“She thought I was crazy.” That was Peggy Johnston’s daughter’s reaction when she learned that her mother was selling her home, putting all of her worldly possessions into storage and going on an African safari with Road Scholar.
In 2007, Peg’s beloved husband of 10 years unexpectedly died in her arms just two months after she retired. And, in her shock and grief, she did what everyone counsels new widows or widowers NEVER to do — she made a drastic, life-changing decision. Looking back, she says it was the best decision she ever made.
“After my husband died, I knew right away that I wanted and needed to start a new life,” she said. “I was retired, my adult children had their own lives, and I wanted to learn more about other places and cultures. Road Scholar offered a safari to South Africa and I enrolled on a whim. That somewhat impulsive decision transformed my life and I’ve been a nomad ever since.”
Thirty years ago, it was rare to see a woman dine alone or a group of women hike a remote trail; it was even rarer to see a woman travel abroad on her own. But Peggy, 63, developed an independent streak at a very young age, leaving friends and family in her small hometown in Louisiana to visit New York City with a family friend on a bus trip. She also was one of the first generations of women studying abroad, attending a summer session at Oxford in the late 1960s.
Today, it is rare to NOT see women actively engaged in enriching pursuits: hiking on local trails, speeding by with their cycling teams, debating the finer points of a novel at their book club meeting or exploring the world-at-large.
These new, independent women, many of whom have become a part of the Sixty and Me community, want to see and experience the world, and are making the most of being solo travelers who make their own decisions and choose their own adventures.
Eight years ago, Peg became one of the millions of solo female travelers to hit the roads, seas and airways to experience the world through hands-on learning. In fact, women today are traveling solo at an unprecedented rate. There are several reasons for this new trend.
First, there are simply a lot of women over 50 – approximately 45% of the U.S. population is 50+, and more than half of them are women.
One of the most culturally significant reasons for this trend is that boomer women like Peg, whether single, divorced, married or widowed, are much more active and adventurous than their predecessors and are not willing to stay home if they can’t find a companion.
“Some of my earliest travel memories were of traveling solo and I remember how grown up and independent I felt,” she said. “Like many women, my wanderlust was curtailed a bit while I was raising my family. I was a single mom for 10 years with small children working full-time and attending law school in the evenings. There wasn’t much time to travel. However, I remarried a wonderful man and when my children were grown my desire to see the world was rekindled.”
Peg now travels on her own and with friends, and will attend her first family Road Scholar program this year, visiting the Grand Canyon with her daughter, 10-year-old granddaughter and her granddaughter’s other grandmother.
In all, she’s on the road approximately 60% of the time, fulfilling lifelong dreams to visit the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, take a photography class in Costa Rica, golf in Georgia and smoke a stogie in Cuba.
She has visited 36 countries and 44 states and, while her experiences have been incredible, it has been the people she’s met along the way who have nourished her spirit and helped her create a life that some dream of but few actually experience.
Road Scholar is famous for the camaraderie and friendships formed on programs. Their travelers come together in a community of learning and that leads to lifelong friendships. The organization welcomes participants of all backgrounds and physical abilities by offering a wide variety of course content and activity levels to ensure participants experience programs at their own pace. And for the price conscious, there are no hidden costs.
All programs include accommodations, transportation within the program, lectures, activities and excursions, gratuities and taxes, travel assistance and emergency medical/evacuation assistance insurance. In addition, Road Scholar offers financial assistance to make experiential learning available and accessible to all lifelong learners, regardless of their income.
Peg’s advice to first-timers traveling solo is to start small and lose the fear. “I have to be honest and admit I used to have some reservations about traveling solo,” she said. “I think many women probably share the concerns I had about safety and worry about feeling like an outsider.
But you simply can’t let fear get in the way of creating a new life for yourself or experiencing something new.
I did my research and Road Scholar’s experience and reputation helped reassure me that I would be safe and feel welcomed. My daughter still thinks I’m crazy to live this nomadic life, but she’s more comfortable with my decision now and she has seen that I’ve developed deep friendships that have so enhanced my life.
My advice to women interested in traveling solo is to take a look at the Road Scholar website or order the free catalog. Find out as much as you can about what they offer and select a program close to home that’s perhaps only a few days long. And if you can’t find anyone to go with you, ask Road Scholar to match you with a roommate and take the plunge!”
Road Scholar is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to inspire adults to learn, discover and travel. Founded in 1975, they offer more than 5,500 learning adventures, including trips to Cuba, France, Prague, Scotland and every state in the U.S. All of them will welcome solo female travelers just like you!
In her rare spare time, Peg visits her children and granddaughters in Texas. She also sits on the Road Scholar Board of Directors.
Disclaimer: This advertorial was provided by Road Scholar. I’m a big believer in this organization and will be taking one of their trips later this year, but, I also wanted to be upfront with you whenever I post content from a third party on the website. I hope that you enjoy everything that Road Scholar has to offer. – Margaret Manning, Sixty and Me
Tags Solo Travel