How to Date While Traveling
Like many other women in their forties who have or are about to hit refresh, it’s at a time in our lives when we are starting a new chapter, trading in an old established life for a new untraditional one. Often, it’s also a journey pursued solo. Whether we have always been happily single, or due to divorce, separation, death of a spouse or a case of empty-nest syndrome (to name just a few!), the amazing opportunity to start life anew with a beginner’s mind is commonly a quest we do on our own as it is so very individual in its meaning and goals.
Are you ready to start dating abroad?
In my case, at 45, divorced and with two grown daughters, last year I was blessed to be able to hit refresh by leaving a corporate leadership & coaching role and selling everything to travel the world full-time while working remotely as a women’s travel coach, helping other women in the next chapter of their lives prepare for their own journeys.
When I began my travels, dating along the way never even crossed my mind. But as I’ve learned, the only constant in life is change, so I have since embraced pursuing new connections with the opposite sex, both romantic and platonic on my travels. And it turns out there is a wide range of single men around the world, and there have been no shortage of options in how to meet them!
So if you are thinking of going in search of connection while abroad – whether for love or friendship – I hope what I’ve learned will help you in finding a companion on the Refresh Road.
Men around the world
I have found that there are quite a lot of single expats and solo travelers in the world, so the countries I’ve visited didn’t just involve making connections with locals. In Costa Rica I hung out with a new friend who was a Tico (local) as well as dated a Spaniard. In Brazil I went out with a Brazilian and befriended a man from Belgium.
In Serbia I dated a Turkish man. In Czech Republic I enjoyed the platonic company of a Brit and had a 6 week romance with a Greek. I am now dating a Turkish man I met in Istanbul. Even though I am from a city with many different ethnic backgrounds in a very diverse country, the breadth and variety of men I have connected with on the road has truly amazed me.
Regardless of their place of origin, the men I have connected with on my travels have surprisingly had a lot in common, but quite different than men I have dated in North America in the past. I have been married twice – the first time to an American man and the second to a Canadian. And in between times I dated a bit on both sides of the border; from my experiences they have a lot in common in that the majority were at first a bit aloof and less than likely to approach a woman.
On the dates I went on, it seemed to me that these men did most of the talking, mostly about themselves, and wanted to impress me with their career success and how much stuff they owned – I generally didn’t get a lot of questions about me or my life. And first dates almost always followed the same predictable model – meet for coffee or drinks.
On the other hand, men I’ve connected with on the road weren’t very hesitant at all about approaching a woman, and they spent most of the first meeting asking questions about my life and travels. They also kept materialistic conversation to a minimum. The other fabulous discovery I made about connecting with men on my travels is that the model of the date was almost never the same!
Because I, and often both of us, were in a new city, we arranged to go for walks around the city, or do tourist excursions and the like. Dating locals came with the benefit of having a personal tour guide who often knew the best-kept secret places to eat, drink or see a cultural show of some kind, and who were enthusiastic and knowledgable about things and places I would never have noticed had I visited them solo.
Finding Connection on the Road: Datings apps and more!
So, now that I’ve covered the type of men I’ve met while traveling and what you may expect to encounter yourself, the question is, where did I meet all these guys?! Well, it turns out the ways to meet men on the road are almost identical to those in my hometown.
This was a wonderful discovery for me since traveling solo really puts us outside of our comfort zones and adding dating to the mix made me nervous enough. I’ll share with you what I tried – both online and in-person – and how. Hopefully one or two of these will be something you’d feel comfortable giving a try as well.
Although there are several international online forums, Tinder remains one of the most popular dating apps in the world and is also being used by some as a way to connect with friends, not just lovers. With its geolocating feature, the matches you are presented with are almost all in the same geographical region you are.
Each month when I moved to a different country, I would change my profile write-up to be specific about what city I was in and how long I’d be in town. I also kept the distance scale pretty tight at less than 7km because I wanted to err on the side of caution to make sure I didn’t stray too far afield in unknown territory.
Depending upon my circumstances or stage of life, I was also specific in my intentions. If I was just looking for companionship, I wrote, “Looking to meet new friends to explore the city with”. If I felt up to dating, I would write something like, “Looking for a like-minded free spirit to spend time with in friendship and maybe more”.
