A 66 Year Old Woman’s Solo Backpacking in South America

By Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor August 30th, 2015 Posted in Inspiration and Love Stories, South America & Antarctica, Travel Blog 3 Comments

When I met Kach and Jon in Arequipa, Peru I said I would write an article extolling the joy and the advantages of traveling solo as an older woman.

Here’s Annie Sparks’ Inspiring Story:  A 66 Year Old Woman’s Solo Backpacking in South America

Nomad Inspiration Annie Sparkes

I have always had the desire to travel and luckily I chose a career which enabled me to work abroad for ten years until the job of raising a family clipped my wings. But finally retirement came, my daughter went to university, and I said ”Bye bye, see you in a year, 1” and I went off backpacking in South America. The decision to go to South America was based purely on the fact that it was one corner of the world I had not visited. I enrolled in a Spanish language course for one year before departure so that I would be able to communicate at a basic level and bought the Lonely Planet guide to South America on a Shoestring. I decided to start in Buenos Aires and travel clockwise to Rio. Seriously, that was the extent of my planning. As people said to me “If you don’t like it, are not happy, you can always come home”.

Nomad Inspiration: Annie Sparkes

Nomad Inspiration Annie Sparkes

So off I went and it was fantastic! I always stayed in hostels because that’s where you meet like minded people. Yes, generally they were 30/40 years younger than me but that suited my outlook on life. In hostels you learn about where is the next best place to go and gradually you start to build a vague plan. However, I would avoid “party” hostels unless you are into drinking all night and sleeping all day. 12 bed mixed dorms? Don’t worry, you’ll get used to them and people are pretty considerate overall. If you are unlucky enough to share with a snorer, throw your pillow at him/her – its quite acceptable.

I always traveled by bus. In South America its easy to get to anywhere you want to go by bus. Its cheap and in most countries its relatively comfortable. In Argentina for example I had the best bus journey ever with half a bottle of wine with my on-board supper and a TV in the back of the seat . I curled up after dinner with my bus-supplied pillow and blanket and watched “Marley & Me” while we zipped through the Argentinian night. On another trip I wandered off while my bus was having a “breather”. When I returned, the bus had gone with all my belongings on board! “Don’t panic” said the lady in the bus office and she rang the bus driver and got him to return to pick up stupid English lady!

Nomad Inspiration Annie Sparkes

Buses and bus stations are also a good place to meet fellow travellers. As a solo traveller you are more likely to strike up a conversation with someone than if you are travelling as a group or couple. Don’t be shy about this, another solo traveller will be just as happy to chat and you will probably gain a brief travelling companion if you are going to the same place. Indeed, although your paths may diverge at some point, if you are on the “gringo trail” the chances are you will bump into them again somewhere else along the road and you’ve probably gained a friend for life.

Nomad Inspiration Annie Sparkes

As an older female solo traveller (I’m 66) you, hopefully, will have a bit more common sense than a lot of the gap year travellers. I say “hopefully” because I have done some pretty stupid things in my time! Possibly that’s because I have become a little blasé about travelling in South America (I’ve now been there 3 times) but it does give you some good travel anecdotes which will impress your friends enormously on your return home.

Nomad Inspiration Annie Sparkes

During my backpacking trip to South America I visited 7 countries, travelled nearly 20,000 miles by bus and boat, met so many wonderful people some of whom I have revisited, experienced much Latino warmth and hospitality, saw magnificent scenery and went to countless festivals.

Nomad Inspiration Annie Sparkes 8

So to anyone who secretly holds a desire to travel but thinks “Oh no I couldn’t go on my own”, please put those concerns aside and enjoy the freedom of solo travel when you can do what you want to do and see what you want to see without compromise. If you can catch a bus in your own country, you can catch a bus anywhere. Go on release the spirit in you!

Nomad Inspiration: Annie Sparkes

Monkey DividersAre you on Pinterest? Pin these!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 thoughts on “A 66 Year Old Woman’s Solo Backpacking in South America

  1. There are not enough women in the over 50 age group that I have found that travel alone. Thank you for this great article. I start my trip to South America this year at age 54

    1. I wanna follow your journey!! Always impressed with older generation traveling, you guys deserve it after all the sacrifices for the kids!

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER:Many of the articles on Two Monkeys Travel Group are guest posts by a number of Approved Contributors and are hosted by Two Monkeys Travel Group. Approved Contributors control their own work and post freely to our site. This includes all text and images that they use within their own work. All contributors are instructed to follow internationally recognised copyright and intellectual property guidelines. Two Monkeys Travel Group takes its own responsibilities very seriously, so if you feel that any part of this work is abusive in any way, please send us an email so that we can investigate - theteam@twomonkeystravel.com


DISCLOSURE: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. So when you make a purchase we sometimes make a small commission, at no extra cost to you. The cost to you remains the same, sometimes even cheaper if we have negotiated a special deal for our readers.We use all of the companies we have listed here and that’s why they are in this list, but of course we need to keep Two Monkeys Travel Group running as well as it can, which is exactly what you’re helping with if you do decide to buy or book something through an affiliate link! If you have any more questions about the companies we use or any other companies you’re looking at, just email us and we’ll be happy to help.Please see our full disclaimer page for more information.

Written by Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor

Two Monkeys Travel Group – Community Travel Blog is a travel blog and website. We quickly grew into a valuable source of inspiring travel stories, advice, itineraries and travel guides, with the aim of demonstrating how to live a sustainable life of travel, whilst living your own definition of success. If you'd like to contribute and write a guest post, contact us at kach@twomonkeystravel.com

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive tips on how you can live a sustainable long-term travel lifestyle!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.