Love isn’t something you find. Love is something that finds you.”
Thus spake American actress Loretta Young. Though she had a point, the problem with Love is that, being blind and all, it could be looking for you in Norway or Thailand. That’s right- Love may be confused about the continent in which you reside. If you’re at home, stuck inside a shell preventing the petals of love from raining down upon thee, some travel may be a blessing. But be aware that travel can itself be the shell which imprisons you. Here’s some tips to using your wanderlust to your romantic advantage and finding love on the road.
1. Stay in Hostels
Not that I have anything against hotels or anything like that. But while the Fairmont might be very romantic for couples on honeymoon, it’s not a singles’ paradise. And while Lost in Translation glamourised the hotel bar as a place to meet that special someone, you’re more likely to be lost in depression sitting in one on your own with a scotch.
On the other hand, hostel bars can be a hive of activity of happy single travellers looking to meet other travellers. If you can cook, you might also impress in the hostel kitchen. If you don’t drink or cook, you’re still likely to strike up a conversation in the dorm. Staying in a place with mixed dorms might give you the best results. Even if you don’t find love, you’ll find new friends, and that can be almost as good.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk
This might be an obvious one but it’s one that took me a while to grasp in my younger years. You’ll only regret the conversations that never took place. You might have made eye contact with someone across the club or on the boat but if you don’t say anything, it won’t count for squat. Worried that they won’t speak English? How about…
3. Learn a Few Words of the Local Language
It might surprise you how many people out there are willing to try and practice their English with a native speaker. But it’s a bit fromage-ey to go up to someone in France and say “Hi there stranger, how are you?” If you’re a bit rusty with your local dialect, just remember that poor language skills are a bit like a shitty birthday present- it’s the thought that counts. People like it that you made the effort. Even if you don’t pull it off cleanly, a malformed sentence can be very funny, and most people like to laugh.
NB. Alcohol may help in the above.
4. Be Confident, but Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
People worldwide are really not that different. Everybody wants to be swept off their feet by that confident someone. Travel can actually help a lot in this regard, because once you’ve made your 5-minute train connection in Frankfurt against all the odds without speaking German, or your found the laundromat in Tokyo by waving your arms around like a washing machine, or you’ve sat drinking Chianti on the Spanish Steps with people you just met half an hour ago, having a chilled conversation with a good-looking someone will seem a walk in the park.
Again, moderate alcohol consumption may help in reducing your inhibitions, but just like at home, nobody likes a pathetic drunk.
5. …and Don’t be a Creep
If you’re speaking to every person in earshot with an intent to connect amorously then you might be taking things a bit far. I once walked around Bergen in Norway with an American guy who was continuously being told “I’m waiting for my husband”. I had to explain to him that probably, many of these girls actually were just bullshitting him about having a husband, and it was not a pleasant evening’s walk. Likewise, another time I had to tell a Polish guy who was trying to impress people by purposely blocking the path of local women that he was being a douche. There’s a fine line between being confident and being a dickhead.
6. Be Flexible, Stay Longer
I once met an amazing Finn in a Norwegian hostel where I was only staying for one night. The next day I shipped out to Malaga, Spain, where I had planned a roadtrip. Spain was great and I saw a lot of cool Gaudi buildings and ate a lot of great olives and the Spanish were (for the most part) lovely. But for the first week after I arrived I just wished I was back in Norway. The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to change plans, or better still, don’t make any. Go with the flow and do what feels right.
Also, try and spend more time in fewer places. This will not only allow you to more fully immerse yourself in the culture, but it will allow you more time to meet locals or fellow travellers, and if a relationship should spark then there’ll be more time for it to build into a bonfire.
7. Make Use of Facebook/Email
The above can be somewhat mitigated by modern technology. In times where an encounter at a party or on a train may be at best fleeting, a simple “hey are you on facebook?” may help a planted seed to bud later. But postpone telling them you have a website until a later date- that just sounds plain wanky.
8. Play an Instrument
The ability to play some sort of instrument (or sing, or tell jokes) should not be underestimated- there’s always someone who’s brought a guitar or a drum or a harmonica along and if you have a song you can convincingly pull off in a dorm room or an open-mic night in a bar it will usually go down well with cute onlookers. Just avoid being the sentimental fart that pulls out a guitar and plays for three hours in front of people too polite to complain that you’ve killed the conversation.
9. Go to Romantic Places
If the achingly beautiful scenery is tugging at your heartstrings, then chances are you’re not the only one. There’s nothing quite like being in a foreign jawdropping location to get people in the mood for love. Good examples are the Venetian Canals, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or a palm-fringed tropical beach in South-East Asia.
10. Be Yourself, but Curb the Patriotism
Don’t be afraid to let those charming parts of your own culture shine; it’s likely that people you meet will be quite smitten and refreshed by them. Certain cultures like Aussie or Irish or Brazilian or Thai generally go down well with most anyone, but national characteristics can be a noose around the neck of anyone wielding them in a manner too loud or obnoxious or parochial. Even nervous Americans can be reassured most of the planet likes them if they aren’t too over-the-top.
In Barcelona I once met an English guy who drunkenly lorded it over a German fellow-traveller that apparently, England once beat Germany 5-1 in a soccer match. Apparently, this was “England’s finest hour”. Don’t be this person.
11. Don’t Travel Forever
I touched on this recently in my popular article, “Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job to Travel“, but the truth is that perpetual travel is rarely anything other than lonely. Think about it from the point of view of the object of your affection. They might find a dashing adventurer alluring; a lost soul that will disappear in a week and never wants a permanent home less so. Like everything in life, travel is best in moderation. See the world, fall in love, and then find a home base from where you can enjoy that.
If all else fails, just take a chill pill. Desperation is rarely attractive. Don’t try to force things- let your relationships with people move with their own momentum. I recently got married to the girl of my dreams in Brazil, but we met on the other side of the world 9 years prior. You probably aren’t in the rush you think you are. If you’re still in your 20s, then it’s especially true!
Finding yourself, or finding new friends, are perfectly good outcomes from an adventure. Don’t worry be happy.
Have any other pearls of wisdom or a cool story? I’d love to hear about it below.