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Please don’t tell me you don’t use Tinder when traveling abroad solo

Note: Some names mentioned in this article were changed to respect their privacy.

I recently finished a quick random trip in Cambodia to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Like any millennial traveler, the first thing Melissa (not her real name) did when we arrived the luxurious Shinta Mani Resort in Siem Reap was ask for the wifi password.

She lives in Dubai and the last time I saw her was in Brasil in 2014. I literally wanted to talk and catch up but she was up to something on her mobile phone.

What are you doing? Talk to me!

Give me a sec. Just checking some stuff.

I grabbed her phone because I didn’t believe she was just “checking some stuff.” There she sat, doing the mandatory swiping left and right — a feature that Tinder is uniquely known for and has made a lot of travelers hooked.

I haven’t used Tinder in a while so I joined her parade, downloaded the app and started swiping. The two of us sat across each other in silence, bowed down our phones and did the left and right movement with our fingers.

The next thing I knew, we’re having drinks at Charlie’s, a local pub in Siem Reap. And we had company. Exhibit A is a Peruvian guy called Juan Carlos (that’s his real name) whom we met in our first night in Siem Reap.

It was the first time that I met someone from Peru who is traveling and I am totally raved about it. Not all Peruvians travel halfway across the world and Juan Carlos was definitely a surprise for me.

Exhibit B was one of the results of swiping right. A very intelligent, young and decent boy from New Zealand called Cooper.

Not his real name, obviously. He was traveling for business — Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh and Siem Reap were the highlights.

As random and funny Juan Carlos is, with his very thick Peruvian English accent, he asked: 

“How did you guys know each other?” I think by sitting down with us, he was expecting that Cooper was someone I met while traveling.

“Tinder.” I said.

Juan Carlos and Cooper looked at each other and the golden days of awkward flashed before their eyes.

They both had this evil awkward grin thinking, “is she really saying this with confidence? Upfront much?” They were not comfortable at all.

Why is it so hard to accept that Tinder is a part of growing up? I mean, come, on we all do/did it at one point. It’s a trend that has helped in the evolution of millennial travel.

“We are all adults here and I think that this shouldn’t be weird or awkward. I am weird. Do you like weird?”

They all laughed. Conversations filled the room while the 4 of us chugged the popular 50 cent Angkor beers in Siem Reap.

After a few drinks at Charlie’s, things got weirder when we moved to Angkor What???, a popular club where backpackers go to dance and party.

Just in time, Exhibit C, a German lad who we can call Niklas was right there, waiting with a friend. He was wearing the thing he described to me when we agreed to meet that night: green shorts and tank top as he said it.

Okay, wait a second. I know you might be thinking how many exhibits did I had that night. The thing is, Tinder for me is not a dating app but a way to easily meet people and hang out.

We’ll get into the details of that when I discuss my way of using Tinder later on. And you understood it right — I gathered every match I did in one party because I just want to hang out.

I am not looking for a one night stand or a loneliness remedy. We have different ways in using Tinder and

I think that most travelers who are honest that they use the app have their own ways, too. It depends on your intention and mine is purely platonic.

We danced as a big fcking awkward group (I wasn’t awkward tho), had some more drinks and by midnight, Cooper called it a night.

I don’t know if he knew that Niklas was also from Tinder or maybe he just wanted to head home to prepare for a series of Angkor Wat tours the following day.

Whatever it is, I didn’t want to ask nor figure out. Traveling also taught me that you will never be on the same wavelength with people all the time (even if they are your close friends).

I learned how to respect people when they want to call it a night. Again, we are all adults — if you want to stay, stay. If you want to leave, leave. It’s not like this friendship is over once one of us decides to call it a night.

Melissa, Juan Carlos and I were left there with Niklas, Niklas’ friend and Niklas’ friends’ friend. Dancing, looking at each other, smiling, doing crazy moves, whatever. Niklas approached me and started a conversation:

“Are you looking for a relationship?” he asked.

“No. What made you say that?” I responded.

“Why are you on Tinder?”

Goodness gracious! Is this how every millennial traveler look at using Tinder? A hook up app? A booty call tool? I think this is the reason why your friend who use Tinder is not open and honest about it.

He/she doesn’t want to receive that look you give when you are totally judging someone. It’s mainly an app for fun, for meeting people — at least that’s how it is for me. 

Between you and I, I will tell you the secret on why I use Tinder: Marketing. On my Tinder profile, the only thing I write is my blog and at the same time, it’s syndicated with my Instagram acct.

I’ve seen the results — people really click links because they are eager to know something about me. Most of them ended not swiping right because they forgot.

They mainly connected to me via the blog. There was one Tinder meet up I went to in Medellin, Colombia and I ended up teaching him how to start a blog! If you’re one of those who have marketing minds, you will understand.

A Mexican blogger friend of mine did a good explanation on how he uses Tinder to meet localsIf you want relationships, Tinder is not the answer.

Go out there and participate in the world. You will see the results of being romantically involved with people (live) instead of using an app that evidently reveals the pretentious side of a person.

However, there is no denying it. I have friends who had success stories in finding intimate relationships on Tinder. But up until this day, they are still not admitting to their family and friends how they met their partners.

And that sucks because these are very decent millennials who I personally know. I understand why your parents won’t get this kind of thing though.

In most conservative cultures (like mine), Tinder is not something you talk about on the dinner table but in the VVDH (Velarmino-van der Heijde) House Rules Book, it is acceptable because we prefer honesty over judgment.

Whether you want to use Tinder to meet locals or hook up on a lonely night in a full moon festival in Koh Phangan, I am saying this with all honesty: I am not judging you.

If you want to know that it’s okay; that it’s a part of growing up and you may use it however you want. And if you are really looking for a serious relationship, I suggest you be honest with yourself first. It’s difficult but it’s one of the challenges of growing up.

Are you on Tinder? How do you use? Traveling? Meeting locals? Making friends? If you’re against it, would love to read your thoughts, too! Feel free to leave it on the comment box below. You are also free to use a fake name if you are protecting your privacy. 😉


Monday 15th of May 2017

For me, I think it's a great travel app, making it much easier to feel at home anywhere you go. But then not everyone is like me or you - each their own.

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Tuesday 24th of May 2016

nice story!! how about Grindr app hahahaha

Jen van der Heijde

Friday 25th of March 2016

Yes, that's true. I affirm you that honesty is a main menu in our home. By the way, please teach me how to Tinder? Hahahaha.

Stacey Valle

Tuesday 8th of March 2016

Very honest post you did there!

It's always good to hear different perceptive of certain topics. I only heard of Tinder recently but didn't bother to check what it is about. That's something that I'll have to see for myself :)

After reading this post, I certainly don't mind getting Tinder just to meet the locals, nothing more than that. Meeting local people is fun and it's always great to meet new people.'m also fine with Couchsurfing :)


Monday 7th of March 2016

I used Tinder for few days while I was traveling a year ago. I saw it on the Apple's top apps and downloaded it. At first, I was clueless that it's a dating/hooking app 'till I got weird messages from some people. Well, you can always stop replying to those creepy matches who seemed nice at first.