BY: ADAM THRUSH
This year, I decided to make Tinder my travel buddy while I backpack solo across Mexico, Central, and South America. Testing the hypothesis that, together, two great things – tinder and traveling – can create something even greater. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.
Language Practice with Native Speakers
Before I departed, it was necessary for me to improve my Spanish from the basic to colloquial level. The colloquial level requires finding native speakers to practice with in order to learn localized lingo, which in small Canadian towns (and even cities) can be a difficult task. This is where Tinder comes in. I simply changed my location (Tinder Plus is needed to unlock this ability) to the starting point of my trip (in my case it was Guadalajara, Mexico) and began matching and chatting with girls from the city.
Over the next month leading up to my time in Mexico, I could see my Spanish significantly improving (quickly too). From having to translate many of the messages I received to becoming fairly comfortable with understanding and responding to the initial topics of conversation common to Tinder. It really paid off on an educational level.
Once in Mexico, these conversations led to actual dates. I remember how nervous I was the first time I went out with a girl that didn’t speak a word of English. No translators, no subtitles, the need to respond at a decently fast rate, the need to actually pronounce words. It was a difficult, yet necessary step on the road to fluency. These dates not only acted as exams on what I had learned, but also as lessons on how Spanish speakers chat with each other day to day (outside of any classroom or professional formalities). While texting improved my writing skills – spelling, sentence structure, and vocabulary – face-to-face interaction bettered my pronunciation, listening and understanding skills, all of which are essential to living in a foreign country.
Localized Information & Cultural Exchange
Throughout Latin America I’ve met many other travellers who don’t speak Spanish themselves – especially on the tourist trails, where English is common. Learning the local language is extremely helpful but not really necessary nowadays. What is absolutely necessary is learning a little bit about the place you’re visiting (what to do, which neighbourhoods to visit/stay in, which places to avoid, current issues that the specific area might be having at the time, etc.) You don’t need a guidebook to tell you these things. Locals usually know quite a bit about where they live.
From Tinder chats and dates, I received recommendations on which neighbourhoods to stay in and explore, information on events that would be going on during my time there, along with varied opinions on social and political issues (something I’m especially interested in).
An objective of this trip was to focus my time spent with locals (when possible), rather than with other travellers. Meeting other backpackers in hostels, and possibly travelling together is extremely easy and a great experience, however sometimes it can feel like you’re seeing the country from the sidelines rather than completely immersing yourself. Tinder granted me access to the possibility of cultural immersion through different people.
Being invited to their home, having a meal with their friends or family, attending a local festival, or simply talking to them about their own country, all act as gateways to unique and meaningful cultural experiences.
Spending Less while Adding Value to your Trips
At times, matches from these countries have wanted to see the same sites as me, or my plan interested them enough to want to join in. If their work or school schedules work with yours (mine was pretty open), you may have yourself a temporary travel partner, thus decreasing the cost of the excursion.
Perhaps they also have a car you can use, instead of taking the bus together. Sharing the gas expenses will be especially cost-effective if you’re in Venezuela, which is currently at less than 1 cent per litre. Sharing a private room in a hostel, hotel or Airbnb can also be split between two, many times ending up cheaper than if both paid for separate beds in a shared dormitory (generally the cheapest option available, after couchsurfing).
In addition to the economic advantages, typically, spending time with someone you get along with is a fun experience. Even though this is a solo trip, I think it’s important to have a healthy balance of experiencing things alone, and with people I consider to be friends. Balance is best.
The benefits of traveling with Tinder have allowed me to experience so much more than I thought possible. I have yet to go through periods of loneliness or boredom, and the friendships that were created are genuine. Let’s not forget that Tinder is just an app, it is nothing without the people who use it. I can’t imagine what my trip would’ve been without it, and without them.