We’ve all had this fantasy at some point in our lives. You meet a dashing stranger in passing and spark an instant, soul-searing connection. On this fateful day, you chat for hours and imagine how you’ve never encountered each other before but are certain you’ve met in a past life. Dopamine and euphoria cloud your better judgment and your instincts become heavily reliant on emotions and the “feels” of falling fast and hard in love – though often times it’s a whole lotta lust! Like the hopeless romantic you are, you decide to be spontaneous despite what logic tells you and agree to hit the road together on a quest to turn this fairy tale into a reality of sweet nothings. This all sounds beautiful in theory but can realistically turn into the biggest nightmare of a first date if you ignore certain cautionary signs along the way.
I’ve been down this road before hopping on a plane and traveling out west for a weekend with a guy I only met just shy of a week at an art gallery in New York. It was invigorating to live this unbridled but also an agonizing guessing game that never quite left me settled in the moment. So, to save you some time on the journey to following your heart into the unknown, here are a few helpful tips I’ve learned to always keep on-hand while jetting off into the sunset. And what better way to illustrate these pointers than to use one of my classic free-spirited movie couples, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) from the Before Sunrise trilogy…
ESTABLISH YOUR CLASS BEFORE SIGNING ON
Just as any savvy jetsetter booking a flight, you want to know what class you’ll be traveling in, what your seating arrangements will look like, how much baggage is coming along with you and be comfortable with your decisions before taking off. You can never truly tell how your experience will turn out but at least you’re aware of what you’re getting into. In the famous words of Lil Kim yelling at the Notorious B.I.G in “Another” after a lovers’ quarrel, “Why go from first class to coach?” Equally with taking a chance on love, you want to know if your potential partner is on your team and what kind of adventure you’re up for.
Have a candid and flirty exchange about his status and be sure to watch out for body language cues. Look down at fingers for rings, watch averted eye contact in conversation, notice any sweat beads rolling in the deep as well as any nervous fidgeting and twitches. Most importantly, do more active listening than talking. People will always tell you more than you need to know about their intentions if you leave enough room to breathe. If any feelings of uncertainty flare up and raise red flags that you can’t quite place your finger on, save yourself the building of great expectations and pass…
DEVISE AN ESCAPE PLAN & PHONE-A-FRIEND LIST
As romantic as it may sound to have an exotic vacation solely dedicated to getting to know your mystery guy a little better, this can easily turn into the longest, most painful first date known to man and you definitely want to make sure you have an easy out if needed. Make plans where you know someone that’s close enough should you need to get out of dodge. Keep your crew updated on your whereabouts so you can check in and get advice if things are on the up & up or send a speedy S.O.S signaling your stop, drop and roll out.
GET SOME ROOM OUTSIDE OF YOUR ROOM
Build in some me time during your rendezvous so that you’re not completely sucked into the vortex of solely being with your guy every waking hour of the day. Without any space, your mind can prematurely trick you into thinking you’re in a pseudo relationship without genuinely connecting yet. Take a load off. It’s great practice should things escalate past the courting phase since your actual relationship won’t exist in a bubble…
To narrow your tunnel vision down even further, head out and interact with other people. You’ll get a better sense of how your new beau will navigate your status publicly and pick up on any of his social quirks you find utterly cute or irksome.
OBSERVE AT THE DINNER TABLE
Whether on a whirlwind romantic leap of faith or back home on a swipe right liaison, watching the way your date interacts at a restaurant anywhere from selecting a meal, sharing dishes, interacting with wait staff to the ease of your conversations, bill arrivals and attitudes on tipping will give you major insight on what category your lover has mentally placed you in. It’ll also give you an introduction into his family dynamics, cultural background, views on gender roles, intimacy and finances. There are a wealth of subtle gems flying across the dinner table that speak volumes and if you’re not comfortable with your partner’s overall dining etiquette after a couple of outings, it’s a clear window on how compromising on pretty much any topic surrounding value systems will go. Ensure your partner’s truths are palatable.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET REAL
If you’re looking for a deep connection and you’re not sure you’ll ever be seeing this beautiful stranger again, don’t be afraid to keep things 100% real and leave your representative at home. You’re both operating off trust at this point due to traveling together while hardly knowing each other. Don’t waste time beating around the bush even when weighty discussions pop up. Stay open to the opportunity and be honest about what you really want.
BE OKAY WITH HAVING NO REGRETS
So what, you caught feelings and a plane ticket. As long as your safety is ensured, see this experience as another adventure, try not to place so much weight on the moment and enjoy! It takes a lot of guts to follow your heart- be proud of that, take a chance, embrace the ride and have fun being the siren you are! You never know, you could end up stumbling into your version of a happy ending.
On the flip side, if things don’t work out, simply take ownership of your decision, learn from your interaction in order to move on and improve on your next response to fate. For added measure, avoid befriending each other on social media before/during your trip especially in case results hit a sour note. Flipping back through your feed is the quickest rabbit hole to self-pity and will inevitably have you wailing this old Jenny Owen Youngs tune…