© 2012; 2011 Connecting: Solo
Travel Network (CSTN) & Diane Redfern. Information.
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.
Friends & Companions – A Solo Travel Report
Excerpts from CSTN Files, Compiled and Edited By Diane Redfern
for a Travel Companion, these days, I wouldn't want to take a
chance on planning a trip with someone I'd never met. For example, Melody
Moser's article on meeting with her Polish penpal in your September issue." . . . MJW
Thanks to MJW for these words. They gave me food for thought, and I imagine many
readers share her feelings. It is quite true – traveling as a twosome is
chancy. Yet I'm not at all sure that the difficulty stems from travel partners
never having met.
Over the years I have heard many comments expressing both happiness and discontent with
roommates, regardless of whether they were recent or long-term acquaintances.
The fact is that
travel, by itself, puts a strain on any relationship. Changes of locale,
diet, culture, weather – all of these factors, and more, affect people differently. Each day brings
a series of quick decisions and compromises about where to go and what
to do. These constant adjustments may jostle even the dearest friendship.
All sorts of situations contrive to bring out both the best and the worst
in travel partners.
Best Friends May Be Worst Travel Partners
We've all heard stories
of good friends – even spouses – who, though perfectly compatible at home,
cannot tolerate one another on holiday. Some readers have been there done
that, I'm sure.
Veteran travel consultant
and author Nadine Nardi Davidson writes "traveling with friends – whether
college roommates, buddies from work, your neighbors of ten years, or even
your sister, can be the best way to share costs and good times . . . or
the worst mistake you ever made." That quote comes from her book Travel
With Others – Without Wishing They'd Stayed Home (1999 Prince Publishing,
Look to the Bright Side
When it comes to
travel buddies, it seems you take a chance whether you go with family,
friend, or perfect stranger. That being so, if your choices have narrowed
to going alone or staying home, why not gamble on going with someone that
you only recently met through our discussion board, CSTN Friends in Travel, or any other type
of companion or friendship registry?
If it doesn't work
out, at least you don't have to live with one another after the trip is over.
You don't have to worry about losing a long-term friendship. And even if
you do worry, you can, like Melody Moser, simply choose to look to the bright
side of the experience. For the benefit of those who have not read Melody
Moser's honest account of meeting and traveling with a penpal, and to refresh
the minds of those who did read it, I recall firstly, that Melody and her
Polish friend had corresponded and become friends by mail for "two years"
before traveling together. Secondly, the overall tone of her article was
positive about the experience. She was glad she took a chance, even though
the relationship did not last. At least, as she said, she got to "learn about Poland
from someone who'd spent his whole life there."
We are All Strangers
We are all strangers
at first meeting whether it was at a bus stop or museum, at work or play,
through friends or advertisements. Regardless of where or how people meet,
at some point in building a relationship, they go with their feelings and
take a chance on one another.
work to a certain purpose over a short or long term. Some relationships
bond passionately or intimately over a lifetime. Many relationships fade
away, and some go badly awry for any number of reasons that would be pointless
to discuss here. It's just life. Sometimes you lose; sometimes you win, but you
can't be a winner if you never participate.
Following are a few examples taken from letters I have received from CSTN friends who found it well worthwhile to take a chance on friendship.
You Have to Play to Win
Dick G, Franklin, WI,
writes: I joined CSTN with some reservations, but then again
I like venturing out trying new experiences. I put in an ad and had a number of pleasant respondents. Later on I decided to
take up an offer from a guy from New Jersey for a four-day weekend. And
what a surprise! He was most gracious and a wonderful host, showing me
around his area and "The Big Apple." Thanks to CSTN I had
a terrific time with lots of fun, laughter and good memories. It was truly
a positive experience, and I've made a new friend.
Roman B, Whistler, BC,
writes: "Last summer I actually met and stayed three nights with Bojana
who lives in Zagreb. A great young lady! I met her via Beatrice from Paris
who posted an ad."
Bob K, Woodbury, CT,
writes: "I met Lynn H in NYC last weekend. Personally for me it was a marvelous
weekend. We just about did it all. Dinner on the Upper West Side the night
she arrived. The next day was the Empire State Building (a first for me
– passing it by for years), a five-hour walk up and down Little Italy for
the street festival, then into Chinatown. On Sunday, Lynn did Lincoln Center
while I did a walking tour of NYC architecture. Then we did a ride along
Riverside Drive at night so she could see the lights. Only then did we
hit the tourist trap (Times Square) for a drive-by. As for me, I had a
great time. Lynn shipped me flowers yesterday. Was I touched!"
Chris H, Paradise, CA,
writes: "I have enjoyed your Solo Travel News a great deal, but I am not
going to renew my subscription, and I have to tell you why. I signed up for a three-week cruise on the MS Westerdam. While waiting
for the bus to take me to the ship, I was sitting in the hotel lobby on
a love seat. A gentleman sat down, and we started talking (I mostly listened).
