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2566 days ago 0 comments Categories: Companions Tags:

I am spending a month in New Zealand from early February to early March 2014 and looking for a female traveling companion.  I would like to either rent a shared campervan or car and spend most of the time driving and hiking, with some time in larger cities, especially Auckland.


I'm flexible, easy going, fun to travel with (I'm told).  Let me know if you're interested

2609 days ago 1 comments Categories: Tags:

Yesterday a TCE member asked me-- complained a bit-- about why the member profile contains information about height and weight. "I'm just looking for a travel companion," she said. Fair enough.


When Jens Jurgen, the founder of the original Travel Companion Exchange, began his service in 1982, his main purpose was to help singles avoid the hated single supplement. He was rather surprised to discover that over 70% of his members were either specifically looking for a companion of the opposite sex, or were willing to accept one. Over the 20 years his service was in operation, he found that TCE was serving as a matchmaker in a large proportion of cases, and he constantly received news of marriages and permanent partnerships that resulted from people connecting through TCE.


In setting up this successor website, I had to take into account not only the new realities of the Internet, but the eternal realities of romance. Many single people have a hankering to find that someone special. And travelling together is a good way to test compatibility. In point of fact, about 45% of those registering on this website make the "Romance might be nice" selection in the "Relations" field on their profile.


So I had to find a way to serve not only the person looking to make a quick, one-time connection to share a cruise cabin, but also the person on a more serious search for a romantic or long-term partner. The solution is reflected in the varying membership levels. The Bronze membership means that for a token price, a person can pop on to the site, make a profile, do a basic serach for other members, and find a compatible companion without any great expectations. At the other end of the spectrum, a Gold membership suits the user who is going to spend a lot of time on the site, making contacts and conversation, looking more deeply at various characteristics of a potential partner.


It is only the Gold membership which allows a user to search for other members based on physical characteristics such as height and weight. For those users for which this is not a factor, not only are they not paying for this feature in the Bronze and Silver membership packages, but they need not be concerned that other users at a similar memberhsip level will be basing their search on those criteria.


All of which, of course, does nothing to address the underlying concern of women that men are too quick to judge a potential partner on the basis of superficial characteristics. Chatting recently with another TCE member, I got a sort of object lesson in the dilemmas this presents.


She is looking for a male companion, platonic only, to accompany her on a photographic trip to India. She grumbled that men are hesitant to make the first move-- that she is usually the one to have to initiate contact. I suggested that her photo on the site was a sort of "plain Jane" picture, and that if she used one of the more attractive photos I had seen on her Facebook page, she might find more men initiating. Her response to that was that then she would face an opposite problem, with men contacting her with unwelcome intent, so she had chosen the plain picture deliberately.


Sometimes you just can't win.   ;-)

2631 days ago 0 comments Categories: Tags:

My, my. It took about two weeks, but eventually the man I spoke about in my last post replied. He apologized for being abrupt, and asked for continued assistance. We got his problem sorted out, and he is now a happy member of the site.


But I turned a corner somehow with that experience, so when I was confronted again with a similar situation over the last couple of days, I took my response a little further.


After receiving a help request from someone who couldn't get the registration form to work, I sent the standard reply asking her to check if there were any error messages. I find that about half of such requests are cleared up this way-- people just didn't bother to scroll back up the page and look for the problem.


Her response: "Sorry, but I'm not really that dumb.


Anyone could figure out if there was something missing in the process. It was ALL FILLED OUT and no red flags. The JOIN BUTTON does not do anything at all and it's NOT because the blanks are not filled in.
Any other ideas?"
My initial reaction was to reply: "Maybe it just doesn't respond to impolite people," but I thought better of it and moved to the second stage of trouble-shooting. This involves first explaining that some businesses block their employees from using a page like this. If the user still can't get it to work at home, then I ask for the browser type and version, so I can try to reproduce the problem.
Her response: "No that's not it either.
1)  I am not at the office
2)  My computer here or there is not in any networking system and my computer at work is mine and mine only and locked up when I am not there.
3)  Windows and Internet Explorer

Can we move along?"


Apart from the obvious facts that when using her computer at work, she would have to go through their Internet gateway no matter what, and also that she failed to give me the browser version as requested, it seemed to me she was approaching insolence in her response.


This doesn't bother me for my own sake, but I begin to wonder in a situation like this, Why would I go to a lot of trouble to help a person like this join the site, who would be such an unpleasant person to introduce to my other members? I'm interested in helping people have happy trips, and I can't see anyone enjoying the company of someone who is abrupt and dismissive with anyone, let alone someone they are asking help of.


