“Pretty Woman” to Travel? A Controversial Way to Travel for Free

Last week in USA Today, I ran across a method of traveling for free that I’ve never heard of before, and that quite frankly was perturbing to me. I wanted to investigate this further, and find out what others thought about this:

Eros2810 is a 39-year-old, 6-foot-tall entrepreneur with no kids, an annual income of more than $1 million and a yen for exotic travel.

Lemonhoney3 is a 22-year-old student nurse/bartender/model who wants to “have fun, laugh, love” and believes she deserves “to date someone who will pamper me.”

He has money but apparently no one to travel with him. She is attractive but lacks the funds to travel. The website MissTravel.com puts the two of them together — with Eros2810 paying for exotic, high-end vacations and Lemonhoney3 along for the ride. In fact, the MissTravel tagline is “Who needs money, beautiful people travel free!”

Is this matchmaking? Nothing wrong with it between consenting adults? An option for traveling for free? Or nothing more than a travel escort service?

MissTravel, which claims to be the “first online dating website to combine travel and romance,” is either a stroke of genius or really, really offensive, depending on your perspective. I wasted no time contacting this company, and even talked to a person who’s traveled with them (keep reading!).

I did a little more investigating, and not surprisingly, came across a lot of controversial articles and posts about it. One of my favorite websites, Jezebel, ran a really funny story by Lindy West called The Dating Website Where Rich People Take Pretty People on Fancy Vacations, Which Is 100% Definitely Not Prostitutey at All. In this story, West writes:

Attractive people. Why should they have to “pay for stuff” and “get jobs”? And rich people! Why should rich people have to “develop social skills” or “think of their partners as human beings instead of just collections of measurements and 1990s birthdays”?

So…the big incentive at MissTravel is that by going on enough creepy trips with enough rich dudes (and/or ladies, I guess), you can eventually “earn” enough “points” to be able to go on a real trip all by yourself? That’s the prize? Getting the f**k away from these dudes? (And/or ladies? I guess?) That’s reeeeeeeeeally taking the long way around, you guys. You could just, you know, get a regular job.

I contacted MissTravel.com immediately, and was responded to within two hours by Jennifer Gwynn, their public relations manager. She put me in touch with Christelle, a woman who has been on a trip with a “Generous” member and has several more lined up, to Cancun and Bali. I asked Christelle some questions and here are her responses:

Have you ever done this kind of thing before?

Before signing up for miss travel, I had never done anything like this! I didn’t even realize that the concept existed! The only trips that I had been on were with friends or significant others, and I had a much more limited budget for those trips.

What made you sign up for Miss Travel?

I signed up for a sister site, which led to the link for Miss Travel. It seemed like an awesome concept. The fact that someone like me, who loves to travel and see new places in her spare time, could get trips completely paid for, was really, really cool.

How long before you were invited on a trip?

I started getting trip suggestions, winks, and messages right away (within the first couple of days).

Did it feel weird to you? What do you think about the “sugar daddy” aspect?

A few of the trip suggestions from the guys did feel weird…I didn’t feel comfortable accepting from (most) of the guys, simply because I am a single mom with a lot to protect! I love the sugar daddy aspect. If you would have asked me a month ago…I would have said that is ridiculous!! Now, after shopping sprees, trips, dinners, etc. only my first month in, just for hanging out with guys that are (mostly) actually cool…I really feel that it is awesome…especially for a girl like me who has never had really nice things before. It is such a treat to be spoiled.

Photo from the MissTravel blog

Do you feel that you compromised yourself to travel in this manner? Did you feel pressured to perform favors (such as sexually) or feel that was expected as “part of the deal”?

I don’t feel that I compromised myself to travel in this manner, because I have used my discretion in full. I have taken the time to get to know these guys a little through phone/e-mail/etc., and googled their names to make sure they match up with who they say they are. I did not feel pressure to perform favors. The process for me has been so natural. It’s like having a boyfriend without the drama, strings, and time constraints to name a few. I definitely did not and do not feel that favors are expected as “part of the deal” at all.

