Optimism is a magical thing, and it can carry you through the myriad of trials and unusual situations you will find yourself in whilst travelling solo. My coping tools in these situations are always an adventurous spirit, a calm head, and a good sense of humour. They help you deal with lost luggage, passports, or falling ill- but apply these to the search for comfort and connection, and you can open up a whole new world, too.
And by this I mean embracing online dating on the road. To preface- this isn’t some SJP style tell-all about my wild exploits with male models and well turned out business men, to be broken down over brunch. I have a healthy love of shoes and some great stories, but that’s not what is interesting here- trust me.
Solo travel exposes you to yourself in new ways: you are fully responsible for yourself, but really very free- and with that comes an energy and openness that can serve you well. In 2015, I had the luxury of two months paid time off thanks to the magical god that is gardening leave. I stuck my flat on Airbnb and quickly booked a multi-stop ticket to the US with pit stops to visit friends and favorite destinations.
Part of this journey's purpose was for me to explore these cities to see if they were places I could picture myself living. Exploring online dating at this time was as much a part of this process as trying new restaurants, visiting museums, and navigating transport systems. Truly for somewhere to feel like home, we all need to know if are people there who think the same way we do (or in a new way we find interesting), so what was most liberating was accepting the temporary nature of these connections. I was never looking for someone to be with long term, just the chance to see a place through a new set of eyes.
Sometimes these lenses were just what I needed. Providing late night jello shots at dive bars I’d never have found on my own, the chance to listen to favourite records through tinny phone speakers, and kisses on roof tops long after most of the city was sleeping. For these moments, and for the time I somehow ended up al fresco camping on a roof in the middle of LA, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the silliness and tenderness of those times.
For all of these experiences, there was just one memorable NO. That being the night I had to text a friend and create an escape plan from a dude whom I’d made dinner plans with who within 3 minutes of meeting began exclaiming over and over how much he loved my “tiny hands." Cue the fastest peace-out in my dating history.
Ultimately, the bad or boring connections were few and far between, and the map of sweet moments I created through my "Tinder Travels" remains with me to this day. For single women, it often seems like the most rebellious thing you can do is embrace yourself and stay positive in the search for meaning and connection and even love. I’ve never been a fan of following the curve, so this frame of mind suits me well.
I haven’t written about myself in a long time, and naturally you become reflective when doing so. I found myself thinking of Mary Karr’s book where she quotes Don de Lillo "a fiction writer starts with meaning and then manufactures events to represent it; a memoirist starts with events, then derives meaning from them." In my more reflective moments, I find myself wondering if this is what I’ve imbued these encounters with, but then I remember that these small moments keep a spark burning and that even if I have added meaning to them... for me, there’s still a real beauty in that.