Travelling alone has never stopped Lourdes Plagens from exploring the world. As owner of Brisbane’s Affordable Travel, Lourdes often flies solo to come up with new recommendations for her clients. So far, her job has taken her to over 50 countries.
“It’s an accomplishment because you are free. You are not confined because you are on your own. What will happen if you don't choose it and you don't see anything? So it’s really a good feeling because a lot of my relatives are saying ‘I cannot travel on my own’, I said, ‘why not? There’s nothing wrong with it travelling on your own, especially nowadays, because a lot of people are divorced, and if they cannot find anyone to travel with, so what? Just go on your own and meet other people.’”
A study by Roy Morgan research revealed that more and more over 50s Aussies are holidaying on their own.
If you’re getting itchy feet, and not too concerned about the budget, Lourdes recommends going to England.
“It’s not the cheapest, but I love it, because they speak English, and it’s very interesting - the historical thing over there. A lot of tourists, they just go mostly up and also down up to Bath, but the other parts, if you know the TV program in Doctor Martin, we went to that place where they shoot it, and it’s so beautiful. It’s very easy to travel, just like here.”
Having tried travelling solo, with friends and in tours, Lourdes suggests joining a group to get the most out of your time abroad.
“First time I travelled to Europe, I did an independent by myself. I’ve been there but I didn't see anything. I didn't appreciate it. So last year when I went back to Milan, I have it now that that's where the Last Supper and things like that.”
Perry Morcombe’s first taste of travelling was a working holiday to Europe as a young man. He’s since had to put his travel plans on hold for 20 years until his children were older. Perry now runs the Seniors Holiday Travel Team in Brisbane. He names New Zealand as one of the most popular summer destinations.
“It’s a 3 hour flight; it’s quite safe and secure. You can speak and read the language. Currency is a bit different but very similar. It's a low risk place. You can travel through New Zealand in various ways. You can get coach tours. A lot of the younger 50 and above ones are doing self-guided walking tours or cycling tours or you can do the normal car and hotel packages, which gives you a lot more flexibility. Most flexibility is to have a motor home where you can stop where and when you like each night.”
75-year-old Carole Ashted has been travelling solo for the past 15 years. She’s visited over 20 countries joining escorted group tours at least twice a year. Carole says this is a good way of meeting new people rather than being completely on her own. Her summer destination choice is Hawaii.
The 2012 International Movements Report by the ABS identified China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong as part of the top 10 destinations for Aussie travellers.
“Probably the fact that the weather was beautiful, the scenery was beautiful, the water was nice and warm for swimming. I did do a 7 day cruise around Hawaii on the Pride of America, Norwegian Cruise Line, which was really fantastic; actually, because we went to about 4 of the islands and we got a nice overview of the whole place not just going to Honolulu.”
Solo travellers are often asked to pay single supplements – a travel industry surcharge when they take a room alone. Perry suggests finding a companion to share costs. His company has been pairing travellers for the past 20 years. Some have even become regular travel buddies.
“We’re not looking for people to get married for the next 40 years. It’s ‘can I put up with you for the next week or fortnight? Can I have an enjoyable holiday with you?’ You can tell normally quite quickly in 5 or 10 minutes, ‘yes, I could have a cruise with you, or I could have a coach tour with you, or I could share with you for a week or a fortnight.’”
Many Australians like going to Asia. The 2012 International Movements Report by the ABS identified China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong as part of the top 10 destinations for Aussie travellers. Carole says she likes the affordability and diversity of Asia.
“I like Asia because the hotels on the whole are cheaper than Europe and I think if you’re travelling as solo and having to pay a single supplement Asia is a good destination to go to. For example, at the end of January I went to Thailand to the Chiang Mai Flower Festival which was really nice, escorted tour, everything organised, all meals included.”
As for Lourdes Plagens, her favourite Asian stop is Taiwan.
“Taiwan is beautiful, very clean, and not expensive, and most of them speak English. When I went to Taiwan, I was surprised at how beautiful that country is. You’ll be in another area of Taiwan and then you will not think you’re in Asia, and it’s so diverse. Here, you go up on the mountain, you’re looking at the gorge, and now, here, you’re looking at the sea, and even if you travel there, it’s very safe.”
If you’re thinking of travelling within Australia, she suggests going to Tasmania for the cooler weather over summer.
“Tasmania – it’s beautiful. It’s really hard to explain. It’s just nice. It’s different. With Hobart, if you know how to drive and you know how to read, it’s so easy. You can go to Port Arthur, you can go to the oldest brewery that they have there, and just walking around the town.”
Cruising is a great option for single travellers. The Australian Cruise Industry reported that the number of Aussie passengers setting sail reached over a million in 2015.
As for Perry Morcombe, Queensland’s Gold Coast is the place to be this summer.
“The Gold Coast is very popular with many people. There’s heaps and heaps of accommodation. It’s very hard to get there over the Christmas, New Year week but from mid-January on, there’ll be heaps and heaps of great accommodation on the Gold Coast. You can have a week or a fortnight there to enjoy, there are plenty of day trips you can do, or the movie theme parks are there right on the Gold Coast.”
The Australian Cruise Industry reported that the number of Aussie passengers setting sail reached over a million in 2015. Lourdes Plagens says cruising is a great option for single travellers.
“Although you’re on your own, you’re on a big ship, you meet someone. You meet people. You talk to them, and you got everything there, your meals: 3 times a day, 4 times a day, 5 times a day. You can eat whatever you want, and then you’ve got entertainment, and you’ve got your bed. It’s beautiful. It’s more relaxing because you don't have to pack and unpack all the time.”