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Feb 5, 2019

9 min. read

In China, it was Tiananmen Square; in Italy, the architecture. And in Morocco, the highlight for Dolores Riordan was a camel ride in the Sahara desert. “I was afraid at first, but then I didn’t want to get off,” says the Winnipeg widow. “We stayed overnight on the sand dunes, ate a wonderful dinner, and everyone had their own tent. It was just great!”

Riordan has travelled solo with CAA Manitoba’s Solo EsCAApes Club several times, and she’s made many new friends along the way. “I meet for coffee and lunch with several of the ladies, and a few of us go to Mexico every winter,” she adds.

Whether it’s ancient ruins in Peru, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast or the highlands of Zimbabwe, Manitobans are itching to see the world—even if they don’t have someone at home who wants to join them. That’s why more people are signing up to go solo: choosing to travel by themselves as part of group trips organized by CAA Travel. “While it’s mostly women, we are starting to see more men join our trips,” says Helga Malcolm of CAA Travel.

“It’s amazing how many people love to travel but their friend circle either can’t afford it or they don’t have the same interests in travel,” Malcolm says. “You may be worried that you won’t know anyone, but you’ll know everybody before you even leave the Winnipeg airport. People just start talking.”

Three women eating ice cream on a street in tuscany.

With different ways to travel solo, it doesn’t necessarily mean going it alone. Every year, Malcolm and her CAA Travel colleagues host several trips for solo travellers. They also organize groups of solo guests to be hosted by guides from reputable tour companies. And for those who truly want to go all by themselves, CAA Travel can plan a perfect lone adventure, from discovering medieval sites in Germany to exploring the spice gardens of Sri Lanka.

Going with a host is a good idea if you’re venturing farther afield: “It’s intimidating to travel too far on your own,” Malcolm says. “In places like China, we arrange guides to travel with the group.” Your CAA Travel host acts as your group concierge by organizing optional tours and enhancing the itinerary with added meals or more free time at your favourite spots. They also manage any hiccups that may happen on the road.

CAA Travel also works with partners around the globe to reduce or waive the dreaded single supplement, that extra and often exorbitant fee solo travellers have to pay to get their own room. Long before the plane takes off, solo travellers can share tips on the Solo EsCAApes Club Facebook page, attend a presentation or get together to discuss their bucket lists. “People go for lunch and they often invite me,” Malcolm says. “We talk about where they want to go next.”

As for Riordan, she’s thinking about Europe: “It’s a lot of fun learning new things about different countries.” Whichever country she picks, CAA Travel will have all the details covered, so Riordan can explore everything—without worrying about anything.

The town of kotor in montenegro.

The Awesome Adriatic.

Croatia and its neighbours, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, are relatively new countries with ancient histories, deep beauty and much to explore with the help of local guides and a CAA host.

The trip flies in and out of Dubrovnik, a beautiful city along the Dalmatian Coast at the southern tip of Croatia. Walk around the thick city walls, stopping at the top to marvel at the view of the old town with its redroofed palaces and the blue Adriatic beyond. Dating back to the first stone fortifications of the eighth century, the walls tell the story of the city. Observe the defensive forts added after the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century, as well as bullet-pocked walls damaged during the former Yugoslavia’s civil wars of the late 20th century.

Across the border in Bosnia and Herzegovina (population: 3.5 million), visit Trebinje on the banks of the Trebišnjica river. Enjoy a wine tasting along with other local treats, wander the old town’s narrow streets, and tour the Serbian Orthodox Tvrdoš Monastery. The place of worship housed anti-Ottoman forces in the 16th century, but the building’s foundations reach back to Roman times.

The city of Mostar, farther north in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has long been known as “the window to the Orient.” Walk across the beautiful Turkish stone bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates to the 1500s. Then wander through the Kujundžiluk, a bazaar with a mosque and shops.

Back on the Adriatic coast, take a day trip to Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor, a fjord-like inlet boasting bright blue water and rocky cliffs. Visit quaint fishing villages or stretch your legs while exploring the region’s largest cave. Like its neighbouring countries, this nation is steeped in history and quirky charm. The islet of Gospa od Škrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks), for instance, is an artificial island created using rocks and the remnants of sunken ships.

Balinese dance performance in bali.

Bali or Bust.

Known for its lush greenery, the island of Bali also boasts serene temples and black-and-white-sand beaches. Combine adventure with relaxation as you explore the different corners of the tiny, exquisite island—one of the 13,000 that make up the country of Indonesia. Along the way, you’ll meet skilled artisans, see rice terraces and learn the ancient ways of a peaceful people.

Local guides and your CAA host direct you up jungle-covered mountains and through local villages where you’ll dig into fresh and flavourful satays, nasi goreng (stir-fried rice) and other Balinese delights. Take a cooking class led by a master chef to learn island techniques and secret ingredients. You’ll also have plenty of time to explore on your own using a hop on/hop off bus. You might witness the grace of Balinese dancers or just soak up some sun on the beach.

A visit to Mengwi’s Pura Taman Ayun with its stunning shrines, spires and fish ponds immerses you in history, while letting you indulge your spiritual side. Meaning “beautiful garden” in Balinese, the temple was built by the ruler of the Mengwi kingdom in the 17th century and was last restored in 1937. Try to catch the sunset behind the temple for picture-perfect golden-hour photos.

Head northeast on the Indonesian island to learn the enchanting myths surrounding Mount Agung, Bali’s highest peak. Legend has it that the gods created this mountain to house their thrones. Another myth says the gods put the mountain on the island to stop it from wobbling. Whatever the origin of Mount Agung, it’s home to another important religious site: Pura Besakih, the mother temple of Bali. The slopeside temple complex is considered the holiest Hindu site on the island, making it the perfect spot for a final meditation in this tropical paradise.

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