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Sleeping With Strangers! Is it For You?
Statistically there are 6.8 million people living alone in the UK. It is not surprising that some prefer to go on vacation or take breaks abroad with someone for company. Having a friend is much preferable to wandering through the Kasbah or exploring the restaurant scene on your own. No surprise either that some online services have sprung to the rescue; their goal is to match like-minded travelers. Multiply the single Brits by similar numbers in other countries and the opportunities for travel companionship are huge.
Without being salty, the services satisfy all tastes. This ensures that round pegs are placed in round holes. In other words, if you are in your twenties and prefer the company of other alumni in the same age group; you set up your stall and wait for a response.
Do you wish to explore Mediterranean Spain? There is bound to be someone out there who has the exact same idea in mind. Cycling through the Alps, backpacking the Dolomites; to share the splendors of St. Petersburg or perhaps a fortnight in the Bahamas? You can put money on it being someone out there, maybe a group of like-minded people who want your company.
I thought I’d give it a try: ‘Semi-retired, physically fit, presentable. I can manage up to three short holidays a year. I prefer direct/platonic female company. I am interested in an intelligent companion; empathy, appearance is important. Time flexible, kind, sociable; supportive Sharing costs and rooms possible (own beds).
– My ideal break is a flight to Europe, car hire, stop wherever looks attractive. Non-smoker, How to simply relax, people watching, exploring, seeing; culture, eating out; moderate drinker; theatre, orchestral music. Free spirit so hope you are too.’ Don’t you just love transparency?’
After looking at a number of online services for singles looking for shared vacations, I was spoiled for choice. Friendship Travel Com seemed as good a place to start as anywhere.
May I join you?
“Catching a flight, getting to your resort, staying in a hotel – and worst of all – eating alone, is no fun at all.” This was an introduction I could identify with. Been there, got the shirt. Believe me, nothing is so lonely as being far from home and walking alone among the tourists: All those hand-in-hand couples; groups of friends, and families. You really look like Billy-no-friends.
What might attract some to online travel aimed at solos did catch me off guard. Although they try to strike the right balance between structured and independent, seriously single and looking for someone, the edges are a bit blurry.
The prices quoted reflect an assumption of no shared occupancy. This always raises the hotel costs. What you do between yourselves when you reach your destination is your own business, as long as it doesn’t scare the camels. But if you prefer your own company there is no problem when it comes to ‘lights off.’
The company’s portfolio offered as wide a selection as you could wish for: everything from dinner dances to Nile cruises, European leisure breaks, skiing in France, trips to the US; Bahamas; maybe a week in Bodrum: holiday romance optional.
THEY DON’T DO IT CHEAP
Known by the company you keep, company policy seems to embrace the solvent well-heeled so that they don’t do cheaply. At the very least you will increase the chances of pairing up or making friends with those from your own social strata.
A 3-night break in Paris will set you back in your own currency the equivalent of £339. 12 days in Thailand £1399; seven nights in Grenada will clear £1,899 from your bank account. It’s inclusive but I think at that price I might be entitled to a shared room. £590 for a fortnight in Turkey was I thought pretty good value even though it was a special offer; especially if it comes with an exotic belly dancer?
LAST HAND IN PARIS
It was then that I remembered: I value my independence and looked for a service offering no more expectation of courtship than the weekly shop. That’s right! Away I traveled to Mango-Arbo.Com.
Descriptions and reality are like theory and practice; they don’t always match. Photos for me are essential. The only negative is the missing chemistry and empathy, which can only be appreciated when spending some time together. But there must be some mystery to life; otherwise it wouldn’t be half as exciting. Eternal hope springs up in the human breast.
I remember checking out a lady’s profile on a dating site. On the face she must have connected all the dots. Pretty as a picture, I could easily frame it. Her profile had her marked as petite, similar interests, age, likes and dislikes, no pets; children flew the nest. This lady had fit like a glove on a well manicured hand.
THE CHESSENGILA MASSACRE
Nervously I picked up the phone and as I timidly tapped her number, I set my sweet tones just the right tone. Alas her pitch had more decibels than a chainsaw and my brain was indeed butchered. It was just as well that I did not meet her at the Belgrade station; her cheery ‘I’m here!’ could be confused with the screeching of the brakes of a locomotive.
Browsing over 1,000 profiles, the theory seemed good and supported by the sweetest of profiles: Jade (23) writes: ”I’ve never traveled before, I set up a profile and added a picture, a few days passed and I didn’t hear anything, but suddenly I started getting emails from other users with helpful and friendly advice. It was brilliant, the best part was the fact that I met a great friend who I talk to all the time via email and phone, and we arranged to travel together in November this year!”
“I met several people, adds Emma (28), who are all traveling to Australia at the same time as me. We met this weekend in London, so I feel even more excited about my trip.” The gentlemen also look in and tell similar stories of success.
