Helen was standing near the front of the line at the United gate. She was blonde, attractive, and perfectly put together. My guess? Mid- to late-60s.

She had a well-used Louis Vuitton on the floor next to her right foot. Helen was on her way to Europe.

We got into a lively conversation about Vuitton’s logo products making a comeback.

Then Helen confided about how she loved to travel alone.

She’s been all over the world, as have I. She is more likely to want a touch more comfort than I do (I love buggy African tents with holes in them). But Helen has no qualms about heading out solo.

I asked her why.

“I love meeting new people,” she smiled. “I often join groups, for example. I never know what’s going to happen.”

Helen’s single. That freedom provides a playground for her, rather than causing her to fear the potential pitfalls of international solo travel.

While Helen and I have different preferences when it comes to how we travel (I am leaving tomorrow morning to climb Mt. Kenya, for example), she and I agree heartily on the many benefits of hitting the trail alone.

When Loss Opens Us to Life

Recently, I visited my elderly neighbor across the street. As it turns out, her husband of more than 50 years had dropped dead of a brain aneurysm this past summer. Sandy was bereft, but managing.

Sandy’s now living in a huge, five-bedroom house by herself. It’s a lot of upkeep. She’s probably going to sell and move.

Sometimes great losses, which happen to all of us at a Certain Age, galvanize us to recreate our lives. Sandy’s husband’s failing health had kept them both housebound. She now has different options, should she care to exercise them when she’s ready.

That’s precisely what Helen did.

For women who have been married all their lives, taking off for Timbuktu or East Timor seems beyond the pale. Yet for women like Helen, it’s the very thing that gives them the most joy once they’ve tried their wings.

The point is to start in a way that builds confidence and emphasizes the fun side about going solo.

Full Immersion in Paradise

This past spring, I was on a gorgeous wooden sailing ship in Indonesia, one of the two that make up the fleet for Sea Trek Sailing Adventures.

The majority of the folks on board were well over 50. Our journey was eight days long, punctuated by island landings and explorations, long easy days on deck, superb food, and an attentive crew.

We could lounge, laze, or leap into a kayak. We could hike the hills, snorkel, or catch up on our reading. Above all, we escaped the incessant noise of the Internet, the interruptions and invasions of everyday life. It was full-immersion in Paradise.

Such cruises – especially to places where the US dollar goes such a long way in the local currency – offer a chance to surround ourselves with good company while in a safe environment.

Getting There Is Part of the Fun

Getting there can be a long trip. However, it’s easy to break up the flight with an overnight along the way, say in Singapore or Tokyo. This gives you a chance to rest, recuperate, and continue the journey refreshed.

That way when the staff collects you in Indonesia, you’re bright-eyed and ready to go. Besides, that extra stop gives you another chance to take a few hours to explore close to your hotel and have a superb meal in a new country.

Helen has found her passion in international travel, as have I. It’s not for everyone. However, the boost to your confidence, the freedom you find while learning to navigate the world along the way, are priceless.

Navigating life on our own needn’t be terrifying. Traveling solo is like getting an advanced degree in life skills, but with so many more attendant benefits. Whether you prefer comfort, like Helen, or you like trips spiced with adventure, like me, there’s something out there for everyone.

For my part, I’m heading back to Bali on my 66th birthday in mid-January. Sea Trek’s Spice Islands cruise is calling. I can’t wait to meet a brand-new ship full of fellow travelers. Hear their stories. Make friends.

If you’re still a bit queasy, take a look at the Solo Travel World website for gals who galivant alone.

Then ask yourself, are you not worth giving yourself the gift of the world at large?

Where have you explored by yourself? Have you got a favorite travel story from adventuring solo? What tips can you share about making independent travel fun? What advice have you got for those who are still “just thinking about it”? Please share in the comments below so we can all have a chat about it.

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