How a trip to Valencia changed my approach to dating.
When traveling, the last thing I think about is dating. It’s not because I don’t want to date, but rather, I thought the obvious thing to do is reserve your love life for back home so should a relationship blossom, that special someone is close to where you live or work. Well, that’s what I always believed.
I live in the UK and for many of my girlfriends and me, meeting someone new tends always to start online—whether via social media or dating apps. This often becomes repetitive and takes the fun out of dating. Sure, we go out in London and frequent galleries, comedy shows, bars, and restaurants, but the days of approaching a stranger and exchanging numbers seem relegated to the archives while we focus on “swiping right” and “sending DMs.”
I had resolved myself to the realities of modern dating; this is until I went on a solo trip to Valencia. Spain opened my eyes to a new perspective and brought me back to a more straightforward way of meeting people. One evening, I was having dinner al fresco in the heart of Valencia. It was a lively setting; tables were filled, the streets were abuzz with tourists, and street performers milled around, giving diners plenty to admire.
Halfway through my meal, a guy sat at the empty table next to mine and asked for my opinion on the food. What started with my views on paella soon evolved turned into a pleasant “getting to know you” conversation where we revealed our home countries, why we were in Valencia, and what we did for a living. Hours later, after our meet-cute, we strolled together through the main square and finally exchanged numbers. After returning to my hotel, he later messaged me to ask me to dinner the following night, which I agreed to.
Cut to the next night as I began to get dolled up in preparation for meeting him at the Plaza de La Virgen, a popular spot that is home to the Turia Fountain and the grand Valencia Cathedral (not to mention a vast open space for performers). My date proved lovely: a doctor from Sweden visiting Valencia for a work-related course. We had a great evening. While we both knew things wouldn’t go beyond this perfect moment, but I was grateful for his company.
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Earlier that same day, I was having lunch at the same restaurant I met my Swedish doctor when I locked eyes with another handsome man. He was in a rush to get somewhere and walked past, but a few minutes later—midway through stuffing my face with a salad—the guy returned, asking the waitress if he could join me. Starting with a compliment and explaining that he too was visiting Valencia from France, he went on to ask more about me. We engaged in a bit of conversation, swapped numbers, and a few messages later, we agreed to meet the following evening.
Together we had dinner in a quiet part of Valencia at a quaint restaurant with Spanish music and the most delicious hearty food. My French was awful, but luckily his English was good, and we got to know each other well enough to want to continue the night together. We strolled through the city just talking and laughing, enjoying ice cream while people-watching late into the night. It was a simple date but a wholesome one that I often think back on.
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People have approached me on my travels before, but I’ve been closed off, thinking dating abroad is somewhat pointless. Now, I think about the perks of dating abroad and how my actions made these encounters possible.
One rule I had was to dedicate time away from my camera. My travels revolve around my photography work, but that can take me away from the moment and make me appear unapproachable. For example, in Valencia, I usually captured the shots I needed first thing in the morning when the streets were less busy. By lunchtime, I would return to my hotel to prepare for the rest of the day and head out to take in the sites.
Fully immersing myself in the city was something else I did to be more open. Regardless that I was on my own, I enjoyed the city as if I had company. I had drinks at a rooftop bar one afternoon, and on another, I lounged around at the beach. When it came to food, I didn’t sit at quieter tables at restaurants and shy away in the back but instead, I chose lively spots. Being present in the moment is key, so I avoided any distraction from my phone and admired what was going on around me, and engaged in conversation with locals and other visitors.
When telling my friends about my time in Valencia, they asked if I had even packed date-night outfits, and the short answer is yes, I did. Maybe not specifically for a date, but just in case I would go someplace nice. I like to be prepared for various occasions or circumstances like bad weather or a visit to a fancy bar. This isn’t really to impress others but to make me feel confident in the settings I’m in, and on this occasion, it allowed me to feel comfortable during the dates.
Meeting people from different countries is always refreshing. What better way to expose yourself to other cultures, traditions, and religions than through meeting someone from abroad? Dating abroad is an adventure in itself. Sure, there’s the trouble of long-distance if things progress, but there are benefits too. Benefits like remaining in contact can feel like a constant adventure, as you always reminisce on your holiday romance and look forward to meeting soon in some far-flung country. Envisioning living abroad begins to seem within reach as you expose yourself to another person’s way of life.
Lastly—and my favorite reason to dater abroad—is you feel like the main character of a romantic film as you are whisked away from reality and plunged into the thrill of meeting a new person and a budding romance. Plus, why limit yourself to dating locally when you can open yourself up to more chances? From what I’ve heard from friends who met their spouses abroad, it’s that brief, unexpected holiday romance that can seal the deal and keep the adventure alive once committed.