Dating on Vacation – “Beware of Vacay Bae”

Courtney and I are swapping travel stories while walking up Primrose Hill, convinced we are proficient gym bunnies. We squat and lunge on the grass with a stellar view of London. She’s returned from solo travelling to Cinque Terre, Italy, and has the bronzed glow to prove it.
“So where did you stay, on the cliffs?”
“No. Bad fucking choice of Hostel Chels. It was booked out by this American High School. I’m late twenties right? I felt like an ancient corpse hovering around this hostel.”
I sense a story coming on because Court always has a juicy one.
“I was devastated because I wanted to meet people” She sighed, mid-squat.
I lie back on the grass, done with my half-assed workout, ready for a wine and a doughnut.
“So I get back to the room, and fate throws me a new roommate. This tanned, toned adult god.”
She stops working out too, sweat dripping down her chest in to her sports bra. She swigs the water and shakes her head.
“Oh god Chels. Okay, so. We get talking, we’re vibing, so we spend the rest of the night sharing wine and this tame but adorable kiss”
I love a vacation romance. I live for it. I’m bug-eyed watching Court, enthralled with her story.
“So…the next morning we are having breakfast. He starts talking about being a brand ambassador for a teeth whitening company. Fair enough ya know, his teeth are perfect. I told him how cool it was, and asked how he got in to it. Chels. Fuck… the fantasy fell apart.”
“He has a tooth fetish?”
“No. He goes “so I decided to study dental in the fall, I’ve just graduated high school’
Silence.
“So…?”
“HE’S IN FUCKING HIGH SCHOOL”

Okay, okay, so lesson number one. When abroad, check your facts kids. But despite Courtney’s cougar escapade, there really is nothing more sexy than a suntanned Vacation romance. I have to wonder, why is it so easy to snap up a Vacay Bae but so hard to find real relationships back home? Well, I don’t know about you but on an average London day, I am an overtired coffee-craving, snappy, little commuter. When I enter the Television Centre every morning I put my game face on and arm myself with coffee, but by the end of the day I’m exhausted. It takes a few Pinot’s before I can have a conversation without sarcastically biting someone’s head off. This makes it tough to be the best version of yourself, on a date especially.
So indulge me for a sec. Imagine a place where your brain switches off. Your inhibitions are lost. Your libido is on full speed and you’re in a permanent state of tipsy happiness. This is where the best version of yourself exists – a Holiday. Holiday becomes this nirvana land where the dating laws no longer apply. It’s easy to bend the truth and let Greek Giuseppe think you are always a carefree, free-spirit frolicking in the ocean all day and surviving on a Mediterranean diet of olives and red wine. You can skip the part where you tell him of your stress, meal-prepping, gym struggles and work deadlines. He’ll be infatuated with his exotic princess; freckles on show, ocean glistening on your skin, tan lines. Everyone looks better on Vacay. He doesn’t have to see you with bags under your eyes, unshaven in sweatpants eating your twentieth slice of pizza. No, Vacay Bae only knows the free, naked, skinny-dipping Rose drunk version of you.

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& this my friends, is the problem. Vacation flings are risqué. But also risky. They have all the air and nuance of magic and mystery but also there’s no real indication of who the person is and whether the connection is real. Once you have sobered up from your Sangria and ditched the Holiday goggles, things go stale pretty quickly. The trick and number one rule of Holiday romance, is to never catch feelings. At least not until you have ID checked, background checked, made sure you have a clear idea of all their baggage and real-life flaws. This lesson was made very clear during a dalliance with The Spanish Stallion.

