Just two years ago I was planning our trips to Italy with a stack of guidebooks in front of me. I was led to a site called slowtrav.com a couple of years before I actually showed up on the scene and "investigated" it for myself. I had occasionally "browsed" the AOL Italy boards, but found their format confusing and non-user friendly. I didn't know how to download our digital pictures, and had little desire to learn. Brad would download, and I would print them for scrapbooks, sharing those only with good friends who "put up with" looking at our vacation memories.
Slow Travel changed a lot about how we travel (a longer time in each place, staying in an occasional rental house or apartment instead of a hotel, etc.), how we plan our trips (pages of wonderful recommendations for restaurants and out-of-the-way places, GTGs), and added a wonderful perk to our travel: the possibility of getting together with friends from the Slow Talk message boards! We have met over 70 people so far at ST Get Togethers!
We began to meet Slow Travelers last March at our first GTG after Diva's pasta class in Sonoma. Gloria and Alex hosted a lovely pot luck at her home, and we met 16! I met Alessandra in Cortona, and attended lunch for 12! We met Nancy and Bill in Montalcino. Teachick and I began our weekend visits by my pool! I attended a wonderful picnic in the redwoods in July, 2006, meeting Pauline, Steve, and many others for the first time. Then Brad met 11 in Santa Barbara. We hosted the Desert GTG in October, and had 21 attend. I met "Vegas Ms" and her mom for coffee at the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas in January. The Paso Robles SLOW BOWL brought us back together with 19 "old friends", and we met 21 new ones!
Coming up are lots more opportunities to visit with Slow Travel members! February 24, 10 of us will meet for lunch at Mozza in Los Angeles. "Love Italy" is visiting Palm Desert for a few days in March, and we will have dinner. March 21, I will meet my "twin", Jerry for dinner in Pasadena! In April, I will get to meet Sheena and her husband, Terry, when they visit the desert, and the whole Southeast gang in Brevard!!!
This summer, we will be able to see many ST friends in Italy. Jane, Ken and Casey will still be in Greve while we are visiting Chianti, and we will meet for dinner. I hope to connect with Alessandra and her family, Tania and Keith while in Cortona. As luck would have it, Janet is hosting a GTG in Umbria with Pauline and Steve as her guests. I may get to meet much of the Italy gang including: Barb and Art, Judith, Judy, Letezia, Giulia, KimC, Corinna, Anne, Diane...and who knows, by July?
Internet friendships are fascinating to me.
After communicating with Diana for almost a year through the Slow Talk message boards, or PMs (private messaging), I felt like I knew her. When we finally met the day we arrived at her B&B in Piemonte, it felt like we were old friends. The same has been true for other Slow Travel members I have become friends with. In this community, people seem to be just as they represent themselves on the boards...REAL!
The first time I met Kathy (Teachick), was when she arrived at my home for the weekend! I had friends of mine say, "How do you know she's not some whacko?" "How do you know she'll be safe?" Kathy had similar warnings. "You don't even KNOW this woman or her husband, and you're going to stay at THEIR HOUSE??? Are you crazy?"
We knew. We just knew with 99% certainty that we would "click", and it would all be OK! And it was even better than we had hoped!
I know the same thing will happen when I meet Jerry in March, Sheena in April, Jane in July... new, but ongoing friendships!
Tomorrow...another example of a Slow Travel friend , and exciting news about our future collaboration!