Have you ever taken a vacation by yourself? I took my first solo trip when I was 26-years-old. I spent a blissful five days wandering around Paris, popping into whatever shops and museums I fancied. I loved the sense of freedom – doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Apparently I’m not alone. Travelzoo recently released their first-ever Female Solo Travel Report and a surprisingly high 70% of the women in Canada surveyed are interested in travelling solo, too.
Why go solo?
According to the Travelzoo report, almost half of all female travellers surveyed have taken a trip on their own. As I discovered firsthand, travelling on your own is a great way to recharge your batteries, while taking some well-deserved me time. It also provides a fantastic platform for self-discovery.
In Paris, I realized I didn’t mind eating alone. I didn’t feel guilty when exhausted, I fell into bed before 10 pm. There were no shoulds. I walked in and out of the Musee de l’Orangerie in 15-minutes flat. That’s all the time I needed to see Monet’s Water Lillies. Then surprisingly, I spent half a day inside Musee d’Orsay. I spent hours shopping in Kookai and Printemps Haussmann. If I was with a friend or god forbid The Huz, I would’ve kept my shopping to a respectable two hours a day.
I enjoyed that trip so much, I went on a similar solo sojourn for my 40th birthday. I didn’t really want to do a big group trip, but I did want to go someplace on my bucket list. That place was Cornwall. I took surfing lessons, stayed at a swish coastal hotel and had the most amazing dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. (I can still taste those stuffed zucchini flowers!) With both solo trips, I felt completely comfortable in my surroundings. But safety, along with cost and the loneliness factor are the main reasons women hesitate to travel on their own.
I felt pretty chuff after reading the Travelzoo report because their safety tips are the same ones I employ. Whether I’m travelling on my own or with others, I always give my itinerary to someone back home. Some might think this is overkill, but whenever I leave my hotel, I let the front desk know where I’m off to and when I expect to be back. When I lived in Japan, I learned it’s important to register with the Canadian Embassy whenever you’re abroad. If there’s a natural disaster or something equally big, they’ll track you down and can help you get out of the country if needed.
I don’t recall feeling lonely when I went on my first two solo trips. I just felt so free. (And on a perpetual sugar high with all the pastries I was inhaling.) And whenever I needed a little inspiration, I’d look up inspiring travel quotes to get my mojo back.
But since having my daughter, I often feel homesick – even when I travel with others. The best thing to combat loneliness or homesick ness is to surround yourself with others.
Nothing brings people together like good food. Alberta Food Tours unites foodies in their sessions that run in Calgary, Edmonton, Canmore and Banff. It’s a super fun activity, where it’s easy to mingle over food and wine samples. They’ve got a new food tour called Eating the Castle at Fairmont Banff Springs, which would be a good trial for those interested in striking off on their own.
Another great solo activity is hiking Sunshine Meadows. Normally, I wouldn’t advise hiking on your own, but there’s always people hiking the trails here. What’s more, tickets are priced per person – no single supplement here! Incidentally, Travelzoo has a great deal for the gondola/shuttle bus to Sunshine Village. Solo travellers can meet other hikers either on the gondola or the chairlift up. With the larches beginning to turn colour, now is an ideal time to get outdoors and exploring on your own. Here’s a look at my experience hiking Sunshine Meadows.
Solo travel accommodation in Alberta
On my first solo trip I stayed in a hostel. I ended up meeting a lovely gal from the U.K. and we spent a day bombing around Paris together. She was a vegetarian and introduced to me to my first completely vegetarian restaurant, which was fantastic.
Of course, solo travellers can bed down at any hotel but it can be harder to meet people that way, plus it’s pricier. Besides hostels, university dorms are a good bet, as are some mountain lodges. In the Kananaskis, Mount Engadine Lodge has the Chickadee room specifically designed for solo travellers. It’s a sweet single bedroom in their main lodge, that’s priced at a significant discount AND includes meals served up family style. Better still, they have winterized yurts which can be booked for a solo guest at $125/night+ tax, also including meals. They’ll even give solo travellers $100 off per night if staying in one of their new glamping tents. I’m going to check this out in October, so circle back for deets on that experience.