When Online Dating and Travel Collide
OKCupid, Tinder, Badoo, and private social networks are just a few ways I have met some interesting characters over the year and continents. While friends back home are full of online horror stories about these apps, my overall overseas experience has been pretty good, I’d give it an 85%. An app’s popularity depends greatly on the region and the year.
While living in Southeastern Africa, I was told by a male Irish friend that he loved Badoo. It was his “favorite piece of travel tech.” His job took him across the continent and the app facilitated his access to young attractive African women—that was in 2014. When I mentioned the app to a black American male friend in Kenya, in 2017, he told me it was a scary scary place and he didn’t want to return. Now, this could have to do with their taste profiles but I have to second the American’s view. When I tried the app on a small African island I was terrified by the results. There was no shortage of men, but they were so unattractive, my friend with whom I would share screen captures called them appetite suppressants. Although I am currently dating someone, I logged on in Nairobi just to see if I could screen capture anything entertaining. My friend was right, it was a scary scary place.
Back to the island for a moment, while 95% of the people who would come up in my feed would make me cringe, I did wind up meeting a man from the Canary Islands. He, in turn, introduced me to a host of Colombian, Dominican, Portuguese, and Spanish men who were also on assignment in what one man called fealandia (land of ugly people). These guys became my primary source of entertainment over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. I even dated one of them for several months. When his contract was up we broke up. Then, when he saw I was visiting the States he sent me a ticket to come join him in the Caribbean for a few beach days.
He said Badoo was a scary scary place and he didn’t want to return.
Then, of course, there is one of my girlfriends, let’s call her Catfish Susie since she seems capable of meeting every shady guy around. From Badoo, she met Mark. At the time she was living in Saudi so virtual male attention is about all she could get on the daily. After weeks of talking with him, she started to think something was fishy. Sure enough Catholic Mark was calling a priest a reverend and couldn’t seem to pinpoint exactly where in Europe he hailed….
I was late to the party on this one. On one of my last nights in America, some Kiwi friends were in town, we were out at a bar. I noticed the guy we were chatting with was swiping on photos. One of the Kiwi boys said, “Gimme that. That’s not how you Tinder. This is how you Tinder.” He started quickly swiping left, left, left, left with the occasional right. A few days later when I was back at home in South Africa, I tried it. I was quickly hooked. With the amount of traveling I did for work it was perfect. Yes, like most women I got the occasional lewd message or the eponymous dick pic if I shared my WhatsApp with the wrong person. However, overall I met some amazing people. With that said, there were definitely some profile pictures that made me giggle and others that gave me the willies.
Tinder became a more effective networking tool than asmallworld or Internations. In Uganda, I met a pro-boxer who trained me every day after work. In Kenya, I met a tall man who just wanted to organize my life and make my entry into the country as smooth as possible. He referred me to three clients. In Qatar, I met a Frenchman who took me on an amazing diving vacation to Zanzibar. In Egypt, I met a Spaniard working directly in my field. We went for dinner with my local counterpart, then, a cruise up the Nile on a felucca. On another pass through Cairo, I met a Brit who was struggling with life on the road—he was living between the UK, US, and Dubai. He and I had a 72-hour honeymoon which included seeing the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid. Then when I was about to face empty seats at the event I was supervising he filled it with industry appropriate people. In Bahrain, I met an amazing pilot who while totally misbehaving on Tinder became my brother from another mother. He then added me the friends and family plan with the local carrier allowing me to enjoy business class again. I could go on but you get the point. To this day, I am LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram friends with these men.
Tinder became a more effective networking tool than asmallworld or Internations.
Then came the crazy story and like many of my crazy stories, it involves a Nigerian giving his people a stereotypically bad name. I was in Doha for a few days. Out of habit, I opened Tinder and there was this beautiful man. I mean he was model gorgeous. As a woman who always had gay friends, my gaydar was beeping loudly but I mean he was that fine. I messaged him and we began to chat. There were no other red flags so I gave him my Viber number. After a few more photo exchanges, I asked him for a picture of his hand. It was a thing I used to do to see if the person was using a fake photo. I just knew he was going to demur. But he didn’t, about twenty minutes later a hand photo arrived. He then, unsolicited sent me the strangest thing, it was what looked like a contract cover page created by a 10-year-old in MSWord. It said that he was contracted by the Qatar Petroleum Company for $3.6million to inspect oil rigs or something. Knowing I had him, I pretended to be impressed and asked him to meet. He said he was headed to the airport. I decided to bring in my brother from another mother on it and made him think I lived in a penthouse apartment in West Bay. His greed was starting to get the best of him and he began using distinctly Nigerian phrasing including a lot of Jesus references and marriage proposals. This all took place over about a 3-hour period, I was getting bored so I asked him flat-out why he, clearly a Nigerian man who was not in Doha was using the photo of a gay Swedish man? He gave me a long sob story about he was an international businessman but nobody wants an African. This made me more upset than the lying and after going on a long audio message rant, I blocked him.
I have no personal overseas experience with this app but I will revert to Catfish Susie for a quick tale. It was summer time and Susie was looking forward to a jaunt across Europe, a welcome break from the stress of teaching in Saudi. She had tried to sell us all on the virtues of virtual romance. I wasn’t feeling it. Anyway, she had been carrying on a cyber relationship with a man for several months. He originally told her he was German but then when they went to Skype he said he was actually half-German half-Turkish. She was willing to let that one slide. Together, they made real world plans to visit Cyprus and Romania. I told her this didn’t sound like a good idea but yalla whatever. As the date crept closer so did his excuses. He couldn’t talk because he needed to go care for his ailing mother. Then it was a work crisis. I suggested she check out Naples instead and stay far away from the shady man’s sphere of influence. She still wanted to know what was going on so she enlisted the help of a friend who traced the IP address on the emails and did a geo-location on the phone he was using to send text messages. Do I need to continue…
It is worth noting that OKCupid may be on the decline in America, however, there are still users overseas and with the ability to teleport yourself to a different place you may enjoy chatting with some expats or locals.
I am a member of asmallworld and Internations. A friend in Italy sent me an invite to Internations when it began, but I was never very keen on going to the events. I went to a handful in South America, Africa, the States, and the Gulf. A few years ago they introduced a new twinkle feature. It is frankly quite weird. Every time I log in there are new twinkles from a host of Indian and Pakistani men living in the Gulf. There does not seem to be a way to turn off this feature so I just reduced the amount of public information on my profile. One of my friends who I met in Mozambique loves the site. She, a Jewish New Yorker, enjoys mingling with the city’s expat population on the platform and in the various meetups. Unlike me, she pays for her membership and can email anyone on the site. In the decade or so that I have been a member, I have been asked out several times. The answer is always no.
The ASW geolocator generated the most interesting experiences by far.
Asmallworld used to be a different site, a chic-chic Facebook—but now it is a travel membership site with perks and a global community capped at 250,000. Before it changed over and to a lesser extent today, one would post their upcoming trips in the geolocator app on the site. Shortly thereafter, you would begin to receive invitations from men and women to events or offers to grab drinks in the various cities you would be visiting. It was great. From Johannesburg to Hong Kong, I met and dated intriguing men. I went to a high-end spa in Thailand, was given a whirlwind tour of Hong Kong’s hottest lounges, attend a fashion show in South Africa, a film festival in Switzerland, a private concert at the Brazilian embassy in Rome and a host of other unique dates. Owing to the closed network, you could always trace the person back to common connection. I have to say, by far the ASW geolocator generated the most interesting experiences of all the apps combined.