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Advice for first-time solo travel

Lining up a travel buddy isn’t always a feasible option when planning that dream adventure. There’s certainly no shortage of countries to explore and sights to see but finding the ideal person to share those experiences with requires compatible schedules and travel styles and a shared interest on the same destination. That can prove to be difficult. For many (like myself) it can be easier to just set out alone. Travelling on the lonesome – be it for an extended period or a one-week vacation – can be a great way to go. That said, before landing in the destination, there are a few things to keep in mind. As someone who’s giving the whole solo wandering a shot this year, I have some recommendations from my first few months abroad.

Become a “yes” person. Be open minded to all offers and invites that arise. Even if something doesn’t seem interesting right away, taking part in that activity can prove just the opposite. Accepting new offers is often just the thing to enrich travel experiences and hey, they might uncover an unexplored passion. However, becoming a “yes” person shouldn’t mean following along without thinking independently. Rather, it means being unbiased and truly considering the offers instead of automatically shooting something down just to watch Netflix.

Know when it’s better to branch off alone. Yes, solo travellers should consider new opportunities but at the same time, knowing when to branch off from the crowd is key. Say, for instance, the group dynamic doesn’t exactly fit your vibe or the itinerary conflicts with your schedule. Go your own way. Sometimes following the crowd is only going to damper your mood. Early in my travels, I made hiking plans with a woman whose demeanor was… less than friendly. On the day of our hike, her messages seemed unhelpful and abrupt. When she failed to find me at our meeting spot and suggested I instead make my way to the trail, I changed course. I hit a different trail alone enjoying incredible views, a satisfying workout and a hot bowl of fresh trout soup by the river afterwards. In this case, it was wise to change my plans when I felt uncomfortable.

Trust that you are, in fact, capable. Before I left, I read a book of essays by female travellers in Latin America. The common theme seemed to be that everyone felt intimidated until they recognized that they were capable of more than they thought. Travelling means getting outside that well-established comfort zone – especially if doing it alone. Like the female writers I read, I too underestimated myself. At first, it was daunting to do anything alone. Slowly, I came out of my shell. Now, I’m writing this after having spent the past few days in the coffee region alone. I toured a coffee farm, I saw a cloud forest, I cooked a meal and kicked back in a cabin alone and I travelled the nine hours back alone. When travelling solo, trust that you are, in fact, a capable human.

Don’t be attached to items or itineraries. Letting schedules and material objects hold little to no importance will grant freedom. Not being attached to things like a weekend itinerary or perfectly coordinated wardrobe enables travellers to better fall into a go-with-the-flow way of thinking. Recently, my mini four-day vacation turned into a nearly three-week road trip. I wore the same outfits over and over and I unexpectedly got to enjoy parts of the country I hadn’t planned on seeing. It has been one of the highlights of 2018 so far. I’m so glad I tossed out the original plan.

Accept cultural differences. Though it may be hard, don’t use cultural standards from home to judge those who you meet abroad. In the long run, accepting culture shock is going to be easier than fighting it. Keep personal values close of course, just don’t expect others to think in the same ways. Now that I’m travelling, I have to accept that opinions are going to be much different in Colombia than in Toronto. I wouldn’t expect otherwise.

Spend time doing what you actually want to do. One of the beauties of travelling alone is that there’s no need to compromise with travel buddies with differing interests. When experiencing a new place, solo venturers are spoiled by getting to do exactly what they want to do and when they want to do it. If afforded this type of freedom, take advantage. Pay attention to personal interests and spend time doing those things. Don’t let travel blogs or opinions of fellow travellers on what visitors are “supposed to do” cloud that vision.

A sweet reprise in Windjammer Landing, St. Lucia

Imagine lying on a beach, completely isolated from your busy life back home. Armed with a book and a strawberry daiquiri, you walk down the hillside from your private villa towards the oceans, the sweet smell of salt water rushing over you.

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort is located in St. Lucia, along the coast of Labrelotte Bay. The resort is made of stunning villas with ocean and hillside views, complete with kitchens for when your family doesn’t feel like restaurant dining, Wi-Fi for reaching your loved ones back home, and upgraded bath amenities for absolute relaxation.

What makes Windjammer Landing unique? According to Scott Seger, managing director of Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, “it starts and ends with the staff. Having lived in several Caribbean islands, the people of St Lucia are, in my opinion, the friendliest and genuine.”

Seger describes the resort as a boutique-resort feel, meaning it’s large enough that guests never run out of things to do, but small enough that individual needs are met. Groups and families are welcome to stay in personalized villas with staff available to help book adventure tours, spa visits, and reserve space in one the numerous restaurants available on the resort.

“All travellers are different so finding what works best for one is tough,” Seger said. “The great thing about Windjammer Landing is we can be a great fit for couples and families. We can help create your perfect holiday. Beach dinners for two and five restaurants designed for families with dietary concerns. Our villas can provide the setting for romance with special touches with you in mind. We can customize your time here to get the most your holiday.”

This customization is what guests remember the most. Tripadvisor reviews show staff were incredibly accommodating and customer service was top notch. Travellers marvelled at how the resort was perfectly populated so the beaches weren’t overcrowded, even with the number of families visiting. Cleanliness was another common theme, as well as the quality of food on the premises.

The resort is all-inclusive, which means travellers can participate in complimentary windsurfing, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Guests will enjoy Mediterranean-style architecture, over 64,000 square feet of pristine beaches, nightly entertainment, and of course, fine dining.

“Our most popular event is our Friday night “Fish Fry,” said Seger. “Don’t let the words fool you, the fish is freshly prepared several different ways. I.e. grilled, Cajun, jerk. The setting is right on the beach next to Embers restaurant with a DJ or band playing local music and creating a street party right on the beach. So much fun!!!”

Seger said Windjammer Landing was lucky enough to not be hit by hurricane Maria, but the storms have presented new challenges for the business. “This hurricane season was one for the record books,” he said. “Many of our neighbouring islands were affected greatly and will take several months or years to fully recover. St Lucia and Windjammer Landing missed all effects of the winds and rain associated with the hurricanes. Getting the word out to the world stating we’re open for business is our big challenge.”

Seger was thrown into the position of managing director a year ago under unfortunate circumstances, after the former managing director passed away. He said the last year was bitter-sweet, but he has tried to honour his predecessor’s direction while still infusing his own personal style into the job.

“I thinks it’s important to not forget the people that make Windjammer, Windjammer.”

Windjammer Landing is having a winter special at the moment, with 40 per cent off all room types. There is also a special on the all-inclusive “Romance Package“, with sparkling wine, flowers, and a couples massage.