that I've been able to meet and talk to a lot of women at the Life@50+ events. I've attended three of them now, and there's one topic that always comes up: Can I travel alone? The fact is, more women these days are planning vacations for themselves, and it's not just because they don't have someone to travel with. Of those called "solo dreamers" by a recent AARP study on this growing trend, 42 percent want to take a trip to treat themselves to a relaxing, laid-back time away with no one else's schedule to worry about. And of those, more are women than men. So here's how I answer the questions women ask me most frequently.
Will I be safe?
The freedom of being on your own comes with some challenges, but they're easier to overcome than you might think.
First, I trust my gut. If any person or street (and I never walk down an empty street) just doesn't feel right, I remove myself from the situation with no second thoughts. I prefer to be out by myself during daylight, but that doesn't mean I'm always tucked away in my room by dusk. In big cities such as New York, London and Paris the streets are always busy at night, and you don't want to miss out on that energy. Simple rule: If you're in doubt anywhere you travel, talk to your lodging's front desk and ask if there are places you should definitely avoid.
For travel in developing nations, do some research beforehand. Check out Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum. Here you can exchange information and tips with avid travelers. There's always someone who's just come back from the destination you're heading for. And that's what you want: the freshest experience for the best advice. When I'm traveling in a developing nation I dress down a little — muted colors, nothing fancy. I want to blend in. On the other hand, I'm no wallflower. I'm there to experience the culture and talk to the locals.
One more thing: Refrain from posting pictures of your travels on social media until you're back home. If you live alone, those pictures in real time are a hint that your house or apartment may be empty.
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