Travelling Solo In Middle Age: Why It’s A No-Brainer

2022 is looking as unpredictable as the past two years. Just as we look like we’re getting some sort of handle on COVID – we are facing the threat of a global war over Ukraine and the ongoing effects of climate change. Sadly, there’s very little hope of any real improvement from either of the major Australian political parties contesting the next election.

COVID has left many of us feeling shell-shocked and a little uncertain about our place in the world

On a personal note, I’ve recently also heard about several health crises amongst friends and family. Nothing major, thankfully, but enough to remind me that life is short and that at some point we need to drag ourselves out of the lockdown lethargy and start living again. 

Travel is my top priority over the next year 

But travel doesn’t rate highly on my husband’s agenda. A Cancerian with an abject terror of finding himself more than five kilometres from our suburb – which he likes to refer to as “the safety zone” – I realised that the only way to give him a gentle nudge back into the outside world was by organising a mini-break. 

Woman looking out at view
Photo by Djordje Petrovic on Pexels.com

Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly in the mood for anything super-adventurous either, especially with (what was then) the recent arrival of Omicron on our doorstep – which, even though I’ve reconciled myself to catching it at some point in the near future, I’m still not foolhardy enough to court.

However, the mere mention of travel to my husband – albeit a short trip to a neighbouring suburb – was like I’d informed him of a recent death. And each time I went into my his study to show him the latest fabulous boutique hotel with a “special offer”, he planted his fingers in his ears or made those humming noises I make when he wants to discuss our finances. 

Frankly, he sucked every ounce of pleasure out of planning something that in my mind should have been fun

When my husband decides he doesn’t want to do something, he reverts to the single-mindedness of a toddler – like many middle-aged men, it seems – and it became obvious pretty quickly that he was depending on his strategy of laying as many roadblocks as possible to change my plans.

To start with, he set a ridiculously low budget that would stretch to some tiny home in the middle of Woop Woop if we were lucky – and I don’t mean those pokey dwellings that are now deemed a luxury destination, I’m talking about a 3-star motel on the outskirts of some mining town. Then he insisted that the accommodation was walking distance to the beach on aforementioned miniscule budget.

But the biggest problem was the difference in our priorities over the break 

We couldn’t even agree on what we would do once we got there, if we ever got there. My perfect break incorporates fancy dinners and long lunches spent in a more eclectic range of restaurants than those on offer in our area and the chance to dress up – because although there are benefits to the relaxed lifestyle on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, sometimes I want to don some lippy and heels. 

His biggest fear was what exactly he was going “to do” for two days with his wife of almost thirty years

Hence, top of his requirements – thanks to a second La Nina year in which most of his hobbies have been compromised by rain – were good internet reception, a pub with a wide selection of craft beers, single beds and a lock on the mini bar.

The other problem was that prices of holiday rentals and hotels outside of Sydney have increased drastically since the last time we went away. Furthermore, many of the Airbnb properties in our price range had stopped offering full refunds for cancellations, which made the risk of spending money (we don’t really have) on a cheeky weekender even more like Russian roulette – especially with Omicron biting at our heels.

The fear of disappointment was palpable 

But after a full risk assessment of bush fires, floods, poisonous snakes and jellyfish and a full scale search of locations within a 2.5 hour drive of Sydney, from the beautiful Kangaroo Valley in the Southern Highlands – prior to the realisation upon closer examination that most “dairy conversions” were styled in the sort of I remember from my uni accommodation – to areas closer to home and the ocean. 

Finally, I booked

I found an apartment about an hour down the road in a suburb close enough to home for hubby to run back to if he got too homesick, where we used to live. That meant, that in spite of the rainy forecast, we had loads of places to revisit as well as Barangaroo, a new waterfront precinct in the city for dinner one night. I won’t deny that what sealed the decision was the hotel’s motley selection of sports facilitites which I knew would appease hubby’s need to get an hour away from me to do some kind of exercise each day.

And we had a lovely time, BUT…

When I thought about it afterwards, I realised that life is really too short to travel with someone who doesn’t enjoy the same things? Especially, when you spend the rest of the year together.

Surely, travelling solo or with like-minded people at this stage of our lives is a no-brainer? 

  1. You get to spend time with people who feel as passionately as you about the trip which ensures less friction and a REAL holiday, 
  2. Your friends tend to be more respectful and less resentful of your choices, i.e., you don’t get bogged down in the petty-mindedness that can sometimes be symptomatic of a long marriage, and…
  3. Travelling without your partner means you get a break from each other. 

A large 2018 study conducted by Booking.com found that 40% of 55 to 64-year old’s had taken a trip alone in the past year and a further 21% were planning to take one in the future. British Airways reports that more British men and women were over 50 on their first solo trip compared to any other country.” (The Flashpacker)

Marriage doesn’t have to be one long compromise 

Men and women change as they get older, and research suggests that while many men prefer to settle down and enjoy a quieter life in retirement,many women are still searching for new activities to challenge their brains and empower them. 

I would call our weekend a success and it even met our budget – something to do with the hotel’s location slap, bang in the middle of a small business district which is a ghost town on the weekend, I imagine. I got to wear my heels, sleep in crisp white sheets and fill my washbag with freebie bathroom products, and hubby got his gym – albeit his workout gear never left his suitcase. 

But the organisation to get us there was painful reminder of why, prior to COVID, I had started to travel on my own, and why my husband was so supportive of that decision.

Anyone else decided that travelling solo is easier in middle age?

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