Solo Travel for Seniors: How to Overcome Fear and Get Started in Solo Travel

by | Mar 5, 2024

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Last updated on March 7th, 2024

Featured image: Solo travel for seniors can be intimidating, but these tips can help you get started | Photo by Meniphoto on Envato

How to face your fears and embrace solo travel, at any age

by Karen Gershowitz

For seniors, the idea of embarking on a solo travel adventure, once a source of excitement and joy, has recently become a daunting prospect for many women. If you are hesitant about traveling, you’re not alone. Why? Aside from money, it’s probably fear. You overlook all the excitement and focus on all the terrible things that could happen.

For those of us who are seniors, we need to navigate the complexities of age, and the added challenge of overcoming anxiety, associated with travel in a post-pandemic world.

Soon after the worst of the pandemic was behind us, I resumed solo travel both domestically and internationally. Friends and relatives were concerned about my well-being. I felt that being vaccinated and taking precautions (wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds and so on) was as safe traveling as it would be in my own city. Now, several close friends who are immunocompromised have resumed traveling. They have both felt and been safe.

Solo Travel for Seniors

If you are hesitant about solo travel, here are my tips for getting started and facing your fears.

You don’t need to cross an ocean to have a solo travel adventure

Start locally. Sometimes, the most memorable experiences await just within a 100-mile radius of your home. Draw a circle on a map, then explore places within that boundary. Without going far or being out of your comfort zone, you can “test the waters.” This can not only open up a world of new experiences but can foster a deeper appreciation for places we often take for granted.  

When museums were closed during the pandemic, I sought out street art. My first encounter was in an industrial area of Brooklyn. Artists had used the sides of buildings as canvases, depicting cartoon figures, larger-than-life portraits of local people and celebrities, animals, and abstract designs. After that I went to other areas of the city known to be magnets for street artists. I ended up exploring intriguing neighborhoods I’d never known about. 

Last year, when visiting a friend in Colorado, we drove an hour north to Cheyenne, Wyoming. We enjoyed outdoor art, a wonderful restaurant, and a verdant botanical garden.  In Wisconsin’s Northwoods, I went on an ambling drive through spectacular scenery. Along the drive I explored quirky towns and ate lunch at a local eatery that served freshly caught fish. 

Think of exploring the 100-mile circle around your home city as an experiment. It will help you to determine your style of travel and what you are capable of.  

Street Art in Bushwick Brooklyn

Street art in Bushwick, Brooklyn / Photo by Karen Gershowitz

Street Art Bushwick Brooklyn

More street art in Bushwick, Brooklyn / Photo by Karen Gershowitz

A painted cowboy boot in Cheyenne Depot Plaza

A painted cowboy boot in Cheyenne Depot Plaza / Photo by Karen Gershowitz

Aches, Pains and Disabilities Aren’t a Reason to Stay Home

At age 72, I can’t travel the way I did when I was 20, 30 or even 50. I’ll bet you can’t either. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel. I have severe back problems and will never climb another mountain. Instead, I take walks through beautiful gardens and parks.

I’ve learned to accept help to make travel easier. I ask for a wheelchair at airports, saving my energy for exploring my destination rather than walking through the airport. Throughout my travels, I pace myself. When I get tired, I stop at a café, linger over a coffee and people watch. Instead of seeing it all, I choose the places I most want to see and concentrate on those.

Fear of being robbed should not overshadow the joy of travel

By taking sensible steps to protect yourself and staying aware of your environment, you can navigate your travels with confidence and peace of mind.

    • Don’t display expensive jewelry or electronics
    • Invest in anti-theft accessories, such as money belts or RFID-blocking wallets
    • Opt for reputable transportation services, especially for airport transfers
    • Trust your instincts; if a situation or place feels unsafe, leave immediately.

Traveling solo doesn’t mean being alone

Once you’re on the ground, solo travel is an opportunity to connect with locals and learn about their perspectives. And it’s a lot of fun. Here’s how to start.

  • Eat at a local’s home: Arrange to eat at a local’s home. You can have dinner with a local family who will speak fluent English, prepare an authentic local meal for you, and be a wonderful source of information—both about their culture and places to see and things to do. These organizations arrange for meals around the globe: and
  • Read a Book in Public:  “You speak English?” the young man asked hopefully. “Yes, I’m American,” I responded. What brief exchange, while I was sitting in a park reading a book, led to an hour’s conversation over coffee. That was followed by a tour of his favourite places in his hometown, Jogjakarta, Indonesia. I’ve repeated that same scene across the globe. The secret? Bring along a book with a bold title in English, not a Kindle, and read it in a public place. University campuses, parks, and cafes all work well. People, especially students, want to practice English with a native-born speaker. If you are with someone else or in a group, you aren’t seen as approachable.  But alone, sitting quietly, and looking around occasionally to demonstrate you aren’t absorbed in the book, makes you a prime prospect for a conversation. If you notice someone looking at you, smile at them. It’s an invitation for them to say hello. After that, with just a little encouragement from you, you might make a new friend.
Find a Restaurant with a Communal Table

With a little searching online, you can locate restaurants that have communal tables. Yelp even has a category of “communal tables.”

