Travel and the single boomer

With grey divorce on the rise, single and solo travellers in their forties and over are becoming more common. Kahla Preston asks: is one really the loneliest number?


[Margaret Lang discussing her future travel plans]

REPORTER: Margaret Lang has been to 44 countries; at 54 years of age, that’s almost one for every year of her life. And she has no intention of stopping.

MARGARET LANG: And each time I go somewhere, my bucket list gets longer – it doesn’t get shorter, it gets longer. I discover there’s places I want to go that I didn’t realise I wanted to go to.

REPORTER: Like many baby boomers, Margaret has a desire to see the world. But what makes her situation a bit different is that she often does it alone. Divorced since 1994, she’s been travelling as a single woman ever since; sometimes with her fellow single friends, and sometimes solo.

MARGARET LANG: I would travel anywhere – I’ve got a five star friend, so I’ve gone to Cairns with her. I’ve got another friend and he likes to do wine things, so I do wine things with him. I do different things with different people. What I really like to do is the ‘roughing it’ travel, so I’ll do a lot of that on my own.

REPORTER: A report released in the US this year indicates that divorce rates are higher for baby boomers than for any previous generation, having doubled over a twenty year period. In 2009, people aged 50 and over were twice as likely to divorce as their counterparts in 1990.

So perhaps the popular image of baby boomers leaving the empty nest and travelling in pairs isn’t quite accurate. Many baby boomers – single, divorced or separated – are finding that their status isn’t necessarily an obstacle to their travel dreams.

TONY SMITH: I thought it was about time I sort of got off my arse and did something, basically, and had a look at the big bad world.

REPORTER: Tony Smith has recently returned from his first trip away since separating from his wife in 2007. He spent two months in the UK and France, visiting his daughter Sarah who is working in London.

TONY SMITH: I suppose because Sarah was living over there, I thought it was a good opportunity to travel and have someone to stay with and tour around with.

REPORTER: It’s the first overseas trip he’s taken since the early 1980s; the last was a rugby trip to the USA. He didn’t travel abroad while married, and now that he’s had a taste of travel, Tony says perhaps he’ll tackle his next trip solo.

TONY SMITH: Yeah, I really enjoyed it and I will do some more travelling, for sure. To go on your own, you know, it’s probably a little bit daunting, but I reckon I could do it. It wouldn’t phase me completely.

REPORTER: Yet not all single boomers want to travel completely solo, and it seems the tourism market is starting to see their opportunity. A Rendezvous is a Sydney-based company that organises holidays for single travellers aged 25 and over. Founder and director Justine Waddington says they’ve been seeing strong interest from the baby boomer demographic.

JUSTINE WADDINGTON: It does seem to be more popular with people [aged] 40 to 59, and certainly over the years that market between 60 to 65 is becoming, they’re a more youthful market than they used to be, so that’s also quite a popular age range.

Travellers in their 40s and 50s are confident; they’re confident to make these decisions on their own. They are alone, they’re generally single, and by that stage of their life they may have had families, may have been divorced for a long time, or more recently divorced. But they’re quite confident to make the decision on their own.

REPORTER: While it sounds like the perfect way to meet a potential partner, Justine says her clients really just want some company.

JUSTINE WADDINGTON: We definitely move away from that concept of romance or dating because that’s not what we’re about. It’s interesting because a lot of people will actually want to hear from us that it’s not about that when they book. I can’t say people don’t hope to meet somebody, but most people, they will say, “if I met someone, that would be a bonus, but that’s not why I’m going”.

REPORTER: Some say one is a lonely number, but that doesn’t mean solo travel has to be a lonely experience. Margaret Lang says it’s changed her life.

MARGARET LANG: The more travel I do, the more confident I feel as well because there’s a lot of people out there travelling on their own. I’m happier being single, I’m stronger being single – it’s helped me discover who I am.

REPORTER: This is Kahla Preston reporting for Baby Zoomers.


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