Although either approach can net the opposite results of our intentions, at least I had a starting guideline of sorts. But I’ve found that for the most part, Tinder member expectations seem to be majority romantic-based. So if you are just looking for friends, I wouldn’t recommend Tinder.
Meetups is an international forum bringing together groups of all kinds, whether for social, business networking, hobbies…you name it, there is a Meetup group for it. And the online format is pretty much the same everywhere in the world I’ve tried it. You won’t find much on offer if you are in a more remote area but for bigger cities, there is a lot to choose from.
This option is great for being really intentional about your reason for wanting to connect; if you join a group for practicing Spanish as a second language as I did in Argentina, dating is a nice side-possibility without the pressure. If dating is your priority, there are social groups that are all about just that. And being in a group instead of a one on one date also can take some of the pressure off.
InterNations is a huge online and in-person global organization that caters to expats – people from one country now living in another – and has a chapter in just about every major city in the world. Depending on the chapter, there are usually lots of events of all kinds being planned, from hikes to wine-tastings and everything in between.
One of the events when I was in Istanbul was a brunch – not to be missed as a Turkish Breakfast is the best in the world! The atmosphere of InterNations events are social with a slant towards business, so they are great opportunities to make new connections with people from all over the world, but I should emphasize that dating is not the main event.
Walking Tours are another great way to make new connections. Just about every destination has something pedestrian-related on offer that can be found through local tour companies, Airbnb Experiences and Trip Advisor to name a few sources. I went on a walking tour in Colombia and met two really nice guys – a little young for me, but we had a great time together on the tour.
I recommend looking for a walking tour that caters to small groups, as the large 10+ people tours where you have to wear headsets to hear what the guide is saying are not really conducive to chatting with your walk-neighbors.
At a local coffee shop is – I find – a very romantic way to meet someone. Given I work remotely, I spend a lot of time using coffee shops as office space. In Belgrade, Serbia, at this funky cafe called Kafeterija, I was approached by a sweet businessman from Turkey for a chat and we ended up going out for a wonderful dinner together that night. It’s not necessarily a good strategy to just sit and hope you get noticed, so I’d instead recommend you seat yourself in an easily visible and accessible area with spots open on either side of you.
And look up and around often; I also recommend that if you see a man you think looks interesting, take a deep breath and pull up a chair beside him to maybe strike up a conversation. This suggestion can sound a bit daunting, I know, and most days I don’t think I’d be able to do it, but some days I feel more courageous than others! Just going with your gut is the important thing – no need to move too far outside of your comfort zone.
Dating overseas, have fun with it!
No matter whether I made connections online or in-person while traveling, surprisingly I have found it to be a more fun and interesting experience than when I was living in one city. Almost every single date I went on during my travels was fascinating in terms of what we talked about and the viewpoints they had on topics ranging from politics, religion, values and beliefs. I didn’t agree with all of them, and a few were very off-putting, but there was never a dull moment in conversation.
If you are feeling ready and willing, I highly recommend giving dating, making new friends, or even being open to falling in love while traveling a chance. For me it has added a wonderful layer to my travel experience and personal growth journey. But keep in mind that wherever you are meeting new people, you must always take precautions – some men can be dangerous no matter where in the world you are, so please keep your safety a priority.
Only meet in public places, avoid or limit your alcohol consumption, have a way to get home without needing your companion’s assistance and let someone know where you are and when you’ll be back. Otherwise, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
International dating: Where to from here?
Over the last year of traveling, I have noticed more and more that there is a growing number of single travelers (statistics posted by solotravelworld.com also support this observation). And where there are more singles, more dating opportunities are almost inevitable. So if you are thinking about dating while traveling in the future, rest assured that you won’t be alone – it’s a pretty common occurrence.
As for me, I have just left Istanbul, Turkey for Cairo, Egypt and dated a Turkish man while there, who I met on Tinder. I fell in love with Istanbul (and he’s really nice too), so I will be returning next month for an extended stay. Hopefully I will continue seeing this man but if not, there are lots of other fish in the sea. While I’m not sure what the future holds, for the first time in many years, the thought of entering into a long-term relationship no longer scares the hell out of me. And I have travel to thank for that.
We’d love to hear about your dating and travel experiences! Let us know in the comments below.