The summer I turned 21, I grabbed my best girlfriend and we traveled the world with Tinder. We booked a one-way ticket to Italy, and the rest was history. We didn’t schedule out our entire runaway vacation through a travel agent. No, no, no, this was the 21st century, and we figured there was probably an app for that. Boy, were we right. The most unlikely of apps had us hooked on staying in Europe for over a month! We found ourselves skipping through local fairs, taking back roads around ancient cities, partying at festivals, riding bikes through Rome, hopping on mopeds to see Barcelona’s best, and we even ended up pinned against the fences that lined the streets of Spain to watch the famous bull runs.
All this was possible through the most unexpected travel app: Tinder. Yup, that’s right, my friend and I used the superficial dating app to Tinder-date our way through Europe. Sure, even I would consider Tinder an app designed for short-lived hookups, but just because something was designed a certain way, doesn’t mean it is limited to one use.
It all began in Rome, Italy. My best friend, Danielle, and I met at the train station and made our way to our Airbnb condo. We sat on the couch, under the large umbrella of the second-story patio, with mimosas in our hand, and a view of the city. “Finally here!!” our Snapchat story read, with a geotagged location of “ROME” framing our faces.
After catching up, we decided to figure out what to do for the next couple of days. We grabbed our phones and tried googling fun local not-too-touristy activities. Surprisingly, we didn’t have much luck. As we were brainstorming, the idea popped into my head, “why don’t we just make a Tinder, set all our photos as the two of us, and write a profile saying we’re simply searching for fun locals to show us the way around town?! It’s an easy way to connect with locals our age who speak English too.”
The idea worked brilliantlly. Between unpacking, showering, and getting dressed for the day ahead, Danielle and I made time to do what we considered, “Tindering it up!” At this time, we would ‘swipe right’ to the most fun-looking, non-creepy people we saw. Within an hour, our phones were blowing up with messages of offers for us to join them and their friends on whatever plans they had going that day. Having just recently watched the movie Taken, Danielle and I were very cautious of where, when, and who we decided to meet.
While reading through our Tinder messages, we stumbled upon someone who happened to work at his family-owned bike-rental shop with his best friend. The two of them invited us to borrow bikes at a discounted rate and then offered to give us a personal bike tour.
We pedaled around the Coliseum, through side streets and beautiful allies, past the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Forum. I couldn’t have imagined a better, more convenient way to see all we saw in such a short amount of time! As the shop came to a close, we returned the bikes and parted our ways.
Next, dinner! We ran back to our condo, showered, and set a group dinner with someone whose uncle owned a very traditional, famous restaurant. We met before dusk and began to make our way to the summer fair that lined the Tevere river. We played fair games, bought trinkets, watched bands, then made our way to a picture-perfect restaurant. The little venue was framed with twinkle lights that laid above the outside seating and lively vines climbed the alleyway’s stone walls, it couldn’t be more traditionally Italian. The most delicious and unique squid-inked black pasta and other seafood dishes excited our taste buds as the sound of street performers’ classic tunes echoed in the alley.
The following evening, we found ourselves in the center of the most popular college town in Rome. Young adults flooded the park that sat in the center of a round-a-bout. Music could be heard coming from the dive bars and lounges that lined the streets circling around the center. Danielle and I met with a group of new friends, who then ran into multiple groups of their friends, and we all made our way to what they all called, “Friday party.” We walked into a towering archway of an ancient monument, scurried our way through the center to the back corner, and climbed what seemed to be endless flights of stairs.
As we reached the top, it opened to a lookout over the entire glimmering city. Locals gathered here every Friday night, bringing drum sets, guitars, amps, wine and friends. Strangers came together to hang out and look over at the city lights illuminating the night. This experience was nothing short of a magical last night to our short stay in Rome.
Our next destination: Budapest, Hungary, where we met eight of our guy friends from California. Once we arrived at the apartment, we told the guys of our Tinder experiences, and they thought it was ridiculous, but curious to see if it would work the same if they were involved. Immediately, they had us “Tindering it up.” That night, the boys, Danielle, and I, met with some locals from Tinder who showed us around to the “Ruins Bars.” These bars were old warehouses or apartment complexes that had been partially bombed and turned to ruins during the war. The architectural concept of theses bars was so incredible; a mix of dim history with a whimsical twist. Our new Tinder-friends were more than excited to take us on the city’s massive ferris wheel to show us their beaming city. The following day, thanks to a few suggestions given through Tinder messages, my friends and I were introduced to a festival that had us wandering the entire city going to venue-to-venue immersing into Budapest’s party culture.
We ventured across the River Danube on the bridge that seperates Buda and Pest to get to the festival at the zoo. After walking through cages of butterflies and pointing at animals, we took a festival trolly accross the street to the band park. Here, multiple stages were set up, like a music festival. Bars, pop up restaurants, and some carnival games seperated the stages. There was even a two story glass box set up to play tennis or throw balls around. We sprawled across hammocks set up around the park, danced to the music, made new friends, and cheered to the good times. As it got dark, we followed the heard of partiers to the last stop of the festival. We soon arrived to the largest thermal baths in Budapest at the iconic Bath Party. Neon lights and decorations showed flashes of the stunning 100-year-old architecture. A sea of wall-to-wall young adults swayed and splashed along to the beat of the DJs’ sets.
