Image via Getty
“Kill me now,” is not a thought any girl wants to have on a first date. Yet once my companion and I became pinned underneath a sled and started being dragged through the snow, inch by inch, by four very eager dogs, that was the only thing that came to mind.
It was all my fault. As I waited for our guide to realize my date and I had most definitely not made it to the checkpoint, I questioned my mental state at the time I agreed to try travel dating. The pitch had seemed simple enough: the chance to travel to a location of my choosing with a hot (fingers crossed) guy. I never imagined it would have ended with me stripping to a bathing suit in snow, spending a sub-zero night on a bed made of literal ice, and frostbite.
A few weeks into cuffing season late last year, a coworker sent out a group message asking single ladies in the office whether they’d be interested in going on a destination blind date. I thought, “F-ck it! Why not?” The last time I touched a guy was in 2015, so I had no excuse to not at least hear more about the service. Enter MissTravel, an online dating service for singles to find travel partners. It’s essentially just like any other online dating service: You make a profile, word vomit a bio, and match with other people. But instead of swiping right or sending semi-suggestive messages for a couple days, you fly to Mexico (or, in my case, Canada) for a date. NBD.
Let me just say what we’re all thinking: That sounds like a service for hot girls to find sugar daddies to sponsor their vacations. I thought that, you thought that, my mom thought that. And I’m no idiot — I’ve seen Taken, and, sadly, Liam Neeson is not my dad — so I had serious reservations about going on this date. After a long, hard, 20-minute soul-searching session, I realized that the chance to have an over-the-top, amazingly terrible first-date story to tell far outweighed the remote possibility that I would be murdered in some third-world country where my parents would never receive justice and be forced into a lifetime of activism in my name. So I said yes.
After a 30-minute phone conversation with my date — let’s call him Adrien — I was convinced he didn’t want to kill me. A few days later, I had a ticket to Canada and plans to spend the weekend at an ice hotel.
If there’s a villain in this story, it’s Air Canada. Not only was my flight cancelled two minutes before my Uber was supposed to pick me up and take me to the airport, the subsequent flight I was rebooked on was delayed. As a result, I didn’t get to Hotel de Glace in Quebec City until 9 p.m. — five hours late, which I’m pretty sure is a first-date no-no even if you’re traveling to another country — and missed the tutorial for how one stays warm when he or she is sleeping on a bed of ice.
(Photo Credit: Hotel de Glace)
My lateness combined with the hotel being in a remote part of the city meant Adrien and I had to rush to the hotel restaurant to eat dinner. (Yes, we were those people that come in 30 minutes before closing and order a three-course meal.) And though we got along pretty well, there was zero romantic chemistry between us. Maybe it was the way that he kept saying "retarded." Or it could have been my mortifying dance moves that ultimately banished me to the land of "just friends" — especially considering Adrien talked passionately about dancing Bachata. Either way, knowing that there was zero chemistry actually made the trip more enjoyable because there wasn’t any awkward sexual tension.
Fast-forward about an hour and Adrien tells me we have to get into the hot tub. This was, I assumed, to raise our bodies' internal temperatures, which would make sleeping on ice more comfortable. But because the hot tubs are outside, in the snow, this step made no sense to me. If my body is supposed to warm up in the hot tub, wouldn’t it cool down the second I get out and walk through several feet of snow to the regular hotel to change into pajamas? Regardless, Adrien and I trudged outside in robes and winter boots, uncomfortably stripped to our bathing suits in zero-degree weather, and dove into the hot tubs to get warm. After more not-so-terrible-but-truly-unmemorable conversation, we walked back inside to get changed and then shuffled to the ice hotel for a few hours of sleep before our 6:30 a.m. wake-up call.
The ice hotel itself was quite large and featured dozens of rooms, a bar, a cathedral where absolutely insane people get married, and some weird ice sculptures. Inside the individual rooms, it’s pretty plain; unless you’re staying in one of the fancier rooms with a fireplace (the flames are surrounded by glass so it doesn’t give off heat and melt the ice), there’s a bed and that’s about it. No tables, no lamps, no doors, and no outlets to plug in your phone. If you have to go to the bathroom, there are porta-potties outside, and you better pray there isn’t a line. In short, spending the night at an ice hotel is one of the most un-sexy first-date activities imaginable. Hotel de Glace even recommends that people spend only one night there before moving to the regular hotel. (That said, there are a ton of cool amenities at the hotel — including an indoor waterpark, a giant outdoor slide, and a tubing course — that I, sadly, didn’t get to enjoy.)
(Photo Credit: Hotel de Glace)
Because I didn’t get the actual tutorial on how to get into my sleeping bag, I tried to remember what Adrien had instructed me to do over dinner. I first took of my coat, then shimmied into this weird potato-sack thing, and finally got inside the heavy-duty sleeping bag. There was a hood, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it over my head, so I slid all the way to the bottom of the sleeping bag and zipped myself up, praying I wouldn’t be found the next morning frozen like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
(Photo Credit: Hotel de Glace)
At 6:30 a.m., I was awoken by a nice man from the hotel pulling aside the curtain to my room and shouting, “OK, it’s time to get up now.” How charming! But because I really hadn’t slept that well the night before (I don’t think I managed to complete a full REM cycle), it was pretty easy to get up. Oh, and, I don’t know, the -10-degree weather also probably helped revive me. I then dragged my tired body back to the hotel to change into regular clothes for a long day of dog-sledding and sightseeing, excited to pet some doggos and enjoy the Canadian wilderness. Too bad that never happened.