So I echoed her last comment, and replied, "Yes, I think it's probably best if you just move along. The other members of my site would enjoy having patient and polite fellow-travellers as potential companions.

Enjoy your travels.


Unlike the previous individual, she responded promptly, and angrily, confirming my impression. She threatened to include an account of my "dark side" in her "blogs," of which she said she had "several." This would be great, actually, as any mention of my site in a popular blog would help boost my Google page ranking, but alas-- on checking her website, her blog had only one entry, no followers, and a Google search failed to turn up any other mentions of her name.


I believe I may have saved somebody a miserable trip.  ;-)

2652 days ago 0 comments Categories: Tags:

Of course this project has taken me into many areas where I have had no prior training or experience, and introduced me to any number of new experiences. One of these only became a factor in the last couple of months, once the traffic to the site began to pick up. I'm talking about "Support desk."


Naturally, I’ve read a lot of the anecdotes swirling around the Internet about Help desk experiences with, umm . . . interesting people. And, often, it does often seem that the more arrogant the message–  railing about the #@!! website–  the stupider the user’s mistake turns out to have been. But users’ complaints have also been an invaluable help to me in figuring out where the site is not as user friendly or effective as it could be, or sometimes, actually broken. They have resulted in quite a few programming changes already, and more planned.


And of course, there are the people who are not particularly tech savvy, and just need a little help in negotiating something that is unfamiliar to them. It is actually very rewarding to spend the disproportionate amount of time needed with these folks, help them over the rough spot, then send them on their way.


I'm not a highly patient person by nature-- something I have been striving to improve for much of my adult life. Working by e-mail gives me time to think a moment, gather my patience if needed, and respond kindly and helpfully. It actually makes me feel good, because I fail in the patience department so frequently in face-to-face interactions. So I take a sort of delight in being able to maintain a cheerful and positive attitude through a sometimes very extended interchange with someone over some problem that, perhaps, at the bottom may just be a matter of their not stopping to think a minute about what they are doing.


Only once have I responded to an impudent, abrasive message in kind. Just a few days ago someone sent this: "Really sucks when you take the time to fill out a form, then can't submit! Rip Off???" Nothing else, no introduction, no specifics about the type of problem he was encountering.


I pondered for a while before deciding how to respond. I have a standard reply designed to placate the irritable types, and elicit whatever information I need to troubleshoot the problem, but this just didn’t seem to be worth it. In the final analysis, I wasn’t sure that someone who treated others so rudely was someone I wanted to introduce to other TCE members.


So my reply started by echoing his approach: “Really sucks when you take the time to provide a website that hundreds of polite people join successfully, and some random guy who runs into a problem immediately blasts off a belligerent message accusing you of running a rip-off.” I then went on to add my usual initial response to undefined requests for help, asking for some detail on the problem and assuring him I would help get to the solution. I never heard back from him. No loss to TCE, I figure.


If you’re interested in some really funny and sometimes excruciating customer-service experiences from a wide range of businesses, you could check out http://notalwaysright.com/

2677 days ago 0 comments Categories: Tags:

Amazing, what you discover.


Putting up this website has been a huge learning experience, in more ways that I imagined. In one respect, it has been life-changing.


Over the past two years, I have worked with designers, programmers and other professionals in Canada, USA, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, Phillippines, India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. I have not met a single one of them, and less than half have I ever talked to. All communication has been by Skype or e-mail, and we have used various on-line applications for file sharing and our project management system.


Since out of necessity I have had to choose low-priced independents, for the most part I have had to adapt to their time zone when communicating by Skype. For the first year or so, I mostly worked with people in the Western Hemisphere, but over the past year most of my team has been in Asia. This has required me to start my TCE workday at 10:30 PM (11:30 during Daylight Saving Time) when they arrive in the office in the morning (their time), and typically continue through till 2:00 or 4:00 in the morning (my time).


It has sometimes been very gruelling, but overall it has been immensely liberating and, as I said, life-changing.


All my life I have had great difficulty waking and getting out of bed in the morning, and rarely felt fully rested; also great difficulty finding any energy or mental clarity for several hours thereafter. My values tell me I should get up early, and I often have felt that what I accomplished before noon was the measure of the success of my day. But that is what my head likes; my body does not like it at all.


