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Question Overseas travel for single, 63, F = stupid?
Old 02-25-2008, 09:23 AM   #1
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Question Overseas travel for single, 63, F = stupid?

Close friend worked for the government for years and years, and has traveled just about every country in the world thinks I am totally stupid to travel overseas alone--particularly, SE Asia. And I want to hit S. America, Central America and SE Asia badly. Plan to stay in major cities primarily and not the outback areas.
I've been single so much more than my short 4 year marriage, and am so used to doing things on my own that it never occurred to me that others would think I was a fool to want to go alone. Am I?
Did a long stint traveling on a EurRail Pass (spelling?) thru Europe for 3 months, and then settled in Spain for a year when I was in my early 20's. Went everywhere from N. Africa to Scandanavia to E. Germany. No big deal.
But, he says the fact that I am American, alone and older is too dangerous for me. True or untrue? Or is he just being an alarmist (he's on anti-anxiety drugs all the time, anyway, and has always been somewhat afraid)?
Does anyone who actually has some empirical knowledge--in other words, someone who has actually traveled to these areas--seen any danger in an older woman traveling alone to these areas?
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Old 02-25-2008, 11:59 AM   #2
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I don't know really know the answer, but the 75-80 year old mother of a friend of mine (she was also one of my college professors) went all over Africa last year with her 14 year old granddaughter and went to southeast asia a few years ago with her grandson that was about the same age. She always wanted to travel with her husband when they retired. He died but she decided she was going to travel anyway. She has done a trip every year, taking one grandchild each time. So far, so good with no dangers reported, though lots of adventures.
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Old 02-25-2008, 12:17 PM   #3
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NO problem, i don't think. however, my brother (50ies) travel with friends whom he met on line. there r tons of clubs, forum,... where people meet then go as a group.

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Old 02-25-2008, 01:34 PM   #4
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I am concerned about traveling alone in the United States as an able bodied man. Think of the times you've walked around someone laying on the street in a big city or heard a scuffle in a public area that was ignored by you and other passerbys.

If you are alone you are a target for predators. Think Kerry/Natalie? Holloway. Not that she didn't do some foolish things but she was with people that wouldn't be considered criminals and her friends knew who she left with. What could go wrong?

I do travel alone at times but I am more aware of how the "public arena" has changed and I don't think the societal safeguards are in place like they used to be in the States and feel it's probably worse for a foreigner in a foreign country.
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Old 02-25-2008, 01:50 PM   #5
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Don't hide under blanket. My 80-year-old aunt just returned from a solo trip to Switzerland last year. And my DD is studing aboard in Scotland this semester, travelling on the weekends. I encouraged her to travel with someone from the university though, probably just a daddy's concern for his only daughter. Trouble is, she's pretty independent and will do whatever mood strikes her anyway.
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Old 02-25-2008, 01:50 PM   #6
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has changed and I don't think the societal safeguards are in place like they used to be in the States and feel it's probably worse for a foreigner in a foreign country.
I think there is no doubt that this is true. But most people will not have a bad experience, especially if they stick to Hilton type travel, or guided travel, or travel in nice parts of Western European cities. In fact, not many people do bush travel in places that are thought to be dangerous, and of those who do most will be OK, maybe with some close shaves.

Because of this, most people will say "oh, it's fine, go for it", because they traveled alone, and it worked out. But people drink and drive all the time, and usually have no trouble. It's just that the trouble arrives on its own schedule, and when it does it might be bad news for you.

Everything is on some sort of distribution. The difficulty is that the traveler doesn’t know the distribution of violence or theft or whatever in the place s/he is going because accurate information is not available and conditions are always changing. And s/he often doesn't understand what that distribution might mean as it manifests itself.

