ALL ABOARD: Friendship Force Gold Coast members off to cruise Lake Taupo, New Zealand.
ALL ABOARD: Friendship Force Gold Coast members off to cruise Lake Taupo, New Zealand. contributed

Friendly way to meet and greet the world

Friendship Force Gold Coast was the first phone call its now-president Janette McKeon made on her retirement eight years ago.

The group has 55 members, the majority of whom are seniors, who enjoy travelling together and showing off what the Gold Coast offers to other visitors.

Essentially, the international organisation accepts bids from each club to visit three other clubs annually, one of which will be international with two destinations, with the others being within your own country.

Recent Gold Coast club journeys have included Toulouse, France and Lubec, Germany, Calgary and Winnipeg in Canada, and Taupo in New Zealand, while the group will visit Japan next year.

They have just hosted 10 members from Birmingham, Alabama, having visited that city themselves two years ago.

Janette said being home-hosted made travelling much more affordable, allowing her to visit 10 countries in eight years.

While there are couples who join together, the club also means for those who may be single, widowed or have a partner who can't travel, that they don't have to travel alone.

Feeling safer often allows them to go to places they would not otherwise think of going.

And they know who they are travelling with, rather than joining a large group of strangers on a tour bus.

But for Janette, Friendship Force also allows members to form a more realistic picture of the world than just sightseeing from a hotel room.

"You get to really experience the country and the people - how they live, what their homes are like, their customs, what they do and what they eat," Janette said.

And some of the friendships are lasting, she says. At the time of speaking with her she was about to sit down to write to five people with whom she had stayed in the past.

"You won't become great mates with everyone, but I've always been very well received and sad to leave when the time comes, or to say goodbye to the people I've welcomed into my home," Janette said.

Her grand-daughter is also a big fan of Friendship Force, which has given her the opportunity to meet people from around the world through Janette.

That included one South American visitor with minimal English, which Janette said led to a lot of miming and other innovative ways of communicating and much laughter.

Not everyone in the group wants to travel overseas, so sometimes it's a case of bringing the world to you.

Friendship Force Gold Coast members gather at 3.30pm on the third Sunday of each month at Broadbeach for a meeting followed by dinner, as well as other activities throughout the year.

"It's just a wonderful way for people to experience the world and make new friends at home and wherever you travel," Janette said.

To find out more:

Call Janette on 0407 028 569

or Mary on 0433 917 779.

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