BEFRIEND A BUDDY
... for a whole new perspective on life
When Hazel Bell’s (right of picture) daughter Kate announced that she was getting married in Las Vegas, Hazel, 56, who is a widow, looked online for a travelling companion. A reply came from Linda Tompkins, a 63-year-old divorcée.
HAZEL I panicked when Kate told me her wedding plans. The venue was the Chapel of the Flowers in Las Vegas and the only other guests were the groom’s parents — who I didn’t know very well. My husband died 20 years ago and I didn’t want to go alone. I placed an ad on the website thelmaandlouise.com, where women can advertise for a travel buddy, asking if anyone would like to come with me.
I got one reply and that was Linda’s. We met in March 2010 — five months before the wedding — and I liked her instantly. After that one meeting, we went ahead and planned our trip. We both wanted an adventure and having each other gave us the confidence to pack more in. The itinerary took in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco and Alcatraz. It cost a lot of money and we’d only met once, so there was a huge amount of trust involved, but every aspect of the trip turned out to be fantastic, and the wedding was so sweet.
Sitting eating breakfast on a Sunday morning in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, it was unbelievable to think we’d only recently met. We’re still in touch by phone and have managed to squeeze in another holiday, to Rhodes.
LINDA When you get older, especially if you’re single and retired like me, your world shrinks. People don’t want to do so much any more, but I’m still an adventurer. I yearn to see the world but would never dream of going by myself. I loved the idea of the thelmaandlouise website and I liked Hazel straight away. She was smiley and up for adventures. Hazel’s father was seriously ill, so I did worry that she would have to pull out or cut the trip short. But she gave me her word that she’d see the holiday through to the end whatever happened, and I trusted her.
The trip turned out to be more than I could have hoped for. The Grand Canyon was the most amazing part for me. Hazel had a lot going on at that time. Her only daughter was getting married and her father was very ill. I tried to support her, to be a friend, and the next year she treated me to a week’s holiday in Rhodes. She has a partner now and has become a grandmother, so she’s busy. We still phone and email each other — and if she ever needs a travel buddy again, I’m here!