Last year, Loni James traveled to London from Washington, D.C., carrying a day pack, a duffel bag, and an unconventional itinerary.
It was late Walk, and her arrangement was basic: to travel the world and meet locals in each country she visited on a date.
She swiped right on Tinder days after arriving in London, and she met a French-British dual citizen who loved to travel. Pints of lager with him at a bar close to the Pinnacle Scaffold transformed into a five-hour supper date and significant discussions about past outings.
She at no point ever saw the man in the future. However, her journey began without a predetermined plan. James claims that she has used Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble to go on 34 first dates in 19 countries in the past year. These romantic rituals were filled with intrigue, surprises, and cultural firsts.
There was the 13-hour date in Cairo during the sacred month of Ramadan – her most memorable date with a Muslim – with a her man with his radiating grin and “Companions” Network program statements on his Kindling profile. Her next date was with another Egyptian man in Alexandria. During the date, he told her he was engaged and talked about how much he missed his first love.
James says, “He clearly needed someone to listen, and I was a safe space.” I’ve had very personal and vulnerable conversations with others. When people know they won’t see you again, there is something special that happens.”
There was a date in Verona, Italy, with a charming classical musician who took her on a nighttime tour of the city’s many historic landmarks while riding a scooter.
Additionally, there was a disastrous date in Turkey with a man who dropped her off at his paragliding shop and promised to return when she rejected his physical advances. He did not. James spent the night on a bench in the store after waiting for hours during a storm.
In Cape Town, she went on her most recent date with a South African man who pulled out a deck of cards and began performing card tricks at the table.
However, James, 40, claims that each of the bad dates has taught her something, and that even they have been memorable.
I used to think that dating was either a success or failure. She says, “I considered it a failure if I went out with someone on a date and it didn’t end in a goodnight kiss or the second date.” That is no longer a thought for me. I now know how important it is to go on a date and be thankful that someone opened up, gave you their time, and told you their story.
She continues, “I’ve learned that romance comes in many forms.” There is no set formula that guarantees romance, and it does not have to be costly. It occurs for me when there is intentionality and connection. The person who listens to you, tries to make you feel special, wants to make you smile with a thoughtful gesture, and wants to know what you think and get to know you really well is this person.
She seized the opportunity after the death of her mother
Tragic circumstances prompted James to make the choice to travel alone.
She watched her mother fight early-onset Alzheimer’s disease from the time she was 48 until her death at 63 a year and a half ago. James was motivated by it to seize the opportunity and begin her adventures.
According to American culture, my parents had done everything right. They tied the knot. They had good jobs, raised three children, and paid off the house, she claims. My mother did not make it to retirement, despite their grand retirement plans.
James, who is single and does not have any children, began saving for her trip two years prior to the death of her mother in October 2021. She moved to Spokane, Washington, from Seattle, where she rented a cheaper apartment and found a roommate. She eventually sold everything she owned and moved in with her parents to spend time with her dying mother.
She didn’t get to tell her mother about her travel plans before she died, but she remembers a crucial piece of advice her mother gave her before Alzheimer’s disease took away her ability to communicate.
According to her, “I told her about a boy I liked, and she told me to make sure he loved travel as much as I did.” That she knew how important that was to me when I was looking for a partner even though she had a disease was really impactful.
Due in part to the pandemic, James’ international trip has coincided with an increase in solo travel.
According to Janice Waugh, founder and publisher of Solo Traveler, “travelers were wary of traveling in groups during a pandemic because of the uncertainty of being around others.” After discovering the advantages of solo travel, such as flexibility, freedom, and personal development, many continue to travel alone.
While it’s typical for solo voyagers to view as sentiment and fellowship, it’s uncommon to date somebody in each country you visit, Waugh says.
However, James has hurled herself entirely into the experience and embraced the great and the awful. She stays in hostels, Airbnbs, or with friends and even friends of friends, allowing for impromptu travel whenever possible.
“People will simply be asking around at the hostel, “Who wants to go here?” Who has seven days of free time? Would you like to perform this?’ And you just end up in a car with strangers,” she asserts.
I came to the realization that traveling for a significant amount of time is quite distinct from simply taking a vacation for one or two weeks. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the culture and have an entirely new experience by traveling extensively.
