Forget finding love through friends, family and colleagues — the best way to hunt down Mr. or Miss Right might be getting out of town.
“I've noticed in the past five years this has gone way up, because the way people meet each other has changed,” said Hilary Black, editor in chief of the relationship magazine Tango.
“People used to meet in bars, and now people work all the time," she continued. "This is a way they can meet in context, doing something they love, and it's a lot less of an awkward set-up. And they can push themselves physically, which is a big plus now.”
Anyone who ever wanted to cross-country ski across Colorado's mountains by day and sleep in tents by night can sign up for an adventure with the Wichita, Kan.-based company Backwoods.
Backwoods also offers 14,000-foot-high hikes to Mexican volcanoes, Costa Rican whitewater rafting and ascents to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Mt. Everest base camp, complete with porters and guides.
Though neither company specifically offers singles trips, both companies and adventure-travel outfits like them are becoming more and more popular with the lovelorn, Black said.
“It's one of the newest and trendiest ways for people to meet,” she said.
Joan Allen, the Baltimore-based author of “Celebrating Single and Getting Love Right: From Stalemate to Soulmate,” said adventure traveling to meet a mate is becoming more popular because jaded singles see it as a kind of insurance policy.
It's especially so nowadays, when people are spending more and more time at the office and have less time to waste on bad dates.
“Bicycling tours, canoeing down a river or off of Baja, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, backpacking and camping in Costa Rica — they're looking to get something out of the trips, to learn something or do something so that they've accomplished something or gone on an adventure even if they don't meet the love of their life,” Allen said. “It's not a total loss.”
But they do tend to be pricey — the Silk Road tour with Butterfield & Robinson can cost nearly $10,000 for a single person.
“At $3,000 and up, you're taking a gamble, as opposed to a blind date, which won't cost you anything, especially if you're a woman,” Black said. “It's affluent people taking these trips, because these trips are expensive.”
But there are cheaper alternatives. Aracely Santos, a 24-year-old marketing analyst from Englewood, N.J., and a self-described extreme-sports enthusiast, has gone on much less expensive trips where she meets single men while participating in workouts she enjoys.
Last summer, she and a friend encountered a group of men while rock climbing in New Paltz, N.Y.
“We had set up our ropes up near each other just by chance,” she said. “I wasn't too experienced in the sport and when I started to climb down the huge rock I had a little difficulty getting started. He was more than glad to help.”
They exchanged contact information and went on a few dates after that, she said.
But the more extreme the trip, the more likely you are to form a connection that could lead to love, Santos said.
“There's a bond that is instantly formed when having such great experiences even with strangers. I remember during a trip to Costa Rica last year when I went canopying (gliding from treetop to treetop on a huge mountain while strapped to a rope), we were all strangers but by the end of the day we all wanted to know more about each other and felt like family,” she said.
Black said adventure trips appeal particularly to single women.
“Men like to do outdoorsy things, and the kind of men women want to meet are these men, not the ones who go speed dating,” she said. “They want the ones who go on a bike trip.”
Others like the mystery and adventure of travel dating without all the danger. The company AirTroductions, founded by New Yorker Peter Shankman, lets you turn one of the familiar horrors of the jet age — the uncertainty of your seatmate — into a potential romantic interlude.
The site's garnered over 16,000 members and over 3,500 matches (defined as someone changing his or her seat to sit next to someone he or she met on the Web site) since it launched in October 2005.
“People have to fly, they might as well sit next to someone they like,” Shankman said. “Site keeps growing and growing. Started as a hobby, now I'm talking to venture capitalists about really blowing it out of the water. With 300,000 members, everyone will be matching on virtually every flight!”
Toni Elliott, a 45-year-old Winterhaven, Fla., teacher and an AirTroduction user nearly since it started, met a frequent traveler from Portland, Ore., in February via the Web site.
Their adventure? Meeting at blizzard-besieged LaGuardia Airport and then spending five days exploring a romantically empty and snow-covered New York City while native New Yorkers huddled inside their apartments.
“It's not so much the travel as exploring the same destination together,” Elliott said. “To have someone to go out and explore the city with and have fun with, I consider an adventure, exploration, definitely. And if they made it through airport security, that's got to be something good.”
Elliott and her AirTroduction match-up still e-mail, but she said she found his travel schedule too busy for a lasting romantic relationship.
But Santos said adventure dating isn't just great for meeting for someone special — it's also good for fanning the flames of love.
“Taking an extreme vacation is a great idea for meeting people or going with someone you just met,” she said. “I just recently met someone and we are currently more friends than anything, but we are planning an extreme vacation that's coming up soon. Experiences like that accelerate the bond you have with someone.”