Traveling Alone, Not Lonely - Thanks to Tinder (Kuala Lumpur, Pt. 2)
If you recall, this trip to KL was originally planned for back in January with my sister, but due to a technicality, it didn't work out. Instead of just giving up though, I decided to reschedule it for my Spring Break, even though it meant my sister would no longer be able to join me.
I'd traveled alone once before, but the difference between this trip and the last was as vast as night and day. The first time was two years ago when, at the end of my study abroad program in Kyoto, I decided to visit Okinawa for a few days. My father's family is originally from Okinawa, and I'd never been there before, so I really just wanted to see the specific place we were from and hit a couple of the major tourist spots. Because of that, I wanted to keep to myself and make the whole thing really personal, and it wasn't hard for me to do. I was familiar with the culture, only there for a couple of days, and had a very specific itinerary.
This time though was a whole different beast. I was by myself in a new country with a whole week and no plans. And honestly, I was a little apprehensive at first (though clearly not apprehensive enough to actually do much research or book a tour or something??). But I had an idea that I was pretty sure was going to carry me through.
There are different methods for making friends on the road. Some people like to mingle around hotel bars, join tour groups, or stay at hostels, where you kind of have a community built into your accommodations. And while those are all great ways to find people to travel and tour around with, in the end, you're mostly still going to be interacting with other foreigners, which lends itself to a rather limited experience. I think it makes a lot more sense to try to meet people who really know the place. And my weapon of choice is Tinder.
Okay, okay, okay. Yes, Tinder has a less than stellar reputation, but hear me out. Most of the people who are on Tinder in a given area are locals (though this does depend on how widely used it is in the area) who are often eager to talk with tourists. And because the people of Tinder aren't just similarly-minded tourists, you'll get to interact with a wider variety of people spanning more common interests. Even if you decide not to meet up, just by swiping through the app and asking for recommendations, you're already miles ahead of your Average Joe with a basic guide book.
But I, for one, am a huge proponent of meeting up. Some of my fondest Tinder memories include:
- I make it clear that I'm a big EDM fan and have subsequently gotten into four shows and a two-day festival in three different countries to see internationally renowned DJs (for free!)
- I've managed to eat at a restaurant that was booked out for three months with two-days' notice
- I've gotten a personal tour of Google's Chicago office, which of course included all their free food
- Not to mention all of the seriously cool people that I've met. I'm still in regular contact with maybe half of the people I've met through Tinder.
With this past KL trip in particular, I thank Tinder for the following (and more):
Traveling alone gave me the flexibility to meet all of these people, do all of these things, and eat all of this food, and Tinder provided the opportunity. I was by myself most of the time I was there, but I met enough people and did enough things that I never felt lonely. And maybe your goal in solo travel is introspection and "finding yourself" à la Eat, Pray, Love, but in my opinion, it's the conversations that you have with people who live in a different culture from you that really fuel your ability to think about yourself and your place in the world. So if you're traveling alone and have some time to play around with, why not give it a go?
As with anything of this nature, there definitely are risks involved, but honestly, I think it's pretty easy to be safe about it. Look forward to a post on all of that fun stuff soon.