It is my great pleasure to interview Janice Waugh, the author of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook and the founder of the SoloTravelerBlog.com, the number one blog in the solo travel niche. Janice has over 21,000 Twitter followers, over 14,000 Facebook likes, and has been featured in The Smithsonian, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune and many other prominent news outlets.
What inspired you to take an interest in solo travel?
Travel has been a big part of my life since my first trip at the age of 15. I went on a cycling tour for a month. I traveled solo in my twenties but, at that time, I didn’t really think about being solo. My longest trip was 10 months with family – I home schooled my youngest son during the trip. Then, when I was 49, my husband passed away. The grieving was up and down but generally brutal. Two years later I found myself falling into another round of grief but this time, I thought, no more. And then it popped into my head: “I guess I’m traveling solo”. The funny thing is that I wasn’t thinking about travel at the time. I picked up the computer beside, checked out solo travel and the number one site was full of spam. I thought about starting a blog for all of a day and then started the next. So, you could say, solo travel found me.
What age did you first travel alone? What is the earliest age that you recommend for people to start traveling alone? Some airlines even allow 5 year olds to travel alone, do you think that is safe?
I was 26 when I first traveled solo. I think, to travel solo independently, you should be at least 19. But you have to be a smart 19 year old. Forget about the partying. Stay sober and have your wits about you. This is important. As for 5 year-olds – well they travel as UMs (Unaccompanied Minors). They are passed from parent to crew to parent and are very well cared for. I think it’s ok.
Which destination has been the most challenging?
India was definitely the most challenging but once I got the hang of it, it was great. I loved it!
English is spoken almost everywhere. Language is not a problem. The challenges of India are the logistics and adjusting to the culture. I stayed in small, family run hotels. The logistics from one place to another were managed with the help of the hotel owners – they booked my trains for me. As for the culture, once you get past how busy it is and the traffic, it is not that difficult to adjust to either. The people are over-the-top kind and friendly. I’ve even written a post arguing that they could very well be the most hospitable people in the world
Do you have any tips for staying safe while traveling alone?
I can go on about the safety issue for a long time. Instead of tips I’ll give you my five principles of solo travel safety. I elaborate on these in the post but, basically, they are:
- Public is safer than private
- Be proactive rather than reactive
- Engage other people in your safety
- Never be rushed into a decision
- Be rude if necessary
That said, this is a short post. I dedicate a whole chapter in my book to solo travel safety. People can also click on the category for safety on my blog to get many more posts on the subject.
What do you like most about traveling alone?
I like meeting people. When you travel solo you meet more people than if you are with someone else. Think about it. When you travel with a companion, you are focused on them much of the time. People don’t want to intrude on your relationship. When alone, you are always facing out to the world. You see more opportunities to connect with locals and other travelers and they happily connect with you.
But, the answer that most solo travelers will give you to this question is that they can do what they want when they want. That’s pretty fine too.
Have you ever had any frightening experiences while traveling alone?
Yes. It’s a long, complicated story. I should have known better but I was naive. It was on my first solo trip and, of all places, it was in Paris. It is because of this situation that I write about solo travel safety regularly. As I say, it’s long and complicated. I tell the story here: Caught in a Con Game in Paris