This series is a set of firsthand anecdotes from a seasoned solo woman traveler who has traveled to 50 countries in the last decade. Priyanka Juneja is also finishing up her MBA and a Masters in International Studies from Wharton and is the founder of @hera.travel, a platform to empower women to travel fearlessly.
I remember sipping my piña colada at the hostel bar in Boracay in the Philippines, relishing the taste of fresh coconut. There’s just something about drinking that cocktail when you’re steps away from crystal clear water with the sun lazily warming your shoulders that truly encapsulates the feeling of vacation. A group of girls joined me at the bar and I leaned over to recommend they also order the piña colada. They needed to know how life changing this drink was. We naturally started chatting and the topic of age came up, a theme I was starting to notice was common in hostels.
“How old are you?” asked the girl to my left. She had just told me she was 17.
“I’m 28,” I replied.
Too preoccupied by the fact that my drink was almost empty I missed their quiet expressions. I looked up and asked, “What is it?”
“Oh. You just don’t look that old!”
I sighed. Since when was 28 old?
Spoiler alert, 28 is not old. But when it comes to a hostel and the solo travel industry, your first thought may be of teenagers backpacking across Europe. While that may be a quintessential trip, the average solo woman traveler is changing. In fact, she’s in her 30’s, has an average income of $150,000, and is a complete badass. Women now make up 84% of solo travelers and millennials make up 55% of users who look for “solo travel” on the internet.
What is bringing about this change?
Women are getting married later or not at all. Even if they do have a partner, studies show that they are still inclined to consider taking a trip by themselves. Thanks to social media, there’s even more awareness of the benefits of solo travel and it has served to accelerate the trend by encouraging people to take a trip alone.
The solo traveler industry, on the other hand, still caters to a younger demographic. I stayed at the hostel in the Philippines not because I enjoy sharing a room with 10 other strangers, but because I felt it was my best option while I was traveling alone.
“…the average solo woman traveler is changing. In fact, she’s in her 30’s, has an average income of $150,000, and is a complete badass.”
I could have stayed in a hotel but their pricing structure isn’t friendly to solo travelers, as most rooms are priced for 2 adults. An Airbnb may be more reasonable but it doesn’t always feel the safest when you are traveling alone, especially if you’re returning late at night. Hostels are one of the only places that are actually built for solo travelers due to the price point and the ease of meeting other people. Even tours and other experiences are typically priced for 2 adults and not for a single traveler. The bottom line is that the travel industry isn’t ready for the surge in solo travel, specifically the new solo woman traveler.
How the travel industry needs to adapt
The travel industry has a multitude of opportunities to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of solo travelers. First, the major players need to understand who the average solo traveler is. Second, there needs to be more resources for women including innovative places to stay that cater to all ages and are friendly to solo travelers. Third, destinations that are deemed unsafe for solo travelers have a unique opportunity during the pandemic—when there is a lower volume of travel to focus on this subset, make improvements, and rebrand to cater to solo women travelers.
The new solo woman traveler is making her way across the world and the travel industry should do what it can to make sure it’s welcoming her with open arms.
Pro Traveler Corner
This section is to provide you with tips if you want to solo travel but feel like you are “too old” to do so. Spoiler alert: you are not.
- Create your bucket list
Have fun with this! You can find inspiration from all sorts of places from books to Pinterest. Creating your bucket list will make you excited about taking your first solo trip.
- Ease yourself into it (when it’s safe to do so)
Try it just for a weekend getaway and see how you feel. You can work up to the longer trips.
- Don’t doubt yourself
There is this preconceived notion that solo travel has to look a certain way. Well, it doesn’t. If you don’t want to stay in a hostel, don’t stay in a hostel. If you’re thinking a solo traveler has to be in her 20’s then this post should show you that’s absolutely not the case. Age does not matter. There are no rules to solo travel.
- Find a travel group for those future trips
Hera helps connect women travelers all over the world! You can find women who will be in the same place at the same time so it’s easy to find someone to meet up with.