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Widowed Traveller

Hi, fellow travellers!

My husband and I have been to Europe several times since the mid-2000s. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2019. I've always been the planner and navigator of us two, but I've always felt very safe having him by my side in Europe in addition to his excellent company. I've been thinking about travelling again, alone, since we were always very footloose when we travelled together (not interested in a tour at this time). Any suggestions for a 65-year-old seasoned traveller who will be travelling alone for the first time? Best/safest locations to visit? Pitfalls/dangers for an older female traveller? I love to walk, love travelling by train, and would like to do as much of this as possible on my own in perhaps in 2023. Thanks!

Posted by
1772 posts

I am so sorry that you’ve suffered this loss.
You’ve done a great job spelling out your perimeters, but could you share a little more about what you like to do and see? As a seasoned traveler you may not be interested in some of our easy suggestions - a country where your passably familiar with the language, etc..Do you like to revisit places you’ve been or strike off into the unknown. I would do it in your place, but I would probably stay in lodging where my presence ,or lack of, would be noticed. I would also sign up for some day tours or city tours for some companionship.

Posted by
4679 posts

Jillpcan,

So sorry to hear about your loss.

Since you’ve been the planner of the trips you took with your DH, you can definitely do this!

There are many women on this forum who travel solo, and I’m sure you’ll get great advise here.

I want to share my post from a few years back when I was considering my first solo trip: Dreaming of a trip...Solo?!?

Please let us know where you’ve traveled previously.
And tell us about your interests too!

Posted by
4447 posts

Hi, I am the same age as you. A few years ago, I took my first solo vacation trip. Here’s the trip report. It includes some comments about what i did differently because it was a solo trip than traveling previously with my husband. I really enjoyed all of our trips, but this one was so special and equally fun. I hope you will feel that way, too.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/solo-trip-to-italy-2018

I’m also including this one for the itinerary. It was wonderful; I would gladly do it again!

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/our-combined-solo-couple-vacation-in-france-2019

Posted by
5115 posts

I am so sorry for your loss and proud of you for moving forward with travel. I am also a widow and had to relearn/revise the way I travelled.

Hint #1: Choose lodging close to public transport and in an area where you will feel comfortable walking alone. Pay more if necessary. Several of your questions dealt with security and this will help with your sense of security.

Hint #2: Check in with someone daily. It can be as easy as sending a picture or text to a child or friend. It will make all of you feel better.

Hint #3: Make your first trip to a place you have been before as a confidence builder.

Hint#4: Be open to new travel experiences or partners. I’ve traveled solo, traveled with my children, taken tours and even done a cruise. Venture out of your comfort zone of usual travel style and try something new. I tried a Rick Steves tour as a huge experiment. I had always been the planner, always traveled independently and wasn’t at all sure whether I would like it or not. To my surprise, I had a blast! Now I keep mixing it up.

There are so many things to learn as a widow. I can tell that you have a good attitude and will do great. Just keeping moving forward.

Posted by
418 posts

I've traveled solo twice to Europe and am about your age. Once was a RS tour to Scotland, which was great. The other time I spent a week or so in Florence in an apartment. It was my second trip to Florence, so I felt very comfortable navigating on my own. I agree with Carol about going to a place you've already been. There's a lot of info on the internet about solo travel and especially female solo traveling. One I like is https://solotravelerworld.com/.
I'm sorry for your loss and am glad you plan to continue to travel. You're ahead of the game since you have experience planning your trips. You got this!

Posted by
157 posts

I would add that you can also find local group day tours as a way to maintain social contact. A cousin has done some trips using Elderhostel and always met great people there.

Posted by
1117 posts

Some ideas for you:

  • Greece. We have always felt Greece to be one of the safest places we've ever visited.
  • For safety, prefer smaller towns and more rural areas. Big cities usually have greater safety issues. I think this is true for practically any country. The drawback is that this may collide with your preference for train travel.
  • As a tourist, you can't entirely avoid touristy areas because obviously you will want to do some of the same sightseeing everyone else wants to do. These can be the areas where pickpocketing happens, so watch your stuff in crowded places.
  • Listen to your gut feeling. If you don't feel comfortable in some situation, get out of it. Listen to what the locals tell you is safe or not safe.
  • Use common sense, walk confidently and don't appear like a helpless woman or a clueless tourist. The way you sound, I am not concerned about you, and I am sure you will do fine.

The hardest part may indeed be doing by yourself what you previously shared with your husband. You'll have to try and discover the advantages of traveling alone. Solo travelers for instance say that they get in touch with locals much more easily than when you are traveling as a couple. And - even if it hurts at first because you would of course much rather find compromises with your husband - you can make all decisions on your own now, you don't have to visit places you're not interested in, and you can visit all those places your husband would not have been interested in.

Have some rescue ideas at hand in case you do get lonely. Maybe a day tour with a group once in a while. Or the phone number of a friend you can call even in different time zones.

Most important: Allow yourself to enjoy it!

