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Tinder Abroad: Online Dating “Digital Nomads”

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By: Rebecca Rush

The American imagination has a stereotype of sailors tattooed onto it. Vagabonds with a girl in every port, protecting our nation as they seduce the locals. There’s a new kind of “sailor” afoot, and while they might not be employed by any government, their modus operandi is the same.

I was lonely and overwhelmed in Northern Thailand when I reactivated Tinder & swiped Sam, a Freelance Web and Graphic Designer from New Zealand. Sam & his crew of international roommates are digital nomads. 

What is a digital nomad? Anyone who moves about the world while working remotely.

Sam came to Northern Thailand in April of 2015, and in the past two years has visited Canada, Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia & 17 of our very own United States. Thailand has excellent high-speed internet, good education, gentle culture, a tropical climate, and a low cost of living. It’s a Petri dish for digital nomads.

What a liberating way to live; a USB in every port. 

Sam lived outside of the city of Chiang Mai in a gated community full of beautiful homes exactly like the ones I used to show in Miami Beach as a realtor, except their rent – as foreigners paying a premium – was $400 a month. Not each. Total.

Gated community

Chiang Mai beautiful gated communities

I met a woman from Korea & a man from Russia, and his best friend; Tom, who was from Australia. They met through, well, you already know. It was exactly the kind of ragtag group to which I am accustomed to jumping into as if I’ve always been there.

"Rag Tag" Team

“Rag Tag” Team

They taught me “how to Thailand”. I felt so horribly American. Respecting other cultures is a discomfort to us, an affront to the individuality we hold so dear.

As I learned, a little goes a long way. Small things like standing before a movie for the national anthem, taking my shoes off when entering buildings, covering my shoulders as I bowed my head into an ornate temple watched over by a chihuahua couple (he had balls, she had saggy nipples), and to watch men become monks.

Beautiful Thailand

Beautiful Thailand

I asked about the slavery in Thailand and they returned that volley by asking about our prison system, the way it’s set up as a new kind of slavery for mostly non-white Americans. They asked about Trump, (this was in October), and I replied sure as hell that Hilary was going to win.

Because once I almost got raped in a Trump plaza bathroom and I got away, and apparently, I am America now. 

That weekend, he and I headed up to Pai, known as a Thai Goa, just white people everywhere ruining everything. 

The prices were higher, but now I had my own personal tour guide with a motorbike. We split everything – a $14/night bungalow, some Thai mushroom shakes, and what appeared to be my heart, but later proved to be nothing more than ego.

See, the first night I met Sam we banged. It was good. And it was good the next day. And it was good the next day, too.

Oxytocin flooded my system and with no break in between I decided Sam would come to live with me in New York, where he would have nothing, and no one, and mostly be my pet. (I never told him that though.)

He took me everywhere I wanted to go, even sitting back as I meditated and cried on a rock in the middle of the water here:

He was so kind, so emotionally open, so into being with me every day I was in Thailand that I assumed I was special. Of course, I fucking did.

What I did was drink enough mushroom shakes while we were in the westernized land of Pai, that I was pretty sure it was really Ayahuasca, which I’ve never done. I’m awful in small groups, which I was in at the time, puking and arguing about what drug I was on as paisley patterns floated across the wood.

At this point, I had realized that Sam was not going to move to New York with me because he told me that he had already done this. He had already followed a girl to America, had moved in with a girl in Korea, and another brief romance with another American. It began to dawn on me that I was just another American on the tour of his life, one in which he didn’t plan to stop moving – or dating.

He said that even if he met someone with all the same travel plans he had over the next 18 months, even if something perfectly lined up, he couldn’t see himself being in a long term committed relationship with any woman or country.

The one in Korea he said was the hardest, an American teaching English abroad, the world is lousy with them. But in the end, he left, even though he lived with her for months and she wanted him to stay.  

Why go so hard in when you know it won’t last?

“For the experience”, he said through tears. Admittedly those tears came after I spent hours on mushroom-ayahuasca psychologically dismantling him (maybe just acting like a looney toon) the way only someone who’s had too much UWS therapy & South Florida rehab can. 

Or maybe the tears were because, despite numerous pleas, I refused to bring my vomit & piss tour into the bathroom and continued to puke off the side while pissing into the bed while we had this conversation that I knew I would eventually print.

Why what a new and genius way to never grow up!  A job – a lifestyle really – where you travel the whole world, make new friends, immerse yourself in local culture, and have deep relationships with beautiful, interesting women, until you’re off to the next place. How novel!

A digital nomad! Or maybe, just maybe, they’re just technologically advanced, repackaged for the new world, millennial era sailors. A girl in every USB port.

The Author inspects a cat statue

The Author inspects a cat statue

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