The story is set in Spain, Mallorca. When summer arrives in Europe, the English flee London like migrating geese and flock to Spain where their translucent skin can get some colour. I learnt these migration patterns pretty quickly and spend most summers in Europe. It was a few years back, when things with The Hungarian Bartender had crashed and burned. I like to avoid life problems, and decided to skip the country instead. I figured it would be a self-empowerment trip where I would wake up and do yoga, eat guacamole by the bucketload, read all the books I’d neglected that year and hopefully get some revenge-bod Instagram snaps. All in a days work.
Well. I did commit to self-empowerment for a total day. I pored myself in to wholesome activities like Paddle Boarding and running. Then I decided I was done. Jodi Picoult and The Downward Dog could wait. I brought a bottle of Gin, Slimline tonic and beelined for the beach. By the afternoon I was knee deep in tipsy paradise. I was half conscious on the sun lounger, falling asleep with drool on my face when I saw him. Let’s call him The Spanish Stallion (Cliché). I don’t actually know he is Spanish at this point…I was assuming from the olive skin and dark slicked back hair. He had a tattoo sleeve and looked like Samantha’s Malibu neighbor in Sex & The City (except not naked of course). Right. Sit up, wipe drool from face. Get oil. Oil legs. Pretend to be sexy. He surpassed me without a second glance, damn.

Vacay Romance Tips

  1. Don’t go looking for a holiday romance, let it find you. Enjoying yourself alone looks sexier than prowling the sand for a hook-up
  2. Protect. As in sunscreen. Lotharios will not be tempted by third-degree burns and peeling skin. 
  3. Protect, as in like…everything else. Seriously your exotic sex-god could be romancing every traveler from here to the North Pole. 
  4. Pick your Holiday Hubby with severe caution. It’s likely you’ll be stuck on the beach or by the pool with your new fling for a week or so. If you’re gonna sober up from the Sangria and catch the ICK when you look at them, I wouldn’t go there.
  5. Beware of the wildlife while on tour, Cougars & Cubs. Check ID’s if you have to! Make sure you don’t wind up like Courtney, adding High-Schooler to your dating resume.
  6. Cliche as it is, catch flights not feelings. Leave on a high with ya memories, and your heart in tact.
  7. Don’t make the amateur error of thinking the beach is a romantic place for love-making. No one wants to suck a sandy hot-dog, ya get me?

So back to Spanish Stallion. He swaggers up the beach, and joins a family parked behind me. Mum, Dad and Sister. Interesting. Shit, he just glanced at me. He starts subtly catching my eye, you know, the mating game. But he doesn’t make a move and a few hours later I’m getting a little impatient. We have NO TIME TO WASTE cause we’re on holiday, and holidays end. Doesn’t he realise that? Anyway, with all the confidence from the Gin and Pina Colada’s I’ve been consuming, I begin conjuring up a game plan. I’ve already amassed weapons in the form of a tiny black thong bikini. But I need a plan of attack, a way to ambush him. What can I use to my advantage… Dad reading a newspaper? My brain goes in to overdrive. Yup, the Rum is about to induce some terrible decision making. I walk over, adrenaline pumping.

Dad is startled, a deer in headlights. He blinks. I take aim.
“Hi there, sorry to bother you. I wondered if I could borrow your newspaper when you’re finished reading?”
Dad, amused, glances over at the free newspaper stand that’s like…fifty metres away and stocked full. He does the math quickly.
“Ah, I’ll get my son to bring it over”.
Fucking bullseye.

Our vacation fling kicks off with a bang (not a literal bang, we just met remember). Our days become consumed with each other, and we become inseparable. We share cocktails and long conversations. He strokes my hair as we sit beneath the sunsets. We kiss as our Paella and our wine is served at dinners. I share intimate details about life in London, while Spanish Stallion teaches me to swear and sing in Spanish (turns out he does have Spanish heritage). We hit the waves at sunrise to paddle-board, and swim while it was silent and uninhabited by tourists.
“Buenas noches mi hermose mujer”
He texted me at night before bed. At the time I couldn’t translate, but I would melt all the same. (It’s good-night my beautiful woman). God damn. Way to a woman’s heart, right?

