Almost immediately from the get go, Clarissa was the most successful match I've ever made on a dating app: We both attended fashion schools, loved prosecco, and lived just two train stops away from one another. The plot twist? We met on an app that was created for meeting platonic friends.
BumbleBFF is a extension of Bumble I discovered one lonely Friday night spent fiddling with my phone: It matches you with other adults who are equally eager befriend new people. The premise is pretty similar to Bumble itself: You swipe left or right based on the person's photos and bio, and each party gets 24 hours to initiate conversation and respond.
Having recently moved to London, I was seriously struggling with meeting people in a new city. A romantic date really wasn't what I was looking for at the moment. I felt much better about looking for something other than romance on Bumble — ideally a girlfriend I can share light pop culture chatter over drinks or bubble tea.
After my second hangout with Clarissa, our nascent friendship felt like the real deal: For one thing, she's moved to London from Ireland, and unlike the many flaky Londoners I've met, she's really solid with making plans. She actively invites me to her friend's house parties, responds to texts within a reasonable time frame, and even sends me voice notes when something funny happens in her day. So, when a work opportunity came up for me to take a long weekend trip to Geneva, with the option of a plus-one, I decided to ask her to tag along.
It was definitely a risk: I'm aware of the potential pitfalls of traveling with someone you don't know quite well just yet. Between personality clashes and dietary differences, it can very quickly sink a budding friendship. But, I had a good feeling about this one. Plus, if there's a free spare bed in my hotel room, why the hell not?
We both took the initiative to open up ourselves to strangers on an app, I just knew she'd say yes — and we'd have a great time.
To my delight, Clarissa seemed super excited by my idea. "I'm well up for that — gotta love a spontaneous adventure!" she wrote in an emoji-laden response. Her flight won't be paid for, but she managed to get time off and score a very cheap flight to Geneva. So, off we went on our girl's trip, having only met on Bumble and hung out one-on-one exactly twice.
One thing I was immediately appreciative of was how we naturally divvied up the navigating duties: In past trips, when I traveled with childhood friends and ex-boyfriends, I always assumed the role of the "guide", but she was equally happy to look up directions on Google Maps. I never realized how refreshing it was to not be the person with her head buried in her phone, in hopes to trying to find the right way.
We picked out a handful of chic neighborhoods, cool shops, and essential restaurants to hit up from "Geneva Girl's Guide", a free guidebook produced by the tourism board with the help of a group of cool female insiders. We both took turns navigating so the other person wouldn't miss out.
Another big test for our new friendship came at mealtimes. When you travel with someone you don't know relatively well, sharing every meal together for four full days can be a lot: You either suffer long periods of awkward silence or come out of the whole experience knowing everything about the other person.
Fortunately for us, it was established on our first night that we'd have plenty to talk about: "I hope you won't hate me for bringing up the Kardashians...I actually watch the show quite a bit," Clarissa confessed. Great, I thought, nothing I appreciate more than a person who doesn't discriminate on pop culture.
Geneva lends itself really well to a first time trip with a friend: Lake Geneva is stunning, the architecture was grand and insanely photogenic, and the everything was more or less a 20-minute walk from Hotel d'Angleterre, our historic hotel overlooking the famous Jet d’Eau water fountain. We spent a leisurely afternoon at Carouge, a picturesque suburb lined with fresh produce stalls and cool indie shops.
One unexpected outcome of having Clarissa with me was how much more confident and outspoken I became, compared to when I traveled on my own. When a French-speaking server acted dismissively towards us on two different occasions, she was not hesitant about speaking up to get what she deserved — an act that later emboldened me to take this up to the restaurant manager. If I was dining alone, I probably would have just kept quiet and let the experience sour my mood.
Of course, like any trip with a friend, it wasn't all smooth sailing either: We got into a small argument on our last day when we were rushing to the airport. But, it was one of those minor conflicts you can just laugh off with someone who's just as easygoing as you, and we were fine by the time we got to the airport.
I've learned that I can be a really difficult person to travel with at times: I'm relentless about documenting everything for the 'gram — and it can be a lot for other people. I especially wanted to make sure we have lots of cute photos to show for our trip, so I was elated to find that my companion didn't mind at all.
"I've only pretty much traveled with boyfriends before, and they were just never into taking pictures together," she told me over cheese fondue dinner at Brasserie de l'Hotel de Ville — by far the most amazing meal we've had in the city. "My exes were all sticklers for 'living in the moment', which made me feel guilty about wanting vacation photos. It's nice to be able to take photos with you — and have these great memories to look back at."
Traveling with a relative stranger taught me to really trust my gut: Just like dating, friendship really takes luck and the right chemistry. The way I met Clarissa or how long ago we've met didn't matter — all that matters is the feeling that we can just be ourselves, whether it's obsessing over the Kardashians or being super extra on Instagram.
Just like dating, friendship really takes luck and the right chemistry.
Traveling with Clarissa also gave me a clear idea on the type of travel buddy that really makes the trip: Someone who's attentive to the other person's needs and always game for trying new things. To us, chilling in a hotel and talking about our favorite Spotify playlist was just as fun as going on a walking tour around the Old Town.
I haven't made any further vacation plans with Clarissa yet, but we've seen each other plenty of times back in London since. She now refers to me as "V" — something only my close friends do. We regularly keep in touch on a WhatsApp group with other women we've also met through BumbleBFF. The possibility of a group trip to Berlin is being floated around for 2018, and I'm pretty excited. In the new year, I'm swiping right on new friendships and all the adventures that come with it.
Editor's Note: Travel and accommodation for the author was provided by Geneva Tourism for the purpose of writing this story.