And 'it happened!' Something about his voice, his very blue eyes went straight
to my heart! From then on we were inseparable; except for separate cabins
(on the ship), we were together for every meal, dancing, shopping and on
tours. We now spend holidays together either at my daughter's or with his
family. We are very much in love and live every day to the fullest. But
here is the kicker. I am 81 years young and he is a very young 93. I wanted
to let you know that travel is a wonderful way to meet new people, make
new friends and yes, even fall in love."
On the Other Hand
. . .
As with any relationship,
the success (or failure) of a travel partnership depends on mutual respect
and compatibility combined with flexible expectations. Joyce J,
Calgary, AB sent in this Reader Report years ago. Here are her tips (along
with others collected here and there) for creating a workable travel partnership:
"Throw Harry from
the train! That's what I felt like doing after he tore my copy of Spain
on $25 a Day into minute shreds and flushed it onto the train tracks somewhere
between Biarritz and Madrid.
"Take it from one
who knows, your travel dream could seem like your worst nightmare if you
choose a travel companion or tour that doesn't properly suit your interests
and meet your objectives.
"Improve the odds
of making the right selection by posing yourself a series of questions,
then honestly assess the results.
What activities will you do on holiday?
What is your travel budget?
Do you expect to share
expenses equally? Or, exactly what are your expectations regarding expenses?
Do you want a companion
for independent travel, or a roommate for a group holiday?
Is it important for
you to travel with a member of the same sex, the opposite sex, or does
it matter? Is age a factor?
Is it a travel buddy
you want, or are you really looking for an intimate relationship?
Do you like to plan
every step of the way? Or, would you rather wait and see what each day
What qualities have
you that make you a good travel partner?
What qualities have
you that might irritate a travel partner?
"Once these questions
are answered, compile a detailed inventory of your ideal travel companion.
List important qualities such as: punctuality, neatness, reliability, politeness,
sense of humor, intelligence, adventurous, well-traveled, independent,
decision-maker. Other personal considerations might include: smoker or
non-smoker, non-drinker or social drinker, vegetarian, sexual orientation."
Older and Wiser
practiced matchmaking through his TCE (Travel Companion Exchange) for over
20 years, and during that time he learned and wrote volumes on the subject. He has now retired, but he was happy to give us a few of his thoughts, which, although aimed specifically at the mature traveler, really apply to people of all ages.
"Finding a compatible travel companion and possible future permanent partner
takes patience. It can be especially difficult for mature ladies who were
taught never to call a man. Now, they have to learn to take the initiative.
Also, they need to reach out to all areas of the country, not just near
"The stereotype thinking of older man-younger woman bothers many women.
. . But we've (TCE) had hundreds of marriages and most were between people
just a few years apart."
"Some singles add difficult (perhaps unreasonable) conditions: a potential
travel partner must be tall, professional, slim, full head of hair, certain
religion, no children, good dancer - being too inflexible can make life
difficult, and lonely."
Listen. "Too many people make the mistake to write or talk just about themselves.
Worse, they talk a lot about their former spouse, good or bad. Instead,
learn about his/her interests, then be sure to mention such attractions
in your area."
What does he (she)
like? "Not all men like rushed package
tours or cruises, shopping, dancing, opera, the ballet, or always dining
out. Mention auto shows, antique markets, car racing, boating facilities,
hiking trails, Civil War sites in your area to men whose initial conversation
revealed such interests. Men who were in the (armed forces) in earlier
years would most likely enjoy a visit to a famous military museum. Almost
any area has some such attractions. If not, meet somewhere else, perhaps
"Many people go out to dinner when meeting the first time. How about something
different – a comedy club, amusement park roller coaster ride, a concert
in a park. You are more likely to part saying, 'I haven't had so much fun
Diamond in the rough.
"Some singles make the mistake of only responding to listings that sound
the most wonderful, which means they may be competing with many others.
Consider also less glamorous listings. By making contact with a broader
group of people, it is indeed possible to find the diamond in the rough."
- First. Determine your true reasons and expectations for wanting a travel companion. Do you simply want to lower costs by sharing expenses on one trip, or perhaps take a roommate to avoid single supplement charges on a tour or cruise? Or, are you really looking for a long-term life and travel partner? Be certain at the outset that any prospective partner understands and agrees with your motives.
Post an ad. Respond to ads. Don't sit and wait.
It takes time to locate a travel partner who has the same interests and
destination in mind and can go when you can, so don't expect to find the
right person at a moment's, a week's, or even a month's notice.
