Dating abroad as a solo female traveler is a fun and unique way to experience a different city or culture. Many women express their concerns to me about how to date while on the road. Honestly, in some ways dating as a solo traveler is very similar to dating when you’re at home.
You get the pre-date jitters, wonder if you’ll have anything in common, and hope the person doesn’t turn out to be a sociopath. But there are also a few very key differences to dating as a solo traveler, such as how you meet people, the cultural expectations, and even the depth of the potential relationship.
Let’s start with the similarities because, well those are easy.
Dating Abroad: Similarities
Always Tell People Where You Are and Who You’re With
When I was living on my own in Detroit, I would meet people off of dating apps for drinks, coffee, or dinner. I would always tell a friend where I was going and the first name of the person I was meeting along with the person’s photo from the app.
The same thing goes for on the road. I would always tell a friend from home about it, but I would also tell a female hostel roomie that I was going out and that I expected to be back that night. Not that it is their job to worry about me, but it felt comforting knowing someone knew I should be back that night. I’d always joke and say if it goes well, maybe I’ll be back in the morning 🙂 Because I also don’t need anyone sounding the alarm too soon!
Carry Your Own Protection
No matter if you’re home or away, it’s smart to own your safe sex practices. Don’t leave it up to your partner to provide protection. Carry it yourself so you know you have what you need if you need it.
The one thing about foreign countries is you may not know where to find protection or it may not be readily available. So perhaps even before you leave home, grab a pack to keep with you, just in case.
Keep Your Belongings With You
Is it awkward as hell to say you’re going to the bathroom and then grab your entire wallet or purse to take with you? Maybe? But do it anyway.
Don’t leave any of your valuables out of your sight until you get to know this person.
A quick story about this. I’d met someone while on the Galapagos and we ended up spending two days together on Isabela Island. The first day we met, we went snorkeling and afterward were relaxing on the beach. I had my backpack with me which held my wallet, camera, passport, and other items. It came time to return my snorkel and the guy said he would wait on the beach for me.
I thought to myself, do I bring my backpack or leave it here with him?
I knew it would look awkward if I took it with me, but I did anyway because I had just met the guy and I didn’t yet have a good read on his intentions.
He could up and leave with all of my stuff or at the very least look through it.
When I returned he was in the same spot and actually made a comment about the fact that it was strange I took my backpack with me. I looked him straight in the eyes and said “I don’t know you”. He shrugged it off and agreed.
Meet in Public
Meeting in public is always a good dating practice, especially on first dates. It’s even better if you can be the one to recommend the location, although since you’re new in town you may not know the best spots so ask someone in the hostel to recommend a safe location with plenty of people and ambiance.
Find Common Ground
When you go on dates at home, you’re generally trying to find some sort of shared interest with your date. Perhaps you went to the same high school, maybe have a few mutual friends, and hopefully like similar music and movies.
While you’re trying to do the same thing when you’re dating on the road, it could prove a little bit more challenging. You didn’t grow up in the same country, you have no mutual friends, and what music do they even listen to?
But this is the fun part. You get to learn all about this person, who they are, what makes them tick and also gain insight into their culture. I’ve dated a few guys on the road and we always found something we shared in common, even if it was just being in that city for the very first time. Start there.
Dating Abroad: Differences
How We Meet People
Since I’ve been home from traveling, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to meet people as I’m back into the work routine and back on to apps. On the days that I’m not working, I am traveling, taking day trips, seeing friends, or working on the blog.
Even when I’m traveling these days, I’m using my short trips as a time of solitude and retreat, not necessarily to meet people. I tend to stay in Airbnbs or hotels instead of hostels for these short trips as a way to really escape.
This was so different when I was on the road long term, staying in hostels or couch surfing. Every single day I was meeting new people and joining them in various activities from hikes to drinks.
It was easy.
One person I dated I met while waiting for a ferry to Isabela Island in the Galapagos.
Another person I met at a nightclub in Quito.
Another was the chef at the hostel where I was staying.
And the last person was someone I met while spending a week teaching English in Prague.
I do, however, know many women who use the various apps while traveling and have lots of fun with it.
I’ve also heard of women meeting men from Instagram. And while I did have one or two try to meet up with me, that always kind of freaked me out so I didn’t.
Quick solo female travel safety tip: when you’re sharing your adventures abroad on social media, always delay it so someone can’t just pop up in the cafe while you’re having your matcha.
Lower Expectations = More Fun
Ok, I don’t know about you, but when I’m dating someone at home, I am honestly looking for someone who could be a potential long term partner. I’m evaluating their goals, their aspirations, and yes, their past. And I’m always so freaking nervous on first dates, trying to say the right thing to impress the other person.
The first time I went on a date on the road, I didn’t feel any of this.
I felt like 100% my sarcastic, honest, at times quiet, self. I realized that there I was putting absolutely no pressure on the outcome of the date. If there wasn’t a connection, so what, I could still share a meal with someone whom I have no romantic interest. If there was a connection, great, let’s roll with it and see where it goes.
I was simply enjoying getting to know another person and dating was actually fun.
I’m trying to bring this attitude to my dates at home… if I ever happen to have one!
Understanding Cultural Norms
While in a country like the United States there may be some cultural differences between dating someone from California and someone from Michigan, but generally this isn’t a major issue.
However, abroad, you are likely faced with a distinctly different culture that extends to the dating world. In some countries, crazy public displays of affection are the norm, tolerated or perhaps even expected. Whereas in other countries even hand-holding could be seen as a form of disrespect.
Do your homework. Ask your hostel staff about dating norms or ask in a Facebook group. Hell, even ask the person you’re dating!
And know what you’re comfortable with. If the country is OK with over the top PDA but you are not then let your date know that. On the flip side, you also might just have to deal with the fact that hand-holding isn’t allowed.
To Date Abroad, or Not to Date Abroad?
Dating as a solo traveler can be a ton of fun and an excellent way to get to know a different side of the country. Wandering the streets of Prague is always beautiful, but wandering them with the charming English guy you’re dating adds another layer to the experience.
Dating abroad also brings you closer to yourself. You’re less likely to put up with bullshit because you’re only around for a short time and want to ensure it’s a positive time. This may make you realize that maybe you put up with too much in previous relationships. Or you might realize the importance of releasing any expectations on the outcome of the date and just look at it for what it is: two people getting to know each other.
So go out and have fun dating abroad!