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Old 02-25-2008, 03:03 PM   #7
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someone who has actually traveled to these areas--seen any danger in an older woman traveling alone to these areas?
I've traveled most of the areas you mentioned. I think you could do it in relative safety but you must consider that the more vulnerable you are perceived, the more likely you are to be a victim. This is true anywhere and anytime. If you feel the independence of solo travel as a mature female is worth some added risk, go for it. If not, research some groups such as Elder Hostel. You pays yer money, you takes yer chances.......
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:16 PM   #8
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I've been single so much more than my short 4 year marriage, and am so used to doing things on my own that it never occurred to me that others would think I was a fool to want to go alone. Am I?
Does anyone who actually has some empirical knowledge--in other words, someone who has actually traveled to these areas--seen any danger in an older woman traveling alone to these areas?
Is this like the statistical prediction that older women are more likely to be killed by terrorists than to get a marriage proposal?

CFB uses the analysis of running across a six-lane highway blindfolded with earplugs. If nothing bad happens then you're quite likely to continue doing it-- until you can't.

But this isn't about courage or stupidity obstinacy determination. Maybe this alleged friend is subtly trying to become a travel partner, but that raises a good question-- is it worth traveling alone? Would it be more fun to do an Elderhostel or some other type of group tour?

Don't get me wrong-- I'm perfectly capable of entertaining myself when traveling alone. But it helps to have someone with you for those moments when you're distracted or extremely tired or even sick. It's great to have someone watch your luggage or stand in line while you scout out the environment. It makes you less likely to be begged, panhandled, or solicited (most especially at Phon Tip in Bangkok). It helps you see the things that you might miss if you didn't have someone to point them out for you. Elderhostel (and perhaps other tours) will arrange the transportation, get the ticketing done in advance, reserve the restaurant, and generally handle all the hassle that doesn't contribute to the enjoyment of the experience.

You might want to e-mail the Kaderlis for Akaisha's perspective...
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:50 PM   #9
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Well, just by your post... I would say GO..... it does not seem to bother you..

My mother traveled a LOT since 1980 as a single woman and only slowed down the last few years because she is 88....

She LOVED going to youth hostels... she would meet some young folks who were doing some of the same things that she was doing and usually met someone who was willing to do something with her... but even if there were nobody, my mom went anyhow.... I think she has been to 57 or so countries...

Yes, she had a few problems here and there, but you can usually 'feel' if there is something wrong and leave.... the number of people who have something happen to is very small.. Yes, if it did happen to you you are in trouble, but it is still small.....


ALSO, take precautions... do not show wealth and act like a pushy American.. and do the normal precautions with your money and such...

Europe if very safe... Asia was pretty safe (I have not been there)... Central America was not as safe, but the one time there could have been a problem, the bus was so late the crooks had left and the bus when through their 'trap' without a problem...
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Old 02-25-2008, 05:19 PM   #10
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I've traveled in Central and South America. Of course people everywhere are pushy trying to sell you things, but I did not feel unsafe. The only annoyance I had was men trying to hit on me, which as an older woman I imagine would be less likely (sorry! ).

If you feel unsafe in a particular city when you get there, I've usually found it easy to find other women or a couple who are happy to team up on trips to major sites or on day trips.

I say go for it!
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Old 02-25-2008, 05:30 PM   #11
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...thinks I am totally stupid to travel overseas alone--particularly, SE Asia. And I want to hit S. America, Central America and SE Asia badly. Plan to stay in major cities primarily and not the outback areas...

I can't speak to S. America/C. America, but based on my personal experience,I think you're probably safer in most areas of SEA than most cities in the US, esp. in areas that are reasonably developed (Penninsular Malaysia, Coastal Thailand, Singapore, etc.). Not that other parts of SEA are more dangerous, but you have more options to keep you safer (see list below)

Plus the vast numbers of locals in SEA are deeply religious - of course, this can work against you if you're in conflict with their religion or the religion is causing conflict (like far south Thailand, or the Maluku region of Indonesia from a few years ago) - but generally that means they respect others, and regardless of their rather minimal financial situation, are far less likely to resort to violent crime to better their ways (of course, they're more than happy to 'entice' the money out of you with scams and tours and trinkets and the like).

