Traveling to Meet Your Long-Distance Online Crush: A Gentle Guide

The year is 2019. The thirst is great. Many of us are using some form of online dating app to meet other queers. Some of these apps only show queers in close physical proximity. But some of these apps – most notably Instagram, my Personal Favorite Dating App Of All Time – allow you to connect with people in other cities, other states, other countries! The world becomes our hot gay oyster! But… how do you actually go about planning a trip to meet the faraway queer of your dreams?

Whether you’ve just liked someone’s thirst traps consistently for a month, engaged in some hot and heavy sexting in your DMs, or are accidentally in a full-blown long-distance situationship with someone you’ve yet to meet in person, this guide has got you covered on how to approach this Modern Queer Ritual: traveling a questionabe distance to meet someone you met online for sex, love, disaster, or all of the above.

Make a plan & discuss expectations

I polled a lot of friends and internet strangers for this article, and the number one thing every single human agreed on was that discussing expectations (and then maybe going over them again, and hey, maybe once more just to be sure!) is the key to having a positive experience when visiting a long-distance crush you’ve never met before. Even if it seems as though you’ve been on the same page leading up to the trip, a lot of nuance and tone can get lost in text-based communication, so there’s no harm in double and triple checking in with each other.

I’m a Capricorn sun with a Virgo rising so I love making plans, but if you’re more of a Sagittarius you can still lightly plan things. I don’t mean everything needs to be scheduled to the minute and color-coded, but these are some good questions to think about when making your trip plans, even if you never write anything down or open up a Google spreadsheet: When will you visit? How long will you stay? Will you have to book a flight? If you drive, will there be a place to park your car? Are you staying in their home, or booking your own lodging? Are you going just to visit this person, or are there other things you would like to do in the area? Do all people involved think they feel a romantic or sexy connection? What will you do if upon meeting one person actually does not feel the connection? Especially if one or more of you are shy or awkward, how will you communicate that you are or are not into the connection when you actually meet in person? If one or both of you need alone time every day, how will you manage this if you are planning a multi-day meet-up? If the person hosting has other partners, how will they factor into the trip? What is the point of the IRL meeting? Can you already envision a future together or is this just a (costly) first date?

I could go on, but I think that’s a good starting place to think about the questions you might want to ask yourself and your potential new activity partner when planning a trip to meet for the first time. I know that queers often move at an accelerated speed when compared to straight relationships, and I know that try as I might, I can’t really discourage y’all from that. (But I will keep trying!) That said, asking even a few of these questions and setting expectations accordingly can really do a lot to avoid future heartbreak from overzealous long distance U-Hauling and can also just make sure everyone feels safe and at ease. And, pro tip: if you’ve got a casual crush on someone and think it might be fun to see them in person and see if sparks fly but aren’t ready for a full on Trip To Meet This Human, might I recommend the solid Add-On Move – next time you find yourself traveling to the town they live in, let them know, and see if you can schedule some time to meet! This is the least complicated and most low-stakes way to visit a faraway babe and I’ve had it work multiple times!

To be extremely blunt, it’s a bad look to spend $350 on a round trip ticket across the country if you think you’re traveling explicitly to have a sexy rendezvous with a new sexting pal, and that person was under the impression you were visiting their town for a work conference and may want to like, maybe grab a drink one evening, ya know? Do everyone involved in this bizarre modern dating practice a favor and be extremely clear about your plan, your hopes and your expectations, with the knowledge that even the best-laid plans and most-processed expectations may still need to shift with reality.

