MrFunGuy is 33 years old, in the oil and gas industry in Dallas, and is looking for a fun travel companion to explore the world with. ICraveAdventure is a 27-year-old server from Knoxville, TN who says she wants to travel with someone who puts a good time at the top of their agenda.
MrFunGuy has money, but apparently no one to travel with. ICraveAdventure is attractive, but lacks travel funds. The website MissTravel.com puts the two of them together: David, the "Generous" member, pays for exotic, high-end vacations and Christelle, the "Attractive" member, goes along for the ride.
Is this matchmaking or nothing more than a travel escort service? These are the questions that many are asking about MissTravel, which claims to be the “first online dating website to combine travel and romance.” The site is either deemed a stroke of genius or incredibly offensive, depending on who you talk to.
"These guys want to blow their money it seems. What really sucks are the girls out there, like I once was, meeting guys at the bar and getting played and get absolutely nothing out of it."
In Jezebel's piece about the controversial website, Lindy 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?"
As West reveals, one of the benefits touted by MissTravel is the ability for Attractive members to accumulate frequent flyer points to redeem for future travel on their own.
"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?" West asks. "That’s the prize? Getting the fuck 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."
Many question the safety of such a set-up, where instead of meeting for coffee, you're jetting out of state — or even out of the country — with a stranger. But how do MissTravel's members — the Attractive and the Generous — feel about the service?
MissTravel.com put me in touch with Christelle and David, two members who have not traveled together, but readily answered my questions about their experiences.
"Before signing up for MissTravel, I had never done anything like this," Christelle says. "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. 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."
Christelle says that she started getting "winks," messages and trip suggestions from guys within days of becoming a member. She admits that a few of the proposals from perfect strangers paying to whisk her away on an exotic vacation felt weird. "I didn't feel comfortable accepting from most of the guys, because I am a single mom with a lot to protect."
However, Christelle eventually found a match that felt good and freely admits that she loves the sugar daddy aspect. "After shopping sprees, trips, dinners, etc. just for hanging out with guys that are (mostly) 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."
"Someone called me a gold digger because of this and that doesn't bother me," Christelle says. "These guys want to blow their money it seems. What really sucks are the girls out there, like I once was, meeting guys at the bar and getting played and get absolutely nothing out of it."
"Below board? Not at all. I want attractive, she wants generous, we both get what we want and everyone is happy. I have been on more dates in the last two months than I have in the last two years."
As a "Generous" member paying for travel, David says the bar scene wasn't working for him either. "I thought, this is the 21st century and social media is all the rage; maybe this will work. I've never used an online dating service before, but this site seemed different. Less of a 'find your soulmate' deal and more of a 'find someone to share good times with' place."
David says that he loves to travel, but he doesn't like traveling alone, which means he doesn't go on trips as often as he'd like. "In a typical dating situation the relationship has to progress to a certain point before you can travel together. That takes time and implies a progression to a more serious relationship, something I'm not looking for right now."
Simple and uncomplicated, in fact, is exactly what David is looking for. He has the money to pay for it and wants a good looking companion. If all of this sounds more and more like Pretty Woman for the road, David doesn't see it that way. "Below board? Not at all. I want attractive, she wants generous, we both get what we want and everyone is happy. I have been on more dates in the last two months than I have in the last two years."
"When you travel, you get out of your normal routine and have time to really get to know each other and spend quality time together," David says. "I have met a number of interesting women and had some good times. With travel dating you aren't limited to just the people who live near you; I have been on trips to New York City, Chicago, Boston and Orlando. I am easy going and open-minded and so have enjoyed the company of most of the women I have met."
Let's get down to the nitty-gritty question that surely all of us want to know. What about sex?
"I did not feel pressure to perform favors," Christelle says. "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/email/etc., and Googled their names to make sure they match up with who they say they are. It’s like having a boyfriend without the drama, strings and time constraints... I definitely did not (and do not) feel that [sexual] favors are expected as 'part of the deal' at all."
David openly admits that if he were expecting sex, there are other websites for that sort of thing. "Some in the press would like to paint this site as something akin to prostitution. My experience has been that the women on MissTravel are not trying to sell their bodies, but rather are looking for a casual relationship with a gentleman who has the means to show them a good time. I am a gentleman and only expect and hope that the lady I'm with has a good time."
The site's founder, Brandon Wade, who also founded SeekingArrangement.com and WhatsYourPrice.com where rich people bid on dates for beautiful people, believes that money plays a big role in how we express our love and care for someone. Born in Singapore to strict Chinese parents, Wade says he was terrified of girls. “I felt so much pain in my life trying to date and haven’t been very successful,” Wade told The Daily Beast. “I figured there should be a website for guys like me.”
Created for guys like Wade, the MissTravel website disclaimer clearly states: "This is not an escort site, nor will we permit any type of escorting on this site. MissTravel.com is strictly an online dating service for people who are looking for a travel partner." And while the site encourages reports of suspicious activity, what MissTravel's disclaimer seems to gloss over is the fact that one party is compensating the other.
Perhaps it's not in cold, hard cash but it's certainly in significant gifts that money can buy. After all, as the MissTravel tagline aptly states: “Who needs money, beautiful people travel free!”