Sharer Beware – Italy, Europe



The itinerary sounded perfect when I talked to the travel agent. We’d be staying in a 5-star hotel in Viareggio overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It was close enough to the Cinque Terre for scenic day trips to those five magical towns on the Italian Riviera. Other days, we’d drive through the Tuscan countryside and wander through mountain villages. We’d visit vineyard estates and taste lots of wine. And, there would be ample time to explore Florence and Siena, as well.

It was so perfect. I bubbled with excitement, but my bubble burst as I heard the pricey cost of the single supplement. I was about to pass when the agent asked if I’d consider sharing a room. He had a hopeful lady on his list who was waiting for a willing single to call. I’d never shared with a stranger so he assured me that the deal didn’t entail any social obligations. We’d simply be doing each other a financial favor by sleeping in the same room.

The agent went on to tell me that the woman was about my age and sounded "very nice", adding that he’d matched up people before and it usually turned out great. Usually struck a warning bell, but I ignored it and took the woman’s phone number. No harm in calling her to form my own opinion. Who knows? If sharing worked for others, it might work for me.

During a lengthy chat, I learned that she didn’t smoke, play loud music or watch late night TV. Most important, she didn’t snore. Even though she sounded great, nagging doubts plagued me. Foolishly, I pushed them aside. How bad could it be to share a 5-star hotel room for two weeks with a compatible person – even if she was a stranger. I’d have my dream trip to Italy and shop a lot with the bundle I saved in the bargain. Temptation won; we booked the trip.

Departure day finally arrived. I met my roommate at the airport; first impression was good. Then she pulled out a bunch of tissues, had a huge sneeze and informed the group that she’d just caught a cold. I’d be sleeping in a room filled with fresh cold germs. Not my idea of happy camping!

During the flight, I prayed for a spacious hotel room and we got one. Best of all, the room had a comfortable day bed tucked into its foyer. I quickly claimed the day bed, glad to have some distance between me and my sneezing companion.

When bedtime came, I found the foyer wasn’t far enough away – I needed a different floor. My room mate coughed right through the next two nights, I got little sleep, even with earplugs. I was tired but not angry. After all, she couldn’t help being sick. I snoozed on the bus as we took our daily excursions so I’d have energy to enjoy the destinations, but I was disappointed to have missed seeing some of the world’s prettiest countryside along the way.

The coughing finally let up and I was ready for a full night’s sleep, but I got a nasty surprise instead. My coughing companion turned into the world’s worst snorer and my patience flew out the window. She had told me she didn’t snore before we booked. I wanted to scream!

Fuming, I sat at the edge of my bed for a long time. All the self help books I’d read came to my rescue. I began to breathe deeply until I calmed down. I curbed my anger. I even gave my room mate the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps her snoring was related to her cold.

The more I thought about my sorry situation, the more I realized that I had only myself to blame. Right from the start, I’d had a gut feeling that I shouldn’t share, I did it anyway to save money. It was my bad choice and it was up to me to make it work, somehow.

Remembering the saying, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade," I came up with a clever way to shut out the noise. I used a long scarf to tie my soft travel pillow around my ears. My pillow earmuff, along with ear plugs, worked great and from that night I slept like a baby. Why didn’t I think of this days ago!

As Shakespeare said, "All’s well that ends well". In spite of a rough start, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my dream trip. My roommate and I parted amiably at the airport and my beautiful memories of Tuscany will warm my heart forever.

I also learned a valuable lesson: room sharing is not for me. In all fairness, it works for a lot of people and they love the excitement of meeting new roommates and saving money too. Many make lasting friendships this way. So, if you feel it’s worth a try, I suggest that you ask your travel agent and the prospective roommate lots of questions before you commit.

Also, the internet has an abundance of travel sites geared to singles of all ages. You can choose a private room or arrange to share if you wish. Check out: Singles Travel International, Club1 Travel and BootsnAll’s Solo Travel Guide, as well as Should I travel solo?

As for me, I’ll pay the pricey supplement from now on and call it "Sleep and Sanity Insurance".

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