When we got to the dog-sledding place, I realized how out of my element I was in predominantly French-speaking Quebec. Though the instructor repeated everything for Adrien and I in English, I realized my high-school French had really gone to sh-t. And when the owner brought out a wooden sled with no dogs attached and showed us all where the breaks were, it dawned on me that I had to drive the sled. F-ck. I had been under the impression that I would get to chill on a sled while a professional drove, so imagine my surprise when they walked us over to our sleds and I caught sight of four very good, but very excited sled dogs. As the pups literally screamed and howled at us to hurry up and let them run, I was nervous but felt confident that I could pull through. Because Adrien made it clear he was really into videography for his Instagram (if your eyes didn’t just roll into the back of your brain, you need to reconsider your life goals), I volunteered to drive first, thinking it would be easier than the second half of the course and Adrien could film everything while sitting. Big mistake.
About a quarter of the way through, I took a turn too fast and flipped us over. And because the guide was in front of us on a sled of his own, he didn’t realize we were in trouble until we didn’t reach the checkpoint. You know what happens next.
Kill me now.
What I thought our dog-sledding adventure was actually going to look like. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
As Adrien and I lay there waiting for someone to notice our absence, the only thing I wanted to do was die of embarrassment. But in my defense, any dog owner knows how hard and fast a dog — even one on a leash — will pull when he or she gets excited. Now multiply that energy by four, and you can’t really expect a small girl — and a completely immobile, useless lump of a “photographer” guy (seriously: he just laid in the fetal position softly moaning about his expensive camera until the guide came to save us) — to hold them back for any extended period of time.
Finally, the guide came running to us and held our sled in place while we collected ourselves. I promptly sat on the sled and refused to drive the rest of the way. Adrien, on the other hand, spent another five minutes dusting off the snow from his camera before asking me to hold his bag of equipment. (Guys, is this what it feels like when a girl asks you to hold her purse? If so, I’m so sorry.) We managed to make it through the rest of the track unscathed. Unfortunately, there were employees hiding every few hundred feet along the trail taking photos of us in case we wanted them as mementos of our “fun time.” As I slumped down further in the sled, my eyelashes frozen together and my hands cold and throbbing, I really could only think of one thing: “End me now, please.”
Afterwards, as I warmed up with a complimentary hot chocolate and some cookies (best part of the day, frozen hands down), Adrien informed me that he thought he had frostbite. The fall must have scrambled his brain because he told me he took off his winter gloves for about 10 minutes, and apparently, the thinner, tighter gloves he had on underneath did little to keep his hands warm. As one of the employees joked about her friend losing feeling in his foot for about a month, I continued to eat my cookies while Adrien frantically ran his hand under hot water in the bathroom. Sure, I was probably being a little callous about the whole thing, but being from Florida, I have no idea what frostbite looks like (and honestly, I thought he was just being a bit of a baby).
The dog-sledding place called us a cab so we could see someone downtown about Adrien’s possible frostbite. Eventually, a pharmacist confirmed that he did indeed have frostbite but that his only course of action was to keep moving his hand to ensure the blood was circulating. And with that, we decided to spend some time exploring downtown. It was only 11 a.m., but because we’d been up for almost five hours at that point, it felt like it should’ve been dinnertime. And Adrien, having heard that there was a winter carnival happening downtown that weekend, wanted to stay out until sunset — which was around 5 p.m. — so he could take some photos.
Me trying to hide the pain on social media by posting photos of cute dogs. (Photo Credit: Author's Own)
So for roughly six miserable hours, we plodded our way through snow and rain on the coldest day of that weekend. Quebec City is an historic place, so there’s not much to do besides sightseeing. There were dozens of small boutiques and a lot of beautiful old buildings that I’m sure I would have appreciated if it weren’t 10 below 0, but not much else in the way of entertainment. The only thing to do was to follow Adrien, who wanted to stop to take photos of everything. (Annoying girls taking Instagram selfies are nothing compared to, an amateur photographer in an historic city.) Going back and forth and back and forth again between churches and libraries and picturesque alleyways was torture.
Back at the hotel a few hours later, we hugged goodbye in the lobby and went to our separate, non-ice hotel rooms. That was the last time we talked — and I thought it was the end of our story until a few days ago when I was giving my friend a play-by-play. I told her that overall, the trip was fine but probably would have been better if I had just gone to Mexico like every other writer who went on a press trip for MissTravel. I also mentioned that Adrien was someone I could possibly be friends with if we lived nearby, but I had no interest in him romantically. She then asked if I had checked his Instagram to see if he had uploaded any photos from our trip — to which I replied that I had not but I would.
Real footage of Adrien erasing me from his Instagram photo. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Lo and behold, he had uploaded snapshots from our travels, including one from our dog-sledding fiasco. But it wasn’t our dog-sledding fiasco anymore — dude had f-cking edited me out of probably the only photo he had of himself, looking like a person who hadn’t given himself frostbite in the name of an Insta-worthy vacation pic. In that photo, I probably looked miserable. My hood was pulled so far over my face all you could see was my dessert-dry lips, and I honestly wished the guide had just left us there to freeze in the Canadian wilderness. I would probably want to edit myself out of it too. (And at least it was a decent Photoshop job.) But let's not pretend that the dog sledding wasn't as miserable for my R-word spouting, less-than-chivalrous date who kept shouting gibberish because he forgot the French command words that told the dogs it was time to run and is, possibly, now missing a finger.
Now that it’s all over, would I try travel dating again? Honestly... I probably would. Getting to travel is nice. And there’s something exciting about meeting a stranger somewhere new and — fingers crossed — having fun together. So if you’re the adventurous type, I would say go for it. The best-case scenario is that the two of you hit it off, and even if it turns out to be a big frostbitten dud, at least you get to pet some dogs.
Lead image via Getty.