How a solo trip to Vancouver sparked confidence to explore on my own
I’ve travelled alone more times than I care to count. I’ve got my airport routine down to an art. I’ve learned not to be shy and introduce myself to potential friends upon arrival. Packing my carry-on has become a game of arranging my bathing suits, blouses and favourite pairs of jeans just so. (Travelling light just makes sense without a travel buddy to keep a watchful eye on a massive duffel for every washroom break.) I’ve sauntered solo through cobblestone streets in Ireland. I’ve basked on beaches alone under the Brazilian sun. In Montreal, I ran a half-marathon and celebrated by myself with a bath and a local brew.
One of the most stand-out solo travels though is a trip that I took to Vancouver in the summer when I was 26. Already in the west coast hub for work, I extended my travels by a week to enjoy Vancouver’s oceans, beaches, and lush tree-lined trails—purely by myself. I came with books, magazines, a sea-kayaking reservation, and a strong sense of excitement to get a sense of Vancouver’s sushi scene and Stanley Park.
This was a week where no one but me would set the pace and itinerary. I could cook what I wanted, sleep in until I wanted, read in peace and quiet, and walk around all day with only my own tired feet to worry about.
Pexels / Maximilian Ruther
Vacations pose a question that travellers should have an easy time answering: “What does your perfect day look like?” For me, the ideal day involves sunshine, outdoor activity, quiet, and creative pursuits like cooking or writing. On a trip where nobody’s needs had to be met other than my own, I had the opportunity to do most of those things during my waking hours. No compromises, no FOMO on the flight home.
There was one day I would easily re-live if I could. I slept until I naturally woke (blaring alarms are never a great way to start the day… unless hiking is involved, in my opinion). Having stocked up on bread and fresh produce from a nearby market (farmer’s markets are the way to go in accommodations with shared kitchens or mini fridges), I arranged a simple breakfast to enjoy in the blooming garden. With nothing other than the rustling of tree leaves to interrupt my silence, I finished a magazine story I had been working on. Meeting a deadline early and from the bliss of a peaceful English-garden style patio was such a high note to start the day.
As I moved my kayak forward, I thought about how a week on my own in Vancouver was the perfect way to test the waters for upcoming independent travel—for myself, but really for anyone.
From there, I assembled my kit for the perfect summer day out in Vancouver: a backpack containing lunch, magazines, lemonade, ample sunscreen, and a change of clothes in case I got wet in the kayak. I was going to stroll through Stanley Park, swim at Third Beach in the afternoon, and then just before sunset, I’d head on over to where I had booked a kayaking tour. Hopefully, I’d meet other cool travellers. Most certainly, the day would be a delight for my senses: cedar smells, cool ocean waves, views of sparkling water, and likely fresh fish for dinner.
It was everything I hoped for. I made my way along a walkway that hugs the forest. Fit-looking runners and people on bikes passed me by. I dawdled to look at stones carefully placed into an inuksuk on the shore and again to stare at Siwash Rock—a portion of rock that juts out from the sea. When I got to the beach, I threw off my flip flops, staked my claim on a sunny spot near the water’s edge, and settled in for an afternoon where I didn’t have to be anywhere, do anything, or leave the beach for lunch on the request of a travel companion. Saltwater smells wafted in from the ocean. The trees stood tall and rock solid. I waded into the water, submerged myself underneath and floated.
Unsplash / Mike Benna
That day, I felt sheer happiness to spend hour upon hour outdoors in the beauty and safety of my own country. When the afternoon sun began to cool, I headed for one of the activities I knew would be a highlight while visiting Vancouver: seakayaking on the edge of the park. I made my way to the docks and I wasn’t there five minutes when I realized I was among an international crowd of likeminded travellers. My companions for the evening came from Italy, the United States, and Germany.
There are few things as satisfying as paddling at golden hour in one of the prettiest spots in Canada. (According to me, anyway.) Dipping our paddles just below the water’s surface, my newfound travel friends and I talked about what we had done so far in Vancouver, how long we’d be staying, the highlights of one woman’s town in Italy, and how this area of Canada had exceeded their expectations.
For me personally, solo travelling in my own country provided a safety net of sorts: I knew the culture, the social norms, the language, the systems.
I knew an international trip which would involve a lot of solo travel was on the horizon for the coming year. As I moved my kayak forward, I thought about how a week on my own in Vancouver was the perfect way to test the waters for upcoming independent travel—for myself, but really for anyone. Canada offers a safe, friendly, reassuring environment for those exploring on their own. Unexpected curveballs are par for the course when travelling in any unknown place, sure, but in Canada, people truly are friendly and helpful (as are the people who tend to visit). For me personally, solo travelling in my own country provided a safety net of sorts: I knew the culture, the social norms, the language, the systems. Canada in general, and Vancouver specifically, felt like the perfect place to put a companion-less adventure to the test.
For me, Vancouver didn’t disappoint. Nor did it disappoint for the wide-eyed international travellers who floated next to me as the setting sun began to cast an orange glow on the water. When we paddled back to the dock, we decided to wander together into one of the nearby seafood restaurants. I bit into the fresh catch of the day and smiled at my new friends. That day had unfolded so perfectly.