Traveling on your own is a unique experience. Going solo, you get the chance to meet people you would never cross paths with if you were traveling with a friend or partner. Whether with or without any intentions, a good way to meet interesting people while traveling is dating apps, such as Tinder, Happn, or Badoo.
However, using those applications in a foreign environment influences your safety, may it be because of language barriers, dating culture differences, or even criminal actions. Keeping in mind the challenges of blind dating, I want to offer these nine tips for you on how to safely date, based on my own experiences.
1. Use the right application for each situation and location
Before downloading a dating app, ask yourself: What you are looking for precisely? Are you interested in a no-strings-attached flirt? Or are you into serious business only? Perhaps, being new to the city, you’re not interested in sexual relations but looking for friends and friend groups? Sometimes, we might even want it all.
When downloading a dating app, consider your intentions and take into account where you are. In some countries, applications like Happn, Couchsurfing, or Bumble are actually more popular than Tinder. Do your research and combine local knowledge with your personal preferences.
Asking other travelers which apps they are using and what experiences they had using them can be helpful. Or simply Google which app is the most popular one in the place you are staying.
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2. Make sure to clarify what you are looking for in your bio
While you may not want to dead-end a relationship before it has even begun, be sure to include your intentions in your bio. Are you exclusively looking for friends? Be direct and do not fear to be rejected as a potential friend. Are you looking for sexual experience only?
Find a way to describe your honest intentions without revealing your entire self or being too frank. Remember that you can always take back what you have said or listed online.
Even if your Tinder bio says: “Looking for no-strings-attached”, this does not mean you have to go through with anything if you do not feel comfortable.
3. Take care of personal information and location
Being in an environment that might be foreign to you, please do not forget to hold up boundaries. If you are meeting a stranger, it is better to not reveal your exact address or location, or any other personal information.
The best tip is to exclusively meet in a public space first, whether in the park, a cafe, or a busy bar. If the person you are about to meet suggests their home without hesitation, do not fall for it.
Anyone really interested in you will make the necessary arrangements and meet you in your preferred place.
4. Be creative with the date setting
It does not always have to be a date in a bar where sipping a cocktail can calm down the nerves. Be creative when meeting someone, even if your intentions are clear.
Why not grab a coffee to go, and then walk around some new place in the city you are in?
What about engaging with the local community? A good strategy is to search for concerts, local courses, sports activities; or maybe a free walking tour, a local food tasting, or some community work experience.
Let me tell you about the minimax principle, an analogy from game theory in which you decrease your risks and maximize your gains. First of all, you can find out whether your own interests match your date’s interest. Second, you can make sure the person you are meeting thinks you are worth it to actually spend time with you.
And, your date might turn out to become something even better: A full-on exciting travel experience!
5. Get your own drink and make sure to keep your eyes on it
Unfortunately, dating is always connected to some risk. I wish it was different, and I am truly advocating for change. Until then, there are still some things to consider when dating, particularly when meeting someone new. I met too many girls and boys going on dates and waking up roofied with their valuables missing, or worse.
So, my best tip to protect yourself from losing control over yourself, your decisions, your body, or your valuables, is to never accept someone else’s consumption gifts.
It basically means paying for your own drink, not sharing anything else, and also taking care of how much alcohol you are consuming.
My best advice is to not drink any alcohol at all. Most of the time those dates are the most memorable ones anyway.
In case this is not an option for you, make sure you control how many drinks you want to have and don’t let yourself agree to anything you have either never tried, or you don’t feel comfortable with. Seriously, that is the most important advice.
If someone does not empathize with your decision, this person is just not worth it.
6. In case you experience something you did not commit to, be strong and leave the date
Let’s say you are meeting someone, and they are not who they pretend to be. It might be an age difference, a catfish experience, or a more fine-grained difference. There are many reasons, such as your date’s interests or character, that can make you change your mind about meeting a second time.
If someone lies about their identity or tries to pretend they are something they’re not, do not waste your time — just leave the situation. You do not owe anything to anyone, you only owe yourself to be treated with honesty and respect.
If you are not able to tell the other person the truth, you can find an excuse: Make up an appointment or say your housemate lost their key.
There is no discussion or debate on the way you feel. Do not feel sorry for the other person, and make sure you cut the contact entirely.
Yes, sometimes ghosting is necessary!
7. Online dating during the COVID-19 pandemic
Meeting people has become increasingly more difficult in a world where bars and clubs are closed and universities, schools, and our work has been moved to at home. However, being single during a pandemic lowers the stakes for us to start the online dating process.
To make sure that you do not get yourself in any trouble with health risks, there are some easy-to-follow tips.
First of all, you can have your first date (just like anything else during this era, online. Ask your date about their usual habits, hobbies of the last few days, and do some follow-up for a couple of days. This way, you can slowly get a feeling for the other person’s behavior during the pandemic and their perception of health safety.
If you feel comfortable, you can meet within social distancing rules. If it is meant to be, then this will not keep you from getting to know each other.
Who knows, maybe you get to know a person more deeply, when the attraction develops over a good conversation and physical distance, than over a drink in a dark night club.
8. Listen to your gut
You can take as many precautions as you wish, but honestly, the best advice is to always listen to your gut feelings. Most of the time, we ourselves know best whether we can trust someone or a situation.
From my experience, if I felt uncomfortable with someone, it never turned out to be a good date.
On the other hand, sometimes you meet a person randomly and you immediately feel a deeper connection. Hold on to the positive feelings and cut off the ones that give you stomach aches!
9. Aaaaaand, enjoy your date!
Reading these tips, you might get worried about online dating while traveling. Being in a foreign environment can mean dealing with a different dating culture or the difficulty of communicating across language barriers. Natural awareness is important and will keep you from dicey situations.
However, don’t forget to also enjoy your date. After all, you are traveling by yourself because you want to meet someone special that you might never normally cross paths with. So, despite being aware of some safety concerns, follow the most important rule and enjoy your date!
This list of tips is a truly living list. I have been dating and online dating in foreign countries, met amazing people, and had some of the best dates of my life.
If you have experienced dating while traveling, share your story with us. Do you have other tips on how to create a safe environment while blind dating on travels? Leave a comment and help to make travel dating safer for everyone!
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