In the next few weeks and months I’m going to post a series of articles about my experience with relationships while abroad as well as some little nuggets of wisdom that I’ve picked up along the way. It’s by no means a comprehensive guide, but I think you might find it an entertaining read all the same.
I’m not a Casanova or a Don Juan. I’m not fending girls off with a stick, nor do I claim to. I’m just a guy who has had some luck meeting fantastic people on the road, and I thought I’d share a bit of the ‘how’ in that equation.
Over the course of my time traveling I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of dating some wonderful girls. I’ve kissed pretty girls in picturesque places, gone on first dates in smoky hookah bars, and dealt with breakups in a tight knit foreigner community where you can’t just hide from the fallout.
During that time I’ve learned a thing or two, and I’ve had a few friends ask me to share what I’d learned along the way.
I’d like to just preface all that follows by making three things very clear:
1). I am not an expert on dating or on relationships. In fact, of the four longer term relationships I’ve been in while traveling, only one of them has lasted beyond the first few months and of the three that didn’t – I was the dumped rather than the dumpee. But I’ve been lucky enough to never have had trouble meeting girls or getting a date, so take that for what it is.
The advice I give below is not to be taken as gospel. These are just observations based on my experience with dating and relationships on the road.
2). I’m not here to offer pick-up advice. I don’t go out with the intention of ‘nailing a hottie’, and I really don’t endorse other guys doing it. That just makes it harder for the nice guys to meet nice girls.
3). The tips below are what work for me. You might be a good looking son of a gun who can get by by following the ‘treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen’ adage. I am not. But I am confident that other shyer, quieter, or just nicer guys will be able to take a little something from my assembled knowledge.
This series is about relationships on the road. Meeting girls, going on dates, and the realities of the romantic world when you’re in a supercharged travel environment. If you want pick-up advice, look elsewhere.
Striking up a Conversation
If there is one thing I feel that I excel at, it’s the meeting of girls. Well, meeting anybody really. I’ve never had trouble striking up a conversation with a group of strangers whether it’s been in a dingy Korean soju bar or on the beaches in Fiji. The principles of meeting new people and meeting a new girl are pretty much the same.
- Don’t be scared to approach a girl. If you’re both travelers in a strange place, she’ll probably welcome a friendly face and a familiar accent. But don’t be put off if she rebuffs your advances. She might have had a bad day, she might be waiting for somebody, or (sadly) she just might not be interested in talking to you.
It’s frustrating but stop and think honestly – have you never brushed somebody off when they tried to start a conversation with you?
- Be yourself: Nothing puts people off as much as somebody playing the part of someone they’re not. And even if you do manage to convince them that you’re this other person – do you really want to maintain that ruse? What if that girl you’re hitting on ends up being that girl you’re leaving the country with?
- Her eyes are up here. Don’t ogle her.
- Don’t invade her personal space. If she’s interested in you, you’ll be able to tell. She’ll touch your arm when she laughs at a joke you tell or she’ll ask you to dance. That doesn’t mean she wants to have your babies, but it’s better than crossed arms.
- Listen! You might think that you’re the most fascinating person in the world, but that pretty Norwegian girl sitting across from you will never find out if you bore her to death with your life story before you’ve even had a drink together. Women respond to a guy who listens to what they have to say. Let her do the talking.
- You have something in common. Seriously. “You like travel? I like travel too!” It’s that easy. You’re both traveling. Talk about your travels. It’s not rocket science.
- Questions to ask a fellow traveler: Simple! What did you do back home? Did you study? What brought you out here? What has been your favorite place so far?
- Questions to ask a local: If the girl you’re talking to is a local, you’ve got a thousand possible things to talk about. Maybe she knows a good local restaurant she can show you. A good hike. A great little place to grab coffee. It’s an insta-date!
- Questions not to ask: What religion are you? Right wing or left wing? Threesome?
- In the words of Barney Stinson: “They all drink vodka cranberry”.*
Seriously, I’m not here to give you expert advice. I’m not an expert by any stretch. But the above are a few things that I’ve noticed work when talking to a new person. I’m not saying it will get you laid or even get you a phone number (it didn’t always happen for me) – but at the very least, it’ll get you a conversation.
* = May not actually be true.
Don’t Be Afraid to Dance
Most girls respond well to a guy who can dance. If you’re not a confident dancer, don’t try and impress her with your fully sick pop and lock. Will Smith said it best in Hitch: Keep it simple stupid.
Me? About half of the girls I’ve ever dated or made out (and yes, I feel like a teenage girl typing that phrase) with have been subjected to my limited array of swing dance maneuvers. I kid you not. A bit of spinning and a dip at the end does wonders. Dancing shows you know how to move, it shows confidence, and if you’re doing the old fashioned kind – it makes a girl feel more special than if you’re standing behind her mock slapping her ass.
The Dangers of Dutch Courage
If you’re anything like me, you need a little bit of liquid courage to approach a pretty girl. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s a fine line between confidence, arrogance, and utter sleaze. You’re not doing yourself any favors if you’re struggling to stand up, slurring your speech, and eye-f**king the poor girl.
A good rule of thumb: If you’ve gotten to the stage where you’re really good at pool – it’s time to drink some water. It’s all downhill from there.
Too much booze also has another potentially dangerous side effect and I think you all know what I’m talking about: beer goggles.
Save yourself the awkwardness of finding out via Facebook about your previous night’s tryst.
Getting a Number
There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. Unless the chemistry is crazy good, there’ll come a time in the evening when it’s time to end the conversation. If you’re lucky enough to have a mobile phone – long term ESL teachers will appreciate this – it’s as simple as asking if you can grab their number or add them on Facebook.
If you don’t have a phone, and most times while you’re backpacking you probably won’t, it might be easier to just organize to do something together. Don’t make it a date. If they’ve mentioned a hike they plan to go on, ask if you can tag along. If they’ve expressed interest in that tour you’re doing – ask them! Maybe they know a good coffee shop that you can try with them.
At the end of the day, you’re not traveling to meet a girl and settle down. You’re out traveling to experience the world, but it doesn’t hurt to have some company while you do that.
My most important piece of advice, and the one I struggle most to follow, is to just play it by ear. You might meet the love of your life on the road, but you’ll probably meet a lot of other people first. Don’t take life (or yourself) too seriously, enjoy the thrill of a romance that can’t last beyond your current stay in the town, and most importantly – leave that person’s life having made a positive impression. Don’t be that guy who leaves a string of broken hearted and disgruntled girls in his wake. After all, you wouldn’t want to be the poor sucker who breezes into a town full of girls who hate Australian guys.
Share your Thoughts Ladies!
I would love to get a female perspective on this. Obviously I can’t offer advice for a girl looking to meet a guy beyond ‘Look pretty and talk about sports’. Females of the travel blogosphere, please share your wisdom!
There’ll be a few more parts in this particular series. I’ll write a piece about dating on a budget and in a strange new land; one about the realities of a blossoming romance while abroad; and a last on dealing with the break-up away from your support network should it happen.
If you’d like to contribute something to the series, please let me know. I’m always interested in new content.
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