This 40+ Traveler Has Been Adventuring Solo For 28 Years! Here's How She's Doing It.
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23rd May | 7 min read

Marie has been traveling the world solo since 1992 and in that time she’s managed to visit 66 countries and every continent. The mission of her website, Big Travel Nut, is to provide 40+ solo travelers with the means and inspiration to travel safely on their own, stray off the beaten path, and have unusual adventures, all without breaking the bank!

What Inspired Me To Travel Solo And Why I Continue To Do It

Although I love travelling solo now, I have to admit that I started travelling solo out of necessity, because I couldn’t find anybody to come with me! Those were the early 90s when foreign travel wasn’t as mainstream as it is now, and most young people prioritized career and buying stuff over having new experiences.

I had been dreaming of going to Europe since my early teenage years, waiting to have enough time and money to make it a reality. Once I was finally able to go, 15 years later, and couldn’t find a travel companion, I decided to go anyway!

Although I had fears and apprehensions at first about flying alone and spending three weeks across the ocean on my own, those quickly evaporated after I started sightseeing in Paris.

I continue to travel solo most of the time because I love the freedom and spontaneity it provides. I don’t have to consult someone about every decision or deal with their moods and idiosyncrasies. My trip is uniquely mine!

I’ve formed long-lasting friendships with people I met on my travels. I’ve lost touch with some of them over the years because they live far away, although I always made an effort to visit. But I was also lucky to meet a couple of ladies who live in Montreal (one in Ecuador in 2013 and the other in Mexico in 2015) and I still see them on a regular basis since Montreal is only 500 kilometres from Toronto and I also have family and other friends there.

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My Favourite Country!

I estimate that I’ve been to about 66 countries. Several of them I have visited multiple times. It’s really difficult to choose a favourite country, so several years ago I wrote a blog post trying to narrow it down to my 10 favourites

However, if I ask myself which country I would return to over and over again if I could only travel to one place for the rest of my life, it would have to be Greece!

Why? It has everything really: beautiful Mediterranean climate, hundreds of islands, beaches, mountains, history, culture, architecture, and great food. I love Mediterranean countries in general; they’re just so warm (climatically and people-wise) and relaxing.

How I Choose Where To Travel Next

In winter, the decision is mostly based on the weather. I’m looking for a sunny and warm destination, preferably dry and not too hot, like Mexico or Thailand, or somewhere in the southern hemisphere where it’s summer! Of course the country has to be relatively safe and affordable as well. 

In spring or fall, I tend to choose countries in Europe where the weather is temperate and you can do a lot of sightseeing and get immersed in the culture. I rarely ever travel during summer.

No matter how many countries I visit, I keep hearing or reading about other interesting things to see elsewhere, so I always have a bucket list! Along with relative safety, cost is a big factor, which is why I haven’t seen much of Africa yet.

How Often Do I Travel

Now due to COVID-19 my travels have come to a standstill, but in recent years I’ve been spending one to three months away during the winter, then doing one or two shorter trips (two to three weeks) in spring and/or fall. I’m semi-retired and work remotely, so I’m able to spend several months abroad every year. 

During the long winter trip, I usually base myself in one place for several weeks to reduce the cost and allow me to relax and work. If I’m in an expensive country like Australia or New Zealand, I’ll try getting some housesitting gigs.

My longest trip was 20 weeks back in 1997 when I quit my job, gave up my apartment, and went backpacking solo around several countries, mostly in Asia. I was supposed to continue through the Middle East and Europe for several weeks longer, but Egypt completely disheartened me and I decided to end my trip.

My Scariest Travel Moment

My scariest travel moment was being bitten by a stray dog in Argentina. Besides the fear of contracting rabies, this also happened one week before my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica, and until I had things under control I worried that my trip would be ruined. 

This adventure certainly taught me to keep my eye on stray dogs at all times, and to always make sure I have travel medical insurance. Unfortunately, it also made me wary of visiting places that are known for having a lot of stray dogs.

Just this past winter, I had a very unpleasant and stressful experience after getting food poisoning from an airplane meal. On the connecting flight I felt very unwell and threw up three times. The crew got worried and called the paramedics on me before people disembarked. 

This was just as COVID-19 was starting to make the news and I was worried that they would force me to go to a hospital, when all I wanted to do was get to my AirBnB and sleep. Fortunately they let me go. It was then almost midnight and I was alone in Mexico City, weak and nauseous. I took an airport taxi to my accommodation and found myself in front of a locked apartment building without a security guard in sight. I rang the doorbell like a mad woman and a guard finally showed up to let me in. 

The last straw was discovering that the apartment had almost no running water in the bathroom, a leaky toilet, and the loudest street ever. I just crashed anyway. The following morning, after spending almost an hour looking for the WiFi password, I ended up moving to a hotel nearby, where I spent a couple of days recovering. 

There are some things you just can’t anticipate and you need to try to stay calm and roll with it.

My Biggest Travel Challenges

When I was younger and had a full-time job, my biggest obstacle to travelling was time. Now it’s money! Fortunately, more and more jobs can now be done remotely (including my current part-time job) and COVID-19 is also helping make remote work more commonplace.

Having said that, working while travelling is not always easy, especially if you’re moving around a lot. It’s also really difficult to motivate yourself to stay in and work when there are so many interesting things to see and do at your destination. And that’s without even mentioning regular power outages or slow Internet in some places.

The best for me is to plan to stay in one location for several weeks so I can settle down, relax, and get into a routine. I may sightsee in the morning and early afternoon, then work for a few hours before dinner. This way I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

My Advice For New 40+ Solo Female Travelers Who Want To Work & Travel?

If you have a permanent job and want to travel more than a few weeks a year (especially if you live in North America with our tiny vacation allowance) you’ll need to see if you can work remotely at least some of the time. If you can afford it, you can also try asking for an unpaid leave of absence. (I wrote about this topic at length here.)

On the other hand, if you’re OK with one or two short trips a year, you’ll probably be happier if you don’t try cramming too much into your vacation. Focus on one (small) country, or a region of a bigger country. One relaxing option is to base yourself in a city for a week or more, and explore it in depth as well as adding a few day trips to surrounding towns and attractions. These kinds of trips are also much easier to organize and book on your own, saving you time and money.

I invite you to come join my private Facebook group BigTravelNut Solo Travel Over 40 to meet and exchange with other travellers like yourself!

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    Melissa Adams
    August 8, 2020 at 8:43 AM

    What a great article...and what horrid stories about stray dogs and food poisoning. Glad we got to have lunch in Oaxaca before the latter. I love your honesty and spirit of adventure.

    September 13, 2020 at 1:10 PM

    Omg ! You could not find anyone to travel with you ? Pick me ! I will go with you in a heart beat !