To me, the biggest consideration I would have is in the area of logistics and transit. I haven't really seen anything that caused me concern in places I've been in SEA that were destinations - the problems come up when you get stuck in places you don't mean to be at. And given that you're in mostly 3rd world countries, that can happen pretty often. But you can do a few simple things to reduce this (most of this is obvious, but I figured it's worth bringing up):

1 - travel during the day, and plan your trips to focus on logistics as a priority vs. efficiency. Pass on the night bus and take the day bus. Always plan on arrive during the day into a new location.

2 - utilize higher cost transportation where possible - low cost local transportation is prone to frequent break-downs, increasing the likelihood of arriving at a new location at a odd time. This doesn't mean to use the 'tourist' transporation - usually that's a rip-off waiting to happen. Look for the higher-class services that the locals take and go with those. Another alternative is to hire your own transporation if public transporation is not a good option - or to fly instead of taking a long bus ride. Transporation is so cheap in SEA that it won't make a big impact on your budget either way.

3 - stay away from large cities. This is specifically in response to your statement above about focusing on major cities. I actually think you're more likely, not less likely, to run into trouble in big cities. You do want to stay away from areas that are so remote that they present logistical challenges, but I would recommend more sparcely populated areas that give you access to nature as well as friendly locals. But stick to areas that have a reasonable tourist infrastructure so you can still do #1 or #2 above.

Anyways, that's my 2 cents - I've only spent a year or so of time travelling through the area, so I'm sure the folks that have basically retired there can provide much more info than I could...
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Old 02-25-2008, 08:44 PM   #12
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DH and I have traveled with Elder Hostel. There were single women in our group. Not exactly alone, alone but if you are concerned about safety this may be a good compromise.
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Old 02-25-2008, 10:43 PM   #13
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orchid flower: But, he says the fact that I am American, alone and older is too dangerous for me.
Hi Orchid,

I think the whole thing about ‘being American and therefore you are automatically hated’ comes from the back side of a bull. I would like to say that more strongly to bring my point to light, but I think you get my idea.

Billy and I travel the world and have done so for going on 18 years now. We don’t hide the fact that we are Americans by saying we are Canadians. ‘The world’ does not hate us. We are respected by the locals wherever we go and are often given the thumbs up and big smiles. Being out of the States for long periods of time, we are always amazed at how many Americans ask us if Americans are hated around the world.

Personally I think this is what the media feeds their viewers. I repeat, this has not been our experience, and we are seasoned travelers.

Now, granted, there are places in the world (like, say, the middle east or perhaps France or New Zealand) where I wouldn’t exactly wrap the US flag around myself, but that is simply using common sense.

There will always be prejudices in the world, and if you are looking for it, you will find it.

As far as traveling alone, there are several things I could mention.

1.) We met a young Portuguese man here in Thailand who was blind and traveling alone all throughout SEA. Now, if you think someone would be a target for predators… being blind and alone might qualify. He enlisted people to help him everywhere he went by being open and authentic. Due to the fact that he was blind, maybe people helped him out of interest, compassion or curiosity. He never acted weak. He didn’t try and say he was from Brazil instead of Portugal. He was a real inspiration, and had a great sense of humor. http://www.retireearlylifestyle.com/pedro.htm

2.) We see lots of young single women and older single women traveling here in Thailand and they seem to be having the time of their lives. To see a 65+ year old on the back of a motorbike with the wind in her hair and a big bug filled grin is warming to the heart. You go girl!

3.)You could sprinkle your trip with organized tours just so you can meet people and perhaps get to places that are complicated to put together on your own, and then do some singleton travel in the other places in your schedule. You might try using other housing options for travel http://www.retireearlylifestyle.com/links_travel_information.htm like couch surfing, hospitality club, home exchange, hostels, etc. which puts you in touch with locals who want to proudly show travelers their city or town. This will also save you $$.

I agree with Nords that your biggest enemies will be fatigue, being spaced out, distracted, careless, being ill, or assuming things are ‘just like home.’ The other thing you will have to watch is your own inner landscape of various fears. Like youbet mentioned, if you act weak, afraid and fearful you will attract predators.