If possible, find a neutral place to stay

This is controversial because we are, in general, not a wealthy community and many of the folks I chatted with about this concept actually said having a free place to stay in a fun travel destination was a perk to visiting a long distance crush, but I feel pretty strongly that if you are at all able to financially swing it, you should try to stay somewhere that is not actually under the same roof as your potential new partner! There’s an immediate weird power imbalance between a guest and a host (that often shifts in bizarre and unexpected ways). Most humans – no matter how hospitable – don’t actually love having guests they feel obligated to entertain or interact with for multiple days at a time; it’s a really intense way to start a relationship that can make a potentially good thing feel pressured, And I hate to continue being a downer, but if things suck and you don’t know how to gently say that, it’s Really Fucking Swell to have your own space! If things, God forbid, go really south it will be a huge relief to have a neutral and safe place to stay.

Listen, I know. I know! I love having friends in faraway places that I can crash with when I travel, and I love returning the favor when my pals travel to my town, and part of being queer in 2019 means that you can easily become “friends” with a stranger on the internet! One friend I talked to for this article traveled from the United States to Australia for an extended date (!!!) and we discussed how having a free place to stay absolutely encouraged them to make the trek. However, they’d had multiple conversations with their date about what might happen if when they met they didn’t wanna hook up, and luckily everything turned out wonderfully well but they felt confident about how things would go down even if things went poorly.

I guess that’s my conclusion here. If you absolutely cannot stay in a hostel or with a friend or in a hotel or at a campground or like, literally anywhere besides the home of the person you have traveled a far distance to hopefully connect with in some way, please please please discuss what might happen if things go badly on the date.

Have a backup plan

Okay, remember all the questions I advised you ask yourself and your crush before you actually execute the trip? I have some bad news: even if you do your best to set reasonable expectations in advance, the trip could still be a total bust. Unfortunately, the best planning can still sometimes give way to less than positive results. Trust me, I hate this just as much if not more than you do – have I mentioned how much Capricorn I have in my chart? But it is the truth, and we must… yes… plan for it! Sorry, spontaneous angels. You will thank me if things go awry, I promise.

On the extremely low-stakes end of things, you may meet the person you thought you were falling wildly in love with and realize the feelings just aren’t there in person. Or perhaps you meet them and still feel 100% that way but they realize the spark isn’t there for them. That’s okay! Rejection is okay! Revising your expectations as you go is totally okay! But it’s still good to give some genuine thought about what you’ll do if this happens. Would y’all like to spend an extended period of time together in a friendly way? Will you be able to pull this off without being shitty and resentful of things not going as you’d hoped? (Unlike the previous things we just discussed as being okay, being passive aggressive or guilting someone for not being romantically or sexually interested in you is not okay!!!) Do you have friends in the area you could hang with instead? Can you cut the trip short – for example, if you drove, perhaps you could leave earlier than planned?

On the more alarming and stressful end of the spectrum is the fact that unfortunately, sometimes when we meet online pals in person, we don’t feel safe. Listen to your gut. Be vigilant. Obviously things have changed a lot since I was 13 and my mom was cautioning me not to give strangers in chatrooms my real name, but it’s really important to keep in mind that when you meet someone offline, unless you have some mutual friends, they are a stranger. I am not saying that we should all walk around assuming the worst of the humans we meet online (99% of my experiences with folks I’ve met online have been wonderful and sometimes very sexy and fulfilling!) but I am saying that I care about you and I want you to take care of yourself. If you travel to meet someone and they don’t respect your boundaries, make comments that make you uncomfortable, or you simply decide you don’t feel good around them, you are allowed to leave. So it’s very very important to have a backup plan – and it’s important that you will be able to execute that plan, whether that means having money in your bank account to book a potentially expensive flight, the number of a friend who could come get you on speed dial, or something in between.

Be mindful of distance goggles

One theme that came up again and again when I chatted to people who’d traveled for love and/or orgasms (or both!) is the way that distance itself can actually play sort of a strange role in distorting reality. This can be good or bad or neutral; it’s just something to be aware of.