One morning I am sipping black coffee on the terrace as I get an incoming FaceTime from Court.
“SHIT GIRL, I have met my soulmate” I shout down the phone.
“Like, your real soulmate? Because this is the third time you’ve met the one this year” She rolls her eyes.
“No, really. He’s Spanish.”
“What does he do for a job?”
I hesitate. An entrepreneur I think? Surely I asked? Maybe not.
“How old is he?”
K, shit, forgot to ask that too.
“Okay Miss interrogation. I don’t actually know. We just connect.”
I start playing the film fantasy in my head. He will come and see me from Spain. We would be a bi-coastal relationship. Sure, we’ll be torn apart with desire but fly in to each other’s arms at the airport like lost lovers. (I’m actually laughing as I write this, how seriously fucking unlikely).
Anyway, our final day of holiday swings around. I was living in fantasy-land still, cause our week of cohabiting felt so real. Guess it did for him too.
He asks to take me to dinner in The Old Town of Alcudia, one last final rendezvous. I’m wearing this silk wrap dress from ASOS and cream heels that tie up my ankles. I feel like a dream, floating on romance cloud. We meet at the pool. The soft water is lit by the moon and he is standing beneath the palms in chinos and a white button down shirt accentuating his tan. I lost all inhibitions around him, like a naughty teenager might. The Old Town is a magical place, made of cobblestones and dimly lit crumbling walls. It dripped in romance. We walk along the street caressing each other like those sick-inducing PDA couples I despise on the the tube back in London.

At our destination, a very authentic little Spanish restaurant, he orders a carafe of Malbec in Español. We move on to sharing a plate of fettuccine when Spanish Stallion becomes a little antsy, tapping his legs and looking around the room. I suck up a stray piece of pasta and then put my fork down.
“What’s up”.
He eyes me nervously.
“Listen Chels. I didn’t expect to catch feelings across the world like this”
“Neither did I?” I flash him a cheeky reassuring smile.
“I want to try and see you again”
So do I” I keep calm and collected. Inside, I am literally twerking upside down on the table. I mentally prepare the thirty messages I need to fire off to the girls.
Guys, wedding invite impending. K thanks, bye.
I sense he isn’t finished talking and shut that mental shit down.
“Because I want this to go somewhere… I can’t leave without being completely honest.”
Fuck.
“I’m Spanish, well my father is, but I don’t live in Spain. I live in the UK. Kidderminster actually”
I stare at him suspiciously and take a moment to process. Okay, so he lied. Kidderminster? Pretty sure that’s a village. He lives in a village. Not so bad I guess, I don’t mind giving up the Colesseum or Pisa for a local pub and a pie.
“Why did you lie? I mean, I don’t mind that where you live?” I question him, his cheeks are flaring up red.
“And…oh god… that’s not all.”
“Oh yeah? What else could you possibly have lied about, you have a girlfriend?” I roll my eyes.
“No. I work at my dad’s garage, I’m not an entrepreneur”
“Right, okay…”
FUCK.
“I’m eighteen”
DOUBLE FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK
I drop my fettuccine fork.

As you can imagine, the romance of the century was reduced to nothing more than what felt like a babysitter on a field trip. I failed to do the appropriate checks, and wound up with a very deceivingly mature looking cub. I let him down gently, assured him I wasn’t looking to take on the title of cougar just yet. I had a career with the BBC to go back to, a house, and I didn’t think his lifestyle in Kidderminster was going to be a fit.

In London, a week later, I am rushing out of the TV centre in a flurry to catch the tube and meet Court for a cosmo at Boundary rooftop. It’s back to Luxe city life and she is dying to hear my heart-wrenching gossip. My phone blings, I look down, and sure enough Spanish Stallion pops up with an Instagram request. Trust me he looks very different in clothes, rather than shirtless and gallivanting around the beach. His Instagram features shots of a bunch of acne-ridden youngsters rocking polo shirts, and hanging out. The shame. A kid from Kidderminster had me fooled. Ya know, I think lesson learned. What happens in Spain should always, seriously, fucking stay in Spain. 

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