What is the best thing about Miss Travel, from your experience?

The opportunity to go out and see amazing places, meet amazing, successful people, and be spoiled with gifts and luxury…things that have never, ever been options in my life!

Any negatives?

So far, I have not experienced any negatives from the site. Everyone I have talked to has been respectful. Because I go through the pre-cautions of making sure I am talking to the right person and getting to know the guys, this weeds out any negatives, for me.

Christelle seemed to have no clue that what she was really doing was acting as nothing more than a paid escort, though of course that’s just my opinion. Just how is this different from Julia Roberts in the movie Pretty Woman, exactly? In a follow-up email, Christelle wrote:

I’m not doing anything wrong for ME. What I do care about are my two babies who deserve the best education, clothes, etc even while their mommy is in graduate school. Their dad walked out so it’s up to me to provide.

That last sentence is perhaps most telling of all. In fact, she also wrote this to me via email:

Someone called me a gold-digger because of it and that doesn’t bother me…these guys want to blow their money it seems, and they usually want more of a relationship (even if non-traditional) than just casual…in my experience so far. What really sucks are the girls out there (like I once was) meeting guys at the bar n getting played or screwed over n get absolutely nothing out of it.

Perhaps Christelle, and other women like her (and maybe men, too) on the site, have just had such bad experiences with dating and previous relationships, and maybe made such really bad choices in that arena, that this seems like a better option. Is it a solution for people with limited options, outside their money or their looks?

Of course, that’s just my opinion. What’s yours? Weigh in, please!

 

Advertisements

About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."
This entry was posted in In the Press and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to “Pretty Woman” to Travel? A Controversial Way to Travel for Free

  1. John says:

    All I can say if the author wrote this article with some very closed-minded views and preconceived notion about what this new method of dating is or is not. Perhaps she should be reminded that women on this website aren’t paid for their time at all … and hence this is nothing like an escort or being anywhere close to prostitution. She should also be reminded that most of the winners in our society are risk takers. A risk taker build Facebook, Microsoft, and it is also the risk takers who will ultimately find love and have more fun in their lives.

    Like

    • You call this “dating”? Come on…

      Like

    • Keith Hajovsky says:

      Actually aren’t these women, AT THE VERY LEAST, getting paid free trips to go on by themselves via accumulating points by going on these trips with the Johns? And I think it’s pretty easy to say they are also getting paid with lavish trips with and gifts from the Johns too.

      And I somehow doubt the next Microsoft or Facebook is going to be created out of one of these hookups.

      Now don’t get me wrong. I am not some moralistic Puritan. But let’s just call it what it is.

      Like

  2. Keith Hajovsky says:

    Yep to me it’s basically a paid escort service. For the rich dude (or dudette??) it’s kind of like going hunting at the zoo. For the bought and paid for counter-party it’s just a quick step down that sleazy, slippery slope.

    Like

  3. Incidentally, Keith and I met through the largest, most well-known dating website. But for real-life dating or relationships that don’t have this kind of “sleaze” factor, it’s more equal and two-sided. If some guy from that dating website had contacted me and said he wanted to take me on a luxurious trip and shopping sprees, I would have been both dubious and offended. Think there’s really no expectations from that? No thanks, I prefer to be an equal and I can do for myself, what I want to buy and do. This isn’t 1950.

    Like

    • Keith Hajovsky says:

      I certainly see what you’re saying about women being more independent now, and I certainly think that’s great. But I think the sleaziness factor would be the same whether this took place in the 50’s or if it takes place today. Likewise, once there is actually a legitimate relationship of some type going on, I don’t see anything wrong with the guy OR the girl paying for everything. Maybe one is doing way better financially than the other or whatever, so no big deal. It’s when it’s so blatantly skewed towards the sleaze factor that makes it, well, sleazy.

