There are many ways to experience and travel the World. Some travel with friends, some with a mate, and then there are those who choose to take on the World solo.
I recently had the opportunity to sit in on an upclose-and-personal chat by Solo Traveler, Janice Waugh in Toronto to talk about her experience with, well….travel! She offered tales, tips and tricks for anyone thinking of getting out there and traveling solo.
The Solo Traveler’s story is an inspirational one. After the sudden loss of her life partner and travelmate, Janice made the difficult decision to move on from the grief and travel once again. This time she would do it solo.
“Every journey begins with a first step” – Solo Traveler
Janice’s first step was Cuba. Arriving to the city after a late flight, she found herself walking through the dark, empty, and ominous streets of Havana. Instead of relishing in her new found freedom, she immediately picked up the phone to call the one person who could save her – save her from fear, unfamiliarity, unease, and loneliness. Her travel agent could book her on the next quick flight to some other place. A resort. It would be a friendlier, brighter, and easier option. In the midst of waiting for the return call, and choosing not to spend the day inside a hotel room, Janice decided to see if there was anything she did like about Havana. Soon enough, she did. She discovered Cuban cuisine, Spanish jazz, and learned how to get into a salsa club.
Why she travels
It’s freedom. For Janice, travel is the freedom to discover who you are when nobody is looking. It’s the freedom to do what you want, when you want and most of all, travel lets you have a personal exchange with people and cultures.
“Great experiences are connecting with locals and communities” – Solo Traveler
Janice experiences the world solo yet she never feels alone. She meets interesting locals, immerses in the culture of those around her, and connects with others along her journey. Traveling solo can leave you open to meeting others but it also means you have friends all over the world. In fact, when Solo Traveler walks into a pub it’s like Norm walking into Cheers.
How to Experience Travel Solo
Solo Traveler says you don’t need a travelmate to experience people, places, and cultures. On her solo travels she takes classes like Yoga, stays at B&B’s or hostels instead of hotels, and dines at small, local restaurants with a bar or countertop. Choosing the same restaurant means you become a familiar face and sitting at the counter is an easy place to start up a conversation with your neighbour. Her bonus tip to spark a chat: ask a regular to order for you – after all, they know the best dish in the house! And if you’re like Solo Traveler you may even get invited to a wedding!
Tips for Traveling Safe
If you’re an avid reader of the Solo Traveler Blog you know that safety is a recurring theme. Here are some tips Solo Traveler recommended during her presentation to travelers who want to explore alone (but I think these are key tips for non-solo travelers too):
- Choose public vs private spaces
- Do a Google streetview of the area before you book your accommodations
- Keep an emergency contact list of your family or friends handy
- Wear a backpack with an easily detachable strap
- Have your phone handy
- Carry ID
- Build a relationship with the local bar owner on your night out.
- Wear a medical bracelet
- Store extra copies of travel documents in different places
- Schedule your flight’s arrival well before dark
- Trust your instincts
Fortunately, her agent in Cuba never called her back. Now, Solo Traveler is celebrating the 3rd year anniversary of her successful blog, traveling solo and sharing her experiences. In one of her latest posts, she offers her readers a great account of how traveling solo has rebooted and renewed her way of life 3 years later.
Are you a solo traveler? How do you experience the world?