Why Older Women Should Still Travel, According to an Expert

Meryl Streep reprising her role as Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again via Universal Pictures

Age is just a number!

Traveling is one of the greatest experiences life has to offer.

It allows you to see all sorts of unique and interesting places, while opening your eyes to different cultures and customs around the world.

Unfortunately, traveling has been viewed as a young woman's sport, as it's often more difficult to take time away from your regularly scheduled life to do so. Not to mention, our bodies are much more agile when we're younger, making it easy to jet set off to any given location. 

But is this as true as we've led ourselves to believe? Should an older female really rule out traveling, based on her age?

According to Heather J. Gibson, Ph.D.—a Professor in the Department of Tourism, Recreation, and Sport Management at the University of Florida, the short answer is no. A woman should continue to travel as she ages, but why?

We spoke with Heather to better understand why women should still travel as they grow older, the benefits of traveling for women, the best places for older women to travel, and much more. Read what she had to say below! 

Why Women Should Continue to Travel as They Age

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There are many benefits traveling offers to women of all ages. Heather notes how it not only introduces a woman to new things, but also keeps them socially and physically active at times when it's needed most. Not to mention, it helps you experience what's happening in other parts of the world firsthand.

"Travel for all ages opens your mind to different things," she says. "We are beginning to understand that it is important to keep the mind active, as well as to be socially engaged. Travel does both of these, but with international travel, it also introduces the individual to new and different ideas—which is increasingly important as the media in many countries can shape messages in a particular way. Seeing things for yourself can open up your mind to different points of view."

How Traveling Positively Affects a Woman

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Traveling does a body good. Again, it keeps you active, but there are so many more benefits than that. According to Heather's research with solo female travelers, venturing out into the world alone brought about a sense of empowerment and accomplishment.

"Women feel empowered from travel," she notes. "They feel a sense of accomplishment from being able to do things themselves. 

Initially, many of the solo female travelers Heather interviewed for her researched shared their apprehension about seeing the world alone. But once they overcame that fear and did it, they felt truly  liberated in their decision.  

"In the initial interviews [with the solo female travelers], they spoke about not wanting to stay home just because they didn't have a travel companion," she says. "At the same time, they faced both self and friends and family apprehension about then traveling solo. Overcoming this often contributed to this sense of accomplishment and the enjoyment of traveling solo, as well as this feeling of overall empowerment."    

Best Places for Older Women to Travel

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Now that you're aware you can travel at any age, let's talk about finding the best place for you to visit.

There are some places around the globe that are a bit easier and safer to visit. Heather states that is an important factor to think about.

"Countries such as India were viewed as difficult," she says. "Countries such as Australia were viewed as easier."

More critical than how easy or difficult a country is to visit, is to know the type of travel you plan on experiencing.

"I would say that it also depends on the style of travel that you take," Heather mentions. "Today, there are many different ways of visiting different countries—from tours where everything is organized for you, to semi-independent to completely independent."

For those of you who plan to be more independent in your traveling, it's all about strategy when it comes to staying safe and enjoying yourself.

"On the semi and independent realms, safety was something the women spoke about," she says. "They also used strategies to keep themselves safe, such as choice of hotels and being aware of their surroundings, particularly at night."

Older Women and International Travel

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Australia is a grand place to visit, but how old is too old to travel internationally? According to Heather's research, she says it all depends on the traveler.

"In general, it seems to be an individual choice," she says. "Older travelers, in my studies have spoken about choosing more organized forms of travel (e.g. tours) as they aged. Generally, there doesn't seem to be an age or a point at which international travel should stop."

Heather also mentions that many older travelers are choosing to embark on cruises, mainly because they make traveling more convenient at any age.

"With the increased size and opportunity of the cruise industry, many older travelers are choosing this mode," she notes. "Many travel-related takes are taken care of for you and with a cruise, you don't have to deal with luggage, food, doctors, etc."

The Best Time for Older Women to Travel

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You have a general idea of where to go, so let's discuss the best time for your trip. 

Once again, Heather points out this will all depend on the destination you end up choosing. Although, there are some general things she says travelers should be aware of.

"Being mindful of school holidays around the world is a good strategy," she says. "Especially in Europe, the height of summer is not a good time, as it is all so crowded. Look at the holidays at a destination. This can provide festivals and special events, but it can also mean that everything is closed."

And, of course, you can't forget to factor in weather.

"Heat and cold would also be other considerations," Heather states. "Traveling when it's too hot or too cold can make things less enjoyable. Also, be mindful of rainy season around the world."

How an Older, Solo Female Traveler Can Stay Safe

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So how exactly does an older female traveler, especially a solo one, stay safe when venturing around the world? As an avid traveler herself, Heather was quick to note the hardships women face when traveling, no matter how old they are or where they go.

"Unfortunately, the world is gendered and women are perceived differently, and often, more vulnerable than men," she states. "However, age in some cultures may also be an advantage, as many in the world revere and respect older people."  

As for overall safety, Heather urges the importance of being smart and using commonsense when choosing where you visit.

"The usual strategies would be choice of hotel, location in the town or city of hotels, being aware of surroundings, being smart and using commonsense," she says.

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