I found myself at something of a loose end in Verona recently. I was there alone on a short winter break, and after a lovely day spent wandering around the Arena, eating pastry and rubbing Juliet’s boob, I ended up in the middle of the Piazza Del Erbe feeling somewhat lost. The bars were all packed, terraces full to the point that people were spilling out onto the square in groups, laughing and drinking their spritz and eating their nibbles and enjoying aperitivo with their mates. I stood a little bit apart, like a hungry street urchin staring through a restaurant window. Aperitivo is just one of those things that’s best experienced with other people.
Now, I love to travel alone. Not just the ‘three months in India to find yourself’ solo travel, but short city breaks too. Solo travel forces you out of your comfort zone. It gives you the freedom to see, do and go exactly where you want, when you want. Best of all, it encourages you to talk to new people who you might otherwise not meet when you’re happy in your own group of friends. The thing is, it’s easy to meet other people in beachfront bars in South East Asia. Meeting people in a city, when you only have a few days? Not quite the same.
I needed a plan, and the plan was Tinder. And it worked. I matched with and talked to some really cool people, got suggestions for lovely sights, bars, bakeries, shops and restaurants, and best of all I even met someone very cool who brought me to some places I never would have discovered alone, but that I would definitely go back to. Awesome aperitivo in Archivio (just off Piazza Erbe), some of the best seafood and sushi I’ve eaten in ConFusion, and glorious, glorious Gin & Tonics in Frizzante Labs.
I experienced Verona in a way I never would have had I not swiped right. I made a friend, I had a brilliant time… I had aperitivo. And I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s how to make Tinder travel work for you…
If you’re only in town for a few days, and your Tinder goals are not of the romantic variety, be honest about it. Write it in your profile. It’s still a dating app, and you will be matching with people who are there for dating. If that’s not what you’re looking for, just tell them. There are a lot of very cool people out there who just like to meet other people, and it’s better to spend a little longer finding one of them than to deal with someone who’s expecting something… else… from an encounter. Please note: If your Tinder goals ARE of the ‘romantic’ variety, disregard this and have fun.
Ok, obviously you’re always going to be more inclined to swipe right on the beautiful people. You’re only human – but if you’re one of those people who will veto a person because they are two inches too short or three inches too wide, then get over yourself and be less picky. You’re not looking to get married here (which I assume is the reason most people use tinder in their home cities, right – to find a spouse?). You’re looking to have a better trip, discover new places, maybe make a friend or two. Give yourself a chance to do those things, so cast your net wide and swipe right on people who look like they’d be good to have a pint with.
If you’re in a city and you don’t have a car or know the transport system particularly well, do yourself a favour and set your distance limit to just a few kilometres away. You’re in a brand new beautiful place, you don’t want to spend your time travelling to, or waiting for, someone you don’t even know. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Meeting people can be scary. Especially if, like me, you’re so averse to awkward conversations that the mere thought of a bad date makes you clench up and dry-heave a little. I was also very reluctant to get stuck with someone I didn’t like for my final day in this beautiful city. Remember what I said about being averse to awkward conversations? Well, there is no more awkward a conversation than the one where you say “I don’t want to be around you, please go away” to someone. But you don’t necessarily have to meet anyone – if the idea of meeting someone really doesn’t appeal to you, you can just use the app’s chat to get tips for lunch, or interesting stuff to do.
As much as people can recommend attractions, bars and restaurants to you (and that’s great), you’re still on your own – and these places are more fun when you’re enjoying them with someone else. For the sake of adventure, if you can, bite the bullet and actually meet someone. Yes, you’re taking a chance that it could be awkward and you might not hit it off with the person – but you’re also opening yourself up to meeting someone new, having a great time, and making a friend.
They’re people, not a tourist information office. Don’t bombard them with questions about where to go and what to do without so much as asking how they are. That’s rude. Besides, what if you realise that they’re really, really dull when you talk to them? Do you want to take travel advice from a really dull person?
I chatted with a few guys before actually deciding to meet anyone. I even made plans to meet one, but something told me he was just a touch too keen, like he hadn’t quite absorbed the ‘I’m not here for romance’ message. I cancelled, and the onslaught of messages I got afterwards was evidence that I made the right decision. If you feel a bit unsure, it’s probably for a good reason. Listen to the little niggling voice, and only meet people who you feel comfortable about meeting.
Tinder is a powerful tool, but with great power comes great responsibility. Most people are perfectly fine – normal, decent people – and the biggest thing you have to be afraid of when meeting people on Tinder is how you’re going to phrase the ‘no thanks, bye’ message as soon as you’ve ended a terrible date. But still. Be safe. Meet in a public place, somewhere central that you are familiar with, and ideally during the day. Tell someone what you’re doing, and don’t give the person you’re meeting too much information about yourself (where you’re staying etc.). Do all the common sense things that you would do anywhere else.
Personally I didn’t do this – my swiping was more of a spur of the moment thing – but if you’re happy to pay the small fee of around €7 a month, you can start searching for matches in your destination before you even get there. This is one for the seriously organised solo traveller – it gives you the chance to gather lots of information before you go, throw a little itinerary together, and spend a little longer chatting to people to decide whether or not you want to meet them in person. If you’re a fan of a plan, this might work well for you.
No, not that kind of group stuff – get your mind out of the gutter. But if you mention that you’d be happy to join a group of friends for a drink, and if your match is happy for you to join, it can take the whole “THIS IS A DATE!!!” pressure out of the situation. That’s what made me take the plunge, actually – being asked to join him and his friends for aperitivo, rather than have that one-on-one awkwardness. It immediately feels a bit more relaxed, you might make a few new friends, and that whole scenario where you both sip your drinks silently, staring into the middle distance, is far less likely to be an issue.
And one final thing….
I don’t think I need to explain this one any further.