Members have the choice of traveling one-2-one or as part of a larger group. As decency insists on a choice of preferred gender as well. This is where it gets really interesting, so if you are easily shocked stop reading right here.
For those still reading, here’s the wink-wink, nudge-nudge bit. Out of 90 female profiles scanned across all age groups, a dozen preferred a female companion. Six specified a male partner and the remaining 72 were not gender specific; would do
Finally there are the more gregarious, or those who simply like safety in numbers. Twelve of the ladies chose groups, three of them for female parties; the rest of the ladies were happy for a sprinkling of men.
WOULD YOU SLEEP WITH A STRANGER?
Personally I have no problem with it. I practiced sleeping with a stranger a lot when I was married. I can’t speak for anyone who’s read this, but if I’m comfortable enough to travel through the day with someone, I have no problem sharing a room: Do you think about the savings?
I could say at this point that I made my excuses and left: The reality is that after two weeks with my profile visible I have collected only three suitors. Whatever the outcome, they’ve read my profile, which makes it clear that shared rooms won’t be a problem.
For those who give to profane thinking I naively believe that mature people can travel in platonic decency. Take your jim jams with you, turn off the lights or have the decency to ram your head into your book while your partner gets ready for their zzzzzzzzzzzzz. If any of you are cheerful, I am sure you are wise enough to encourage or discourage according to your mood.
Is your holiday date waiting for you there? A lot depends on your taste, your location, your travel plans and of course your age group. Not as mixed as I might have you believe, but if you’re under thirty, then you’ve won the lottery on this one.
Out of 97 ladies, 78 were under thirty years old. Twenty-eight were British with a dash of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and quite a few. “Wow, they have a McDonald’s here too?” from the good old USA of A.
If like me you don’t feel like traveling anonymously or you’ve never risked a blind date, you’ll be happy to know that 78 posted pictures of themselves so you can at least picture yourself a lot better.
MATURE TYPES NOT SO ANONYMOUS
For those of a more polite nature and for whom maturity could be said to have been reached, the answer might be in retiredbackpackers.com. I signed up even though I haven’t retired yet. But in the best traditions of investigative journalism and without a thought for my own safety I dug in and discovered.
They cheated too. There is no end to kind people in their books who are missing their sell by date. Even those who qualified for semi or retirement looked better than some thirtysomethings I saw. This was right down my street and across the square.
Anne’s profile tells us she is a very young 52 (she looks 42) with a zest for life. I left my house to take advantage of the ‘now’. I’m used to traveling and hostels. I’m sure about map and timetable but if we miss the bus then so be it!
She adds, “I am well educated and appreciate the culture of the areas I visit, while realizing that I am just a stranger in their environment. I am a vegetarian, non-smoker, very light traveler and have no problems with sharing”. .
A TRAIL MARRIAGE
Rob is less age specific but is in the 51 – 60 section. He says, “I’m a fit, non-smoking guy who owns a magnificent motorhome that has 2 berths and the usual equipment.
I want to use it to travel slowly through Switzerland, Austria, Italy, etc., so I am looking for an enthusiastic female as a travel companion, sharing costs. I have no romantic expectations, I just prefer female company! A detailed itinerary is to be discussed and agreed upon, but I foresee a trip lasting 2 or 3 months, starting perhaps at the end of April 2008.” Now that’s what I call a trail wedding.
Jenny is in the same age group but what about the ladies; their photos suggest they are younger than the group they are placed in? They wouldn’t be old photos would they? It’s completely disrespectful of me to even think so.
Jenny says, “I work full time and will need to book holidays in advance. I’ve just started an open uni social science course. Curious about the world and the different people who live in it. I’m a people person who enjoys a good chat/discussion.
“I enjoy walking and some hiking. Interested in interior decorating. Also enjoy meeting new people. Eating out but would like to try unknown dishes. Looking for some cycling. I would also like to try horse riding. Haven’t had the chance. see many cultural things. Hoping to change that and broadening my knowledge of different cultures; hence the interest in traveling to different destinations.”
HUNTING ALL BROWN?
British musician describes himself as “Short skinny long hair old hippie type prefers a full tan. (tread carefully ladies). Lazy, likes to read, dance, sing, spiritually aware. Good listener. Photography, Music, Reading, Travelling. , Sailing, Horse riding DIY.”
There are certainly some pluses and minuses there so 50 – 61 Section this post could be just what a bored lady is looking for. A string guitar rather than a string vest because he wants a full tan.
One of the many interesting things about these lovely traveling types (there are 1,411 of them listed) is their sheer thirst for adventure. If the name of a nation ends with ‘stan or ‘ia they have either been there or they want to go there.
Where your tired feet drive you; perhaps traversing the Gobi desert, trying to gather your wits as an Uzbek shepherd offers for your attractive mate, or sitting precariously on a camel’s hump on the long winding road to Ayers Rock, if you see someone coming the other way call out. ; “Hi. I didn’t see your profile on retired backpackers.com?”
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