Welcome to the third edition of Travel Unravelled! We’re back giving travel advice to our community of global travellers. This time, we’re looking at dating while travelling – how to navigate hostel romances, saying goodbye, and stories from those who have made it work.
We also consider how travel preferences change as you travel more and get older, including tips for choosing a hostel that suits your vibe.
How do you navigate dating when you travel so much? Do you date people when you’re away?
I mean the short answer to this is not well, I’ve been single for most of the last seven years. But yes, I have dated people while travelling and have even had some of the best dates of my life along the way. I once went on a Hinge date in Kraków, meeting someone I’d matched with but failed to meet while they were in Berlin. We had the obligatory and awkward first-date beer then set out to explore the city together – joining a walking tour, sharing pierogi, bar hopping through the Jewish Quarter and ending the night by watching the trumpet player appear in the window of the main square. The date lasted 14 hours in total.
I also spent three weeks staying in what can only be described as the “Love Island villa” of Mexico. The hostel had a pool, inflatable pink flamingos, a bar and a roof terrace. Nearly everyone was “coupled up”, we’d head out partying each night and have a debrief the next morning to catch up on the latest gossip. The boy I “coupled up with” was Latino with limited English and thought my Spanish was a LOT better than it is. Despite the language barriers, we became close and spent our days at the beach before going out to clubs in the evening. Our brief romance ended when he abruptly left me to go surfing in another part of Mexico. I sobbed at the bus stop and threw away the necklace he made me… before questioning when I even became the type of person to wear shell necklaces to begin with.
Funnily enough, I later started dating another guy I had met at the same hostel back in Europe. We dated long-distance but struggled to make it work. A lot of couples put their relationship to the test by going on vacation together. For us, it was the other way around. We bonded while travelling and then had to work backwards to incorporate day-to-day life, friends and work into our relationship. In the end, our lifestyles didn’t match and we parted ways.
I think the trickiest thing about keeping travel romances alive – apart from the obvious logistical struggles – is that people tend to be the best version of themselves when they travel, without the pressures of work, family, friends and everyday life. It’s not uncommon to cross paths with someone you’ve met travelling and get a very different vibe when meeting them back home. Sometimes there’s hope a fling will turn into something more serious, other times it’s fun to just get close to someone, even for a day.
Do I still speak to any of the people above now? No. Have I cried a lot of tears over them? Most definitely. But I still look back fondly on the time we spent together and would do it again in a heartbeat. I should end by saying that just because my dating life is chaotic at best, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it work. I’m living proof of that. My parents met at a hostel in the Greek islands in the 80s, my dad working as a bartender and my mum a backpacker from America. Fast forward 34 years and they’re still married. Travel romances can be a whirlwind, highly emotional and very murky, but I still have faith I’ll meet my match someday soon. Until then, my DMs are open.
How has your travel experience changed over the years?
I think my travel experience has evolved in parallel to how my life in general has. Throughout my 20s, I’ve become way more in tune with what I like and don’t like, what I value, the people I like to surround myself with and what brings me joy. The same applies to my travels.
When I first started travelling in my early 20s, I was drawn to the big party hostels. I would happily join pub crawls each night, stay out till 4 am, knock back tequila shots and do it all again the next day. I also filtered my hostel searches to find the cheapest option and had no issue whatsoever picking the cheap 16-bed dorm. One of my first solo trips included a week in Budapest partying every night with the big group of party hostels in the city. I had the time of my life exploring the city’s eclectic ruin bars, meeting new people from all over the world, learning about the city’s history and getting my first tattoo on a whim. That trip was a defining moment in my life that really ignited my love for travel. I extended my stay day after day until I nearly missed the start date of my job in London, flying back the night before and starting work fairly hungover with no voice. I nearly took the hostel up on their offer of a volunteer position and abandoned my London job entirely, but felt my liver couldn’t take it after eight solid days of drinking.
Fast forward to now, as I near 30, and all that has changed considerably. I still like a good night out, but as most people in their late 20s can appreciate, my body is no longer capable of backing that up night after night – and I can’t even look at a shot of tequila without feeling ill (thanks Mexico). When it comes to choosing a hostel, I now filter by best-rated and try to stick to a much quieter 4-8 person dorm. All that said, I’ve now crafted a specific set of criteria to find hostels that I will hopefully love and make close friends in. All my favourite hostels tend to be small (20-30 people), with one central communal area. They have a bar or drinks fridge on site, or family dinner to encourage people to mingle and chat. I run the opposite way if I hear the words “party hostel”.
In terms of what I look for in travel in general, I now prefer getting away from the crowds, so I can meet seasoned travellers, enjoy being in nature, get a better picture of what a country is really about and push myself out of my comfort zone more and more. Finding somewhere with a big party scene or a place that caters to tourists is less important for me now. I feel more capable of solo travelling to places where they don’t speak a lot of English, where finding a bus feels impossible or where I’m better off leaving my phone or wallet at home. It keeps travel fresh and exciting and allows me to continue seeing new corners of the world. One thing that has stayed true throughout the last decade is how much I enjoy meeting new people. That is still the number one thing I still cherish about travelling.
We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the ups and downs of the travel dating world and feel excited about where your travel journey leads you. If you have your own Travel Unravelled question, drop us a DM on Instagram @hostelworld. We’d love to hear from you!
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