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Meet Janice Waugh, the Solo Traveler

Vacationing without a companion is a foreign concept to many of us, but Janice Waugh, the Solo Traveler, challenges and inspires her readers to do just that. She shares firsthand solo travel stories and helpful advice like how to eat alone in a restaurant, how to meet people on the road, and the best destinations for solo travel.

Janice has been an active traveller since her teens, even when raising her children (now grown). But in 2006, her husband died and she stopped. Several years later, she felt compelled to travel again, but realized she’d have to do it solo. She describes it as “an epiphany”. The next day she started working on the Solo Traveler blog.

In addition to being a busy blogger, Janice is a Toronto-based freelance writer and public speaker who inspires people to live a great life solo—travelling and otherwise. She is a moderator of the Solo Travel Society, Toronto host for the annual career-break event Meet, Plan, Go! and co-founder of the Global Bloggers Network.

Why did you start your blog, and how has it evolved since then?

I started my blog after my husband passed away and I realized that I would, again, be travelling solo. I looked online but didn’t find what would serve my needs so I started the blog. It has grown very quickly. The blog resonates with people, single and not, who enjoy travelling on their own.

Did you change your career track when you decided to launch the blog? Or do you do all this in addition to managing a full-time job?

I have been a freelance writer since 2004. At first, I kept my freelance practice in full. Over the last two years, I have been slowly winding down the freelance practice as the blog has grown. I probably work 80% of my time on the blog and the balance on freelance work. I believe that by next year the blog will be a full time job.

How often are you able to travel? How many weeks of the year do you spend travelling?

I travel about seven or eight times a year for a total of about 11 weeks. Pretty lucky, eh?!

When you’re not travelling, you still update your blog frequently. How often do you update it, and how do you keep it fresh though you’re not in trip mode?

I publish posts five days a week—Monday to Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday, the posts actually come from readers (the Solo Travel Destination of the Week and the Pic of the Week). The other three days I publish stories about my travels, tips on how to travel solo and how to do so safely. I also publish posts that ruminate on life and travel. These tend to be particularly popular.

What’s your best practical advice for someone who wants to build more travel into their life, but also needs to make a living?

This is the reality for most people. The key is saving for annual trips or planning a career break.

As for career-break travel, I am the Toronto host for Meet, Plan, Go!, an event that provides information and inspires people to long term travel. In 2012 it will take place October 16th. People could also check out CareerBreakSecrets.com.

You’ve got some great tips on your blog for solo travellers who are on the less-gregarious side. What are three things you’d say to encourage “shy” people interested in solo travel?

One thing that I always remind people is that who they were is not necessarily who they are. I was shy into my twenties but I have learned to be less so. Allow your sense of yourself to evolve. And just because you’re shy doesn’t mean that you are antisocial. You will likely still want to connect with people. So, some tips:

  • Stay in places that create opportunities for people to meet. B&Bs and hostels have common rooms that are great for this.
  • Go on a tour where you will be with the same people for a few hours or days. You may find a dinner or travel mate.
  • If you are staying in one place for a while, go to the same coffee shop, green grocers or restaurant consistently. You’ll be noticed as a new regular and people will eventually chat with you.

Do you take frequent trips in Canada or close to home, too? What are some of your favourite Canadian places to visit and why?

Though I’ve been travelling internationally more this past couple of years, I absolutely love travelling Canada. The train across the country is not only great for seeing the landscape but also a wonderfully social way to travel. Favourite places? I love all of Canada. Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, all of the Maritimes, Montreal, the north shore of Lake Superior, the beauty of “Big Sky Country” (the Prairies), the Rockies, Vancouver and Tofino on Vancouver Island.

As a Torontonian, where do you always take friends or family when they visit?

If there is time, I take them on the Carlton streetcar for a unique view of Toronto. I sent my associate editor on this trip and she wrote about it. A walk through Kensington Market, Chinatown and to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) is definitely on the list. And, towards the end of the day, a trip to the Toronto Islands to see this unique feature of Toronto and watch the sun set over the city.

What are some of the best things that have come from starting your blog?

My blog was born out of grief and it has been my comeback. It’s been amazing in terms of my life in general. But, of course, it has also been wonderful in allowing me to travel more and be part of an amazing community of travel bloggers. It prompted me to write a book, The Solo Traveler’s Handbook, and has given me the confidence to speak in public. It has been fantastic!

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Follow Janice on her blog, the Solo Traveler, or on Facebook or Twitter @solotraveler. You can also hear her speak on travelling solo in Toronto on May 1, 3 or 10, 2012, at Toronto Public Library locations.

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