Solo Travel superstars who inspired Evelyn Hannon
By Evelyn Hannon, Founder, JourneyWoman.com
In 1984 when I first started traveling solo I had no one to mentor me. If there were other women around my age doing what I was doing I had no way of finding them. After all, we hadn’t yet gotten to a point in cyber history where most people had computers in their homes. The terms ‘blog’ and ‘bloggers’ didn’t make their appearance until the late 1990s. By then, JourneyWoman.com was born (circa 1997) and I began reaching out to try and identify other women doing what I was doing. Today, either via my Journeywoman Newsletter or Twitter and Facebook my list of female contemporaries who travel the world solo continues to grow. I refer to them as my ‘rock star wise women.’ It feels good to be surrounded by these interesting ‘sisters’ who are based around the world. Now, I’d like to introduce them to you.
Home base: North West England
Number of countries visited: 43
How I am travelling differently at 60+ than I travelled at 45: As I've gotten older I seek out more unusual and interesting places rather than sun, sea and sand destinations. The history, culture and food of places fascinate me and meeting local people has become more important. I'm still happy to travel alone but the experience is now sometimes more important than the destination.
The destination I would go back to in a minute: Nepal, a country I visited 30 years ago, has always been my top destination. Not only for the mountain scenery and beautiful architecture but also for the very friendly people. Last year I visited the Galapagos Islands which are even more engaging than I expected - amazing wildlife and unique ecology - it's a tie for top now.
I met this unforgettable person while traveling: A Buddhist monk in Pokhara, Nepal. He was on a pilgrimage to the sites related to Buddha. As the sunset over the Annapurna Range, he talked about his faith and travels, why he loved being a monk and was such a gentle, wise, funny man. I've been interested in Buddhism ever since. (He said I should become a nun, but that was a step too far!)
My funniest or most unusual travel experience: Going into and exploring the infamous Walled City (now pulled down) in Hong Kong is one that I'll never forget. It was a maze of damp, narrow, dark passages, home to the notorious Triads and there was a real air of menace. I was very glad to escape in one piece.
My two bits of wisdom for other travellers: (1) Ask a guide or accommodation provider for recommendations for where locals eat - you'll get a much more genuine culinary experience than at a tourist centre. (2) Don't be afraid to get a bit lost (within reason!) as you never know what hidden gems you may come across.
My website: www.thequirkytraveller.com
(Hang-gliding … the silence, the view, the feeling like a bird and moving with the wind)
Home base: San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
Number of countries visited: 21
How I am travelling differently at 60+ than I travelled at 45: I travel slower, not so much from necessity but by choice. I am no longer in such a big hurry, which may seem counter-intuitive given that I am much more aware of the passing of time, how very fast it scurries past on its little rabbit feet. But I am far more interested in really SEEING what I see, in experiencing it on every level, tasting it, smelling it, touching its textures. I don’t want to just be passing through. I want to sink in, if only a bit. I also take much more trouble to meet people, talk to strangers, make new friends. I am far less shy about approaching strangers than I was years ago and also far more ready to accept invitations from friends of friends, follow up on on-line invites for coffee or a drink, call or message friends of friends I’ve been given contact numbers for and I think I might find interesting. I sign up for classes in things that interest me or meet people on walking or food tours. On the other hand, I am not at all afraid to spend time alone. I go to the theatre alone, eat alone, walk alone, and enjoy my own company far more than I ever did.
The destination I would go back to in a minute: I feel like Amsterdam is my second home as I lived and worked there for a year 45 years ago! When I returned last year for the first time in 25 years, I sought out old friends and reconnected with people not seen for almost half-a-century. If I ever win a lottery, I will buy an apartment there.
I met this unforgettable person while travelling: Yvette is 96 and lives in Estoril, Portugal. Born in France, she’s had four husbands (French, American, Polish and a Dutch Count), and innumerable lovers, worked at an RAF canteen in England serving Polish pilots during WWII, has lived all over the world, and has forgotten how many languages she speaks. She’s got a wicked sense of humour, an enormous sense of style, and now spends her time making and selling beaded jewelry and writing her memoirs-which is sure to make for a juicy read!
My funniest or most unusual travel experience: In London years ago, I had a polo lesson on a wooden horse in a high-end boots-and-saddles shop. While researching a story about the oldest shops in the city, I came across a single line that mentioned it in passing and that was all I needed! I made an appointment, climbed on that wooden giant (in a safely netted room with a small and thankfully empty observers’ gallery) and took up my mallet. Whacking a polo ball turns out to be a lot harder than you’d think, even when the horse is made of wood and not moving!
