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.
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!
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!