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April 12, 2010

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'Fate trippers' depart the script

SOME daring young Chinese travelers seeking love or thrills are connecting on "casual travel" Websites and setting off with Net friends or even total strangers on adventures that add spice, and maybe romance, to life.

Some people call these travels "fate trips" in which two people are brought together in a rather randomly selected, ad hoc group and then happen to "click." In this way some say they have found their "fate mates." One local Website is even called Love Shuffle.

Because of the ancient tradition of arranged marriage, Chinese people are actually open to the idea of meeting someone unexpectedly and falling in love, says well-known sociologist Gu Xiaoming of Fudan University.

Casual travel also satisfies the post-'80s generation's deep craving for novelty and excitement in modern life that can be both hectic, highly structured and dreary, he says.

Unscripted casual travel with a loose itinerary is also considered by some the long form of speed dating where people really can get to know each other in varied circumstances. Apart from possible romance, other friendships can be formed.

One can go to a major portal such as and search for "casual travel," "love shuffle," "travel mates," and so on. And then post: "How about a weekend in Suzhou?"

A number of local Websites post recruitments for fellow travelers visiting places around Shanghai, Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, and other spots.

Some prospective travelers can post their pictures on casual travel. Some write reviews of trips, helping to dispel some anxieties about safety.

Caution is called for when traveling with strangers but taking risks can be stimulating, and many young people like the idea that fate or destiny on a casual trip might lead to love. The word "fate" is often mentioned.

Young casual travelers, mostly those born after 1980, are overwhelmingly single, travel in small groups, are roughly 50-50 male-female, and take short excursions. Trips can be spontaneous and improvised.

Many young people from the relatively well-off post-80s generation are said to seek novelty, uncertainty and adventure instead of (or as a break from) conformity and predictability that are traditionally valued.

Sociologist Gu says casual travel can add great fun and suspense to humdrum life, but people should take precautions about their safety and personal property.

Gu notes that his daughter met her husband-to-be through social networking and they have been happily married for 10 years.

This is the promotion on the casual travel site on

"If you are interested in traveling, have a good-faith personality and are willing to make friends, please bring your suitcase and camera, let's meet at an arranged place and time and let fate take us traveling.

"Requirements: Male or female, aged 19-30 with independent living experience and no bad habits. (Cost to be shared by all members.)

"Please leave your contact information so we can keep in touch through SMS, QQ or e-mails, and arrange the next fate trip."

One enthusiast is "Corner," a 29-year-old company art director in Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu Province, who initiated casual travel. He's single and enjoys photography.

"Last May I had just finished decorating my house so I invited some friends I had chatted with on the Internet," he says. "We spent time chatting, drinking and listening to music. It was very good but there still wasn't enough time to get to know each other better."

That's when Corner decided to create casual travel and arrange longer travel get-togethers.

Competition and pressure cause anxiety and loneliness for many post-'80s people. Many find it difficult to make genuine friends at work; their old friends have gotten married and are no longer available to play. Life can be boring and unreal "friends" on the Internet can't take the place of flesh-and-blood buddies.

Corner says two casual travel trips since November have helped people make new friends, male and female. He's planning more trips.

"I was dejected over a sad love affair for a long time, and the date of a casual travel event was exactly my birthday, so I decided to join. It was quite fun," says a Netizen called "Nanjing female patient."

She took two-day trip to Suzhou with several people, sightseeing, taking photos and later having dinner. She says she met a guy she liked and this banished the blues.

Some Netizens call casual travel the latest in bringing people together, better than speed dating and far better than regular blind dates.

"I cannot stand the moment when my blind date and I look right at each other without saying a word. It's so embarrassing," says Kelly on, a matchmaking and casual travel site. "We can't do anything under the prying eyes of parents and matchmaker - we can't really communicate or be ourselves, to say nothing of meeting Mr Right."

Casual travel is totally different because there are many opportunities to judge travel partners over time, she says.

"With zero stress and pressure we can choose our own friends with same interests and hobbies."

But some people say too much focus on dating can take the fun out of travel for its own sake.

"Casual travel is supposed to be free and flexible but if dating dominates travel, then I wouldn't be interested anymore," says a Netizen Sandy.

"As a professional matchmaker, I want to see many single friends find their destiny and casual travel provides a brand-new method. We should balance travel with dating to reduce embarrassment, awkwardness and security concerns," says Gong Haiyan, CEO of He is sometimes called an "emotion guru."

Casual travel is a positive activity that creates more chances for singles of the '80s generation to find true love, says Gong. "But casual travel relies on fate and destiny, so it's best not to push too much. Everything depends on fate. People may be pleasantly surprised."

"Human beings all aspire to meet someone unexpectedly," says sociologist Gu. "That's because there was an ancient tradition that people married someone they didn't really know much about, someone in a match arranged by their parents.

"So from the deepest part of their being, people are willing to meet someone unexpectedly."

The Internet is perfect for these encounters, he says, as many people use it for dating and matchmaking. In a fast-paced complicated life, the Internet is fast and efficient.

"Social networking is full of randomness and the element of uncertainty that is extremely suitable for younger generations who prefer seeking out challenges," says Gu.

"Although casual travel injects excitement into normal life, people should pay close attention before joining events because there are risks, such as theft and injury."

The popularity of individual casual travel has been recognized by some travel companies that now offer Do-It-Yourself (DIY) packages.

China Youth Travel Service (CYTS) launched "Variety DIY Itineraries" in Shanghai last week.

"CYTS will improve DIY itinerary service for people who want to design their unique travel route," says Zhang Lijun, CEO of China CYTS Tours Holding Co Ltd. "We will provide satisfactory service at a reasonable price."


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