Profile, Motivations, and Experiences From Portuguese Solo Female Travelers

Profile, Motivations, and Experiences From Portuguese Solo Female Travelers

Zelia Breda (GOVCOPP, University of Aveiro, Portugal), Adriana Santos (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Tamara Kliček (I-Shou University, Taiwan) and Gorete Dinis (GOVCOPP, Polytechnic Institute of Portalegre, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2204-2.ch008


The segment of independent travelers has experienced big growth in recent years, not only worldwide but also in Portugal. This phenomenon, which is not recent, has been gaining momentum in recent times, with women playing an important role. This chapter explores the literature on solo female travel, seeking to understand the motivations, as well as the difficulties encountered during the journey. To this end, a qualitative approach was used, with semi-structured interviews being conducted to 24 Portuguese women. The content analysis of the interviews was done with the assistance of the WebQDA software. Results show that most women traveling alone are young, single, and childless, identifying themselves mostly as adventurous, outgoing, and independent. The lack of travel companion, the freedom of choice, the experience and adventure, and the escape from the daily routine are highlighted as motivations to travel alone. The main difficulties identified are loneliness, harassment, fear of walking alone at night or being robbed.
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Although men have always had a prominent role as travellers, women have also played a part, whether they travelled alone or accompanied (Kroller, 1990; Warner-Smith, 2013; Wilson & Little, 2005). Perhaps this is not the most widely publicized idea, since reports have always described men as discoverers and adventurers, who sought new destinations and extended territories (Warner-Smith, 2013; Wilson & Little, 2005). But this idea seems to be changing as there is a growing number of women who travel, with a greater percentage of them doing it individually (Marzuki, Chin, & Razak, 2012; McNamara & Prideaux, 2010; Wilson & Little, 2005). Nevertheless, this is not a recent phenomenon. The literature refers to cases of women of the Victorian era who travelled the world alone, avoiding rules and obligations (Kroller, 1990).

Nowadays, the number of women travelling alone is exponentially higher than in the past (Wilson & Little, 2005). With the increase of this phenomenon, blogs dedicated to solo female travel began to appear in recent years, being run by women who have been solo travellers themselves, and approaching diverse topics, from where to go, what to worry about and how to have the courage to do so. The stories that address the decision-making process of travelling alone and the freedom that derives from it have increased exponentially on the Internet (Amandanoventa, 2015; Antunes, 2015; McCulley, 2015), with the Press also paying attention to the phenomenon, by publishing articles on the subject (Ross, 2015).

Notwithstanding the recent interest on solo female travel, it is still far from being explored. In fact, studies on the topic are still scarce (Marzuki et al., 2012), and there has been little concern in studying gender differences in tourism, since studies have been focusing essentially on men (Meng & Uysal, 2008). From the studies on the subject, two divergent lines of though can be highlighted. The first one relates to the fact that leisure habits of men and women are different, and there is a need to create niche markets (Collins & Tisdell, 2002; Jucan & Jucan, 2013; Marzuki et al., 2012; Small, 1999). However, the other line of thought questions whether these differences are so marked and if men and women do not engage in similar activities in their free time and during their holidays (Carr, 2000; Meng & Uysal, 2008). The prevailing view is that women choose leisure and tourism activities differently from men. Therefore, the literature has focused on the perception of what should be improved in the tourism sector to facilitate travel and make it more enjoyable for women. Studies on what is valued by women in hotels (Marzuki et al., 2012) or even in airlines (Westwood, Pritchard, & Morgan, 2000) have shown that, even though activities are similar, the needs are quite different.

The rise of solo female travel is related to sociodemographic changes, with women increasingly marrying at a later stage in life, also delaying the decision to have children. Their economic situation has also improved substantially as they have fixed and fairly well-paid jobs. In other words, independence is greater and women in their 30s and 40s see themselves with all the possibilities to travel (Chiang & Jogaratnam, 2006; Jucan & Jucan, 2013; Laesser, Beritelli, & Bieger, 2009; Wilson & Little, 2005).

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