1 A First Date Without Baggage | The Billfold

A First Date Without Baggage

Clara Bensen’s romance with Jeff began in the traditional manner: through a dating site on the internet. Where their story strays from the typical “meet for drinks, go home together, never speak again” experience is how they planned their batshit crazy first date.

As Clara recounts in an essay for Salon, the burgeoning couple met at the Houston airport and hopped on a flight to Istanbul together for their first date—with no luggage, no itinerary, and a return flight scheduled 21 days later.

This sounds both really fun and like something I would never do with a person I wasn’t already definitively knows-how-to-handle-my-bad-moods-and-makes-sure-I-eat-every-three-hours-type of in love with:

The night before we left Jeff and I had painstakingly cataloged the items we deemed crucial for our 21-day journey. Passports, credit cards and iPhones made the cut, as did a small notebook, a toothbrush and a clipped map of the Balkans. Jeff stuffed his core items in his pockets. My dress lacked adequate pocket space, so I substituted with a small shoulder purse that allowed me space for a few additional toiletries, an iPad Mini, and the awkward-looking retainer I’ve been wearing since my braces came off 10 years ago.

That was it.

Jeff packed in 2 minutes and 31 seconds flat. I inched along at the slothly rate of 8 minutes. With a combined prep time of 10 minutes, we were off to the George Bush International airport. Jeff and I are both experienced travelers, but neither one of us was prepared for how surreal it would feel to stroll into an international terminal with no itinerary and nothing to hold on to. I swear I experienced phantom shoulder pain from past heavy-laden backpack adventures. It was liberating. It was terrifying.

I am glad no one was murdered, and that Clara stayed true to her orthodontic regimen abroad, and that their romance is still, in Clara’s words, “intact.”

I guess my major questions are, well, 1) Did they do it? and 2) HOW MUCH DID THIS COST? It sounds like she is a writer and he is a professor so they both had work schedules that could accommodate a 21-day vacation, but I really want to know how they felt each other out about the cost. “So, are you rich?” “Wanna blow through your savings with me, no pressure?”

Either way, I applaud them.

Photo: citylovesyou_ffm


15 Comments / Post A Comment

jquick (#3,730)

I could write a book about the many guys I met on match and how coffee was too long, too much time spent with them.

Meaghano (#529)

@jquick I would read it

City_Dater (#565)


Too true. My first thought on reading this was “Istanbul?! There were guys I didn’t even want walking me to the corner after a first meeting.”

I’d be worried about customs officials looking askance at two strangers who enter a foreign country with no luggage and no plans.

Meaghano (#529)

@cuminafterall um GOOD POINT. “What is your relationship to each other?” “Uh, we met at the airport.”

ragazza (#4,025)

What if it got cold? No jackets? I realize I can overpack, but yikes. At least I’d have to have a carry-on.

Meaghano (#529)

@ragazza LOL yeah my main concerns for her was where is her jacket and what if her thighs chafe walking around like that all day?

ATF (#4,229)

@Meaghano YES. The chafing! How on earth does one wear a dress for that many days in a row, walking around constantly, and not have some chafing occur???

aetataureate (#1,310)

This is like Leaving Las Vegas with a totally different ending. But about as appealing to me, if I’m honest!

aetataureate (#1,310)

@aetataureate Oh god I’m reading the essay now and these people are unbearably twee. No. Suspicions confirmed.

CL (#3,590)

“Blow through your savings”? This type of trip is very cheap. I’ve done a similar trip (hitchhiking through the Balkans/Turkey/etc) and it cost me maybe $20 on an average day, maybe double that to sleep in a hostel instead of out in the open.

EDaily (#4,396)

@CL How much was the flight, though?

Meaghano (#529)

@CL Okay, but 21 days of that, without working, plus the cost of an international flight is still a very expensive first date!

Lily Rowan (#70)

@CL Also, I still don’t spend $500 on a whim.

CL (#3,590)

@EDaily You can find an austin-istanbul roundtrip ticket for like $600-700 if you’re a bit flexible (although of course they did not do roundtrip). It’s obviously an insanely expensive first date, but as international vacations go, pretty cheap.

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