'I only go on first dates if it's a holiday getaway and I've been on 4 since Covid, here's why'

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
Illustration photo by Getty Images
  • From swiping right on dating apps to sliding in DMs, the pandemic has taken first dates to extremes. The year is 2021, and we're still under lockdown.
  • Bumping into a crush at a party or a wedding seems like a distant memory, and matching with a potential partner on an online dating app seems be the only feasible option at this point.
  • For Claire*, who decided to try her chance at finding love online, a little harmless online banter and messages unexpectedly progressed to a series of weekend getaways.
  • This is her story as told to Wandi Jama.

I've always been the 'do it by the book' kind of person when it comes to relationships. I used to lowkey judge friends who used dating apps to find love or get to know someone. But, the pandemic proved to me that the odds of meeting someone at a coffee shop, spilling a latte on them, locking eyes and instantly falling in love are non-existent.

I've always yearned for that rom-com kind of love, but that too can be pretty unrealistic. So, what do you do when you're living alone, tired of being single during a pandemic? You start toying around with the idea of online dating.

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 It wasn't an easy decision if I'm honest – I was judging myself and felt like a hypocrite, but I had to give it at least a try, right? 

I surprisingly enjoyed the thrill of swiping right and left – I loved how in control I was. If he didn't meet my height requirements, I would gladly swipe left. It felt good until the real work began – I had to chat with these people.

Where do I begin? What do I say? As time progressed and the conversations were organic, we would then chat further on Whatsapp. 

I went on a few virtual dates and lunch dates, but I decided that for me to experience someone fully, it has to be for a few days where it's just him and me in a different environment from the traditional dates we all go on. That's when I decided that my first dates would always be getaways.

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I've been on four holiday dates, and they were all very different. Of course, I won't just go with random people – I first need to have established some connection with them through our messages, video calls and conversations.

Our connection needs to be organic, and I need to feel safe. Hence I intensely get to know them online before we go on our holiday. We also need to have similar interests and be open to the idea of spending a few days together in a safe, public destination. 

Going on holiday with someone as a first date is eye-opening because instead of focusing on the potential pitfalls of a relationship over an overpriced dinner date, it allows you to get to know someone. 

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You get to let your guard down a bit, navigate a new place together, understand how they handle situations, partake in activities together and just let your hair down.

By the end of the trip, you're entirely relaxed in each other's company, as though you'd known each other for years. I was recently on onr weekend away, and we're currently in a serious, committed relationship.

Our holiday was the best, and I learned so much about him and even about myself – that I probably wouldn't have if we had gone on a traditional first date. That's the beauty of it all – you discover someone whilst also rediscovering yourself.

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But you need to trust your intuition, though – don't just go on holiday with anyone. We do live in South Africa, after all. Also be very careful of relationship scammers. Read this W24 story about how relationship scammers operate online: The dating scammer is the bogeyman of the digital age.

Do a background check on the person, make sure that everything he told you checks out - google them and search their social media interactions as it could give you an idea into their personality.

Stick to 2-3 days max, stay at well known places with a good reputation and let your loved ones know you're going away. Make sure your expectations match, and you're on the same page, for instance consider if you are booking separate rooms. 

What will be on the itinerary? How are you handling the financial aspect of the trip? Always share your location with a family or friend and all your booking details to be safe. Keep an open mind, enjoy and always be yourself!

What do you think is the perfect date idea. Tell us about it here.

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