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Dating With Real Highlife Adventures

For many singles, the trend toward group activities based on common interests breaks new ground in the dating arena. "In a sense, we're going back to the future," says Mary Vallone, President of Highlife Adventures (www.highlifeadventures.com). "It's as though the ice cream social of the early 20th century has been kicked up several notches." In our fast-paced culture, people sometimes spend more time with a BlackBerry or iPhone than they do with real potential partners.

Shared experiences and face-to-face interaction have almost become a thing of the past but is it what people really want? According to Vallone, an upscale social club for singles in Chicago and Indianapolis, "Men and women are stepping out from the anonymity of the online dating world and reclaiming their lives," Vallone says. "Today's singles not only want to meet people who share their interests, but they also want to share real-life experiences with like-minded potential mates." Vallone explains that her approach serves to bring people together in a pressure-free setting. "When you attend an event, you're meeting people you already have something in common with and who are all there to meet you," she says. "And, when you're having fun, you let your guard down and are more likely to meet the right person.

" Indeed, Highlife Adventures' 3,000 Chicagoland members would be hard-pressed to find an ice cream social among the over 65 activities planned each month. Those who crave adventure can go parasailing, caving, or experience being a fighter pilot for a day. Music aficionados can revel in a hot night of cool jazz or attend a rock star fantasy camp, while those with cultural interests can attend a performance of the Chicago Symphony or a Frank Lloyd Wright tour. Members who enjoy the club scene can participate in a trolley pub-crawl, a moonlight party cruise, or events like "Martinis and Manicures" or "Pots 'n' Shots Pottery Class." This new dating trend is in stark contrast to the bar scene of the 1980s, the one-on-one matching services of the 1990s, and the speed dating phenomena that peaked a few years ago. "Not all singles like to hang out in bars, many don't care for the pressure of sequential one-on-one dates, and most people find that speed dating is too superficial," says Vallone. And, while online dating may appeal to the college crowd, many of the 25- to 45-year-olds members have "been there, done that." According to Vallone, "Meeting people online can be fun, but also fraught with pitfalls. Singles fare better when they put down the mouse, get out of the house, and meet people face-to-face. We prescreen each member in person and have a company representative at each event to help ensure positive experiences by everyone.

" Ultimately, Vallone concludes, "We don't match anyone. Instead, we provide unique, fun events where groups of singles can meet one another and find what they seek whether it's a friend, a date, or a soulmate.


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