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He has had 34 dates in 19 countries in the past year. This is what she has learned News

(CNN) Loni James boarded a flight from Washington state to London last year with a duffel bag, a backpack, and an unconventional itinerary.

It was the end of March and her plan was simple: travel the world and date a local in every country she visited.

Days after her arrival in London, she swiped right on Tinder and met a dual French/British national who loved to travel. Pints ​​with him in a pub near Tower Bridge turned into a five-hour dinner and long conversations about previous trips.

He never saw the man again. But so he began his journey, one with no specific itinerary in mind. Over the past year, James says he’s used Tinder, Hinge and Bumble to go on 34 first dates in 19 countries, a series of romantic rituals filled with intrigue, surprises and cultural scoops.

There was a 13-hour date in Cairo during the holy month of Ramadan, her first date with a Muslim, with a man who wowed her with his beaming smile and quotes from the TV show “Friends” on his Tinder profile. Her next date was with another Egyptian man in Alexandria, who told her he was engaged and spent the date longing aloud for a past love.

“He clearly needed someone to listen to him and I was a safe space,” James says. “I’ve had incredibly intimate and vulnerable conversations with people. There’s something special that happens when people know they’ll never see you again.”

She went on a date in the Italian city of Verona with a charming classical musician who gave her a ride on a scooter and gave her an evening tour of the city’s many historical sites.

There was also a disastrous date in Turkey with a man who got angry when she rejected his physical advances and left her at his paragliding shop, vowing to come back. He never did. After waiting for hours in a storm, James spent the night on a tent bench.

A screenshot of Loni James’ Tinder profile.

Her most recent date was with a South African man in Cape Town who pulled out a deck of cards over dinner and proceeded to do card tricks at the table.

But James, 40, says that even the bad dates have been memorable, and that they have all taught him something.

“In the past, I’d view dating as a hit or miss. If I went out with someone on a date and it didn’t end in a goodnight kiss, or it didn’t end on the second date, I considered it a flop,” she says. “I don’t think about it anymore. Now I realize the value of dating and being so grateful that someone opened up and gave you their time…shared their story with you.

“I’ve learned that romance comes in many forms,” ​​she adds. “It doesn’t have to be expensive and there’s no set formula that makes romance happen. For me it is when there is connection and intentionality. It is the person who listens to you, who seeks to make you feel special, who wants to bring a smile to your face with a thoughtful gesture, and the person who wants to know what you think and seeks to truly know you.”

Her mother’s death prompted her to seize the moment.

James’s decision to go on a solo journey was prompted by tragedy.

He watched his mother battle early-onset Alzheimer’s disease from the age of 48 until her death a year and a half ago at 63. James encouraged them to seize the moment and launch their adventures.

“My parents had done everything right according to American culture. They got married. They raised three kids… They had good jobs… they paid for the house,” she says. “They had big plans for their retirement, but my mom didn’t make it to retirement.”

Jamie, it’s not married and no children she began saving for her trip two years before her mother’s death in October 2021. She moved from Seattle to Spokane, Washington, renting a cheaper apartment and getting a roommate. She later sold all of her things and moved in with her parents to spend time with her ailing mother during her last days.

She didn’t have a chance to share her travel plans with her mother before she died, but he remembers key advice his mother gave him years ago before Alzheimer’s robbed him of the ability to communicate.

“I told him about a guy I liked and he told me to make sure he loved traveling as much as I did,” she says. “That was really shocking, that in the midst of her illness, she knew how important she was to me… when it came to finding a partner.”

James’ international travel coincided with a surge in solo travel, fueled in part by the pandemic.

James took this self-portrait in the Sahara desert in Mauritania.

Google searches the US last month for “travel solo” they were more than three times higher than in March 2020 in the United States.

“The uncertainty of being around others during a pandemic has made travelers wary of traveling in groups,” says Janice Waugh, founder and editor of solo traveler. “Many have continued to travel alone after discovering the benefits of solo travel, such as flexibility, freedom, and personal growth.”

While it’s not unusual for solo travelers to find romance and friendship, it’s rare to date in every country you visit, Waugh says.

But James threw himself into the experience and embraced the good and the bad. He stays in hostels and airbnbs or with friends and even friends of friends, always leaving room for spontaneity.

“People will just be at the shelter asking, ‘Who wants to go here? Who’s free for seven days? Do you want to go do this?’ And you end up with strangers in a car,” she says.

