I’m not a huge advocate for using dating apps as your main social tool when abroad, but I do recommend that solo travellers should try going on at least one date when visiting somewhere temporarily.
There’s something oddly beautiful about going on a date with someone and knowing you will probably never see them again. Conversation flows a lot easier because the pressure to impress them isn’t as big, you get some wonderful insights into local life and the best places to visit, and everyone knows where they stand in the whole scenario. I won’t say that dating in this manner is better than dating at home, but I’m a man who appreciates honesty and being upfront and it certainly happens a lot more often when the person involved isn’t having an existential crisis over what they actually want from the date. Try it at least once, but do take some extra precautions.
Of course, life throws curve balls at you and whilst you can both go into the date with clear intentions, there is room for it to grow into something more. This has almost happened to me a few times, and once even turned into a relationship – albeit one that has now sadly ended. I’m not here to talk about that though. Today I want to tell you about one of the worst experiences. As I tell you this story, I think it’s important for you to remember the reasons I enjoy going on dates whilst abroad.
After I got my first pay from my new job in April 2017, I went a bit mad on flight sales – one of which was a trip to Basel in Switzerland. I do not want to be mean to Basel, because different strokes for different folks and all that, but from my perspective it was incredibly dull. Everyone works their 9-5 in a large pharmaceuticals company, enjoys their tax breaks, and lives in a perfectly planned street with architecture from some era gone by. It’s nice. It’s quaint. If you aren’t already familiar with Europe you will probably enjoy it. But it’s also expensive, and all of that extra cost will yield little value at the end of your trip. France and Germany are just across the river and much more friendly to your wallet.
On my final day I did what far too many queer guys with too much time and a large sense of boredom do – I took to Grindr. I’m not going to talk extensively on the kind of offerings you get from Grindr because honestly it’s a topic that has been overdone by now, but you probably get it. Anyway, I eventually get a message from a guy who lived in the German segment of the city. His bio seemed interesting and his photo a little bit unclear – but I really just wanted something to do and he promised to take me to a communist bar, which is right up my street.
We met on the main bridge across the river (the perfect setting for a murder) and he took me to the bar. Admittedly, it was a cool bar. There were propaganda posters everywhere, soviet kitsch adorning the tables and a surprising fusion of Russian and LGBTQ+ iconography because there’s nothing a post-modern queer leftist like myself enjoys more than ignoring the fact they would have been sent to a gulag in the USSR. It’s fine. That wasn’t real communism anyway.
We discuss our lives, have a mild disagreement over how acceptable it is for a communist bar to be charging €9 for a small beer (it isn’t acceptable at all) and then we get onto the conspiracy theories. I love a good conspiracy theory, but even I have my line. The guy had clearly spent time over-thinking every single aspect of modern human life and though I do not want to say he is wrong, he did need to calm down a bit. Also, how dare you sit here in this socialist speakeasy and bad-mouth universal health care to me, a Scotsman who has never had to pay for a single course of treatment in his life. I’m also up on my vaccines and feeling great, so you can keep that to yourself too.
Eventually we leave the bar. It’s raining and he suggests we stay but part of me hoped he’d let me free into the world to dance in the rain and stay in the bar himself like the sensible adult he wanted to be. That never happened though. We walk along the riverside (another great setting for a murder) and then it happens. You know – the awkward pause. He is standing there, staring into my eyes, I try to look around for a new conversation topic. He tries to take my hand and leans forward slightly. Oh no. Oh fuck…no. I try to think of something to talk about before he does it.
“So, what do you think caused Brexit?”
That’s right, elegant readers, I brought up that topic. I encouraged more conspiracy theories. I just needed to change the mood, y’know? And sometimes things get desperate. I can’t remember his theory exactly, but he was very pro-Brexit. It makes sense – he spends most of his time in Switzerland and doesn’t believe in listening to experts.
Time passes, we cross over the bridge to the central part of the city and I make an excuse about needing to go to McDonald’s to charge my phone. You would think this would be a natural end point to proceedings, since he knew fine well I planned on staying in the airport that evening and that my bus would be leaving in just a few hours. Alas, no, we continue to pretend it’s an interesting conversation whilst in McDonald’s – and my phone is charging in one of those machines so I can’t even distract myself. Using a phone on a date is a faux pas – not understanding why someone keeps using their phone instead of paying attention to you is ignorance. I do value honesty and being upfront, so I will admit that some of this is on me.
I go to my bus to the airport. This is it – the time where we part. He turns to walk away when suddenly…he turns back around. “I’ll come with you to the airport.” “Oh no, that’s really not necessary.” “I have nothing else to do anyway, it’s fine.” “You should get some rest, aren’t you working tomorrow?” “I’ll be fine – I’ll come with you to the airport!”
At the airport we wander around for a bit – by this point there is little conversation left in either of us – and I use the massage chair so at least my back feels comfortable. The time for the last bus back into the city comes and he…he doesn’t get on it. He decided at this point he wanted to stay at the airport with me all night. I try to be a calm person, but this was a major test.
For the first time in my life, I actually fall asleep in the airport. I found my own little sofa and slept. I maintain that I was just so bored, so annoyed and so tired of this person that it forced me to sleep. I wake up a few hours before my flight to a WhatsApp Message. It’s from this guy who has been following me around for what must have been over 12 hours by this point. I look up, he’s still on the sofa across from me. Why did he send a message? What horrors await me?
“Would you like to go to the mens bathroom and kiss, maybe a little bit more? ;)”
No, sir, I would not. I understand that when people are madly attracted to each other and have little chance to actually follow through on this, they can get creative – but neither of us were giving off “madly attracted” vibes and airport toilets really aren’t my scene. I went for a cigarette, and pondered just not returning, but I’m an idiot that didn’t want to just leave him there waiting forever.
I return to the sofa area and tell him that I’m not interested and need to go through security. “But your flight is still three hours away.” “Look, I’m really sorry to be a dick about things, but learn to take a hint.” As we walk towards the security area he starts talking again about how universal health care is a tool for mind control. “Shut up, do some research, and go get some sleep. I’m away through this security point, which you cannot pass, because there are men with guns.” “OK. Message me when you are home safe.”
Never trust a man that insists on you messaging them as soon as you get home. It’s a nice thing to say when parting, but if he texts you hours later asking why you didn’t message him to let him know you’re safe it probably means he has control issues. Take liberty in telling him that of course you are safe, because you are away from him. Or don’t. We’ve already established I’m a bit of a dick with an aversion to subtlety, so my advice is useless.
It would be easy for me to end this story with the suggestion that you should really be more bold and upfront if you do decide to meet someone whilst you are on holiday, but I also know that for some people this can potentially put them in danger. I guess the only lesson of utmost importance here is to always make sure initial meetings are in very public places – even murder bridges have plenty of foot traffic. At least then it is easier to be assertive. Being nice is far too overrated in these situations – sometimes, you just need to be blunt.
Did you enjoy this? If so, I have a really fun story about the time I was told I smelled like baby milk. Comment with your weird dating stalker stories below, and share. I’m getting better at the calls to action, eh? I’ve been doing some reading. You know where you can also do some reading? Any of the other posts on this site.