I Date Men I'll Never See Again When I Travel — And It's My Secret To A Great Trip

"Dating on holiday lacks the promise of longevity. Which raises the question — why do I do it?"
The author relaxes in Paris.
Photo Courtesy Of Jenn Melyan
The author relaxes in Paris.

You Have a New Match! an excited beige box shouts at me. I had clicked on my dating app accidentally the night before while trying to open another app that starts with the same letter. I slide my finger over my phone’s surface, intending to shut the notification off. Instead, I launch the app.

Instantly, a dark-haired Parisian wearing a slim-fitting black leather jacket smiles at me from his profile photo. I’m sitting on a wicker chair, in a tiny open-air café next to the Tuileries, sipping my espresso on a small, wobbly round table, having traveled by myself to Paris from the U.S., where I live.

What sense would it make to chat with this man? I wonder. Where would it go? Why would he click on my obviously American profile? Are Parisians interested in chubby, half-Asian women? I pick up my espresso and let the rich, velvety coffee aroma clear my thoughts down to the type of question that can either forge a new life path or land me as the main character on a true crime podcast: Why the hell not?

A deliberate swipe right and a few engaging text exchanges later, and Tea Boat* (how he taught me to pronounce his French name), age 32, single, Scorpio, blood type B, a transplant from the south of France, and I decide to drink coffee together in the 2nd arrondissement the following day.

I’d thought I was the only one who had discovered the pleasures of dating while traveling solo. Then I met Danika* (not her real name), a Russian traveler who enjoyed a three-day whirlwind romance while visiting Brooklyn this past December. She had opened Tinder looking for company after her friend contracted COVID. Then a former classmate of mine told me she also connected deeply with an app date while traveling through Europe over the summer and has been chatting with him long-distance ever since.

According to a 2018 survey conducted by Plenty of Fish, 49% of its users have gone on a date while on vacation, and another 46% at least open their dating apps to check out local singles while visiting another city. Apparently, swiping right on vacation is a waaaaaay more common practice than I realised.

So, how did my date with Tea Boat go? We sat, facing one another, crammed between other patrons in Café du Centre. He ordered a cafe au lait while I, hungry from my morning’s 20,000-step dash around Paris, requested a beef tartare. Tea Boat stared directly into my eyes and asked questions about my upbringing, dating history and romance philosophies. He referred to himself as “stereotypically French,” meaning that he’s a fantastic lover and horrendous boyfriend.

We both laughed, and after two hours, he reached his hand out and I took it, surprised at my impulsivity. We ambled through Paris with no destination in mind, and he dragged me across busy city streets while the light still shone red, insisting that true Parisians don’t wait for the signal to turn. “Please don’t be so American about crossing the street,” he teased.

We eventually found ourselves sitting on a concrete wall facing the river Seine, in a scene straight out of a romantic movie, shoulders touching, staring at the dark silhouette of the Eiffel Tower.

“Well,” I mutter. “I’ve really enjoyed meeting you.”

Moi aussi,” Tea Boat says as he turns to face me. I see him glance down at my lips, and the same thought that got me into this date comes roaring back into my head — why the hell not? I turn, and he caresses the nape of my neck, and our lips touch. They touch for quite a while.

As the sun dips below the horizon, the lights of Paris slowly flicker on, Tea Boat walks me to the metro station and we bid each other farewell. It is, quite simply, the best date I’ve been on in a long while.

The author on vacation.
Photo Courtesy Of Jenn Melyan
The author on vacation.

I haven’t spoken to Tea Boat since that afternoon. We didn’t exchange socials, although Facebook did suggest him to me as “someone you might know.” But I prefer to leave the memory of Tea Boat alone — just one unexpectedly romantic afternoon, strolling around Paris with a Frenchman I’d just met.

Since that first experience, I’ve enjoyed coffee dates with locals in London and Dublin, though none rivalled my date with Tea Boat. Aware that I’m alone in a foreign country, I always make sure someone knows where I am and meet my date in a well-lit public area.

Unlike dating at home in Los Angeles, dating on vacation lacks the promise of longevity. Which raises the question — why do I do it? Yes, it adds a certain flavour to my solo trips, and I get to meet the locals in a much more intimate way. But, beyond that, when I meet someone knowing our time together is limited, I am choosing to live in and enjoy the current moment.

On holiday, I don’t ask, Do we have a future? Will he text me? Do I call? Are we going on a second date? Is he “the one”? Our time together is brilliant and short, like a shooting star. And with all the traditional rules thrown out the window, I am able to focus on the most beautiful part of spending time with another human — the connection we form with one another.