Front cover of book - The Solo Traveler's Handbook

THE SOLO TRAVELER’S HANDBOOK: For those who love and those who long to go solo

Janice Leith Waugh

[Full Flight Press, 132 pages]

For my last book review, I enjoyed reading the travel memoirs and advice from Janet Rouss in Courage Freedom Happiness: Life Hacks from a Digital Nomad. This book gives readers a glimpse into the life of a full-time traveller in the Remote Year program.

While this type of organized long-term itinerary is a great way to see the world in a group of about 70 people, another popular method of travel-living is going solo, which is a world unto itself.

As a follow-up, to get a glimpse of what life on the road can be like while travelling alone, as well as tips for those new to this mode of travel, I read The Solo Traveler’s Handbook: For those who love and those who long to go solo (2nd Edition) by Janice Leith Waugh. This book may be short, but it’s chock full of helpful anecdotes and advice.

No stranger to solo travel

A lifelong lover of travel, the author is a seasoned pro at going solo. About 10 years ago, she found herself widowed and in an empty nest, and she made her situation into an opportunity to travel solo and write about it along the way.

She currently writes for her internationally popular Solo Traveler website and its social media offshoots, which comprise a community of solo travellers and those wanting to become one.

Waugh also has regular speaking engagements and is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Having travelled to lots of places worldwide, she has carefully observed what she did and how she did it, and now shares her experiences and learnings to inspire others.

The Solo Traveler’s Handbook is a compact compilation of much of the wisdom she has accumulated over the years.

Alone but not lonely

Through accounts of her travel experiences (as well as those of others), one of the key messages the author conveys is that just because you travel solo, that doesn’t mean you’re lonely. The amount of people travelling solo has risen exponentially in recent years, and it no longer carries the stigma it once did.

But many people may be unsure exactly how to travel solo but not alone. Waugh gives readers some great tips about how to meet new people on the road, whether that involves striking up a conversation in a coffee shop, going on walking tours or swapping stories with strangers on trains. Oftentimes, she has met people on similar itineraries or tours who ended up becoming fast friends and temporary travel mates. 

Intentional solitude

Mini-Europe park in Brussels, Belgium - The solo traveler's handbook

In my experience, these have all been great ways to socialize, but often, there comes a time when you want some solitude to contemplate life or enjoy being present with yourself. Waugh shares some of her secrets that have allowed her to get some alone time in public, such as going to venues like parks, museums and libraries that are universally respected as quiet contemplation zones.

Safe travels

This book also extensively covers the topic of safety, which is a top priority for most solo travellers and a big concern for those who’ve never travelled alone but want to. Waugh has some excellent advice on how to stay safe by researching your destination before you even buy a plane ticket, and how to keep your person, papers, money and stuff away from risk.

Advice for the long haul

Another topic I was happy to see included in The Solo Traveler’s Handbook is long-term solo travel, which is best done at a slower pace than the usual action-packed shorter trips. A lot of advice is given by Waugh about how to stay connected with those back home, and how to create an environment that gives you a sense of being settled, even though you’re not.

Of wit and wonder

In my opinion, the absolute best advice Waugh provides in The Solo Traveler’s Handbook is to treat travel responsibly, but with the awe of a child. The world is an amazing place filled with many friendly people, sights, sounds and experiences, and these can boost personal growth in a way that just isn’t possible as we go through our familiar routines back home.

To get the most out of solo travel, you really must be open and curious, while minding safety considerations. Waugh explicitly refers to this balance as travelling with the wit of an adult and the wonder of a child. She goes on to say:

Being open to that which is beautiful is important. Being safe and not engaging with just anyone is also important. See what is in front of you. Be on your guard if necessary but let your guard down at times. Tap into the wonder you had as a child when you knew immediately whether you liked or disliked something. You didn’t need a price tag to tell you what you valued then, and you shouldn’t now.

Just go!

Woman walking alone on cobblestone path - The solo traveler's handbook

Above all, the message of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook is simply, “GO.” Absolutely take the time to dream, plan and read Waugh’s tips, in order to help give yourself the best solo travel experience possible. But all of the dreaming, thinking and planning will go nowhere unless you actually go. Go see the world, challenge yourself and discover who you are within the wide world around you.

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image 1: Pixabay; image 2: William Murphy