(photo: Selectstock/iStock)

Experience Solo Travel with AMA

By Liane Faulder

When travelling solo, I wander between two states of mind.

The first is a carefree space, in which I feel empowered and excited to be on my own. On a recent solo trip to Bangkok, I savoured the opportunity to noodle along the throbbing city streets, checking out Thai massage shops (repeatedly), with no one to suggest I was spending too much time or money indulging achy muscles.

I happily sampled street food, like charcoal-barbecued chicken wings, on the advice of fellow travellers near the food stall.

My second mental state sees me scuttling back to the hotel come nightfall, with an unfounded fear that darkness leads to danger. Still, the upside of independent exploration more than makes up for the occasional pang of anxiety.

Increasingly, it appears I’m not alone in my appreciation for solo travel. According to a 2015 global travel study, which surveyed 13,000 travellers from 25 different countries, 24 percent of respondents travelled alone on their most recent, non-business trip—that’s up almost 10 percent from 2013.

AMA Travel product specialist Shelley Stevens says a spike in travel queries by potential lone travellers prompted AMA Travel to launch Go Solo. Travellers can choose from three experiences: solo within an organized group plus a local guide, solo in a group with an AMA host plus a local guide, or solo on your own time and schedule.

The Go Solo program also helps with a traditional deterrent to solo travel: the dreaded single supplement. This is a fee that travel companies and hotels often charge to lone travellers. Since most customers want a private room, AMA has secured suppliers that either waive or dramatically reduce the fee. “You still get your own room, but you have people to go for dinner with,” says Stevens. “You can be as alone as you want, but with the security of a group.”

AMA’s first Go Solo departure, held in January 2015, was a 17-person, 16-day guided tour of Africa, with four-star hotel stays along the way. The trip went so well that several participants followed up a year later with a group tour to Vietnam and Cambodia.

Most solo adventurers are women over 55, and they aren’t necessarily single—perhaps their partners just don’t want to travel. Other voyageurs may be divorced, widowed or empty-nesters. Travelling entirely alone can feel daunting at first, says Stevens. But soloists quickly find like-minded folks with whom to share experiences.

Security is also top of mind for many solo travellers. AMA has responded to this concern with an AMA host for each Go Solo trip, in addition to local guides at the destination. The tour host attends to the well-being of all group members.

If you truly prefer the lone wolf approach, AMA also has advice for maximizing enjoyment when traveling by yourself, including how to cope with the dinner hour. Says Stevens: “The biggest tip we always give is: Don’t let fear hold you back.”

MORE TIPS FOR SOLO TRAVEL

Seek resources: AMA’s Go Solo program offers free information sessions throughout Alberta.

Minimize luggage: A traveller who’s packed more than she can carry stands out like a sore thumb. Travelling light is practical and oddly satisfying.

Keep a journal: You may feel lonely at times. Record what and who you’re missing, but also moments bursting with the joy of travel.