Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

His sell-by date was stamped on my return ticket
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This week, as my friend Michelle and I are booking our annual girls' holiday, we can't help discussing the craziness of our last trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

On our second day out, I met Dan, a hunky scuba diving instructor with an easygoing disposition and an unlimited bar tab. Our eyes met over the karaoke machine at midnight, and fuelled by passion and peach schnapps I decided to make my move.

Over the next 10 days, most of our time was spent under water or between the sheets. Though he wasn't a brilliant conversationalist, his laid-back charm allowed me to take a vacation from my neurotic personality that I found very liberating.

I didn't even mind when he asked me if India was a country, or when he texted me horribly misspelled sweet nothings. After all, his sell-by date was stamped on my return ticket.

But I was relieved when the holiday came to an end and we went our separate ways. Dan suggested we try to hook up sometime since he had family in the UK, and we swapped numbers. Then I boarded the plane relaxed and refreshed, having largely forgotten him by the time my tan faded.

Tiny bikinis and hot temperatures aside, perhaps the reason I think of coconut oil as an aphrodisiac is that the rushed intimacy of holiday flings have none of the responsibilities of real-time romance.

Summer flings resemble my real-life romance. R, with whom I have just had a fantastic second date, has just announced he is probably moving to Los Angeles in a few weeks. Again, a romance with an expiration date.

Holiday hook-ups allow us to assume another personality, which is fantastic - but keep in mind that everyone else is pretending too. I found out the hard way after I hung out with Sebastian, a bad-boy biker, in Antigua.

We had a lovely three days until he had some money stolen, and became convinced the hotel staff had taken it from his room. So he threw a tantrum, and tossed the entire contents of his kitchenette into the sea - then the police turned up and forced him to fish everything out.

But there is a reason why more than one woman has returned from a vacation convinced that the circus instructor at Club Med is her soul mate. Summertime is the hunting season for seasonal players such as Francesco, a carpenter by day/DJ by night who I met in Capri. Everything was fine until, during a drive around the cliffs, he asked for some of my underwear. When I protested, he opened the glove compartment and showed off his stash of M&S lingerie. "I make many English girls very happy. I need a souvenir from an American girl." That was also the night I found out I could run a six minute mile in sandals.

Of course, some lucky women find the love of a lifetime on holiday. But most realise that what seems forbidden and exotic on some faraway isle can pale in the cold light of day at home.

Or worse. Sometimes they follow you back. A few weeks after I said goodbye to Dan, my phone in London rang while I was dressing for a night out.

It was him. "Hi Cat," he chirped. "Surprise! I'm at the airport! What's your address? I'm coming to stay for a few weeks."

I panicked. "My grandma died," I blurted. "So I'm actually heading to the airport myself to go to her funeral." I faced up to the fact that I was probably going to hell for that one. But suffering through my work colleague's dinner party with Dan in tow would have been worse.

When I told her about the ruse a few weeks later, it turned out that my 86-year-old grandma had the best piece of advice for travellers on the lookout for love. "Well honey, I've met several gentleman callers on vacation, but if you don't want them to turn up on your doorsteps you really should use a fake name."