When someone asks, “Don’t you want to settle down soon?” the hidden message is, “Of course you do.”
It’s a question that begs the answer “yes.”
So what happens when that’s not the answer? It always feels a bit awkward to explain to someone that as a woman in my 40s the answer is no, actually, I don’t want to settle down soon. If I did, that’s what I would be doing.
In 2016, the societal norms for women in our fantastic forties don’t seem to have changed that drastically from the 1950s. The generalized norms still seem to be that she is married and has at least one child.
Sure, there have been major career and equal rights advancements since then, but why is it that so many people seem to have such a hard time accepting that a 40+ woman is perfectly content on her own, sans significant other or child?
Even more, a woman in her 40s should at the very least be focused on her career, not taking off to travel like a nomad in her 20s. There is a hidden judgment that we are self-involved and selfish. What are we doing with our lives? Why aren’t we acting our age?
We are going to the places we’ve always wanted to go, to do the things we’ve always wanted to do. And here’s why: we’ve learned not to wait until “someday” and to make today “someday.” It may be cliché, however very true, that today is all we have. Does this mean we don’t have dreams, goals, desires, ambitions? Of course we do.
Perhaps we 40+ women have finally found the guts, the audacity, the faith, the chutzpah to believe that we can actually create the kind of life we want.
It is challenging for many people to appreciate that there is an entire sub-culture of 40+ women who would rather carry a backpack than a baby, who would rather break in a new pair of hiking boots than a new stroller. We would rather look back on our lives and be glad we listened to the little voice that said, “Go, see the world, you’ll be a better person for it.”
The solo female traveler doesn’t wait for that perfect travel partner—she knows she is her own best travel partner. I have traveled successfully alone through Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Kenya, Belize and Guatemala. I have met many other solo female travelers who understand the misery of being asked repetitively by the locals, “Where is your husband? Why are you not married?” A woman traveling alone is quite the novelty in many parts of the world, which is exactly why it takes a lot of guts to travel solo.
I don’t mean the kind of travel where she disembarks the plane, shows up to the yoga retreat at the resort, stays there the entire time, and goes back home. Not that the five-star yoga retreat doesn’t have a long list of huge merits and benefits. But, I mean the kind of travel where she has to figure out last minute accommodations because the transportation got delayed, and maybe she doesn’t speak the local language. The kind of travel where she has to rely on herself to deal with quite challenging situations. She does it because she knows she will gain a kind of self-knowledge, and a vastly widened perspective on the world, that can only be gained from hauling a backpack around a foreign land.
As a woman in my forties, who thrives on traveling the world solo, I’ll be damned if I am going to live my life according to how anyone else thinks I should be living it. I’ll be damned if I am not “adulting” enough, if I’m not “responsible” enough, if I’m not “settled down” enough.
The beauty of it is this: any woman in her forties—and of any age, really—who has the courage to traveI alone is exactly enough, and then some.
We all choose how we want to travel through this lifetime. Some of us more literally than others.
Do the greatest thing you can for the solo traveling woman you love: support her in her dreams. Don’t ask the questions laden with projections about what she should be doing at this point in her life. Don’t judge her based on society’s ideas of what kind of house, job, or family she should have by now. Let her be. Tell her you believe in her. Let your partner, sister, mother, daughter or best friend know that you admire her courage, her audacity, her belief in herself.
Give the woman you love the best gift you possibly can: your trust.
Author: Wren Siegel
Editor: Emily Bartran / Assistant Editor: Lindsay Carricarte