Tinder: More Useful to Travelers than Couchsurfing or Google Maps?

Tipsy Pilgrim on using Tinder for travel
Tipsy Pilgrim on using Tinder for travel
TP logo by Johanna Thomé de Souza

Road-Tindering gets you into the coffee shops, pants, and hearts of the locals, sure. But the app can also lead you to truly weird adventures in lovely spots that you’d never have found in hours of searches through forums and travel sites.

So it is that this rogue nomad has signed up on Tinder — you know, for research purposes, and not due to the lonely, silly state of my love life.

It can be a challenge when you’re visiting a new place to find “your tribe” and “your places”. In my case, this means Brazilian and other dancing, sunny spaces with wifi in which to work, fine espresso, colorful markets with locally grown produce, and small bars at night with amusing live music.

Google will yield some of these things, if I’m lucky, and with a bit of work. Also useful are local news sources with events listings (I read them with Google Translate if necessary) and the BeWelcome (or the very evil but still useful Couchsurfing) members and forums (I search for people who share my interests). TripAdvisor typically just leads to cliché spots overrun by Americans.

But, by putting a photo of myself dancing as my first image, as well as an accurate description of what I like to do (and by honestly pointing out that I’m just traveling through), I’ve been led into the following adventures in my past few weeks on the road. I would probably not have discovered these experiences at all on my own in the short time I was in each city.

  • Impromptu open-air dance events, hidden dance events, and dance partners to take me there
  • A rooftop co-working place and café with a great view in a nondescript building just blocks from the Airbnb place I was renting
  • A similarly hidden rooftop cocktail bar
  • An invitation to tour and a place to stay in the center of a very cool town I had otherwise been planning to skip
  • Banging, kissing, and pointless romance
  • A sunset in a park overlooking an old city
  • And of course, also, your more pedestrian cafés and strolls around city centers

I was dating only women, but I get the feeling that those who date men will probably have even more cool invitations to chose from (and, sure, a lot of bad ones, and a few safety issues to consider about when/where to meet…).

It’s worth noting that in a couple of cases women just volunteered (excellent, tailored, unsolicited) recommendations for things that they thought I might like, even though they were not even free (or perhaps interested) in meeting up while I was in their towns.

I’ve since deleted Tinder from my phone, because I’m now traveling in Russia, and while, yes, Russian women just adore foreigners, the dates have been less fun. But I would certainly consider trying it again when I’m on the road in other places.

For those of you who try vagabond Tindering, an obvious ethical caveat is that you must be clear in both your profile and messages about what you’re really up to. Just looking for a guide and a chat? Just dancing? Just drinks? Just sex? Those are all fine, but say so up front and you’ll save everyone involved some grief. You should of course also make it clear that you’re just passing through, so that you only get swept right by (and into the lives of) those looking for a brief adventure with a wanderer.

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