My two bits of wisdom for other travellers: (1) Slow down when you travel so you can really open up to the world! Close your eyes and let it seep into your pores. Touch the wind and taste the air. Drink in the silence of a mountain and feel the heat of a habanero chile on your tongue. Walk it, bike it, train it. See it at a human pace. Walk barefoot in a foreign forest, swim in another sea, eat something you’ve never eaten before. Do something you never thought you would do. Then come home changed forever. (2) Meet the people on their own turf. Nothing will make or break your trip more than making a real connection with local people. No matter where you go and how “foreign” they seem, you will surprise yourself by how much we all have in common. Eat their food. Visit their homes if you can. Ask them to tell you their stories. And LISTEN-even if you don’t speak their language. There are so many ways of communicating. Listen to the accents, notice how people communicate with their hands and their faces. Smile-it’s the universal language. Share yourself and your life with them. You will come away realizing that no matter how different your lives may seem on the surface, most of the people in the world are good, warm-hearted and welcoming.
My website: www.nomadwomen.com
Home base: Seoul, South Korea
Number of countries visited: 40+
How I am traveling differently at 60+ than I travelled at 45: I’m no longer a whirlwind diva on the road. I take my time, and savor the moment.
The destination I would go back to in a minute: Venice, definitely Venice! The city has an atmosphere that I love, and I can never get enough of it.
I met this unforgettable person while traveling: I unexpectedly met Pope John ll. (I couldn’t figure out why there were men on rooftops with guns, and then the next thing I knew I was standing beside his Pope Mobile).
My funniest or most unusual travel experience: In Venice, I ended up in a storage room with an ancient helmet on my head brandishing a sword. I still have the photo somewhere.
My two bits of wisdom for other travellers: (1) Commonsense is your best friend. Never leave home without it. (2) It’s your travel adventure, do what makes you happy!
My website: www.budgettravelerssandbox.com
Home base: Bucolic rural Eastern France (local food specialties: cheese, snails, cheese, frogs’ leg, cheese)
Number of countries visited: 80 but I’m not finished
How I am travelling differently at 60+ than I travelled at 45: Nothing fundamentally different but some things are harder, like getting up after a night on the ground in a tent (a forklift would be handy)
The destination I would go back to in a minute: Eritrea. No skyscrapers, no pollution, and warm, hospitable people who know how to make great coffee. Too bad it’s closed for business right now…
I met this unforgettable person while travelling : In South Africa I met a woman who was a friend of a friend. I wrote ahead to let her know I would be in her town, and could she recommend a good place to stay. She picked me up at the bus stop, gave me a room and a bed – and I stayed for two months. That’s hospitality! I should add that I found similar hospitality throughout the continent. The people that stick the most in my mind are the ones that are the most open.
My funniest or most unusual travel experience: That would be the time I was chased by a lioness across a narrow plank over a gorge in Nigeria… or when villagers carved a tree trunk into a canoe for me so I could paddle out of a flood with a Catholic priest the Philippines… or when I was lost in a minefield in Mozambique… or kept at bay by a poisonous snake at nightfall in Borneo without a flashlight – one false move and I might step on it.
My two bits of wisdom for other travellers: (1) Say YES once you’ve ascertained there’s no danger. I’ve missed many a (probably) wonderful experience by being lazy or overly cautious or simply contrarian. (2) Let common sense rule your travels, not fear.
My website: blog.women-on-the-road.com
Home base: Berkeley, California
Number of countries visited: 44
How I am travelling differently at 60+ than I travelled at 45: I am more selective about where I choose to go because I have less time. I also like to hold on to railings when I use stairs.
The destination I would go back to in a minute: London. Because it is my all-time favourite place. Most especially I love tea time, black cabs, and plays, not to mention museums and sweet shops.
I met this unforgettable person while traveling: This is difficult. I need to whittle down a very long list. I will select a guide on a recent trip I took to China. This guy was a frustrated stand-up comedian and he definitely enhanced our trip to and understanding of what can sometimes come across as a very severe place.
My funniest or most unusual travel experience: The time in Germany when my travel pal got the German word for cathedral mixed up with the word for catheter and didn’t figure it out until the next day. Then we understood what those Germans in the bar found so funny. Yet they still helped us find lodging by the big catheter.
My two bits of wisdom for other travellers: (1) Don’t take malaria pills unless you absolutely must (but if they are prescribed then definitely take them). (2) Surrender to the journey.
My website: www.berkeleyandbeyond.com/index.html
Home base: Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada
Number of countries visited: 30 (Maybe more. Lost track. Loved ’em all!)
How I am traveling differently at 60+ than I travelled at 45: I don’t think I do! If opportunity knocks, I go! Of course, now my kids pay their own way, and go without me.
