Maya Feltwell currently lives in Worcester but up until three years ago she had spent her entire life in São Paulo, Brazil. What made the 25-year-old switch blue skies for grey and relocate across the Atlantic? A man she met on Tinder.
For over a decade Maya had regularly taken month-long holidays to England, whether that was visiting relatives or looking at potential universities. But neither family nor study prospects were ever reason enough to seriously consider quitting her job as a teacher and emigrating. Then in 2016, during a two month-long Christmas trip, a friend convinced her to download a dating app as a distraction to pass the time.
Maya says she thought it would be some lighthearted fun. She never planned on meeting a potential partner, let alone the person she would want to spend the rest of her life with.
But just 12 hours after downloading Tinder she swiped right on Ben. The pair started talking constantly and met face-to-face after a week. Their first date went so well that they met again the following day for coffee. They continued to talk while Maya jetted off on a two-week holiday to Thailand and when Ben went to Indonesia for New Year’s Eve. Eventually, they were reunited for four weeks in London and spent every moment together.
Heading back to Brazil in January (the school term was about to re-start), the couple had already declared their love for each other. Then, after several months of a long-distance relationship, Maya took the plunge and uprooted her life to Worcestershire. They married in September 2018. “We love people’s reactions when we tell them we met on Tinder,” says Maya. “Everyone just says it was fate! And you know, I really think it was.”
Holiday romances have long been a thing: starting in our school years with the six weeks summer break acting as a fertile breeding ground for short-lived flings; then came the gap years and the inter-railing train trips perfecting silent sex in a dormitory. The smell of suncream, dodgy tan lines and midday drinking continues the perfect aphrodisiac for relationships that (often) end before you step foot back on British soil.
Whatever your age, if you’re single and booking a holiday you’ll likely imagine meeting the Sandy to your Danny or Elio to your Oliver. An entire TV genre has been built off the back of our obsession with love in the sun (Love Island, Ex On The Beach, Shipwrecked). The Kinks even wrote a song about it.
Statistics show a third (34%) of Brits have had a holiday romance, with 40% of male holidaymakers and 29% of female saying they’d had sex with a stranger on holiday (37% of those polled say it’d happened on more than five breaks). The most popular destinations for a foreign frolic, according to one poll by Gala Spins, is Spain, followed by Greece, France, USA and Italy.
Many of us become more open to a spontaneous meeting when we’re away from grey skies, eight hours in an office and a load of washing. But holiday romance is evolving. Just as dating at home now relying on apps to meet people, it seems we’re taking that strategy global.
In fact so many of us now want to use dating apps when we go on holiday Tinder have launched a ‘passport’ feature to help you scout out potential matches in your destination before your plane even lands. Although it is currently only available for Tinder Plus and Tinder Gold subscribers it speaks to a growing appetite for technology support overseas.
The guys I met with were mostly tourists so they were only looking for hookups..."
Maya and Ben’s experience is obviously the extreme end of the spectrum. Most people who spoke to HuffPost UK about using dating apps on holiday were looking for something a little less committed.
Tyler, 23, from London used Grindr when he went on holiday to Thailand last year and when he was studying abroad in the Netherlands. He prefers the apps to meeting in person or through friends because, without having to explicitly state what he wanted, he found people understood it was a hookup.
“The guys I met with were mostly tourists so they were only looking for hookups too,” he says. ”[The] meetings were very casual, the guys were pretty cool as we both understood what we were using it for. I met one guy a few times but that was it.”
While studying in the Netherlands Tyler was a little more open to going on dates as well as hookups, but still liked that Grindr made his casual intentions clear. “I still wasn’t looking for anything long-term or exclusive though,” he says. “Guys on the apps were pretty cool with meeting exclusively for sex. Sometimes we’d go for drinks beforehand at a bar, and then go back to theirs. It was never more serious than that.”
Other users say apps give them an easy way to scout out local talent without having to leave friends (or the people you’re holidaying with). Instead of spending nights out talking to strangers, you can scroll by the pool and see what your options are. Erik Haxhilari, 22, says he has used them to do just that across Europe, in Italy, Croatia and Portugal.
In July he went to the Algarve for six days with a group of friends on a last-minute trip. “We don’t see each other often so it was good to do something together.” But because of that he didn’t want to be the one off sharking when he could be spending quality time with his mates.
Instead he spent his days swiping looking at the local women. “Whenever I leave my town, or in this case country, I am always intrigued to see what the local clientele are like compared to back home. Are they same? Do they look different? Tinder gives me a good indication.”
Erik also is guilty of succumbing to the no-talk-while-out rule that now plagues UK bars, because instead we take the easy option of discreetly messaging someone instead of embarrassing ourselves. “Who speaks to people out and about in real life anymore?” he laughs, adding that the same rules apply on holiday.
“I did meet someone for a drink just before they rejoined their mates for a night out. It was fine, but we lived at opposite ends of the country and we just lived different lives,” he says. “To be honest my heart was never in it anyway, but it’s always nice to meet new people.” When asked would he use it on his next break he says definitely – it has become a staple of his time away.
While lots of people we spoke to were using apps to either have a one night stand or go for drinks, other people are using dating apps for more than the traditional holiday romance: making local friends in a short space of time. It might be something that would have been harder to do before technology, but if you’re travelling alone – for work or otherwise – dating apps can be an ice breaker.
When Urszula Makowska, 24, travels away from her home in New York (domestically or internationally) she always downloads Tinder to try and make female friends. She says: “During my travel around Europe I was with my mom and brother for the most part, but there was a week when I was alone. I was using Tinder to meet interesting new people in the cities that I was visiting.
“I wanted to go out, have fun and see the sights with people that were more familiar with the area. It was more about getting to know the country and city that I was in.”
She also met a man in Kraków, Poland who she enjoyed a platonic date with. “We had a wonderful time and he showed me the night life of the city. He knew the city better than what websites recommend,” she says. “I think it’s a great platform to use to really see the city you are visiting and to learn a lot. It’s also interesting to meet people in different parts of the world.”
Although she has sometimes used it for romance, for Urszula it offers a service that she long wished for. “I primarily use them to make friends and to show me around the city rather than for romance. That’s my priority when travelling.”