Shifting to this late schedule has been transformative. I now usually get up between 10:00 and 12:00, and find I wake easily, feel fully rested, and am mentally clear and energetic almost immediately. Whereas I used to find it difficult to eat any breakfast, but would get ravenous by mid-morning, I now eat breakfast when I wake, and am ready for lunch at noon. I can eat dinner at a "normal" time with my wife, and sometimes will have a snack later in the evening or wee hours of the morning.


I have found these midnight hours to be extremely productive, as I can focus in the quiet atmosphere. Whereas I have had great difficulty over the years falling asleep at the "usual" bedtime, I now find I fall asleep easily as well.


In short, for most of my 62 years I have been fighting the natural circadian rhythm of my body, and it has made for a lot of misery. It took this website project to bring me into harmony with the pattern of my own metabolism, and I can tell you, it sure feels good.


Amazing, what you discover.

2681 days ago 1 comments Categories: General Tags: The region of Basilica

Basilicata’s natural beauty, ancient culture, deeply rooted local traditions, Mediterranean food, and above all the warmth and hospitality of its people, provide an unforgettable experience. Travel often is on secondary roads through the Apennine Mountains to small hilltop villages, with dramatic panoramas of mountain ridges and rolling hills.

The city of Matera in the region of Basilica has gone from the 1950s scourge of southern Italy to a tourist attraction. The City of Matera was designated a UNESCO World Heritage city in 1993. The ancient district of Matera, known as the Sassi, is one gigantic sculpture that has been carved out of the soft limestone like rock along the side of a ravine, creating houses, churches, and other structures. It has been the setting for many biblical films including The Nativity and The Passion of the Christ.

2682 days ago 2 comments Categories: Journeys Tags:


In just 3 weeks, I'll be leaving the comfort of a "home", to become a world-wide homeless and begin a full-time travel lifestyle.

It's sometimes scary to think about... but I know once I'm on the road I'll be happier than ever before :-)

2683 days ago 2 comments Categories: Tags: Mexico, Children, adventure

We didn’t live “safe”! We traveled with our 4 children to foreign countries since they were babies. Our first trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, our youngest was 3 years old. He was thrilled to be on the airplane.

When the pilot announced that we were landing in Cabo, he announced over the speaker system: “This is your Captain speaking; I want to wish you all a great trip while in Mexico.”


Our son widened his eyes and exclaimed with enthusiasm: “I can’t believe we are going to see Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle!”

Samuel was remembering the story of Captain Hook and Peter Pan. He had never heard a “Captain” speak before; his innocent mind merely assumed that the captain speaking was Captain Hook.

My adult children still visit Cabo San Lucas. Attached is a photo of us- hot and grimey taken over 20 ago, on the glass bottom boat. All continue to travel and have volunteered in many a foreign country. Memories, of travel, are an amazing legacy to leave with your children…amazingly unsafe and therefore unforgettable

2683 days ago 1 comments Categories: Tags: Horacio and his baby girl Zaydita

In 2007 Horacio was one of my English students in Granada Nicaragua. Outgoing, warm, and genuine, Horacio soon took me to his humble home to meet his widowed young mother, Zayda. She had just been diagnosed with advanced ovarion cancer at her tender age of 51.

We three became genuine friends, and although ill, she always insisted on cooking for me.  I went with her  through her first treatments  of chemo;I returned in 2009 to "say good-bye" while she was still coherent; Zayda with all her hospitality, beauty and kindness said "good-bye" for the last time in 2010.

Horacio has since had this lovely little girl, who is the smitten image of her grandmother, Zayda. Her name too, is Zayda. They live in dire poverty, stuggling with dignity to keep the home "afloat", and rice and beans on the table.

Seldom is a complaint uttered, but the loss of Elegant Zayda is a more painful hurt than any an empty stomach.

Learn about the wonder and strength of the valient Nicaragua people, and then visit the tender country and you will be....blessed.

2736 days ago 0 comments Categories: Tags:

I have a long history as a traveller-- certainly not as extensive as many others, but still a credible status, I think. (As of this date, I am still working on filling in my personal travel map on this site.) How did it all get started? What early influences are actually operative is always a mater of debate, but I suspect it goes back to my childhood. I grew up in the country, with few playmates nearby. But there were the back fields and a large woodlot, and as far back as I can remember, I was heading off for adventure. I would spend hours exploring, discovering new worlds beyond the next copse or hillock. I returned home reluctantly for meals, or because of the fading light in the evening, and as long as we lived there (we moved to the city when I was 12 or 13) I never grew tired of the forays.

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