She takes steps to insure her safety
James claims that she discloses her intention to date someone in each country she visits to her dates. She promises them anonymity and declines to provide CNN with their contact information, with the exception of sharing a few photos.
The 13-hour Cairo date with the Muslim man last year may have been her most memorable experience. They talked about everything from Muslim culture and arranged marriages to online dating. Because it was Ramadan, they shared iftar, the meal that Muslims who were fasting eat immediately after sunset.
She talks about their day together, which also included trips to museums and a monastery, a ride in a rickshaw, and a nighttime folk-dance show in the desert. “I’ve never had a man put so much effort in a date,” she says. The food was so colorful and plentiful. I attempted this multitude of new things. The food in Egypt is amazing.
Since then, she has gone on dates in Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Norway, Iceland, the Azores islands in Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Namibia, and South Africa. She has also had dates in Cyprus.
She uses the hashtag #ADateinEveryCountry to talk about her experiences on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram, where a lot of women offer advice and comments.
James claims that she is cautious about safety because she is traveling on her own. She uses a ride-sharing app, doesn’t drink much alcohol, shares her location with friends, and makes sure her phone is charged so she can leave a date on her own.
She uses dating apps to communicate with men, and she doesn’t give out her phone number until she meets a date in person. Additionally, she never permits a date to pick her up from her lodgings.
The authority on solo travel, Waugh, advises women to meet up with dates in public places and be cautious when asking for directions.
“I take the first step to meet new people on a regular basis. According to Waugh, “I think that it is more likely that an inappropriate person will choose me than it is that I will choose them.” Who I talk to, where I go, and where I sit are all up to me. When I need to ask for directions, I usually go to a family first, then a couple.
She has had some frustrating dates, but James has not yet felt unsafe. She has been raised twice by men: in Cyprus’ Paphos and South Africa’s Cape Town.
Then there was the Zurich man who picked her up in a Lotus, took her to a pricey restaurant despite her objections, and ordered her food and a $84 Chablis for her. He then asked for the bill to be split, blowing her weekly budget.
James says, “I know it sounds glamorous, and some of my dates have been glamorous.” I’ve taken dates paragliding in Turkey’s Fethiye. I’ve also taken dates fishing in the Arctic Circle. However, I’ve also been on some truly bizarre ones.
Her adventure has shifted her perspective on dating
Since she left in the spring of 2022, James has not been back in the United States. Before traveling to Asia, Australia, and South America, she plans to stay a few more months in Africa.
She wants to write a book about her trip around the world that is both entertaining and informative.
It’s possible that no one will pick up a book about Tunisia, Namibia, or Egypt. However, she adds, “If they happen to learn these other things about this country during that dating story, then I consider that a huge bonus.” However, maybe they would be intrigued by my dating story.
“I understand Egypt perhaps isn’t on everyone’s list of must-dos, perhaps Morocco isn’t, even Namibia. I want people to be curious about these places when I write about them. I also want the stories to make people laugh, dream, and travel across oceans to meet interesting people from all over.
She will continue to travel for at least the next year in the interim. There is a tremendous amount more to see and do.
James has not yet found a companion. She says she’s available to having a sweetheart who lives in another country. She is, however, enjoying almost every moment of her journey even if it does not occur.
She states, “I love having the different races, religions, styles, knowledge, and backgrounds.” There’s simply such a great amount to be gained when you encircle yourself with individuals from various region (of the world).”
She claims that meeting men from different countries has altered her perspective on dating.
She viewed dating as a means to an end when she was younger: to look for a husband. She says that now, however, hearing someone’s story and getting to know them without having to deal with expectations is a privilege.
She asserts, “I’ve learned that the difficulties of modern dating exist everywhere.” Ghosting still occurs and people are still learning how to deal with online dating. Even on a beautiful island, standing up is unpleasant. When you cross an ocean, your insecurities don’t just go away.”
James says she’s glad she didn’t wait until she had a partner before traveling, as she had done in the past. According to the previous year, she, has shown her a ton herself.
She says, “I’ve learned that when I’m traveling, I’m the most open and curious version of myself.” I’m entranced by the way that various nations approach exactly the same things. It never ceases to impress upon me that there is no one right way to do things.