The castle, the museum and the temple on day one. A walk around the picturesque streets on day two. A few outdoor activities on day three. Now you feel you’ve really “done” the city, right? Well, my dear fast-paced (and single) traveller, I have some news for you. Apps like Tinder, Grindr and Brenda can widely broaden your travel experience, as long as you are open and willing, of course.
Beware. These apps are not for the faint of heart. If you cry over imaginary kisses from an imaginary lover every time you look out on a magnificent landscape, desist. Neither are these apps for you if you secretly enjoy discovering a couple mid-fight lining up to the museum. But if you are an avid adventurer who enjoys rewarding encounters, you are open-hearted, and never expect too much… create your profile before you take off.
Break the ice
Breaking the ice and making travel companions is generally an easy task, especially if the hostel you are at is as cozy as the one I stayed at in Bangkok, where the only common area was the garden with a large table. A few days later, however, I settled in a boutique-style hostel in Cambodia. As I stepped into the massive lounge, I was surrounded by a disconcerting silence that only the sound of the turning fans disrupted. People only had eyes for their smart phones. Enter Tinder, a great way to meet more fun travellers in other hostels, or to break the ice with somebody near by.
“Hey! I see you 6 meters away… want to come over for a beer?”
An offer nobody can refuse. This is how I made great travel buddies to discover Christiania, Copenhagen with, to explore the night markets with in Chiang Mai and to visit temples in Angkor.
Meet the locals
While apps are great for meeting other travellers, they are just as great for meeting locals you would’ve never met otherwise. And you know what they say about best way to learn a new language, right? Well, the same applies to new destinations. There’s no better way to learn about a place than having drinks while chatting with people who live there and are as curious as you.
I owe Tinder an exclusive guided tour of downtown Copenhague and learning about how a country as tiny as Iceland can survive with such a small population (the WOW air flight attendants, for instance, are all doctors, police officers, lawyers, etc). I owe Tinder the chance to discuss multiculturalism in Singapore, and to learn about the difficulties of selling toys in Switzerland, where the concept of gender is disappearing. I owe Tinder the opportunity to learn about life in Poland during the USSR or debate (once more) the possibility of Trump being elected as the next president of the United States last fall.
All these encounters were unique, honest, profound, passionate, rewarding and allowed me to really ‘live’ the country I was visiting. In fact, these are the most memorable parts of my trips.
The big misconception you should drop
You might be convinced that anyone who is on these apps only thinks about skipping dinner. I can assure you, there are a lot of people on earth that are genuinely just curious to meet others. And if after the castle, the temples and the museum you are still hanging out, that’s the best part. Whether it’s for a single night or a few days, you get a chance to visit all kinds of apartments (because of course, certain activities are not for dorm rooms, right?). It gives you the opportunity to ‘live’ a neighbourhood from the inside and see how locals go about their day-to-day. After all, that’s what travelling is about – new experiences! No need to go into details of the homes I’ve been in, but all I can say is that most Danish seem to have a natural talent for design.
I’ve come to realise that while travelling I was a lot less selective than at home, where swiping left has become a natural instinct. An informal survey amongst a few friends has confirmed that I am not the only one who acts this way. Is it because time is more of a luxury at home? Is it because of the ephemeral nature of travel? Truth is, no matter when or where, these apps can lead to unforgettable stories and we would all benefit from packing an open mind for every trip.