Texas Proud had another good comment about ‘feeling’ if there is something wrong -- and I would highly recommend reading a book entitled The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. He explains how violence does not come out of the blue. There are always clues -- clues, that due to being distracted or fatigued or deep into illusion, you will miss. Trust your gut, it will save your life.

I hope these suggestions help, Orchid. Use common sense, you don’t need to be a hero, and keep your eyes open.

Enjoy!

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Old 02-25-2008, 11:31 PM   #14
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DH and I have traveled with Elder Hostel. There were single women in our group. Not exactly alone, alone but if you are concerned about safety this may be a good compromise.
My MIL says that many of these Elder Hostel single women are better described as "available"...
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:42 AM   #15
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Well, thanks, folks, for the great comments. I will be reading and rereading them today.
Frankly, I was kinda surprised at my friend's negative comments on my traveling alone as he has traveled literally worldwide for 35 years.
"Available" means what? Looking for sexual romps or just available for adventure? Fess up, Nords!
---
OK, few hours later and I read and reread all your comments. Good thoughts here.
Read "The Gift of Fear" last year. I'm not (by any means) a female who has the body language of someone who is afraid or passive, so my only thought now is my old friend is relating to me with his "own" crap (as they say in psychology class).
I will check out Elder Hostel. Never heard of it before.
As usual, you guys give me alot of great ideas! Thanks!!!
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Old 02-26-2008, 07:01 PM   #16
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Hi Orchid,


Now, granted, there are places in the world (like, say, the middle east or perhaps France or New Zealand) where I wouldn’t exactly wrap the US flag around myself, but that is simply using common sense.



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Don't mean to derail the thread but tell me more about NZ. I have always wanted to travel to NZ. Didn't realize they frown on Americans.
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Old 02-26-2008, 07:03 PM   #17
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Hi Orchidflower,

I thought I might also mention to be sure and have your sources of money secure, and have your payment plans thought out ahead of time.

I don't know how long you will be gone, but to be worrying about paying bills while on the road can be a distraction from your trip.

1.) Get what you can on autopay (phone bills, insurances, mortgage, credit card, whatever)

2.) Bring some US Dollars in small denominations - $1, $5, $10. US money is accepted everywhere, and if you are only staying a short time or are on your way out of a country, you may not want to have a bunch of dong or baht or kip that will be useless to you when you cross the border. When you first arrive at an airport, train station or bus station in a new location and you don't yet have the local currency, a couple of USD will pay the taxi to take you where you want to go. (Hotel, bank ATM, wherever).

3.) Bring a credit card and a debit card. Put them in two different locations. We don't use credit cards except for airline tickets, but depending on where you are staying you may want to put your hotel bill on a credit card. (they may charge you a fee to charge on your card. very common) Housing in nice hotels can eat up your cash. The debit card will be used to get cash in local currency from ATM machines.

If you have your cash and sources of money figured out before you go, then you won't be fretting about running out, or how to get something back home taken care of, etc. You might also leave a blank check or something with your sister or someone you trust with your life, in case of emergency for home stuff. What we usually do is PayPal cash to someone back home if they need to take care of an emergency in our place. We don't leave blank checks

Hope this helps. Have a great time!

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Old 02-26-2008, 08:04 PM   #18
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Don't mean to derail the thread but tell me more about NZ. I have always wanted to travel to NZ. Didn't realize they frown on Americans.
Hi Dawg!

First let me say that everyone’s experience is different and I respect that.

We visited NZ http://www.retireearlylifestyle.com/NEWZEALAND.htm in 2003 and after hearing how stunning the country was, we really looked forward to it. And New Zealand is beautiful. It has everything North America has, except it’s located in 2 small islands in the South Pacific Ocean.

We carry a short wave radio with us wherever we travel, in order to get news in case a crisis is happening in the country where we are visiting. So, because people speak English in NZ, we listened to the local talk shows.

