Single in your 40s? Now is the time to travel
When is the best time to travel? If you are single and in your 40s, it is now. That magic combination of no ties, a disposable income and being young and fit enough to climb up a mountain, means the moment is ripe to start ticking off places on your travel bucket list.
And you wouldn’t be alone. Research published by Mintel showed that more than half of solo travellers aged between 35 and 54 have taken a holiday alone, or as part of a group of people they didn’t know, because they have more freedom to do what they want. This was the largest percentage of any age group. They can’t all be wrong.
Travel with a local twist
So you know where you want to go but how can you make the best of it? If you want a holiday that will create memories that will last a lifetime, I’d recommend travelling to your dream destination but experiencing it in a unique way.
I’d wanted to go to Cuba for years but I didn’t want to stay in one of those gigantic, generic, all-inclusive hotels that shield tourists from the realities of visiting a communist country. So when I turned 40, I opted to stay in a Casa Particular; a private room in a family’s home.
I’m not going to lie, it was a bit strange at first, waking up to the banging and crashing of pots and pans in the kitchen next door; and then the two ladies who were looking after me waiting patiently for me to surface for breakfast.
Then I was joined at the breakfast table by Roberto, who owned the house. He took me through his photo album from his recent trip to Reading, asking if I’d visited the various pubs and car parks in the pictures. He surprised me a few days later by waiting for me to get home from an evening out, standing by the door in all his finery so we could go back out clubbing.
By the end of my stay, the ladies who had treated me as a member of the family for the past four days worked up the courage to ask why I was in Havana by myself, and wasn’t I totally bored? I explained in broken Spanish, while sheltering from the torrential rain in the family kitchen surrounded by photos of Fidel Castro, that it had been a very interesting experience.
The adventure you want
If, like me, you have a few adventure destinations on your wish list, now is the time to go experience them. As one of my parents kindly pointed out, if I wanted to go on my dream trip of trekking in the Himalayas, I should go while I’m in my forties before I become too infirm to walk up and down mountainous terrain. I suspect they were talking from bitter experience.
No-one wants to think about getting old, and how this can restrict your ability to have the holiday you want. But there are things you can do to make life easier for yourself.
My favourite way to travel is to enjoy a bit of luxury along the way. Sharing a hostel dormitory, complete with a pungent gap-year backpacker, lost its appeal a long time ago for me.
For example, I’m planning on returning to Torres del Paine National Park in the next few years. But instead of shivering in a tent wearing every piece of clothing I’ve brought with me after a full day of traversing the stunning Chilean peaks and valleys (like last time), I’ll be staying in a luxury yurt or even a hotel.
Getting a good night’s sleep and having a decent meal, rather than cooking instant noodles over a camp fire, can make all the difference when you’re looking to max out your 40s travel experience.
A city break is also a popular option for people aged between 35 and 54, according to the Mintel research. So, here’s five of my favourites to do in your forties…
5 solo travel cities to bookmark
Go in winter for a chance to see the Northern Lights, and drink a cold beer in the steaming pools of the Blue Lagoon while the snow falls on your face. Head there in summer to experience the mind-blowing volcanic landscapes and awe-inspiring waterfalls, as well as partying through the night in the sunshine in its world-famous bars
A train-ride away from London, this medieval French city is a great weekend getaway in the heart of Provence. Top-quality restaurants are hidden within the cobbled lanes enclosed by the city’s ramparts. Highlights include the annual arts festival, the spectacular Papal Palace and the nearby lavender fields that bloom in the summer.
It’s Italy so you know the food and drink is going to be exceptional. Mix in some Renaissance architectural masterpieces, and the art of the Uffizi, and you get one hell of a city to visit. And I haven’t even mentioned the shopping.
Nearer than New York, this French-influenced Canadian city is only seven hours away from London, so it’s easily doable in a long weekend (all the more so if you’re based on the US East Coast). This is one cool city, from the laid-back, basement jazz clubs in Centre-Ville to the vibrant bars and restaurants in Vieux Montreal. In summer, the place fills up for the International Jazz Festival at the end of June but in winter you can ski just outside the city.
