“I need a vacation partner. Wanna come?” he wrote.
“Sure, where are we going?” I replied, amused but also intrigued.
I had been messaging with this guy who I had matched with on Tinder, and after about a week of chatting, he popped that question. We were 1,500 miles apart and had never met. We had crossed paths on the app while I was traveling for work and now I was back home.
Since we lived in separate cities, one of us was going to have to travel if we were ever going to see each other. So why not meet in the middle? Actually nowhere near the middle — more like neutral territory, a.k.a. Belize. First dates usually involve awkward conversation and a couple of drinks. Ours would include passports and an awkward airport layover.
I’m not gonna lie: As soon as we both pulled the trigger and booked our flights, I began having second thoughts. I started to notice these little annoying things about him, like the digital equivalent of chewing with your mouth open. And, you know, he was basically a stranger. I might come back from Belize in a body bag — or not at all. Gulp.
Despite the trepidations, three weeks later, I was en route. Since both our flights had layovers in the same city, we met for the very first time at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, gate 11. That’s how all great love stories start, right? Eh, apparently not. I knew immediately that he wasn’t The One. And I would spend nine nights, 10 days in Belize confirming it.
We traveled up and down the country, zig zagging from the coastline to the interior jungle regions, even crossing into Guatemala to visit the Tikal Mayan ruins. It was the kind of trip that would put any couple (or wannabe couple) to the relationship test, with long bumpy car rides, unpredictable weather, and spotty Wi-Fi connections.
We survived... but not as boyfriend and girlfriend. It was an intense, but fun adventure in a lot of ways, and I often wonder, if we had had a “normal” date, would things have ended differently? Was this trip just too much, too soon? Or was it the ultimate trial-by-fire way to get to know someone?
Because when you’re shacking up with a guy in a third-world country, those first-date niceties go out the window real fast. (Like, seriously, do you always drive like this?! And no, sorry, I didn’t shave my legs yet.)
The vacation didn’t include some happily-ever-after ending, but we did exchange genuine tearful goodbyes when we left Belize. And we still remain friends. We’re even talking about going on another vacation together soon. And this time we won’t be strangers.
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