Once you’re seated, strike up a conversation with people sitting near you. Inquire about what they’re eating. Ask if they’re local. Then ask for suggestions of their favourite places to walk, shop, hear music or anything else you have an interest in to get the conversation started.

You may be worried that you are being intrusive. At a communal table, it isn’t an issue. They could have asked to be seated at another table. Be bold. People usually appreciate it.

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Take a Class or Join a Meet-Up

After watching weavers or potters plying their craft, do you want to learn how to do it yourself?  Or, having eaten a delicious meal, do you want to prepare it when you return home?

Being in a class provides a chance to bond with others who share your enthusiasm. Classes are surprisingly easy to find. TimeOut, published in 59 countries and 333 cities, has extensive lists of things to do, events, classes, performances and more. You can also check Meetup, which has members in 193 countries.  It will help you connect with like-minded people, most of them locals.

Karen Gershowitz prepares a meal during a cooking class in Italy

Karen prepares a meal at a cooking class in Italy / Photo by Karen Gershowitz

Going shopping for a cooking class in Sicily

Shopping for a cooking class in Sicily / Photo by Karen Gershowitz

Go to an Activity or Event you are Enthusiastic About

When I travel, locally or internationally, after I’ve visited the “must-see sights,” I buy tickets for a theatre, dance or music performance.  When I arrive at my seat, I try to engage people around me in conversation. Any activity that requires participation means you’ll have something in common with the people you meet. Talking about a common interest can be an easy icebreaker. If you’re traveling alone, you are likely to make a friend or two along the way.

If you love sports, buy a ticket to a local game, especially for a sport you know little about.  Then ask people around you to explain some of the finer points. Find a local hiking, running, or cycling group. If you’re in an English-speaking country, find an open mic or trivia night. To find interesting activities, look at TimeOut, a local newspaper, or just do an online search.

Everyone has or can develop an adventurous spirit. I truly believe that exploring the world keeps me young. The more I travel the more curious I become about other places and cultures. I hope that if you’ve been holding back from traveling, these tips on solo travel for seniors will inspire you to get out and explore.

Click here to find endless activities and things to do around the world on Viator!

A walk through a park while on my travels

A walk through a park while on her travels / Photo by Karen Gershowitz

Other tips on solo travel for seniors

Here are some other tips for making travel easier:

If you have a physical disability, there are numerous organizations to help travelers with disabilities, including:

Above all, remember that solo travel is fun. Start local then pursue all those fabulous destinations you’ve been dreaming about.

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More Solo Travel to Inspire You

Karen has been traveling solo since age seventeen, when she flew to Europe and didn’t return to the US for three years. She got severely bitten by the travel bug and since then has traveled to over ninety countries and has visited all fifty states -- many of them multiple times. In her career as a marketing strategist she traveled the world conducting thousands of meetings, focus groups and interviews. Her skills as an interviewer have persuaded total strangers to talk candidly about the most intimate of subjects, personal bankruptcy, illness and religion. When traveling for pleasure, those same skills helped her to draw out people’s stories. Karen’s first book of travel stories, Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust, explores the confluence of travel and life events, and how travel has changed her beliefs and life direction. Wanderlust: Extraordinary People, Quirky Places and Curious Cuisine continues those stories, addressing memorable food, people and places she experienced in her travels.


  1. Barb Pesavento

    Thank you so much for all this useful information…but particularly for the encouragement that YOU CAN DO IT!

    • Karen Gershowitz

      Indeed you can! I travel frequently despite my bad back–I refuse to let it ground me. Go for it!

  2. Jan NoltingJan Nolting

    I am 74 and have been travelling solo for some time,mostly to Mexico as I have family there.Am very careful where I go.Always meet someone interesting on the flight

  3. Linda

    I am “familiar” with Karen’s writing through other travel-related sites and groups. I am always impressed and inspired by her words. I am very close to her in age, and have traveled some, locally and internationally. But, since the pandemic, I seem to have lost a lot of my ‘nerve’, in part because my previous travel partner no longer wishes to travel. However, Karen has offered up a fresh perspective on how to get out of this slump. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Linda

  4. Barbara Khristi

    So glad I found this! I started traveling solo when I received a small inheritance. That was when I 67. I’m 70 now. I started by getting a USA Rail Pass from Amtrak and targeted cities that had symphony orchestras where I knew a player. All but one had already retired! I met so many people and had some outrageously unexpected and beautiful experiences. The inheritance ran out but I will be looking for other ways I can indulge in the world of travel.


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