Despite the notorious reputation, there is a lot more to this Mediterranean port city than English breakfasts and drunken clubbers. The 2,500-year-old town is a historical treasure trove. Add the great bars, world-class restaurants and some of the best people-watching on the planet, and Ibiza Town will call to your traveller within.
The life-changing freedom of being single in your 40s
Freelance journalist Eleanore Robinson explains why being single in your 40s is the greatest liberty of all
Imagine telling your 20-year-old self that one day you would have a large, disposable income, live in a home of your own, do a job you love and have a decent amount of spare time to enjoy yourself.
This can be the reality of being single in your forties if you are prepared to make the most of it.
Forget that specially constructed circle of hell, comprising online dating, ready meals for one and the pity of your coupled-up friends.
This isn’t a problem to be endured until Mr, Miss or even Mrs Right turns up (if you want them to).
It is a golden opportunity to make the most of the huge chunk of freedom that has been thrust upon you.
To quote author and 40-something singleton, Glynnis MacNicol, “Fuck off. I am done feeling bad. I can do whatever I want.”
For me, a 41-year-old singleton, it was deciding to quit my job that led to the revelation that I am in a position to do literally whatever I want; whether that means flying off on a last-minute trip, or the sheer pleasure of watching bad TV.
Since I left my full-time role as an editor to work for myself, I have had the best nine months I can remember.
One of the highlights came from taking myself off to the south west of France for four weeks, to stay in a relatively remote gite with a stunning view of the Pyrenees.
This wasn’t a holiday, however. It was to write a book about how to travel around the world by yourself as a woman.
And isolating myself in the French countryside, with only the neighbours’ kittens, six chickens and some very nice wine (for inspiration of course), created the optimum conditions to make headway on the book I started writing only nine years ago.
Because I can
While this was my version of living the rural French dream, you don’t need to do anything as drastic as leaving your job to make the most of single life.
When my bewildered friends and family asked why I was doing this, the best reason I could give was “because I can”.
This is now my mantra.
Last year, when I was still fully employed by someone else, I rejected several well-meant invitations from friends with children to spend New Year’s Eve in their homes (as they can no longer go out).
Instead, I flew to Australia and spent an incredible night on a Sydney rooftop enjoying far too much champagne, laughing and joking with a group of people I barely knew but ended up having lots in common with.
I have a vague memory of the witnessing the spectacle that is the fireworks on the Harbour Bridge. I would say that is one thing ticked off my bucket list but I will be back – New Year’s Eve in the heat is unquestionably the way forward.
Being able to make a trip like this without having to consult the other half, or fitting in with their employer’s holiday rota, is truly liberating.
But the best thing about that trip (apart from the amazing beaches, great food and truly delicious wine) was meeting new people and having new experiences.
Obviously, you don’t need to go to the other side of the world to do this. Earlier this year I did a ten-week course on oil painting, something I find more relaxing and interesting than any mindfulness class.
And at the same time I aimed to become the next Picasso, I met some really good people from all walks of life who I have probably brushed past in the supermarket many times, never paying them much attention.
A friend of mine has gone one step further by doing something she has never done before each month this year.
Well that was why she told me we were going kayaking on the Thames, ending up soaking wet and covered in pond weed but with huge grins on our faces.
Having the freedom to try new experiences truly is a gift, as is reconnecting with pleasures you enjoyed in the past but did not have the time or funds to do as much as you like.
One of the first things I did after packing in the office was make the trip to Manchester to pay a long overdue visit to see my football team play mid-week – something I could not do and be back at my desk for 9am the next day.
After five years of abstinence, I would love to report that it was a joyous reunion but instead it was 90 minutes of humiliation and frustration. But at least I had the chance to be there.
And I’m continuing to make the most of the opportunities single life presents.
This week I hosted a Uruguayan student in my home. Next week I’m going to start the ballet lessons I never got to have as a child. Why?
Because I have the freedom to do exactly what I want.
I am basically rinsing being single and getting everything out of it I can.
They say life begins at 40. I consider it to be life’s half-time whistle.
Hopefully after this team talk, you feel ready to get out on the pitch and have one hell of a second half.