Girlfriend Getaways

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One Spring Break, while I was in college, my girlfriends and I drove from Salisbury, Maryland to Key West, Florida in a cramped, borrowed white van. It took us over two days and more than 1200 miles to get to this 2 by 4 mile island, taking turns at the wheel. You see, we were quite determined to savor a sip of the world famous Frozen Daiquiri-Brain Freeze drinks at Fat Tuesday.

The drive down was just as memorable as the final destination. Along the way, we sunned ourselves on the sugar-sand beaches of Daytona, Orlando and Miami, explored “the World in a day” at Epcot Center, and danced our little hearts out at Pleasure Island. The highlight of the trip was sleeping under the stars at various campsites en route to save money. It was definitely low budget, but high impact, and one of the best trips of my life.

HawaiiWhen I moved to California in 1992, I found another group of girlfriends that I immediately bonded, and traveled, with. Every year around the end of May, five of us would hop on a plane and head off to heavenly Honolulu. We’d spend most of the day lounging on the beach, chatting up a storm. Sunsets were for sipping cocktails, and midnight meant miniskirts and club-hopping. Albeit short, our four-day holidays proved plenty — for recharging our batteries and reconnecting with each other.

The annual trips became more difficult to plan when, one by one, we started getting hitched, and feelings of guilt for leaving the significant others behind began to surface. So we created shorter – and more frequent – getaways, like wine-tasting and day spa retreats inNapa, holiday shopping trips to Gilroy, and all-girl TV Nights.

After a rare weekend “girls only” trip to Vegas three years ago, we pinky-sweared to celebrate an annual “Girlfriend Anniversary,” no matter what. The exact date didn’t matter – it was like a floating holiday, celebrated with another extravagant trip like this, or a simple dinner commemorating our friendship.

All-girl getaways were simply unheard of twenty years ago. Lourdes Uy, a grandmother fromLas Vegas, says that, “It was considered inappropriate and inconsiderate for a married woman with kids to vacation on their own. Filipina women, especially, were expected to take care of their home and children first.”

But women today are different, with female baby boomers leading the pack. In general, baby boomers (those born from 1946 to 1964) have a higher divorce rate and a higher percentage that has never married compared to previous generations. An abstract on MarketResearch.com indicates that “single boomer women comprise a highly active sub-population of travelers, willing to spend on high-end services, spas, resorts and tours [and] turning to agencies that specialize in women-only travel. Over the next 10-20 years, the women of the Baby Boom Generation will likely reshape the market for older single travelers”

Women also tend to outlive men in the United States. According to the 2006 CIA World Factbook, among those 65 year and older, the ratio of males to females in the U.S.is 0.72:1.00 – that’s 1.38 females for every male (compare this to the grim 2.84:1.00 ratio of males to females in Qatar). The 2005 US Census indicates that 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.

This means there are more self-sufficient women, with disposable incomes and adventurous spirits, who choose to chill out with their chums. A 2005 study conducted by Impulse Research which found that of 1,500 women surveyed, 50% indicated they had taken an all-female trip in the last three years and that 88% were planning to go on a women’s only vacation. According to the Travel Institute of America, all-girl getaways have gained popularity in the last decade, with 98 million American women going on adventure travel trips in the last five years. As a result, women-only travel companies have seen great demand, increasing in number by 230% in the past six years.

Chelsea (a.k.a Shellsea) Huntley, founder of Surf Goddess Retreats in Bali,Indonesia, started her company in 2003 to cater to “professional women who have an adventurous streak and are looking for an active holiday.” She says that 80 percent of her guests are solo travelers from the United States, Europe, Asia andAustralia. “There are a few reasons why Surf Goddess Retreats is so successful. First, we cater to what women want on a holiday, that it isn’t a single focus retreat. Women are multi-taskers and love layers of experience. We give them that,” she adds. Jocelyn Formento, a surfer fromSan Mateo,Californiawho participated in the retreat three year ago, says that the all-female surfing getaway was “a great way to be amongst womankind who have diverse backgrounds but are there for the same reason as you.”

For last year’s “Girlfriend Anniversary,” my friends and I spent four hours frolicking at the SupperClub in San Francisco, where you get to wine and dine in an expansive communal all-white bed strewn about with corresponding fluffy white pillows. With the wine flowing, and the conversation going, we reminisced, we mused over the future, and we once again bonded. The whole experience reminded me of a quote by Elizabeth Lucas: “Sisters are born to each other, or happen through friendships by fate. But however it happens or when, nature has given a gift that is great.”

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