Posted by
1814 posts

Hi jillpcan:

I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear husband.
I'm 67 now, and travel solo for about 1/3 - 2/3 of each trip I take, and have for years.
Only because my husband is a homebody and won't go!
I meet up with friends while I'm there for parts of the trip in most cases.
It's wonderful to travel alone, no one to tell you what to do or hold you back.
When I'm on my own, I like to go to cities, such as London, Paris, Rome, etc as there is plenty to do day and night.

I live near you: Delta, so pm me if you want more help or info.

Posted by
1777 posts

What European countries have you visited and where did you go in those countries?

Posted by
6336 posts

I’ve been traveling to London since the Nixon was in office so I’m biased.

The majority of my trips have been solo. Recently spent the month of November there.

If you have visited London before I believe it would be wonderful to return. Or if you’ve never been it’s a good choice.

Why?

1.) Because London is always changing yet always the same.
2.) English is spoken
3.) Public transport is plentiful; Underground, Overground, busses and trains. Concession rate for your Oyster Card.
4.) Varied ethnic cuisines to enjoy.
5.) London Walks to take to areas that interest you.
www.walks.com
6.) Theatre ( good options via the 1/2 price ticket booth for same day performances. Can now research availability on line.)

7.) If a shopper you can’t beat places like Portobello Road, Carnaby Street, Regent Street, Bond Street, Liberty, Selfridges, Forum and Mason.
8.) Day trips could be Hampton Court, Stratford Upon The Avon, Rye, Windsor Castle, Bletchley Park

As you like to walk there are countless parks to explore on foot. https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/londons-major-parks

On my recent November sojourn at a friends house which is close to Richmond Park. Appreciated near daily meanders there. Especially enjoyed the day I saw a herd of the fallow deer.

Richmond Park is massive. Spent hours strolling about it. This visit got to explore the area known as Isabella’s Plantation with Nigel and Carol. Beautiful fooliage.

In 2019 of my longest meander was via the entrance adjacent to the East Sheen Cemetery into the park en route to the Petersham Nurseries Cafe. Sadly it wasn’t open so I continued towards the Thames. Found the Thames TowPath which I followed and discovered the White Cross Pub.

Richmond park is not the only place to walk. This trip I followed the newer Line Art Walk. https://www.londonxlondon.com/the-line-art-walk/
Started from the North Greenwich tube station by the O2. Pleasantly surprised to discover the new Design Center where I got coffee and took countless iPhone photos. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/inside-londons-new-design-district-opening-this-year/amp

Followed signage to the Line walk and started out. Interesting walk. Still evolving. Found the Anchor and Hope where I used the loo and relaxed with a pint. Lovely pub and staff. Other than a regular with his sweet beagle, Bill, had the place to myself.
Got directions to the Charlton station Returned to Richmond by taking a Thameslink train from there.
At Cannon Street switched to the tube and onto Richmond.

Richmond is a lovely neighborhood but understand its 25 minutes each way to central London.

In 2019 I choose to stay at two different Premiere Inns. One in Richmond on Lower Mortlake Rd and one in Chiswick. Both were were. The Richmond one was newer. The venerable Crown pub adjacent.
The hotel was only a few blocks from Kew Gardens Lion’s Gate entrance. Wonderful place to meander. There is an admission cost.

Chiswick is as lovely as Richmond. Both areas are 20-40 minutes away from say Westminster station and Parliament Square. Ideal if you want to experience outlaying London neighborhoods. The Chiswick Premiere Inn is about a 20 minute stroll from the Turnham Green Tube Station. The Chiswick Mall ( the path along the Thames) is 10 minutes from the Premiere Inn.

Lovely walk along the Mall towards Hammersmith Bridge. Discovered the charming Mari’s Deli. Italian mother and son owned and run.

And then there is walking in the Hampstead Heath Great walk is from the Hampstead Heath Underground Station to the Kenwood House. Or to Parliament Hill and then off to discover the Jim Henson/Donald Sahlin bench.

Feel free to PM me if you consider London for your first solo adventure. Happy to share intel.

Posted by
13053 posts

I will join others in expressing y condolences for your loss.

I do not travel solo, but my husband and I have spent 3-4 weeks each in London and Venice, and often split up for the day so we could each do “our own thing”. I felt totally comfortable walking around both cities on my own, and one of those cities would be my first choice if traveling solo.

Since you enjoy walking, I will suggest something you could add to a UK visit: a 3-4 night stay (or a week if you like) at one of the HF Holidays country houses. This is a member-owned cooperative with lovely manor houses all over the UK (some they own and some are leased from the National Trust). The stay includes a nice room and excellent meals, plus guided walking on your choice of 3 levels search day. Some weeks are themed around cultural exploration or activities such as photography, yoga, birding . . . You name it. We have enjoyed several stays at the houses below, particularly the camaraderie of the other guests, and are booked for another in September. There are always a number of solo guests (mainly women). And the holidays have nothing of a “tour” feel; you are free to do as you like (but we do choose the guided walking on offer).

