I’m going to flat out confess: I’m one of those people who uses Tinder to swipe and chat, but rarely to meet.
At home, I would use half-use Tinder as I half-watched Netflix. Now that I’m travelling, I use it as a way to meet other travellers, chat about what’s going on where I am that day, and see if anyone’s up for a coffee, coconut water or an adventure in the local vicinity. It turns out a lot of travellers are using Tinder for the same reasons.
Once I began swiping, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed at home. I was actually learning a lot from simply looking at other people’s profiles and striking up a few conversations. It could be because without a job or routine or anything familiar, I’m paying more attention to everything I’m experiencing. I may have been able to discover these same things at home, but this is how it turned out and this is what I’ve learned since swiping right on the road:
Tinder is a hot bed of inspiration. Lots of people are “living their dream” (this phrase is written a lot on traveller’s profiles). But the thing is, everyone’s dreams are different. There are definitely people back home doing interesting things and living their dreams too. However, there’s no denying that people who have grown up and lived in different countries and cultures to our own are going to offer a really nice dose of fresh perspective.
One of the best things you can do when travelling is simply listen to others’ stories, and Tinder is a great way to quickly get a glimpse of others’ lives and find inspiration for your own next steps, projects, side hustles, or full on career moves. A word of warning though: it can either broaden your horizons or fuel your FOMO (fear of missing out), depending on your perspective in life.
I chatted to a guy who had moved to Bali to import ace berries to the island, and another who was working on a social enterprise for menstrual hygiene. There was the girl who was a hula hooper, dog rescuer, and vet. A human rights lawyer. And a surfer who was also a physiotherapist. There are a whole heap of digital nomads doing their own projects, or freelance writers and developers, who show there is an alternative to the nine-to-five, location based work. Of course, we can read about these things. But meeting these people in person, or simply chatting to them on an app, really bridges the gap between “that life” and “my life.”
It helps you to stop caring what other people think. Chances are, at home you had a steady job, a steady group of friends, and some sort of “persona” to maintain. This isn’t a bad thing. But on the road, everyone is lifted out of that routine with no anchor or base, and is subtly but fundamentally different. There are less questions of “what do you do?” and more “what adventure have you had today? Or did you just nap all day? Both are totally cool.”
As for appearance, you really stop caring. Everyone on the road is living out of a bag, so everyone looks the same: minimal make up, slightly faded and creased tops, hair scraped back or just wild, salty, and free depending on the humidity. You will go au natural whether you used to be that way at home or not, and you’ll stop looking in the mirror a lot less.
Even though swiping right on Tinder is largely based on photos and image, you really do seek out better conversation as, to be honest, everyone starts to look the same regardless of their physical attributes: we’re all dusty, slightly sweaty humans wearing the same outfit for the third day in a row, and are just looking for another human to connect with mind-to-mind. It’s liberating.
As a result of this, you realise you’ll need to start to digging deeper and figuring out who you actually are, beyond the job, city and routine of back home.
All the polite small talk that we usually engage in back home is gone, as the only thing you have in common with anyone is where you are and the weather. So you end up talking about who you are, what you’re interested in and what you stand for, quickly. They’re not necessarily heartfelt one-to-ones, but let’s just say you need to keep your conversation way more interesting than “what brings you to Bangkok?” It’s going to force you to get more creative with your own internal monologue as you think of new things to talk about with people you don’t know, in a place you’ve only spent one day.
These first three things might start to happen over a few weeks or months, and once they have, you stop making excuses for who you are and stop trying to “fit in” or say what you think someone wants to hear in order to snag that date. You get way more honest with yourself, and can both take rejection easier and find it far easier to reject others, or just let a person go if that conversation isn’t there. And it isn’t personal. You know who you are, they know who they are, and if you don’t click, you don’t click.
There’s no forced awful “first dates” because you both like dogs and that seemed like a good enough premise to meet on your iPhone screen. Your self confidence and self esteem will soar, even if you get fewer matches and make fewer connections.
But wait, what about the actual dating?
Yeah, I learned something about that too.
You would think that because you’re travelling and others are travelling and it’s all so transient that the hook-up culture would be insane, right? Hmm, not quite. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I use Tinder as a way to meet other travellers and get tips on where to go and what to see. I state that clearly on my profile. And others do too. Everyone’s looking for some cool people to hang out with.
Of course, humans are humans and if you meet someone and there’s a spark and you hit it off, there could always be more than “coconuts and chill.” But the hook-up impetus and expectation seems to have magically evaporated. Back home in Scotland, it felt like if you were on Tinder, it was like putting a sign around your neck saying “I’m looking for a one-night stand” (even if you weren’t). But whilst travelling, the first instinct is to make friends. It’s almost like dating 10 years ago. Those were the days, hey?
This is where it gets deep.
You realise, as you may have done at home, that we’re all only human and we all crave connection. This is why apps like Tinder work so well. It is addictive, and it gives a little boost of self-esteem when you get a match. But when you’re travelling alone and are tired and can’t face going to a café to meet people face to face, you go on Tinder and realise there’s a whole bunch of people doing the same.
Travelling alone endlessly can be socially exhausting—making friends as quickly as you leave them. You’re caught in a trap of wanting to connect whilst at the same time suffering from connection burn-out from making so many new friends in such short spaces of time. Tinder can provide the perfect place to meet a few interesting people, chat for a few hours, be friends for a space in time, no strings attached.
Author: Jenny Rose Lovatt
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jörg Schubert/Flickr