© 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

"As 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, US$16.95).

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.

Most relationships 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

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.

"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

Jens Jurgen 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.

Summing Up

Compatibility

Respect

Flexibility

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 rapids.

(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 your character?

(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 Haskins.
(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 you select:

(a) Carnival Week in Rio De Janeiro.
(b) A week at any Club Med around the world.
(c) A Classical tour of Greece.
(d) Deep-sea fishing off the coast of Costa Rica.
(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 creature.
(e) Utter silence.

How did you do? Quiz explanations.

>> DR

See also:
It's All About Attitude
Singles Guide to Group Tours
Sailing Solo

Comment on this article

> > 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.

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