Beating the Curse of the Single Traveler
Have you ever found yourself in Venice, Bali or Macchu Picchu at sunset trying to have a romantic experience by yourself? You take along stationary and describe the breathtaking view to someone who, because of their job or finances or the fact that the relationship ended two months ago, isn't with you? Or, more predictably, you describe it to yourself in your journal, digressing from your purple prose to chronicle your anxieties that you may be alone forever?
Here's a less likely scenario, but a solution nonetheless. You board the airplane on holiday. The person next to you in 18B isn't just a stranger, he is someone you've willingly taken on as your travel companion. You'll be sharing your meals, your adventures, your hotel room. That's right. Your hotel room.
Enter Jens Jergen. In 1982 he had an practical and economic insight.
He created Travel Companion Exchange to beat the curse of the single traveler. Members fill out exhaustive profiles, detailing their travel habits: whether they like such things as sunbathing, nightlife, package tours or remote locales, as well as characteristics they find important in a travel companion: drinking habits, snoring, budget consciousness, hotel room tidiness. They talk about dream trips and trips they've taken, and indicate the acceptable age range and gender of their travel partner.
Few people joined to save money on a hotel room; they were looking for love. In fact, hundreds of people have found life partners through TCE. Jens doesn't actually fix them up. For the most part, they find each other through the pages of his newsletter. But finding a compatible travel partner isn't always easy. One woman, a complete chatterbox, was having a difficult time. Jens found a solution.
In 1997, Ralph Holzworth had been widowed less than a year. A travel writer who specializes in train travel, he was planning to cover the sesquicentennial of the railroad in Switzerland.
He joined TCE. He corresponded with 10 members and set up lunches with three women. The first was a disaster. The second was okay and the third was Christine Lyons.
A travel writer herself, Christine had been on 12 trips with different men she met through TCE.
She had tried the personals and believed this a much better way.
She met Ralph for lunch in New York City. He was a different kind of traveler. Twenty years her senior, he wasn't going to go puddle-jumping in a small aircraft. He liked to have things very well-planned and he liked his trains.
I spoke to Christine and Ralph by phone from Chautauqua, New York, where they are on vacation. Each day they travel by foot from their rented Victorian house to the symphony, lecture hall and theater. Maybe the ideal travel companion isn't the one looking to take the same trips as you, but the one you love enough that your itinerary no longer matters.
In New York I'm Wesley Weissberg for The Savvy Traveler.
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