These talk shows were really ripping up our nation saying that we were ‘too powerful’ and that we should break our country up into 3 separate nations in order to spread the power out more evenly. After all, that would only be ‘fair’.

We stayed in hostels all along the two island trip (fabulous way to travel!) and in the hostels, there were signs saying “Don’t be like Americans!! We recycle trash here” with an arrow to the different trash cans… (Can you imagine someone putting a sign up in the States saying “don’t be like Germans or Japanese or Chinese!!” Not to mention the fact that America does recycle…)

We took the Magic Bus http://www.retireearlylifestyle.com/a_little_bit_of_magic.htm (again a great way to see the islands…) and daily the drivers would berate Americans in one fashion or another (usually in an uninformed, prejudicial manner) but then he would smile and say, “But we’ll take your money! Sign up here to swim with the dolphins, go bungy jumping” or whatever. We found that rather irritating and it got old fast.

We saw a 9/11 Memorial at a Fireman’s Station in one of the cities there (I forget which one…) in which they had a piece of the twisted steel from our Twin Towers as the centerpiece. It had graffiti on it… we went to the Fire Station to thank them for having this memorial for all to see. We took this display as being an act of respect. The Fire Chief seemed quite nervous and made it a point to emphasize to us that this was in respect of the firefighters who lost their lives, and not for any other reason… (hey, what about our 3,000 unsuspecting workers in the Towers who were just ambushed… But no point in going there… we thanked them profusely for the memorial and left).

In various conversations all throughout NZ with locals, off and on they would trash the US due to our having ‘race problems’. But because we listened to local talk radio in their own country, we knew that they, too, had ‘race problems’ with the Maori. That this is no little afternoon picnic they are dealing with….

We were told that New Zealand won’t allow our Navy ships to dock in NZ ports (Nords is this true?) and yet, if they were to become ‘invaded’… wouldn’t we respond to help them out?

Listen Dawg, I want to be clear about this. This was our experience. We didn’t go for a two week vacation, but rather stayed a month and a half, visiting both islands. These incidents were not occasional but rather they were pervasive. We felt they didn’t want our presence, but made it very very very clear, that they would take our money. (How would you feel about that? Would you go out with someone like that? Would you invite them back to dinner?)

And you know what? We are really sorry that happened. It affected our perspective of their nation. We don’t make much noise, we don’t flash wealth or opinions, we don’t trash places, we don’t put other countries down, especially when we are there visiting with them!

What I think is that 1) it was the timing. 2) NZ is a very new nation (in the scheme of things) and they are insecure about who they are. 3) They have issues between the Maori and the Westerners and they are going in 2 different directions, so they are split apart. They seemed like an adolescent who was having a tantrum.

Would I return?….. Maybe, leaning to yes. The countryside is dazzling. They have excellent lamb and dairy products and decent wine. The men are gorgeous (a nice break for me after being in Thailand so long where the women are real show stoppers… )

I would never say ‘don’t go.’ But regardless of how you personally feel about our own nation -- positive and negative -- to have someone trash you day after day… It was like -- You know, you can have an argument with your brother or sister and you can say they are self centered, inconsiderate jerks. But to have someone ELSE say that to you consistently and really rip into your sibling would probably bring up the feeling of wanting to defend them.

That is what it was like. Our nation is far from perfect. But it is my nation. It has offered me the opportunity for a good education, a good career, to be able to retire early and to have the freedom to travel the world. For this I am grateful. I look to try to improve us, not to jump on the bandwagon to tear us down.

Thanks for asking. You probably got more than what you were looking for…
Be well all ways,

Akaisha
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:55 PM   #19
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Well after that NZ review cant say it move up on my short list of places to visit
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:37 PM   #20
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My MIL says that many of these Elder Hostel single women are better described as "available"...
Maybe one of them hit on your FIL and MIL wasn't digging it. I did not find the "availability" thing to be an issue. That being the case ya gotta watch the married folks trying to do the nasty on the down low. Ya know what I mean?
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