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Beating the Curse of the Single Traveler

If you like to travel but have a hard time finding someone who wants to travel the way you do, when you do, and you don't want to go alone, there are alternatives to group tours. The Savvy Traveler's Wesley Weissberg offers this antidote for the single traveler: the Travel Companion Exchange.

Beating the Curse of the Single Traveler
by Wesley Weissberg

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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.

Hotel Room

Enter Jens Jergen. In 1982 he had an practical and economic insight.

Jens: "All the good deals in travel are based on two people sharing a room because every new hotel room, every cruise cabin is built for two people."

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.

Jens: "When I started this I thought we would have women traveling with women and men travelling with men, but then I discovered that men don't want to travel with other men. One guy told me, 'I was in the army, I will never travel with another guy.'"

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.

Jens: "We had a completely deaf professional and he was a perfect match for this woman who talked all the time. And they actually did get along very well."

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.

Riding the Train

Ralph: "I signed up for a tour to take place in June, now this was in the month of February. I bought two tickets and I hadn't the faintest idea who was going to go with me, but I somehow felt that between February and June that the Lord would provide."

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.

Christine: "I had been a member for three or four years before I met Ralph."

A travel writer herself, Christine had been on 12 trips with different men she met through TCE.

Christine: "One Christmas I spent listening to sacred music in churches around Paris. Another travel companion and I spent New Year's in Florida on his three-bedroom yacht; the place was as big as a house. And in my profile I indicated that I could fly small planes, so one travel companion and I went barnstorming through the Midwest, puddle-jumping from town to town."

Riding the Train

She had tried the personals and believed this a much better way.

Christine: "When you travel you're having adventures together, you're making your own history, it may be a very short history, but you're losing yourself in an adventure rather than concentrating on the relationship."

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.

Christine: "We decided at the end of two weeks if we could put up with each other then maybe we were made for each other, and we did. So in August we were married."

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.

Savvy Resources for the Travel Companion Exchange:

  • If you're interested in finding out more about Travel Companion Exchange you can write to TCE at P.O. Box 833, Amityville, New York 11701. Or call 800-392-1256. But remember, not all applicants are accepted.

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