You know that saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder”? Well in 2019 we could maybe rewrite it to say “distance and DMing with a stranger on Instagram makes the heart assume things will be hot in person because anticipation and disconnect from mundane reality is a powerful cocktail!” That intense yearning you feel for a long distance crush does speak to your connection with them and their attractive qualities; it may also, in part, be about your brain and heart feeding on the endorphins of like, drama. I’m not saying you’ll meet this hottie in person and things will definitely suck – I’m just saying be aware of the way things might play out differently IRL, even if equally good in a different way. Without any intention on anyone’s part to be deceptive or misrepresenting, the fact is that texting and FaceTiming just isn’t the same as real life, and spending time in someone’s real life is an adjustment, even for the most idyllic and passionate of long-distance connections.

This is also something to be watchful for when making commitments after the initial meet up. I spoke to quite a few humans who said they had great and hot long distance meet ups with someone they either met on Instagram or Tinder, things felt so good they decided to make things more official in some capacity, and then shit hit the fan. The intensity of a lot of time spent non-stop with a person (especially if you don’t take my advice about staying somewhere neutral and did indeed fly to a destination to spend 72 hours in bed with your hot now-not-stranger from the internet!) can distort things too. There’s a reason long-distance trysts often feel really intense when in actuality dating that very same person in town would be pretty chill. The whole nature of long distance – the intrigue! the travel! the intensity! the subsequent longing! – is designed to make one feel Big Feelings.

Both before and after a trip to meet That Babe You Love From Instagram, take stock and evaluate expectations and reality again. I know, you wanted more frequent flyer miles and less adult conversations about reality. Please trust that even I, a logical Capricorn who hates crying in front of dates, am dismayed at the sheer amount of communicating we all have to partake in to function as responsible adults in this big gay world. Seems really unfair, and yet! It is the only way.

Be safe, have fun, and go for it!

As I was writing this I realized this guide covers a lot of different potential pitfalls when it comes to the idea of traveling to meet someone you’ve thus far only interacted with online, and that’s because I love you and I want you to live your best unheartbroken life.

That said… I also want you to be safe and have fun and go for it! Why the fuck not! YOLO! Having sex with a hottie who lives in another city is one of the greatest joys of this life! Having a romantic connection with a faraway cutie is like, The Story Of Our People. Traveling to new places is something I will always champion, and if the thing that brings you there is a non-binary lesbian in overalls with a red pickup truck rather than The Local Cuisine or A Really Beautiful Nature Walk then who the fuck am I to stand in your way?!?! WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE ONE DAY, MAYBE SOON, SHOOT YOUR SHOT AND BOOK THAT FLIGHT! If things turn out badly, you can always consult Autostraddle dot com for breakup advice!

But seriously: I love you no matter what sex and dating choices you make, as long as you’re taking accountability and respecting the people you interact with and yourself. Traveling to meet a hot queer you met online is honestly pretty normal in 2019. You might have some hot sex. You might meet your soulmate. Even if things don’t work out as planned, you’ll probably end up with a great story. Whatever happens, if you follow this guide you should be just fine.

Happy travels, angels! Tell me all about it when you get home.

Vanessa is a queer feminist writer and photographer currently based in New York. She really misses Portland. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 269 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. I’m currently only daydreaming about flying across the ocean/country to hang out with internet crushes I barely know, but this is ASPIRATIONAL and SENSIBLE and GREAT, thank you!

  2. My now-wife and I met in person on a spontaneous whim after a mere 2.5 weeks* of online flirting etc., and the window of opportunity for this visit just happened to coincide with her family’s traditional annual New Year’s Eve party, so I met her literal ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY of 40+ people on the second night there. So that’s one way to get to know someone!**

    (*We had been friends online for a few months longer than this but still)

    (**Results may vary)

  3. Thank you for this guide. I wish I had it back in 2013 but I’m glad it’s here now.

    Also, do not feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do during your trip – sexual or otherwise. I should have gone back home when I realized she took her relationship status off her Facebook hours before I was supposed to fly to see her…

    But I digress. I’m very thankful that a different long distance thing (just one state away and not a whole region) turned out so much better. 3.5 years and counting 🙂

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