When I awoke the next day, I found myself covered in hives. Since this had never happened to me before, I was terrified about what to do in a city where the alphabet looks like an alien language and I couldn’t speak a single Hungarian phrase. It was a Sunday, and the pharmacies around us were closed. After panicking on FaceTime with my parents all morning, I resorted to seeking help from messaging our Tinder friends. Eventually, thanks to advise from Tinder, we were given instructions to the nearest hospital. With language barriers and lots of hand gestures, I finally met with a doctor who discovered that my hives was from an allergic reaction to antibiotics I was taking for a surgery I had done right before I left the country. Thanks to that doctor and Tinder, I was cured!
Danielle and I parted from our friends and took a flight to Spain. Just to our Tinder-luck, this flight had the precious free Wi-Fi. “Ping! Ping! Ping!” Responses came pouring in with suggestions of must-sees, where to eat, where to party, and what to do. One, in particular, caught our adventurous attention. An offer to ride mopeds to zip through the streets catching glimpses of popular tourist sites, then ending the day taking the Port Vell Aerial Tramway over the coast of Barcelona.
We arrived to our apartment, settled in and changed. Soon after, I found my self driving, and almost crashing, a moped for the first time. It was thrilling. The day ended on a sunset tram ride overlooking the coastline. The gondola let us out to a restaurant at the top of a cliff where we ate oysters with a view of the sun setting behind the city. Now, it was time for a nap before the city’s nightlife began. We were invited out to VIP tables at a few clubs that were featuring my favorite Artists and DJ’s. We danced the night away.
Danielle and I spent the next day on a boat to Ibiza. Here, we utilized Tinder to gather invites to watch top DJ’s perform from the best tables we could get at the clubs. The task was simple, and we succeeded. We sang and danced along to our favorite songs while we sat next to the DJ-tables. During the day, we were invited to go out with a group of friends to sail and snorkel in the Mediterranean’s warm crystal clear water. We instantly bonded with this group of friends. They invited Danielle and me to take the train to Pamplona with them to experience Spain’s bull run festival’s opening days.
The festival was something out of a movie, a completely unforgettable experience we would not have been able to experience had it not been for amazing new friends we connected with through Tinder. At this time, Danielle had to go back home and our travels together have come to an end; however, I managed to further use Tinder as I continued to travel.
I flew out to France to meet another friend, who was studying abroad in Paris. At this time, my boyfriend also flew out from Los Angeles to meet me in Paris. It was his birthday and we had 24 hours in the city. These 24 hours turned out to be one of my favorite days to date, thanks to the help of Tinder. When I met with my friend, Nikki, I told her about all of the adventures I had been able to go on by meeting new Tinder friends. She was astonished of Danielle and my ability to utilize Tinder in this way. I was then determined to convince her that Tinder as a travel agent sounds unlikely, but is very much possible. Since I knew my boyfriend was landing soon, I logged on to tinder and started asking for advice on where to go for an unforgettable dinner for a birthday. Soon enough, I began receiving some suggestions. Running out of time, I went with the most helpful suggestion, called the restaurant and booked for the suggested time.
For some reason, the restaurant was better at a later time. Being rated 3 Michelin Stars, I expected a good experience, but I couldn’t have predicted the magic that was to come. The restaurant was difficult to find, and we were lost multiple times before stumbling into a large office building. The front desk lady looked at us then directed us to an elevator with a security guard who asked if we had reservations. Confused, we nodded then were taken up by a bell hop to the top floor. It turns out the restaurant was atop one of the tallest buildings in Paris, and our table was pushed up against a large window that framed the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower. The view was otherworldly. As we began to order food, we saw a firework show in the distance. Then another, and another. Within twenty minutes, we witnessed over 300 firework shows from right near us to as far as the eye could see along the horizon. My boyfriend’s birthday falls on July 13th. Unknowingly, we reserved the best seat at the best restaurant at the best time to witness the celebration of France’s equivalent to America’s Independence Day. After the amazing experience, I messaged back my gratitude to our new Tinder friend who suggested this moment and then invited him out afterward. My boyfriend, Nikki, her two roommates, and I went to a beautiful outside bar along the river and met with our new Tinder friend. After drinking a bit, we all were craving gyros or any amazing local dish we couldn’t find at home. This began our five-hour journey running through the streets of Paris with our Tinder friend as our foodie tour guide.
At 5am, it began to drizzle, and we continued on, having tartar at 6am, chasing espresso shots with glasses of red wine. At 7am we found ourselves at a famous café, where we had warm chocolate croissants, more espresso, and more…you guessed it, wine. As I did at every day around that time, I FaceTimed my family, introduced them to our new Tinder friend, and began to tell them about the adventures we had! After breakfast, we parted our ways and my boyfriend and I caught a plane to St. Tropez, where we spent the next ten days on our friend’s yacht, exploring the French Riviera and Côte d’Azur.
Experiencing the culture of young adults, like ourselves, in a different country was a great insight to the everyday lifestyles around the world. Tinder isn’t something I had much experience with outside of the trip since I was already in a relationship; however, I’m glad Danielle and I were able to change our perspective on how the app was being used and utilize it to our advantage. So, thank you Tinder, for being the world’s greatest travel agent app out there.