1. The locals aren’t there to be exotic sex bunnies for your pleasure.
You might be taking a year off to travel the world and have exciting adventures, but they’re going to work or school, doing their laundry, and visiting their grandmother the same as always. You might be viewing your relationship as an intense but brief fling, a flash in the pan. They probably just see it as “dating”. Don’t treat someone badly just because you’re a stranger in their land.
2. Be as honest, open, and straightforward as you can.
Just because you’re nomadic doesn’t mean you should lie or cheat. Your sex partners deserve honest conversation about your STI and relationship status, your kinks, your preferences, your dealbreakers, and the day you’re leaving. It can be tempting to assume that, since you might never see someone again, it doesn’t matter if you’re one hundred percent honest with them, but that makes you a jerk. Don’t be a jerk.
3. Abuse can happen while you’re traveling, too.
Travel tends to intensify and magnify experience, whether it’s the sunset over the Indian Ocean or the first burst of love. You might also be traveling alone, isolated from your friends and family, which makes you especially vulnerable to manipulation and control. Be wary if a partner starts exhibiting warning signs: demanding all of your time and attention, getting extremely jealous, keeping you from contacting people you care about, and any kind of physical actions (grabbing your wrist or shoulder, smacking your face, etc). Don’t chalk it up to a cultural difference or a misunderstanding. Please be careful.
4. You can totally bang on the hostel roof.
Let’s face it, you meet someone you like, only you’re staying in the dorm. For the love of god, don’t bring them back there and disturb all your roommates with your muffled groaning. I once had a bunkmate who woke up at 4 every morning and folded his mattress in half (causing the whole bed to shake), and it was a crappy alarm clock. Consider alternative options: the hostel roof, your new friend’s hotel or home, renting an entirely separate room with double occupancy (if you pool your money, it shouldn’t be that expensive), or get creative: sex clubs, nap pods, or the back seat of a car. Remember, though: the goal here isn’t to shock passersby with your shenanigans; if they didn’t have the chance to consent to sexytimes, leave them all the way out of it.
5. Experiment but maybe don’t get too freaky with people you don’t know very well.
I’m always hearing stories about someone who met a new person and immediately jumped into serious bondage/ponyplay/9 ½ Weeks-style food erotica, without bothering to discuss boundaries or find out if they were on the same page. Feel free to try new stuff with your fun new partner, but maybe hold off on tying each other up until you know each other better.
6. Female condoms are not just for ladies.
Female condoms are a bit more expensive and harder to get than your garden variety latex Trojan, but can be more useful. If you have a vagina, they can provide more sensation for both partners, since they are looser and allow for stimulating friction. You can also use them for butt stuff: they allow easier lubrication and insertion (of toys too!) because they have a larger base ring. They also don’t seem to break as often.
7. Carry protection.
I’d think this would be common sense, but I was caught without condoms once and it left me pretty frustrated and without a really great story. A friend has a little leather coin purse from Ten Thousand Villages that perfectly fits two condoms; she just snaps it shut and tosses it in her backpack. Whatever your preferences, it’s a great idea to carry your barrier method of choice, because STIs are more prevalent than you think and not everyone is as honest as you. I’d hate to see you get stuck with an expensive run of antibiotics when you’re far from home (although if you DO get an STI, it’s nothing to be ashamed of — and don’t try to guilt or shame your partner for being up front and revealing their disease status, either).
8. Be very, very careful before engaging with sex workers.
I’m not saying you CAN’T engage with sex workers — everybody has to make a living. But sex work is all tied up with class and race issues, and there can be an awful lot of nonconsensual sex happening. You don’t want to contribute money and energy to traffickers, and you definitely don’t want to make a sex worker’s life miserable. Think very carefully about who and how and when you choose to pay money for sex, and do it in the most respectful, consensual way possible…which sometimes might mean saying no. You can also fall prey to scams through getting solicited to buy sex (like when you end up buying drinks for every girl in a bar instead of just the one you’re with, for example).
9. Sex isn’t mandatory.
There’s a prevailing attitude of seize-the-day-YOLO-you-only-live-once among some travelers. Just because everyone else is flirting madly or grinding on the dance floor doesn’t mean you have to if you don’t find anyone to your liking. It’s quite all right to go out with friends or go home alone.