As one of 2019’s most-searched travel trends, adventure travel’s popularity is on the up – especially among women
Contrary to common belief, men are actually in the minority when it comes to adventure travel. Women are, in fact, booking the majority of daring ventures, and when they head off to explore the world, many of them are doing so alone.
The solo female adventure has been on the rise in recent years, and travel operators and technologies have adapted to cater to this demographic’s increasing hunger for heart-pumping experiences. From women-only tour packages to solo-friendly travel apps, female adventurers are seeking out compromise-free holidays – those such as mountain-biking in Tasmania, skiing through Antarctica or hiking Italy’s coastal Cinque Terre region, contributing to a growing community of thrill-seeking female travellers.
Propelled by the ‘Me Too’ era, the recent feminist wave has affected all industries, including travel. ‘Going solo’ is especially on trend and females are using travel as an additional expression of solidarity. Mary Cecchini, founder of adventure travel company Living Big, said in a New York Times interview, “When women make connections with other women who are very different than they are, it’s an invitation to see the world through another woman’s lens, to see all that we have in common, and an opportunity to develop more empathy and compassion for women, and the world around us.”
Filtering the travel experiences to be women-only, especially for more thrill-seeking itineraries, is largely an attempt to even the playing field and refute the idea that adventure travel is only for men. According to the female members of the Solo Travel Society, most women are travelling alone for freedom, independence and the chance to do what they want, when they want. And while solo travel has been on the rise for some time, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, there has been a shift in the industry by operators who are now creating experiences designed exclusively for females. Several travel companies, such as Damesly, AdventureWomen and WhoaTravel, use feminism as a selling point. These companies are female-founded and provide women-only tours and packages, while larger travel companies, such as Australian-owned Intrepid Travel, now offer women-only expeditions.
And these tours are far from the shop-and-pamper girls’ trips of the past. These female travellers are getting involved in activities like sailing, snorkelling, trekking, skiing and plenty more. Notable active experiences include a mother-daughter adventure in Iceland with horseback riding and snowmobiling; a Kyoto pilgrimage through sacred mountains and Shinto shrines; an extensive journey through Morocco’s sweeping deserts in the Atlas Mountains and a daring attempt up Mount Elbrus in Russia, Europe’s highest peak.
With Australian marriage rates dropping and the age at which the average Australian woman has her first child rising, women are becoming more autonomous and ambitious – and this is being reflected in their travel preferences. The mental benefits of adventure travel also make it an alluring choice for the female tourist. For the modern woman, who is now working more and earning more, often on top of traditional female roles like taking care of the children and managing the household, she is understandably searching for a fulfilling break amid all the pressure. According to Radha Vyas, co-founder of Flash Pack, which provides adventures for solo travellers, thrill-seeking journeys are particularly effective at recharging weary minds and bodies. “Any activity that pushes you physically or mentally will distract you from the urge to check your phone and ruminate over work, forcing you to focus on the moment. This is why people return feeling refreshed even though they haven’t sat still for two weeks.”
Solo adventure travel provides women with a unique dynamic wherein they are only responsible for themselves, and can use their trip to discover new things about themselves, meet new people, challenge themselves with new activities and unfamiliar settings and ultimately conclude their stay feeling accomplished and reenergised.
Colorado, in particular, is a destination that boasts several female-focused adventures without compromising on the indulgent pampering. Luxury hotel The Broadmoor, located in Colorado Springs, hosts a three-day, women’s only fly-fishing retreat with wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and a nightly fireside to end the day’s activities. And the accurately-titled Leave the Boys Behind program offers several backcountry adventure trips, including one-day treks and a lengthier, hut-based running retreat near Aspen, which includes a private chef and morning meditation sessions.
In the Media
The growth of female adventure travel is also largely attributable to the media, and especially social media, which now plays a big role in motivating and influencing people’s travel choices. Instagram is full of inspiring solo female adventure imagery, and Pinterest named adventure travel as one of the top travel trend for this year.
Coupled with social media’s ability to show potential travellers what is to be expected on their upcoming trip, the development of new travel apps makes it convenient and safer for women to travel alone. These mobile additions offer language translation, directions, connectivity via messaging or phone call, accommodations and more. There are even online communities and networks that connect female solo travellers in the same area with each other, as well as apps specifically for luxury travel needs.
Famous female travelling stories, such as Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling novel Wild and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love – as well as their film adaptations – have additionally motivated women to embark on solo journeys. These published excursions stem from the authors’ actual experiences and are doable for any experience-seeking woman.
So if you’re one of them, why not follow in Liz Gilbert’s steps and eat a traditional ragù alla Bolognese in Italy, do some soul-searching (praying) amongst the mountains and monasteries in Ladakh, India and fall in love with Bali, Indonesia. The wild is calling, and with all the other solo female adventurers on similar journeys, you’re bound to bump into a likeminded woman along the way.