Inspiring Independent Female Travelers: A Conversation with Jayne Seagrave
Jayne Seagrave is an experienced personal and professional traveler who is now challenging her readers to take flight—solo. Her most recent book, Time To Take Flight: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Safe Solo Travel provides unique insight into the rewards of travel for independent female travelers. If you’ve never traveled on your own, Seagrave is here to provide you with every step to plan, select a destination and enjoy your perfect trip! Although younger than Seagrave’s target audience, I found her guide to be extremely relatable and helpful as I embark on my own adventures.
After embarking on solo travels for many years for both business and pleasure, what motivated you to finally publish Time To Take Flight now for the mature female traveler?
I was undertaking less sales and marketing for my business Vancouver Tool Corporation, and could not find very much literature on mature women’s travel. Nothing on the menopause, very little on clean washrooms and the need to pee more as you get older. I have always been writing books (eight published books to date, camping books in 8th edition) and wanted to write about travel in a different genre.
Also, stats showed the largest growing demographic for the travel industry was single women over the age of 40, so it was easily “sellable” to a publisher – and I always focus my writing on a gap in the market to achieve sales.
If you had written a solo female traveling guide as a younger woman, what topics would have been added, taken out or addressed differently?
I would not have said anything on menopause—why scare the younger generation—and would have included more on social media, more on budget accommodation. There are 101 travel tales written in the first person from young women. I would not have entered this busy market; others are already there. Much of what I write is relevant to the traveler—be that solo male, female, younger or older. I have seen this through the TV and phone-in radio shows I have been involved in to promote Time to Take Flight.
I love that you recognize the fear of loneliness as one of the barriers to women “taking flight.” Have you noticed any pattern to the emotional stages of solo travel, similar to the more documented stages of culture shock?
Personally, I only tend to get lonelier after ten days or more. Initially, it’s just too wonderful being by myself.
You frequently say that unplanned experiences are often the most memorable. For the cautious or meticulous traveler, how would you suggest to “plan” time for some spontaneity?
I don’t know if you can plan spontaneity—it happens when you least expect it. The key is to be open, go with your gut instincts and be willing to experience new things and talk to new people. This is built over time traveling alone. It all comes down to confidence. The more you take flight as a single, the more things will happen and the more you will be open to them happening.
I wholeheartedly agree about the importance of available and clean bathrooms for the female traveler. Do you have a memorable story or example of a glaring lesson learned?
Many times I have opened doors to toilets you would never think to go into, then wondered “what next?” Whenever I am having to use a bathroom I hate, I think of a quote I read years ago: “The women’s washroom was like a taste of prison.” No idea where I read it and who wrote it, but it stayed in my mind. I pee reciting that quote.
I recite it over and over again to myself while using the facility and get out as quickly as possible. Then, when I am sad to go home, I think of that space and my lovely clean washroom and suddenly returning to convention and home isn’t so bad.
One of the keys you mention to stay is safe is to act confidently. After your wealth of solo travel experiences, what tips do you have to transition from acting confident to being confident?
This is all smoke and mirrors. I often give presentations and people come up afterwards and are gracious with their praise, totally unaware of how much I was dreading the experience and nervous throughout. Act confidently and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, but only after time. Remember, everyone has their own hang-ups and are thinking of themselves, not of you.
Each city feature begins with a quote. When selecting these quotes, how did you feel they characterize each city that your profile?
I chose quotes because the author recognised things I also identified with. We shared the same or a similar experience.
You feature 23 North American and European cities as friendly for the female traveler. What were cities 24-26 on your list? Was it hard to narrow down the final 23?
I wanted to keep book under $20, but I could have written more if not for publisher remissions and the page count. I would have liked to have included cities in Australia and New Zealand, such as Brisbane, Melbourne, Sidney, Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch. Also Munich, Riga, Dublin, Lyon are more difficult to get to but all could have been in the book.
For the slightly more adventurous, is there another continent, or specific city that you would be first to recommend?
Riga, Latvia is great, very reasonable and really, really safe. For example, 4-star hotels can be found for under $60 a night and operas can be seen for five Euros. For now, there are not many tourists and no Starbucks, but it won’t last for long. Riga is a World Heritage Site and I predict that it will be the next Prague. Australia would be the next safe continent I would recommend.
In your acknowledgements, you recognize that Time To Take Flight “has been inspired and structured by the women who have been instrumental in shaping and guiding [you] over the years.” What creates this unique bond between female travelers?
The women mentioned in the acknowledgements are all very, very good friends, not necessarily travelers, but they have all supported me in my travels. I have traveled with some of them, but more importantly, they offer a sounding board for my travel ambitions AND all my other ambitions/stresses/life changes/health issues/aging/family traumas. They have made me who I am
I think the bond women have, (and this again has been shown through the reaction I have had to the book) is that so many women can identify with the words I have written, be they seasoned travelers or just trying to get the confidence to go on their first trip. As a writer if you can describe an emotion or a feeling or a thought the reader has, then there is a link and the reader wants to hear more. There is an identity.
I am not ‘artsy’ or ‘precious’—I tell it like it is. I try to be like your best travel girlfriend because of my experience and my age. This is the unique bond travel writers and their audience of female travelers have. Many women I meet on the road I would hate to spend time with—remember I argue for solo flight—and I think everyone should try it.
You can learn more about Jayne and Time To Take Flight on her website here.