The world is experiencing a solo travel movement. Social media channels including Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook are laden with many solo travel hashtags, as well as other popular tags that reflect a growing generation of solo travellers who are experiencing remote corners of the world. We encountered one of such solo travellers whilst exploring the western coast of Zanzibar.

We arrived at the luxurious and eco-friendly Zanzi Resort, located about thirty minutes south of Stonetown, the largest city in Unguja, the larger of Zanzibar’s two main islands. We had just enough time to head towards the pier on the property to absorb the stunning views and capture the evening sunset.

Woman sitting on hammock at Zanzi Resort, Zanzibar | @dipyourtoesin

We spotted a small, solitary figure in the distance sitting on a hammock at the end of the pier looking out to sea, an image that could practically have been lifted from a classic travel magazine. Little did we know that this nameless figure perched on a hammock, softly swaying in the ocean breeze would reveal an incredible and inspiring travel story.

Conscious not to interrupt her rhythm and space, we exchanged a few introductions, and spent the next ten minutes taking photos, and soaking in our first view of Zanzibar’s coastline. Our solitary figure had a name, and it was Carol.

We were pulled in by the glow emanating from her face. She seemed ageless and exuded an inner strength. She was happy to have a brief chat and told us about her birthplace and later relocation to Australia. In those short moments we felt compelled to know more. However, it wasn’t until the next morning after a hearty breakfast that we got to know the full story of our previously nameless pier figure, and her love for travel; a story that would take us across several continents, and over a dozen countries. Carol had embarked on a solo travel journey around the world, carrying a 8kg backpack, and a solid-as-a-rock resolve to challenge ageist views towards solo travel.

Woman standing on pier at Zanzi Resort, Zanzibar | @dipyourtoesin

Carol: Our family immigrated from England to Canada when I was a child. When I was at university I stopped for a year and traveled with a boyfriend through Africa, India and the Middle East. After completing university, I taught for a year in Australia, and then traveled again through Asia and Africa with a boyfriend. I then returned to Canada, got married, and moved with my late husband to Australia, where I have lived since 1985. We’d often travelled in Asia on our vacations.

Carol had clearly seen quite a bit of the world, but constantly with a companion of some sorts. We wondered what led to her decision to plan a solo trip around the world:

Carol: My husband died, and eventually I sold our large home in Australia. There was no reason to stay in one place anymore. I want to see and experience as much as I can! Solo travel isn’t any different from traveling as a younger person, I think. However, as a solo traveller, you always have the hassle of paying more for accommodation.

 

Challenges

Travelling solo can be life defining and exhilarating. However, it can also provide a host of challenges. We asked Carol if as an older female, she’d ever felt uncomfortable or threatened during her solo adventures?

Woman sleeping on hammock at Zanzi Resort, Zanzibar | @dipyourtoesin

Carol: No, I think people are more respectful of an older person. Nevertheless, I carry my valuables in a money belt on my waist, under my clothes, with the valuables at the back of my body, covered by my daypack. I also avoid going out at night.

She’s experienced the entire spectrum of travel hospitality. We asked Carol about the best and worst experiences she has encountered thus far:

Carol: The best experience was staying in Sri Lanka at Tea Trails, a luxurious Relais et Chateau property in the tea plantations. The worst experience was immediately after that, also in Sri Lanka, where the trains are so crowded I couldn’t get to my seat, and stood for hours squashed!

 

Sky, Sea, or Land?

Solo travel gives Carol complete freedom in planning and choosing her methods of travel. We asked her about her travel preferences:

Zanzi Resort, Zanzibar, view from the pier | @dipyourtoesin

Carol: On this trip, I flew from one country to another. I bought tickets as I went along, researching them on Skyscanner, then buying from the airline direct. It was cheaper, and I wasn’t locked in. Also, during my travels I listen to educational or inspiring podcasts that I have downloaded onto my iPad.

For this particular solo journey, Carol embarked on quite an ambitious itinerary. We were completely intrigued with knowing the details:

Carol: Starting in January 2016 I cycled South India with Exodus tours, and then hiked Sri Lanka also with Exodus tours. I then cruised around Seychelles with Pegasus ships, followed by Club Med in Mauritius. I then did family homestays with Servas.org in La Reunion, and a tour of Madagascar with Explorer tours. I then headed to Zanzibar in April for a beach holiday, followed by stays in traditional riads in Morocco. I then headed to Portugal and backpacked by bus and train to Spain. After this, I hiked through Corsica. Now I am going to Canada to visit family and friends for 3 months, and then I will return to Australia to housesit. I want to keep going!

We marveled at the incredible and versatile journey she’s had, and wondered if her family had been supportive of her journey and how they have responded to her travel decisions?

Carol: They ask when I will stop and whether I will settle again, and whether it will be in Australia; where I have lived so long, or back in Canada, where all my family are.

From the outside looking in, Carol is living a life that many people have only dreamed of living. She’s always loved to travel, and is doing everything she can to live a life full of new experiences, one day at a time. We asked what she would do differently, if she could do the whole trip over again:

Carol: Maybe use a rolling suitcase? Right now, I have a small backpack. It only weighs 8kg and so I can carry it on the plane, with my daypack on my front. That is super! But for long walks, it is a bit tiring.

 

The Path Ahead

It is truly a poignant thought to imagine this joyful and humble woman trekking around the world with nothing but an 8kg backpack. Would she do it again? What were her future plans?

Woman sitting on hammock at Zanzi Resort, talking to man, Zanzibar | @dipyourtoesin

Carol: There are so many places I still want to see: more of Europe, Bhutan, the Silk Route, China, and more!

Besides her journey being inspirational, Carol also had wise words to share with women wanting to try solo travel for the first time.

Carol: Join Servasa homestay program. I have been a host for 30 years, and it is a very safe way to stay in peoples’ homes. Take a tiny 8kg pack, so you can move easily. Take many different ways to access your money, in case something doesn’t work, e.g. cash, several credit cards, debit cards, bank withdrawal cards.

We asked Carol to fast-forward 5 to 7 years from now. What does life look like for her?

Carol: If I am in good health, then I will still travel, maybe by cruise ship when it’s too hard to backpack.

During our stay in Zanzibar we only had the pleasure of seeing Carol a few short times before she embarked on the next leg of her journey. However her heart for exploration, and the glow she emanated (so similar to the Zanzibar setting sun) will stay with us forever. She reminded us that travel is for everyone regardless of age, gender, relationship status or experience. It only matters that you embrace it.

Sunset & dhow at Zanzi Resort, Zanzibar | @dipyourtoesin

>>> For more information regarding Zanzi Resort, please visit their website. <<<

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Carol: The 8kg Solo Explorer, Living Life after 60 (Zanzi Resort, Zanzibar) | @dipyourtoesin

Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).