#FBF: Followback Friday is our new interview series where we get real with some of our favorite travel influencers. We want to learn what makes them tick, their best tips and tricks, and share stories of (mis)adventures from the road.
Janice Waugh has had a lifelong love of travel, but it wasn’t until 2009 that she started pursuing that interest on her own. Now, she’s just one half of the blogging duo behind Solo Traveler. Together with Tracey Nesbitt, she encourages and offers advice to other travelers who, like her, want to get their feet wet and take on the unknown...on their own. We caught up with Janice just after her solo jaunt to Ireland to hear how she and Tracey met, how their travel styles differ, and why they aren’t planning to stop anytime soon.
Janice, you started Solo Traveler several years ago. When and why did you decide to take a “leap of faith” and make Solo Traveler into your full-time job?
I started it in 2009. It was 2011 before I was full time on the project. I took far more pleasure in writing about solo travel and following my own inspiration than writing for others as I had done in my freelance practice. It was the direction I wanted to take.
How did you and Tracey meet?
Tracey and I met on a streetcar. Well, actually we had loose connections through family and friends before that but it was on a long streetcar ride to downtown Toronto that we realized how much we had in common in terms of interests, values and travel.
Where is the first place you’ve ever visited abroad? Have you revisited it since?
My first trip was when I was 15. I took a month-long cycling trip to northern Wales and southwest England. It was fantastic. I didn’t travel with my family again until my mom turned 80 and there was a family trip. And yes, I’ve been back. England and Wales are so beautiful.
What was your first solo travel experience?
With the exception of small trips here and there my first major solo trip was to Europe. I took the train everywhere, stayed in hostels and had a fantastic time.
What is the most gratifying thing about solo travel?
For me it’s the people I meet. Being solo I meet more people than if I’m traveling with others. In meeting people I learn about their worlds. It’s so fascinating. But I have to add, the freedom to follow my own schedule, rhythm and interest is very important to me too.
On Solo Traveler, you and Tracey each make it clear you both have different travel styles. Can you describe your individual travel styles? How are the two similar?
I like budget travel. It’s not just that I’m not rich but I actually like staying in hostels and eating in local diners and the like. I enjoy the connection to the world that I find budget travel gives me. Tracey, on the other hand, likes luxury travel and exploring the world through food and wine. She connects to the local culture that way.
How do you seek out the best local spots even if you don’t speak the same language?
I read solo traveler. That may sound odd since I’m that primary writer on the blog but each week we publish a post on a destination written by one of our readers. We’ve been doing this for years. These posts give great advice on what to do and where to go - often in countries I’ve not yet been to. We rely on readers a lot. They have also helped up put together the Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide. It’s a guide of hotels, hostels, B&Bs and inns that our readers recommend for solo travelers. (Editor's note: Each week, Solo Traveler dedicates a special post to the money side of travel. You can also check out Janice's most important travel tip here.)
What advice would you give first-time solo travelers? Is there a particular destination you would recommend?
Our advice is always to start small. Weekend trips to somewhere close by is a great way to start. Some people can be more adventurous, especially if they have traveled a lot before. But if you have any hesitation start small.
Do you have any trips — solo or otherwise — coming up?
We have lots of trips coming up. I go to New Brunswick, Canada in August. In September I’ll be in Scotland and Italy. Tracey is in Nova Scotia in August and then will be in the UK in September. There are always trips on the horizon.