Meeting someone new is always a risk and even more so when you’re abroad, so I wanted to talk about the things I (well, we) did to make sure we were both safe, and that I wasn’t in fact a catfish luring him to Eastern Europe to sell his kidney on the black market.
Check out their online presence
One of the first things we did, luckily, was start following each other on Instagram, because he was interested in seeing what I did on my trip-or trying to impress me, one or the other. I took the opportunity to scroll back a few years and make sure his online presence was pretty consistent with that of a real person, rather than someone trying to pretend it’s their legit account. Lots of interaction from people on posts, ‘boring’ life posts-clearly a real person.
We didn’t do this, or even voice call, which we should have really. We did swap voice notes though, so I could hear that he sounded like he was meant to-correct age, gender, accent etc. A video call would have been the ideal so I could see that he was the person in his photos, and if I ever did this again (which hopefully I will not, because I’m hoping he sticks around!) I’d definitely ask for a video call.
We didn’t have a choice but to do this, I needed his full name, address, and basically his entire life history for the Air B n B in Hungary. I gave him mine in return, and we both shared each others info with a couple of trusted friends/family members so they knew who we were going to be spending time with. This absolutely wouldn’t have stopped either of us being harmed, but it would have meant the police had a starting point.
Meet in a public place
We met at Bratislava airport, I got a Bolt taxi (trackable!) in to meet his flight (trackable!) and greeted him with a coffee. Meeting at the airport meant that I had people around for if he wasn’t who he was supposed to be when he arrived, and he could’ve taken the next flight back if I’d been a catfish. (Fun fact-a friend of mine said it was irresponsible to meet because I could have been a catfish. I pointed out the friend had known me for over 10 years, and he still said yes but what if you’re a catfish. I mean…)
Check in regularly
We both checked in every few hours with our trusted friends/family to make sure they knew we were okay. We were also pretty active on social media and messaging other people like normal-we’re both big Whatsapp people so there was no offence that someone was using their phone again. It certainly made me feel more secure that people knew I was acting normal in my contact with them.
Be honest with each other
I had a bit of a meltdown when he’d booked the flight, and told him so. He pointed out he was happy to just not take the flight. This was ultra reassuring, as someone dodgy would’ve, under the pretence of trying to calm me down, insisted that they were going to come out anyway and that it would all be fine, and that would have been a bit of a red flag. We also had a ‘this is not working at all’ plan of booking another hotel room if needed. We communicated really well, frequently, to make sure we were both happy and felt comfortable with things, and it honestly wouldn’t have worked out if we hadn’t. Communication is key with most things I think.
Have an exit plan you can stick to
I, as someone who never has spare cash, made sure I did have spare cash so that I could leave that Air B n B at any time. I had the Bolt app on my phone so I could’ve gone to somewhere safe and got a cab from there, and I could’ve booked something new via Air B n B if I’d needed to. I was very confident I wouldn’t need to or I wouldn’t have agreed to the date, but it’s still best to have a plan you can actually execute.
Honestly, meeting him the way I did was a massive risk and probably a silly one-I didn’t even tell my parents I was doing it because I knew they’d worry. It’s worked out well for us-whatever happens with this he’s lovely and we had a great trip if nothing else-but if you’re going to consider doing something like this please, please consider your safety first and foremost. And then let me know because I love stuff like this!