Meet Gaelle De Friendt a passionate solo traveller and self-confessed travel addict. She left her job in the automotive sector to develop ‘Girls on Travel’ after realising that platforms for women-only travel groups were nearly non-existent. Through this platform, Gaelle enables every woman, no matter what age, to live her passion for solo travel with like-minded people. She wants women to connect and feel empowered through incredible discoveries and people. Here she tells us a bit more about her mission, her values and her travel style.
Tell us a little about yourself and what’s your mission?
My name is Gaëlle, founder of Girls on Travel, connecting and empowering women with incredible trips. The company organises the whole programme with fixed travel dates. As a solo woman you can book the trip, and from the moment 3 other women booked it the trip is confirmed and you meet your fellow travellers at the destination country. Groups are maximum 12 people to keep it cosy. Programmes always include a mix of activities and free time to explore further. Hotels are 3-4* category. All women are welcome but we focus on 30-60+.
Why are you passionate about this?
Travelling has always been my passion. When I realised that some women were putting their dream trips aside because they had nobody to travel with that is when I decided to do something about it and create group travel for solo women. There is something very empowering about bringing women together and this is even truer during travels as it really brings a feeling of companionship.
Tell us about your solo travel adventures and how you got started travelling solo.
My first solo adventure was when I was 24 years old and left 4 months to central and South America. I was in need of some adventure but I also wanted to travel with a purpose. So I decided to do some volunteering. I volunteered in an eco range in Costa Rica, explaining how the place was sustainable to tourists and volunteered in an orphanage in Bolivia, amazing experience. Spending a few weeks in those places really enabled me to understand the local culture a lot better and live in total immersion with the local population. Experience of a lifetime!
What do you like about solo travel? Dislike?
My favourite part about it is the self-discovery. You learn a lot about yourself as you are constantly out of your comfort zone, facing challenges and discovering new things.
What are your favourite destinations for solo travel?
I would go back anytime to central and South America. I recently discovered Colombia and this is my favourite country ever. The local population is so kind, nice and helpful that anybody just feels like they are at home. If you want to feel completely at ease, then I would go for Japan. Such an interesting and safe culture.
What are your top solo travel tips?
I would encourage anybody to travel solo. Sometimes it is good to combine it with a group tour as it can be boring to always be by yourself or tiring to always engage conversation with other solo travellers. So a combination of both can be a good way! But research the country and be a smart traveller. Yes, that means no jewellery, hiding money in different places, be humble, have your first hotel booked and if I had to do it again I would do some self-defence classes as well. I guess my point is that you can basically travel anywhere you want as long as you are not being naïve and you do a little bit of research on the country beforehand. You wouldn’t go with the same mindset to Japan or to Guatemala, would you?
Have you had any solo travel disasters you’d care to share? Anything learned from that?
I guess my biggest mistake was to miss my flight from China! It was a financial disaster. Had to rebook the flight, basically paid double, all this because I didn’t double check the return date. So a costly mistake, always check timings twice!
Beach or city? Or Both? Advantages/disadvantages to both for solo women travellers.
Always both! I am very much of a city person, I need museums and culture but a good dose of nature as well. So once I am done exploring I always enjoy a little beach break before returning home. They are both very accessible to solo women travellers and you can be as lonely or surrounded with people as you want. You can join a group for a city trip or enjoy reading your book alone on a beach break, so many options nowadays.
What’s your solo travel style? Backpacker, boutique hotel, resort?
I am very much of a boutique hotel type of person. Personal, cosy, human feeling, great decoration, I love discovering new ones. I am always surprised by the little personal attention they bring to those places and how original they can be.
What do you think is the most important things for a solo woman traveller starting out midlife?
JUST DO IT!
Do you prefer to keep visiting the same places or do you like the adventure of somewhere new? Why?
I am always going to new places. There are so many places I still want to visit, the world is so big I don’t even know where to go first!
What’s your view on eco-tourism and over tourism? What can we all do to help?
Eco-tourism is growing in trend and that is a good thing. It is amazing that we can travel more easily nowadays, but this should be done respecting the environment, the animals and the locals. The carbon print when flying is quite high, but pack light to reduce it, save water by taking short showers, recycle and bring a reusable bottle of water and buy local whenever you can. These are all small steps, but if everybody would be focusing on them, on a global scale this can make a huge impact. It is also about educating people about it, so read articles, talk to people around you, when you travel talk to locals and ask how best you could help.
What one thing do you want the members to know/remember?
Just don’t hesitate, travelling makes you so much more open-minded, it is such a rewarding experience that it would be a shame to live with regrets.
Travelling is so rewarding. If you are hesitant, share your thoughts with other solo travellers. Facebook groups are so helpful and I find women being really honest and kind in sharing their experiences.
Gaelle has some fabulous solo female trips scheduled. You can find out all about them on her website Girls on Travel
Like my Facebook page Deborah Ives, Solo In Style or join my Facebook group Solo In Style: Females Over 50 Travelling Solo & Loving It
You can follow all my travels on Instagram