By RENEE TOMELL - comp:000049183ad5:000000023d:5016 /__uuid/a23adec9-4041-4797-b940-c9c4209b17d0/image.jpg 265 0 1709 1319 1444 1319 new
Suzanne Venecek (left) of Downers Grove and Janet Nawrocki of New Lenox show each other souvenir travel bags from their latest trip. (Matthew Piechalak -

Two inveterate sightseers have launched travel clubs that are opening up the world – whether it's Midwest attractions or European dream trips and beyond.

"We got the idea because I had no one to travel with," says Suzanne Venecek of Downers Grove, who with Janet Nawrocki of New Lenox co-founded Adventures, Travel and Social Club, as well as Gutsy Gal Pals.

It's more fun to travel as a group of friends, says Nawrocki, who notes you also avoid the singles supplement fee, and you have a compatible roomate you know instead of relying on the luck of the draw with tour company pairings.

"We bring travelers together, so they don't run into the situation [of missing out because] of a friend who doesn't want to go or has been to where you want to go, or who can't afford it this year," Nawrocki says.

The two groups already number almost 400 members, and 10 recently returned from a river cruise in southern France led by the club founders.

Social events are at the heart of both groups, says Venecek, who defines the target audiences. The Adventures group is co-ed and for any age range, and features more active events such as biking and hiking. Gutsy Gals is for women 45 and older, highlighting cultural events, dinners and neighborhood walks.

"When you stop working, you have to recreate yourself," Venecek says. "Life stops as you knew it, and you have to make a new life for yourself. The older one is, the harder it is to meet new friends. This is a very safe way to do it."

Social events have taken travel buffs to plays and dinners in Lombard, Wheaton and Downers Grove, as well as activities in Oak Park and Chicago. Shorter domestic getaways are in the works, in addition to overseas adventures.

Describing the recent French river cruise, Nawrocki says, "One little town … was more charming than the one we'd been to. I'd like to do it again."

She'll lead an Italian trip this fall. Currently being booked is an excursion to Prague combined with a Danube river cruise late next March; a 10 percent discount is offered people who sign up by May 31. Peru's Machu Picchu, Spain and the Black Sea are future destinations.

"We're not travel agents," says Nawrocki, who has traveled to Europe two or three times annually for 19 years. "We're just very well traveled. My specialty is Europe. We've used so many companies between us, we know which ones are the good ones [and best] value. Our main focus is to draw people together, so they can travel [and] don't miss out in their life."

To learn about social events and trips, visit or call 630-968-6344.