Page through the photo galleries—-these are but 2 of the 20 or so country houses they offer.

https://www.hfholidays.co.uk/country-houses/locations/lulworth-cove-dorset

https://www.hfholidays.co.uk/country-houses/locations/derwent-bank

Other places I would feel very comfortable and safe visiting solo would be the Dolomites, any mountain village in Switzerland, Slovenia, Norway, Denmark, and Japan.

Posted by
1796 posts

jillpcan, I also am sorry. I found myself in the same place in 2018 and am your age. What I DID know is that I love to travel, he did not as much, and I had done all the planning - and would continue to do so. But the first time is a change. You can laugh, but my first solo trip was the Canadian across Canada, with extra days in Jasper and Vancouver. I chose it for several reasons: I love train travel; the idea of my own safe, small, sleeping compartment appealed; lots of scenery; not having to make food choices; company if I wanted and privacy when I wanted; nature; a relaxed pace. It really doesn’t matter.

What I have found now: I LOVE traveling alone and conversely it is really hard to travel alone - since I love it so much all my friends think they will too and ask to go. Advice? The same advice you are getting, which is the same I got. Just do it. Pick somewhere YOU really want to go. Keep it simple. Allow yourself some options you might not have taken if he were with you (a private tour, a taxi, better flights - whatever makes the trip easier).

I don’t think destination matters, for the most part. Good luck! You can do it!

Posted by
464 posts

Sorry for your lose. I lost my travel partner (my father) this year after a. couple year health struggle, and while i am a bit younger and a guy i have been asking myself some of the questions about my future travel. And while this group has been very supportive the fact that this group is a RS group it has a bit of a tendency to be. very pro group travel.
So you may have to weed through the “take a tour” tips.

But i wish you the best in your future travel.

Posted by
3681 posts

First, my condolences on your loss.

My husband opted out of European travel after a trip in 2014. Boeing retiree that he is, he finally admitted that he hated to fly and that he'd only do it in an emergency.

Like you, I always did all the planning and navigating for our trips. I think you will find that your previous experience doing that will easily cross over from planning for two to planning for one.

Since 2014, I've done one long (6-weeks) self-planned trip. All the others have been 4-6 weeks and have involved a Rick Steves tour with extra self-planned time added before, after or both. That's worked well for me.

I turn 76 next month. I hope my plans for the RS Ireland tour followed by a self-planned Wales visit next summer will work out.

Over time I've learned ...

I much prefer renting apartments to staying in hotels, largely because I like being on my own time schedule for breakfast, not a hotel's or a B&B's. But an apartment is not very practical for less than 4 nights. I've never felt uneasy in an apartment, B&B or hotel room alone.

Trips are cheaper for singles in almost every way except lodging. As you do your planning, ask about a single or senior discount and be grateful if you get one, but don't expect that it will be automatic or even happen at all.

I've never experienced any negativity due to my age or wandering around on my own. In fact, the grayer my hair gets, the better I seem to be treated. That's been true everywhere, but especially in Italy.

I've only had good train, bus, plane or ferry experiences. I pack light and I'm perfectly capable of managing my own luggage, but I am a bit slow getting my carry-on off the train or up and down long flights of stairs. I will accept help with that if the situation doesn't feel hinky. A good line for when it does is something like "Thanks, but if I can't manage this by myself, I shouldn't be here."

You said that having your husband with you made you feel "safe." I expect you'll need to be a bit more observant and aware of your surroundings and better prepared to not be a target for pickpockets than before. For me, a money belt under my clothes is essential for the really important stuff no matter where I travel.

I wear no expensive jewelry and carry no bag or purse that looks worthy of exploring. I definitely do not wear my wedding ring. It's too valuable and important to me to take a chance at losing it. I do wear a cheap ring in its place.

I always get good travel insurance, including "Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains." And I always sign up for insurance within the time limits to be covered for pre-existing conditions. I carry multiple copies of the basic details about that insurance.

I also carry multiple copies of a little emergency information list that includes contact info for my husband and my doctors, my meds and my latest bloodwork anomalies.

It probably sounds obsessive, but having that kind of information easily accessible could potentially save my life if I can't talk. The multiple copies go in my money belt, purse and a pocket in my phone case.

Have fun with your planning. That's at least half the fun for me.

Posted by
1285 posts

I’m taking my first solo trip in June to Switzerland. I was just there this past Sept. with my sister and bro in law and it felt completely safe and easy to get around. Switzerland sounds perfect for you as you love to walk and travel by train. They offer a Swiss Travel Pass which covers most or your transportation (it excludes some mountain lifts) and eliminates the need to purchase tickets in most cases.

My Sept. trip was my first trip in over 20 years and my first out of the US. So, despite my very limited travel experience, I feel very confident that I will do well in Switzerland by myself. It sounds like you have a lot more travel experience than I do, so I suspect you will do great no matter which destination you chose. Good luck!!