Nobody needed to journey with me, so I went on trip with a complete stranger
(CNN) – In a year of lockdowns, no-flyings, and general coronavirus chaos, there are still some options for people looking for overseas adventure.
But what if you are the only one in your group of friends willing to travel during these strange times?
This is exactly what happened to Josiah Burton and Therese Rocca. Nobody wanted to travel with them.
And so, although they were completely strangers, they decided to go on vacation together.
“I should have gone to Japan with a friend, but Japan is now closed,” Burton, a 32-year-old from Iowa, told CNN Travel. “So I was looking for a country that was open to the Americans.
“My friend decided he didn’t want to travel during the coronavirus but I wanted to go anyway. I originally looked to Croatia but you needed a negative Covid test within 72 hours. Turkey didn’t have such requirements. I chose there . “
Having no one, he reached out to 10XTravel, a Facebook group followed by 40,000 people, for advice on how to save money on the go.
“I didn’t really want to travel alone, so I posted a message in the Facebook group that I should find out more if someone is interested in coming or meeting, or if they will be in Turkey at the same time.”
Rocca, 36, from Denver, saw the message and replied almost immediately.
The couple took a hot air balloon ride in central Turkey.
Courtesy Josiah Burton
“I was looking for someone to go on vacation with,” she told CNN. “And I couldn’t get any of my friends or family members to leave because of their concerns about the coronavirus.
“So I saw Josiah’s post and commented on it. He gave me his itinerary and said don’t hesitate to message me to discuss. So I did.”
“We talked about our travel styles, what we like to do. You know how gentle we are, how adventurous we are. And then it happened to fall on dates that I had already picked up at work because I was supposed to be in the south Africa. It’s currently closed to US citizens, so I had to cancel, “she says.
After the couple had a quick chat online, Rocca decided to book the same trip to Turkey.
“She told me she would sleep on it,” says Burton. “But just an hour later she wrote me a message saying she had booked her trip with the same itinerary. That was it. From that point on we were travel friends.”
Rocca and Burton continued to chat online for the following days to book tours, transportation, and insurance.
“Then I realized that I was going out with a complete stranger,” says Rocca. “So, I said to him, are you sure you’re okay with a random girl you’ve never met? And he said, yes, totally okay.
“There were moments like, God, I hope we get along because we’re only committed to it. My family and friends asked if I would be okay with someone I had never met.
“They also had concerns about going on vacation with a total stranger. But they trusted my judgment; I trusted my judgment,” she added.
“I knew I would be fine, especially in these times. In fact, I felt much more comfortable having a travel companion than being alone because it was.”
The couple traveled in business class with Turkish Airlines.
Courtesy Josiah Burton
Going out with someone you’ve never met has its perks, says Burton.
“I’ve told my friends that going to my house with a stranger is the best of both worlds because you don’t feel obliged to that person. If they don’t want to do anything, you tend not to get angry with them.
“We booked separate rooms so we had our own space. If there were any problems we could just go out and do our own thing. I thought to myself, just go and enjoy it.”
The period from the first online introduction to booking the trip and the personal meeting was only four days. A timescale that may seem ridiculously fast to some, but is relatively “normal” for an online rendezvous.
“We met online less than a week before the trip,” says Burton. “Chatted for a few days, then both flew to Chicago Airport to fly to Istanbul. That was the first time we’d met at Chicago Airport.”
Rocca remembers that first meeting with a smile on her face. “He was waiting for me at the check-in counter because my flight was a little later than his flight. I walked up to him and said, oh my god, you are a real person,” she says.
The couple’s first encounter was just as memorable for Burton. “We hugged, checked in and then sat down in the lounge and just kept talking. Therese had never flown in business class, so we chose seats next to each other.
“The vacation started there, it’s been fun from that point on.”
Burton and Rocca are boyfriends now and want to travel together again.
Courtesy Josiah Burton
After enjoying their first international flight together, the two arrived in Istanbul on September 5th and wasted no time exploring the city together.
“We were a little nervous when we landed because we weren’t sure what health checks to do or how it would be, but everything was fine,” says Burton.
“The first thing we did after checking in at the hotel was a hop-on, hop-off bus ride so we could see exactly where we were going and where everything was.
“We visited almost every major tourist attraction in Istanbul – Taksim Square, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sophia. We also took a Bosphorus cruise. It was amazing.”
The new friends then flew to Cappadocia, an area of unusual landscape formations in central Turkey, where they stayed in a cave hotel and enjoyed a hot air balloon ride. From there they went to the coastal city of Kusadasi, where they went paragliding and visited hot springs.
With a mix of points and cash, Burton and Rocca managed to land some great deals on their Turkey vacation.
“We flew with Turkish Airlines and stayed at a mix of hotels for a little over a week. The Hilton was the main hotel group, but we also stayed at an independent hotel in Cappadocia.
“In total, we only spent about $ 1,000 each. That includes business-class flights, hotel expenses and pocket money.”
After spending so much time together, the trip could have been one of two routes – big arguments or boyfriends. For Rocca and Burton it was the latter.
“I would say the trip exceeded my expectations,” says Rocca. “I didn’t think it would necessarily become a real friendship, but I think it does. We’re friends.
“We talked about meeting when we get back because we’re only a two-hour flight away from each other. It’s pretty easy for both of us to get a flight to Florida too, so we could meet there.”
“We have definitely formed a good friendship. We also talked about going on more trips together. I already booked a trip to Spain with my mother next May, and Therese said she could join us.
“In fact, we’ve even talked about starting a business together to help others find great deals and travel partners. We’re going to call it Vacation Pursuit. So, check out this section!”