      Like

      • True, I agree about the sleaze factor being timeless. And you’re right, in a more equal relationship it doesn’t mean one doesn’t do more for the other sometimes, or pay more of a share due to different resources. But nothing more than advertising for and paying the way for a “companion” to travel with you in this manner….not sure what else you call it! Also, it seems obvious to me that there is surely a lot of deception on this site (as there are on regular dating websites, of course). I imagine a lot of these guys are married, and using this site as a way to find basically travel mistresses.

        Like

  4. chandler says:

    You should have asked her where she’s been! (I’m talking about travels 😉

    Like

    • ingenious says:

      Look at the women ,people ! Look at the poses, the wording, the suggesting on their profile. They want to go on a trip alright, but what is most important to see is these women, even if they are only 18 have got what the rich man wants when they settle down at night. The man shows off the beautiful woman he’s with, and they are beautiful, but the ultimate reason is s-e-x, and you and I both know it.

      Like

  5. Alison says:

    I can’t imagine how the women could actually enjoy the travel if it was all spent on the agenda & in the company of some random guy who is willing to pay to have a random pretty woman along, & who knows what else. That would take all the allure of travel away for me! I suspect some women are just interested in any man who has a lot of money. (But kinda makes you wonder why such a rich guy can’t find a woman on his own to take along, if he’s such a prize… when even very old rich guys seem able to find pretty young things. Makes me suspect a lot of them may be married.)

    Like

  6. Melissa Thompson says:

    The whole concept of going on a trip with someone simply because of their looks is shallow. Personally, I would much rather travel with close friends. It would make me incredibly nervous to travel with someone I had nothing in common with, other than looks.

    Like

  7. Jefre Outlaw says:

    I have traveled to 100 countries by myself so far and I really enjoy solo independent travel. This whole thing is just way creepy in my opinion. The dynamics involved make no sense to me but hey to each his or her own.

    Like

  8. It could get really sleasy and even dangerous, but those elements exist everywhere. “Consenting adults” is the key factor here.

    Like

  9. geri Szczesiak says:

    Some of the comments made me think about that poor girl that went to Aruba with that guy (can think of his name) that they think murdered her when they went snorkeling. And yeah, if these girls are so hot why can’t they just find rich boyfriends or husbands – like so many have said maybe not illegal, but bottom of the barrel sleazy. I think these women are totally lacking in self-esteem and maybe have relationship issues.

    Like

  10. I wanted to add that a good friend and colleague said she thought I was kind of harsh on Christelle, because she felt bad for her.

    I would like to say that I feel bad for her too; I feel pretty sorry for her as a matter of fact. She seems like a nice person, who has clearly gotten screwed over by men in the past. I feel sorry that she feels she has to “provide for” her children in this manner, or that to her, complete strangers paying for her travel companionship is her getting treated well, finally.

    Yes, I feel bad for her. This whole concept is just icky to me, but consenting adults have the right to do it if they want. Opinion wise, to each his own. I would also like to add that I was completely up front with both Christelle and Jenn about my opinions of the service when I contacted them. Personally I think they like the publicity that controversy creates.

    Like

  11. Barbara says:

    OMG! Can’t believe they did this. Hey, if you dumb enough to get stuck in Thailand with a creepy dude and no money, you shouldn’t be traveling at all!

    Like

  12. Interesting topic….
    I think this is nothing but an escort/prostitution service, called with a “gentle” name.
    I’m not a puritan either, so if they are happy like that, well good for them. But honestly? i was really interested in reading the article, since i had all these kind of proposal during my twenties, and i was really poor. Well, i felt insulted all the times. I also refused expensive gifts even if they were just from nice guys who accidentally had a crush on me. I didnt find it fair. Let alone a guy who offered me a round the world trip (which is absolutely my dream) and i said NO. No matter how much he insisted that he didnt want anything from me. No way.
    And now, in my thirties im fulfilling my dreams, with my OWN money and leaving for my dream trip very soon 🙂
    There is always a way to do what u really want without compromising your values and the respect you should always have for yourself.

    Like

    • I couldn’t agree more…and my experience has been much the same. I’m insulted – if I want to go somewhere or do something, I”ll do it for myself thank you! There’s no such thing as a dream fulfilled, that someone else makes happen.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s