Guest blogger Jenny Hart shares what happened when she used the popular dating app Tinder in Cancun, Mexico to make new friends. Should you choose to use tinder while traveling, be sure to read her tips below!
Four days before my scheduled trip to Cancun, I broke up with my boyfriend.
Things had been tense, but I figured we were going through a rough patch and it would even out soon. That is, until I discovered his Tinder account.
We were out to dinner at a nice restaurant near his apartment, and were bickering, as had become the recent norm. The table we were seated at was small; we could have easily held hands without having to stretch our arms much across. So when his phone buzzed on the table, mid-fight, I didn’t need to crane my neck to see the screen. In fact, if the phone weren’t right in front of me and blatantly interrupting our conversation, I wouldn’t have looked at all.
I was two glasses of wine deep and reading upside down, but the words were unmistakable. It was a Tinder notification. I lifted my gaze from the screen to his face, and saw the color drain slightly before he sighed and laughed, shaking his head in disbelief. I quietly excused myself headed straight for the door. He threw money on the table and ran after me.
The account was old, he said. He had made it before we had started dating and had simply forgotten to delete it. “I never get notifications. That one was the first time in forever that I did. That’s why I started to laugh — the timing was ridiculous. Because we were fighting, you know?” I didn’t respond. He assured me that he hadn’t been seeing other girls, and I knew that much was true. I felt slightly reassured, but told him I needed some time alone.
The next day I called one of my friends who I knew was on Tinder. I had never used the app and was unfamiliar with how it worked. “What does it mean if a notification pops up on your phone?” I asked. “It means you’ve been actively using it,” she answered immediately. My heart sank. We did a little snooping, and within five minutes found him on another dating app. The account was created just two weeks before.
Nothing else needed to be said. I collected my things from his apartment that night.
“You should make a Tinder account,” my roommates urged when I told them the story.
I considered their proposition. What could it hurt? I downloaded the app and started swiping.
Single and Ready to Mingle in Cancun
A few days later, I was looking out over the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico from my airplane window. The seat next to me was empty.
I was going to be meeting up with a group of women in a couple days, but the beginning part of my trip was solo. It was planned that way because my (now ex) boyfriend had originally intended to travel with me. I called the trip “El Gran Escape.” What better way to outrun the sadness that was staining life at home than to zip away to sunny Mexico?
My first full day in Cancun was relaxing and nice. I laid by the pool, went to the spa, and enjoyed a couple drinks at the hotel bar. But by dinnertime I was feeling restless. I’m fairly independent; I don’t need someone by my side at all times. But I’m also a chatterbox. There was no talking at the pool (fine); no talking in the spa (even better); and while the hotel bar could’ve been a prime place to socialize, it was virtually empty, save for myself and the bartender (with whom I had desperately attempted Spangli
sh small talk for 2 hours and was now visibly sick of humoring me).
I needed a friend.
Later that day, I could feel the Tinder app on my phone burning a hole in my pocket. This was an easy way to meet people, was it not? Granted, it would only show me men, but I didn’t mind. I had a male roommate back home. I could hang with the boys. And whatever, I was single.
I had one afternoon of furious swiping when I first downloaded Tinder, one day post-breakup, but I hadn’t used it since. I reclined on my bed and tentatively opened the app. As I flipped through faces, I felt somewhat repulsed with myself. Who was I to so cavalierly deem someone worthy or not based on their appearance? Had nearly any of these boys approached me in real life, I would definitely have talked to them (with the exception of a few who had serial killer eyes). Yet here I was, selecting only the top specimen, as though they were produce in a grocery store. I closed out the app. But after 20 minutes of silence and my mind unwillingly drifting to thoughts of my ex, I guiltily logged back in.
“Stop being so picky,” I chastised myself. “You’re just looking for someone to hang out with, not marry.” I started selecting every person that looked friendly and normal.
I was immediately matched with a skinny white boy wearing a basketball jersey and sunglasses (indoors), and holding a red Solo cup. One hundred percent not my type, but I was in Cancun with a broken heart; I could get down with the spring break mindset for one evening if need be. I messaged him, asking what hotel he was staying at.