The destination I would go back to in a minute: Borneo (Sabah – Sarawak). Exotic river lodges. Dramatic history. Marvellous locals. Brilliant wildlife. Orangutans swinging from branch to branch. Hornbills. Proboscis monkeys at sunrise. Mating fireflies creating a living Christmas tree in inky blackness on a milk chocolate river. What’s not to love?
I met this unforgettable person while traveling: In Pfaffenhoffen, Alsace:-“Ursula, we will go on a journey,” announced my courtly octogenarian watchmaker host. Adjourning to his well-stocked library, we discussed politics, religion, history, geography. He had never travelled, but was better informed than most people. Fluent in five languages, he was studying Italian – to enable him to converse with a newly arrived Italian watchmaker.
My funniest or most unusual travel experience: Regressing – and redressing – as a 16th century ‘lady’ for the Quebec City New France Festival. Securely laced into a revealing silver-green and grey period gown, I board a horse-drawn carriage procession through Old Quebec City for the Lord’s and Ladies’ Ball hosted by King Louis XIV. A gala soirée, indeed! On the Saturday, again costumed, we stroll through the old city basking in the ambiance and attentions of admiring tourists who enjoy our courtly interactions with fellow nobles as much as we do. All I lack is a lady’s maid to help me escape from those darned stays!
My two bits of wisdom for other travellers: Talk to people – the news vendor, your fellow train traveller, your aircraft seat-mate. Normally the information, and the person, are priceless. These folks are the essence of my adventures. Truly unique, they give me faith in the future. Last year, ex- Prague, an Albanian passenger earnestly entreated me to immigrate to Albania. “You could be a queen!” he exclaimed. I’m still considering it…
My website: www.travellingtimes.net and www.CloverdaleReporter (Lifestyles)
(Stonehenge, England: Two ancient relics. Both of us still standing, and proud of it!)
Home base: Home is where I park my RV, currently southern Utah. I’ve been living in RV Wheel-Estate for over 20 years, and on the road for even longer.
Number of countries visited: 4 – All but three USA states, some of Canada and Mexico, and South Africa three times visiting 16 of their National Parks. During summers I work as a seasonal National Park Ranger, for the last eight at Grand Canyon.
How I am travelling differently at 60+ than I travelled at 45: My RVs have gotten bigger but I still tent camp. Unfortunately arthritic shoulders limits backpacking anymore. I am happiest when connecting to nature, hiking at my own lollygag pace, stopping frequently to absorb the surroundings, and photographing the now for future memories of the past.
The destination I would go back to in a minute: Definitely South Africa. It’s an easy country to travel in, once you learn to drive on the left side of the road, the people are a cultural mix of friendly, it’s affordable and I’ve made special friends. Plus I’m hooked on safaris in their National Parks.
I met this unforgettable person while travelling : Joan is the reason I went to South Africa, besides everything already mentioned. Over two years we became virtual friends, after three visits I call her sister. We share a love of nature and she has taught me so much.
My funniest or most unusual travel experience: While driving in Kruger National Park Joan and I were chased by a young bull elephant who might have smelled the over ripe bananas in the back of the truck. Back in camp we noticed a trunk print on the dusty tailgate.
My two bits of wisdom for other travellers: (1) Don’t let fear hold you back. In fact don’t be fearful just be aware and listen to your intuition. (2) Solo travelers tend to interact more with the locals and other travelers; these people are part of the journey and destination.
My website: geogypsytraveler.com
Home base: Home, you say? Afraid I can’t relate. I’ve been traveling the world for nine years, the last six years with no home base. Home is wherever I am on any given day, and the only “base” I have is my suitcase.
Number of countries visited: To date, 65.
How I am travelling differently at 60+ than I travelled at 45: At 45 I was still immersed in the corporate world, working 70+ hours a week and taking trips for two or three weeks at a time. Like most Americans, I chose destinations close to home and scheduled every minute in order to see as much as possible. Since leaving that world behind to pursue travel writing and photography, my travels take a much different form. I purchase a one-way ticket to a continent and spend the next few months wandering with no fixed itinerary. When I have seen enough of a city or country, I move on to the next one, relying on advice from locals and intrepid travelers I meet along the way. I schedule very little in advance, in order to take advantage of opportunities that arise along the way.
The destination I would go back to in a minute: Unquestionably, Nepal. On my first visit in 2010, I had intended to stay about three weeks; five months later I was still there. Nepal’s genuinely warn people and stunning scenery have a way of getting under your skin, and I try to go back each year to get my annual “fix.”
I met this unforgettable person while travelling : In rural northern Thailand I was standing at a dusty intersection when a British man named Ron Wilcox rolled up on a motorbike and asked if I was lost. Our conversation led to an invitation to meet his wife and have tea at his house. I learned that Ron had been helping this remote community for years, and we stayed in touch for several years until he passed away. During his final months, his indomitable spirit, the grace with which he accepted his struggle with cancer, and his words of wisdom via email were an inspiration to me.