Mismatched spending habits can quickly ruin a holiday. Agree, beforehand,
on a budget for dining, entertainment, and accommodation expenses. TIP! Instead
of calculating and dividing bills after every joint occasion, many partners
find it more agreeable to contribute an equal sum to a kitty from which
joint expenses will be paid.
Be candid about activities you do/don't enjoy and/or idiosyncracies. Discuss how to handle possible irritants such as reading at bedtime, early or late rising, smoking or special food habits. Insure there will be no misunderstanding about sexual orientation and expectations. Establish ground rules.
Write, talk on the phone, and, if possible, take a few day trips and/or
weekend excursions before embarking on a lengthier journey.
Treat every response
to your companion ad as a gracious compliment and reply accordingly, even
when the answer is negative.
Women who find it acceptable
to let a man pay more than his equal share of expenses should anticipate
that he may expect sexual favors in return.
Take travel commitments
seriously. Cancellations, except under dire circumstances, are a grievous
insult, especially when one partner is then forced to pay hefty single
supplement or cancellation fees.
Be extra considerate
about personal habits. Wipe-up the bathtub, shower, sink after use. Remove
clutter from table/dresser tops. Respect one another's closet/drawer space.
Approach travel with
a new acquaintance realistically. Few people are compatible 24 hours a
day. Don't be dependent on partners. Schedule personal time for doing your
Compatibility is the
ideal, but flexibility is the key to any compatible relationship, permanent
or temporary. When activity/restaurant/hotel choices conflict, both partners
need to compromise. Golf today, museum tomorrow, Greek food today, Italian
While it is best to
meet and become acquainted with a prospective travel companion before embarking
on a journey together, don't automatically eliminate a prospect from another
town, province – or even another country.
Whether you travel with
just one companion or with a group, at some point in the trip, eccentric
interests, irritating habits, or upsetting attitudes may surface. At those
times think "flexible." People with a sense of humor usually come up winners. CAUTION! Flexible, yes, but conceding entirely to someone else's holiday dream is a sure recipe
for disaster: i.e. when the arty type gives over to the sun-lover and winds
up on the beach at Waikiki instead of the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Are You a Flexible Traveler?
Just for fun, here's a short quiz you and
your potential travel buddy can take to see if your flexibility level needs
adjustment. Answer the following questions, choosing one comment that most
suits your temperament from categories (a) to (e). Don't dwell on the replies,
rely on the heart and respond quickly:
(1) Which of the following scenarios sets
your imagination astir?
(a) Soft lighting, champagne popping,
and a sultry voice singing the blues.
(b) A sweeping mountain panorama and the
swoosh of skis on fresh powder.
(c) Raindrops tapping on the roof, whistling
wind, and you indoors sipping hot, spiced wine by a crackling fire.
(d) The sun rising over a misty lake and
a loon's haunting call.
(e) A canoe sluicing through white-water
(2) A good fairy grants you a dinner for two.
Would you rather:
(a) Fly to Paris to dine at Maxim's.
(b) Board a luxury yacht. Dinner is anything
your heart desires, served under sails and stars.
(c) Be transported by time machine to
Windsor Castle. Queen Elizabeth I (it is 1595) invites you to sup and view
a new play - Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
(d) Abracadabra! Go to Africa! Dine in
your luxury tree-top lodge, with a view of elephant and giraffe browsing
by an adjacent water hole.
(e) Hop a helicopter and fly to a chalet
perched on a rocky mountain ledge. Below, in an Alpine meadow, a symphony
orchestra plays Beethoven as you dine.
(3) Which of the following quotes reflects
(a) "See one mountain, one sea, one river, and see all." – Socrates.
(b) "Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter; sermons and soda water the day after." – Lord Byron.
(c) "The voyage of love is all the sweeter for an outside stateroom and a seat at the captain's table." – Henry S
(d) "Love lives in cottages as well as
in castles." – Proverb.
(e) "Love is the triumph of imagination
over intelligence." – H L Mencken.
(4) You win a holiday of your choice: Would
(a) Carnival Week in Rio De Janeiro.
(b) A week at any Club Med around the
(c) A Classical tour of Greece.
(d) Deep-sea fishing off the coast of
(e) Trekking in the Indian Himalaya.
(5) For you, communing with nature is:
(a) Feeding squirrels in the park.
(b) Raising wind in a set of sails
(c) Losing your thoughts in the sound
of tumbling surf.
(d) Eye-to-eye contact with a wilderness
(e) Utter silence.
> > From Rose Bower. Re: Jens Jurgen's TravelCompanionExchange.com (TCE). I was one of the early members about 22 years ago. I met a dentist from Maryland, and I lived in California. We met in Utah after some correspondence. We stayed together for 18 years until he passed away 2 years ago. We traveled extensively in our camper and had a great life together. Now I see you (TCE) are still in business, and I just want to say "Hello." If I start getting lonely I might sign up again although I am now 83 years young.