“I’m at my apartment, but I can get us a hotel room if that’s what you’re into.”
Ugh. I realized quickly that he was not in Cancun, but back home in New York. Tinder was frustratingly mixing in candidates from both locations. I decided not to engage anyone else unless I could tell definitively that they were nearby.
I received a promising message soon after: “What brings you to Cancun?”
The sender was a short Hispanic guy who, though his age said 26, looked about 19. No matter. We started messaging, and I learned he was in town for a work conference and also looking for someone to socialize with. Unfortunately, “in town” meant one of those secluded resort compounds located at least 30 minutes away from city center. He said he wasn’t supposed to leave the resort, and asked if I could come there. “The nightclub is supposed to be pretty fun.”
Cancun’s most famous nightclubs were walking distance from my hotel. Visiting a lesser, more random venue certainly did not justify a long and expensive cab into the jungle to meet a stranger from the Internet. I politely but firmly declined his friendship. Feeling discouraged, I went to bed. It was barely 9 pm.
And then the hottest man on Tinder sent a message…
I spent the next morning scuba diving. It was another activity with limited communication ability, and I was grateful for the forced silence being underwater brings. My friends were arriving that evening so I wouldn’t be alone much longer. As soon as I stepped back onto the hotel’s property, my phone buzzed. Tinder notifications. Lots of them. Oh, right.
I scrolled through the messages, mindlessly. After yet another one-day go, the app had lost its luster to me. I was closing out the app when a final message buzzed through. I was so caught off-guard reading it, I almost tripped over a chaise lounge into the pool. My taste in men might be questionable at times, but the person messaging me was the most attractive man I’d ever seen. Easily. He looked like a male model; the rugged He-Man/GI Joe type, not the metrosexual pretty boy. His profile said he was six feet tall, and his pictures said he was perfectly sculpted. You could wash a least a couple loads of laundry on his abs. He had a deep, even tan, piercing green eyes, and a glistening white smile. He was so good looking, I actually felt disgusted. This is not what normal people are supposed to look like. 100% NOT NORMAL! But of course I hastily messaged him back. (Wouldn’t you?)
His name was Zeke, and he was Argentinian. He had been living in the Pacific Northwest for years, and had successfully founded his own startup. He was taking a break from being a successful CEO and taking the next year to drive his car from Washington state down to Argentina, stopping for days or weeks at a time wherever he wanted – Cancun included. He asked for my phone number so we could message on WhatsApp. Lord, have mercy.
Just communicating with (let alone the thought of meeting) Zeke sent me into a fit of anxiety. I didn’t think I was being catfished, but I was skeptical how this person could exist. Every time my phone buzzed I was filled with dread, but still rushed to open the message.
Before long, my friends were in town. As we gathered to eat dinner together, they asked how I’d made out the past couple days, on my own. “It was kind of lonely, but fun,” I shrugged. “I went diving and to the spa. Those were both great. And I, uh, creeped around Tinder.”
I felt eyes narrow in on me. Not out of judgment, but curiosity and mild concern.
“Did you meet up with anyone?”
“No. Well, not yet. I’ve been talking to one person who seems interesting. He’s really cute.” I dug my phone out of my bag and passed his picture around the table.
“Hmm…” was the general response. There was no denying his attractiveness, but the magnitude of it made the scenario all the more brow raising.
“He wants to meet up with us tonight,” I offered. We were planning on checking out one of the nightclubs downtown, something I hadn’t been willing to do on my own.
“I don’t know, Jenny. If you decide to meet him, make sure it’s when we’re all together. Don’t go off alone. Meeting someone off the Internet is sketchy… and in Mexico, of all places.”
My face flushed. I was in total agreement. Zeke intimidated me, and I sincerely had been interested in just finding someone to hang out with. Now that my friends were in town, I didn’t need him. When he messaged me to ask what time we were going out, I didn’t answer.
During lunch the next day, we discussed how we were going to spend our afternoon. The group collectively wanted to go snorkeling, but having already seen plenty of fish while diving, I decided to stay on the beach and work on my tan.
Sprawled out on the sand with a cocktail in hand, I got yet another WhatsApp message from Zeke.