My funniest or most unusual travel experience: In a shop in Urique, a tiny settlement deep within Mexico’s Copper Canyon, I asked, “Es queso de vaca or de cabron?” Is it cow or goat cheese? Too late, I realized what I had really said. The word for goat is cabra. The word cabron is slang for a man whose wife is unfaithful. The clerk fought back laughter as I stammered an apology. Later that evening I was munching contentedly on tacos when a local man I had never met walked into the hostel’s common kitchen. “Are you enjoying your queso de cabron?” he asked politely.
My two bits of wisdom for other travellers: (1) When I first set out on my travels, a very wise friend gave me one piece of advice: “Stay in the present moment.” I took that advice to heart and have been forever grateful. When I travel, I don’t obsess about the past or fret about the future. I put all my focus on what I am experiencing in the present moment. (2) It may sound trite, but never sweat the small stuff. If reservations go awry or activities get cancelled, approach it as an adventure rather that a tragedy. Almost every time this has happened to me, the result has been a very rewarding experience that would not have happened had everything gone as planned.
My website: holeinthedonut.com
From the Archives: Evelyn’s Legacy Lives On
The “JourneyWoman Award”, honours Evelyn Hannon’s legacy empowering women to travel and will be given out on April 23 at the Women in Travel Summit, hosted by Wanderful.
Women’s words on being 60 Plus …
Positive aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
(Writer, Betty Friedan)
I didn’t want to let women down. One of the stereotypes I see breaking is the idea of aging and older women not being beautiful.
(Photographer, Annie Leibovitz)
Getting older has a wonderful beauty and we need to have respect for that.
(Singer, Eartha Kitt)
Knowing how to age and not being afraid of getting older is very healthy.
(CEO, Evelyn Lauder)
There’s no such thing as aging. I see it as maturing and gaining knowledge. I call that beauty.
(Singer, Celine Dion)
Women older than ourselves will always be our mentors. We gain from their wisdom and experiences. They are our super heroines.
(Travel writer, Evelyn Hannon)
(With some help from brainyquote.com)
Join travelling women from 18 – 80+ at Journeyman.com
Our mandate at Journeyman.com is (1) to inspire women of all ages and at all stages of their lives to travel safely and well and (2) to connect them with the greater female travel community around the world. Our monthly newsletter is chock full of tips sent to us by female travellers around the globe. Our job is simply to compile this information and to send it out via e-newsletter to our virtual community of 73,500 readers to the north, south, east and west of Planet Earth. Here are some excerpts from readers for our ‘Letters to the Editor.’
Before we leave I always read your Journeyman website for any information about the area we are to visit, especially for Paris. We went to places that some locals didn’t know of! The tips for accommodation are the best. Thanks for sharing and letting us dream while we make beds and hang the wash.
Maria, New Zealand
From your newsletter, I just saved for reference a tip on an apartment in Rome submitted by one of your readers, and have passed it along to a friend as well.
Linda, Vancouver, Canada
I love Journeywoman! I’m 33. I’ve been a faithful reader for several years and the newsletters, website, and Evelyn Hannon’s story are what inspired me to start traveling around the world three years ago. Since then, I’ve been to France, England, Ireland, Japan, Hawaii, New York City, Seattle, Las Vegas, and more!
Erica, Fort Collins, USA
When I found this website YEARS ago, I considered it a go-to source for my travels. I am 73 years old, still traveling AND still consider it invaluable advice from those who have “been there, done that”. Since my husband and I travel together, this newsletter is NOT only for women.
Shirley, Virginia, USA
I personally have purchased items from the Journeyman advertisers through the years, knowing that there is a great degree of reliability in the items advertised. I also have considered Travel Companies reviewed in the newsletter and using the cultural tips offered is always the first place I go once I have selected a destination.
Margery, Connecticut, USA
Your most recent article about flying business class with Turkish Airlines – the article is absolutely accurate. We travelled business class with Turkish Airlines in 2012.spectacular – excellent…
Diana, Toronto, Canada
When I was single I found inspiration from the Journeywoman website to go out, be brave and travel on my own. Specifically, I found some good tips about India when I was planning a trip there. Your newsletters give me something to dream about.
Angela, Oslo, Norway
Solo Travel Stories to Feed Your Appetite for Travel
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We chat with slow travel pioneer Pauline Kenny to explore the benefits of slow travel for us and the earth.
Guest Writer Karen Gershowitz shares her story of traveling with chronic pain to Iceland, and shows us how it might slow you down, but doesn’t have to permanently ground you.