Thursday 12 December 2019

PATT Club - People alone travelling together

When his lifelong love and travel partner passed away, Eddie Molloy thought his globetrotting days were over... until he found the PATT club

Eddie Molloy has continued to travel the world with the People Alone Travelling Together (PATT) club. Photo: Martin Maher
Eddie Molloy has continued to travel the world with the People Alone Travelling Together (PATT) club. Photo: Martin Maher

Ailin Quinlan

Eddie and Maureen Molloy went everywhere together – but they especially loved their sun holidays in Spain and Portugal. When Maureen died in 2004 after 38 happy years of marriage, Eddie continued to travel alone for a while – his friends weren’t interested in going – but it didn’t work.

“It was very lonely. It was terrible,” says the retired engineering fitter from Baldoyle, Co Dublin, who had enjoyed regular breaks in Ireland and abroad with his wife over the years.

“I went on a few foreign holidays of my own over the space of two or three years, but I didn’t enjoy it.

“You’d see other couples and you’d feel that should be you. “

Still in his 60s at that stage, he tried joining a family trip to Florida with his daughter and went on a break in Sligo with one of his sons, but, he confesses: “I felt a bit of a spare wheel.”

By 2007, the widower had nearly given up hope of enjoying any more foreign travel.

“The way I felt about it was, what was the use of going on my own,” he recalls.

Then he heard about a club in Donegal that organised holidays for wannabe globetrotters, who didn’t have anybody to travel with.

The People Alone Travelling Together (PATT) club is not a dating agency; it’s exactly what it says on the tin – a travel company that organises trips for people who are alone, but who want to travel in a group.

Although most of its members – who are usually either separated, divorced, bereaved or single – are aged between 50 and 65, membership also includes people in their 30s, 40s and 70s, says club director, Sharon Kelly.

She says that the gender breakdown of PATT is generally about 65% female and 35% male. Although in recent times, the number of male members has risen.

The group was established in 2004, when someone noticed the surprisingly substantial number of people who were travelling alone on country music holidays to the US and elsewhere, says Kelly. “We noticed that there were always five or six people on the coach travelling on their own and we knew there was a gap in the market for something like this for the single traveller.”

“Some people simply don’t want to be a ‘third wheel’ on holiday with another couple, or with an adult child’s family,” she explains. “They want to be with a similar age group who are like-minded. Some of them have partners who don’t like travelling, but the majority are single, separated, divorced or widowed,” she says.

PATT offers a wide range of holiday options, from a five-star hotel near a beach to themed breaks based around hobbies such as dancing, wine or music.

“Last year we did a cruise on the Mediterranean. This year we’re going to Lake Garda for a week and there will be a boat trip on the lake or a visit to Venice and Verona, so we mix and match. We also do weekend breaks in Ireland.

“On the whole, people are looking for companionship and getting to see other places.

“This isn’t a dating agency, it’s about travelling with friends and meeting new people and seeing new things.” 

As it turned out, this was exactly what Eddie Molloy was looking for back in 2007, when he made that first phone call to the club.

He decided to give it a go, and in May 2008, travelled to Portugal for a one-week dancing holiday with PATT. It was a great success, he recalls.

“There were about 20 people on the trip. It was a dancing week in a hotel and there was lots of singing, dancing and socialising. I loved it!” said the 74-year-old.

Over the next few years, Eddie travelled to Egypt – “I saw the pyramids and did a jeep safari, which was great craic” – as well as Morocco, Austria, Portugal and Spain.

“It was fantastic,” he said.

“My favourite bit was the company – the same people can turn up on different trips and you find you’re getting to know people better.

“Age doesn’t matter. They’re all healthy and very young at heart. The trips are very well planned and great fun.

“It gives you a hell of a boost. If I hadn’t joined PATT, I think I’d have wasted away.”

Eddie hit the nail square on the head, says bereavement and relationship counsellor, Jean Casey.

“It’s much better to go with a group than going on your own. You bring your grief and your sadness with you,  no matter where you go, but when you’re in a loud, happy group, you tend to get distracted and start enjoying yourself,” she said. “It helps you seek meaning in life again and to be ready to try new ways of living.”

You cannot control the feelings inside you, she says, but you can choose what to do with them.

People who have enjoyed a long-term relationship will often find it harder to step back out into life again following separation, divorce or bereavement, she says. But it is possible.

Despite the enormous sense of loss he experienced when his wife passed away, Eddie has managed to find life again, Casey believes.

“Travel is a good way of getting yourself moving again and trying new ways of living.

“There are long-term benefits in this: you make new friends; you push yourself to reach out; and you become more confident.”

Grief is like fear, she says. It’s a sensation of being afraid.

When a person loses a life partner, whether it’s through separation, divorce or bereavement, it’s like losing a limb.

“There is fear of being alone and not being able to cope – the sensation is akin to being afraid all the time.

“You have to depend on your own identity and you have to find it again.”

It’s wise to wait until you feel ready to interact with others, she counsels. But when you feel the stirring of those first sociable green shoots, be prepared to give the world a go once again.

“In the first year following divorce, separation or bereavement, people can dread being alone,” she said. “They want people around, but don’t want to talk to them.”

Later on, however, they will be ready to talk, and when that happens, she says, it’s the signal to get out there and meet the world again.

“You really do have to push yourself. A social engagement  can be a source of pain and anxiety, but after a while that feeling subsides.”

Getting out into society and being part of things again not only helps you rebuild your life in practical ways, it also boosts  your confidence and your emotional health.

“You have to put the effort in to make the sense of confusion   and loss go away and to allow yourself to think clearly. Going out there and moving and talking in a group is a great way to distract yourself.”

For Eddie, the big thing was meeting like-minded people his own age during his travels. He’s now encouraging some friends  “who are in the same boat  as myself” to try a couple of trips.

“It really takes you out of yourself,” he explained, before  adding that his grandchildren are fascinated by his travels and always want to know where he’s been and where he’s going to next.

“You get to travel in good company and when you meet at the airport there are lots of hugs! People say it’s great to see you again.”

Eddie, who visited Spain in January and enjoyed a trip to Austria in July, isn’t finished with this year’s travel just yet:

“With a bit of luck I’ll hopefully be going on a dancing week in Spain in October – that’s a fantastic week,” he says.

Eddie also enjoys the occasional mini-break in Ireland with the group: “I realise now that if I hadn’t done it, I’d have just wasted away, sitting here on my own.”

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