“I’m going to the beach. Are you around?”
Even though my friends were now here, he was still traveling alone, and perhaps just looking for a friend, too. There was plenty of room next to me for a second towel. I told him to come by.
I reassured myself that we were just going to be platonic beach buddies for the next hour, but that didn’t stop me from letting out an throaty squawk when I saw him approaching in all his glory. Those pictures were of him, alright, and they didn’t do the real thing justice. I looked down at my bikini body and squirmed. I had felt relatively confident when strutting outside a couple hours ago, but now wished desperately for a cover up of some sort.
“Jenny?” he called out tentatively as he approached.
“Yes! Hi!” I chirped, jumping up. I wasn’t going to let Ken Doll catch me doubting myself.
We exchanged an awkward side-hug and he laid his towel down. We chatted for a bit; mostly about his trip and our mutual love of photography. Then I ran out of things to say, and picked up my book. He didn’t stop me.
I’m great at making small talk. I know all the right questions to ask on first dates. But this wasn’t that. I didn’t really care where he grew up, or what he studied in college. To be blunt, I didn’t care about anything having to do with him, and I doubt he cared about me. We weren’t going to see each other again, and we weren’t going to hook up. We were sitting together just to have someone to sit with.
Every so often I would sneak a peek over my book to study his figure as he sunned himself. In addition to his looks, he seemed smart and kind, but with each passing moment, I felt less and less attracted to him. Zeke seemed to be a figment of my imagination that the Tinder gods had created to amuse and panic me. I was not missing my ex, but I longed to be lying next to someone like him. Someone physically imperfect, with way less money and an extra bit of snark. Someone like me.
Eventually my friends joined me on the beach. Eyebrows raised again upon seeing my companion.
“This is Zeke…” I offered. I tried to think of a follow up factoid, but nothing came to mind.
“Right. Well, we’re going to head inside and shower. You coming?”
“Yes!” I said, maybe a little too quickly. I had become eager for an excuse to leave Prince Charming.
“It was so nice meeting you,” I said with a sincere grin. He nodded. “You too. Take care.”
I linked arms with my friends and we headed back to the hotel. “Wow, who would have thought you’d find something like that on Mexican Tinder?” one of them quipped.
“Hmm, yeah,” I said noncommittally. I was busy deleting the app.
Like that, my flirtation with Tinder – and its users – ended as quickly as it began. Zeke’s messages and steamy selfies left my phone and made their way to a new home in the blackhole of cyberspace. I did keep his phone number, on the off chance I find myself single in Argentina one day. Although then I might want to see what Argentinian Tinder is like, too.
Tips for Using Tinder while Traveling
- Make sure you’re communicating with people in the same location as you. I was getting New York results because I was only connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi and not the local data connection. It will save you time and the potential disappointment of learning your would-be soulmate is thousands of miles away.
- Be clear about what your intentions are. I wish I had listed in my profile that I was looking for friendship, rather than a date or a one-night stand. (Not that I listed either of those, but some guys, or gals, will make assumptions.)
- Don’t give away your location unless you’re sure you want to meet. And even then, choose to meet in a public place. While plenty of normal folks use online dating apps, plenty of weirdos do too. It’s not worth the risk.
- If you’re going to use Tinder, own it. I didn’t tell anyone at first that I was using it in Mexico, because I felt a little embarrassed. The truth? Most of your single friends are probably on it too. Let someone else know what you’re doing and where you’re going, even if just the hotel concierge.
- Be open-minded about who you talk to. At first I stayed in my comfort zone and only considered other Americans. I eventually decided to communicate with Mexicans and other internationals, and it was instantly more interesting. You’re traveling, after all. One of the best ways to learn about another culture is through a local.More:
How Tinder Can Work as a Travel App (Yes, Really) via Conde Nast Traveler
20 best countries to use Tinder, via Yahoo Travel
Jenny Hart has worked on staff at nine national publications and breaks out in hives if she’s away from the airport for more than six months.
Her hobbies include reading, critiquing photography that’s better than hers, and trying not to miss her subway stop while doing either.
She graduated from Hofstra University with degrees in Journalism, Global Studies, English and Religion. She lives in New York City.