One’s not the loneliest number
Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 06:00 am
In my university days, I backpacked across Europe, just as so many other students from countries around the world were doing. I met similar 20-something travellers in hostels, train stations and museums, and found a community among those who were taking a break from their real lives to experience life of another kind – and an education just the same.
This is how I’ve always characterized solo travel, and while it can still serve as a rite of passage from a carefree youth into responsible adulthood, it’s but one definition of travelling alone. Today, solo travel is more acceptable, more varied and more common than ever before, enjoyed by men and women of every age in practically every country on the planet.
Those who have done it can’t say enough about solo travel, calling it life-changing, the ultimate in self-indulgence – even an almost religious experience. “Travelling solo and travelling alone are not synonymous. If you want to travel alone and are comfortable with this option, that’s fantastic. If you want to travel solo but not alone, you can join small group tours which enable you to see the world without fear,” said Kristina Boyce, general manager of The Adventure Travel Company, describing small group tours as ones that deliver authentic experiences for all budgets and styles.
Boyce said small groups empower solo travellers to explore the world with or without a companion, never ‘going it alone’. The safety of a group, like-minded company plus pre-arranged airport transfers and accommodations are hugely important, she said.
At the St. Albert Public Library (SAPL), adult programming librarian Michelle Papineau-Couture said the Armchair Travel program will likely focus on solo travel in future sessions, thanks to growing interest and popularity with this form of travel. “We like to hear from those who have travelled in different ways – not just the all-inclusive trip to Mexico,” said Papineau-Couture, who in months to come welcomes speakers who have adventured to New Zealand, Galapagos and Russia and the high Arctic.
“When people travel alone, they want to be safe and secure, and they want value,” said Leslie Schaff of Globus escorted tours. “Many travel companies are responding to the growth in solo travellers by eliminating single supplements or offering shared accommodations, where singles are matched together for hotel stays – it eliminates what feels like a penalty for travelling alone.”
The company’s Cosmos brand is geared toward the value-minded – some 20 per cent on these tours are singles taking in packages to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, or budget-friendly Turkey. Wherever the destination, travel experts recommend solo travellers leave a detailed itinerary and copy of travel documents (passport, travel insurance policy) with someone at home, and to make regular email check-ins.
“We always recommend at least starting your journey on a small group tour. If nothing else, it delivers a sense a comfort and understanding of a destination – dress codes, local cultural practices, etc.” said Boyce. “Many people choose to travel on their own to see what they want without worrying about a companion, and sometimes it enables those at a crossroads in life to look to travel for some direction, clarity and perspective. Travel of any kind can be a very powerful event in one’s life, and sometimes taking the leap to explore on your own can really deliver an experience that nothing else can.”