“I realized that long-term travel is very different from just going on vacation…for a week or two. I really wanted to get closer to the culture and wanted to have a very different experience from being away for a while “. long time.”

She takes steps to ensure your safety.

James says she’s honest with her dating about her goal to date someone in every country she visits. She promises them anonymity and, except for sharing a few photos, she declined to provide her contacts to CNN.

Perhaps her most memorable experience was last year’s 13-hour date with the Muslim man in Cairo. They shared conversations about everything from online dating to Muslim culture to arranged marriages. Because it was during Ramadan, they shared iftar, the food fasting Muslims eat just after sunset.

James shared this traditional post-sunset meal on a date with a Muslim man in Cairo last year during Ramadan.

“I’ve never had a man go to such lengths on a date,” he says of their day together, which also included visits to museums and a monastery, a ride in a rickshaw and an evening folkloric dance show in the desert. “There was so much food, it was so colorful. I tried all these new things. Egyptian food is amazing.”

Since then he has dated in Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Norway, Iceland, the Azores islands of Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Namibia and South Africa.

She posts about her experiences. in a blog and in Facebook and instagram with the hashtag #ADateinEveryCountry, where numerous women offer comments and advice.

As a female solo traveler, James says she’s careful about safety. She shares her location with friends, doesn’t drink much alcohol, makes sure her phone is charged, and uses a ride-sharing app to get out on a date on her own.

She communicates with men through dating apps and doesn’t give out her phone number until after meeting a date in person. She also does not allow an appointment to pick her up from where she is staying.

Waugh, the solo travel expert, encourages women to find dates in public places and be careful who they approach for directions.

“I meet people all the time and I do it by making the first move. I think an inappropriate person is more likely to choose me than I choose her,” says Waugh. “I choose who I talk to, where I go or where I sit. If I need to ask for directions, my first choice is to approach a family and then maybe a couple.”

James hasn’t felt unsafe on a date yet, but he has had some frustrating experiences. Men have planted it twice: in Paphos, Cyprus, and in Cape Town, South Africa.

James in the Ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo. “When I write about these places, I hope it generates curiosity,” he says.

Then there was the man in Zurich who picked her up in a Lotus, took her to dinner at an expensive restaurant over her objections, and ordered her food, along with an $84 glass of Chablis. She then asked to split her bill, ruining her weekly budget.

“I know it sounds glamorous, and some of my dates have been glamorous,” says James. “I have gone paragliding (in Fethiye, Türkiye) on dates I have also gone fishing in the Arctic Circle on dates. But I’ve also been to some very rare ones.”

Her affair has changed her perspective on dating.

James has not returned to the US since he left in the spring of 2022. He plans to travel several more months in Africa before heading to Asia, Australia and South America.

She hopes to turn her global adventure into a book that is both entertaining and educational.

“Maybe someone isn’t going to pick up a book about Egypt or Namibia or Tunisia. But maybe they’re intrigued by my dating story, and if they happen to learn these other things about this country during that dating story, then I think that’s a huge bonus.” “, she says.

“I realize that Egypt might not be on everyone’s bucket list, Morocco might not be, even Namibia. When I write about these places, I hope it sparks curiosity… I hope the stories make people laugh.” people, dream and cross oceans”. to meet interesting people everywhere.

Until then, he’ll keep traveling, at least for the next year. There is much more to see, much more to do.

James hasn’t found a partner yet. She says that she is open to having a boyfriend who lives in another country. But if it doesn’t happen, she’s enjoying almost every moment of her trip.

“I love having different races and religions and music and style and knowledge and backgrounds,” she says. “There’s a lot to learn when you surround yourself with people from all walks (of the world).”

James walking near Mont Blanc on the French-Swiss border in the Alps.

Meeting men in different countries has changed her perspective on dating, she says.

When she was younger, she saw dating as a means to an end: finding a husband. But now, he says, he considers it a privilege to hear someone’s story and to get to know them without the weight of expectations.

“I’ve learned that modern dating challenges exist everywhere,” she says. “People are still learning how to approach online dating, and people are still ghosting. Getting stood up sucks, even when it happens on a beautiful island. Your insecurities don’t just go away when you cross an ocean.”

James says she’s glad she didn’t put off traveling until she had a partner, as she had in the past. The past year, she says, she has taught her a lot about herself.

“I learned that I am the best version of myself when I travel, the most open and the most curious,” she says. “I am fascinated by the way different countries approach the same things. I am constantly reminded that there is no one right way to do things.”



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