What would you do for a plane ticket?

August 1, 2012 6:00 pm

Online dating sites, historically receiving mixed reviews anyway, have gone and innovated yet again in the form of MissTravel.com: which I’ve been told is something like a hybrid between couch-surfing and a brothel. Unlikely to get the boisterous thumbs up from the religious sector, then.

Will you find love on holiday?

The site invites women (or indeed men) to sign up as would-be travellers, in order to meet “generous” individuals who are willing to fund a trip in which they accompany them. Similar to websites such as SeekingArrangements.com, Miss Travel’s patrons are primarily rich men and women in need of money. The site has only found its feet in April, but since has scored huge attention, and, alongside her sister sites, almost ubiquitously controversy.

This Sugar Daddy set-up already aggravates the ‘deep morale core’ many people attest to having, and add to this many questions of safety and legal viability. For example, if a woman petitions a man to take her on holiday, all expenses paid (and then some), what can that man expect in return? Some sugar, most likely.

No small wonder, then, that there are accusations of it being a “veiled escort service” (I thought that was nice summation by Rosie O’Donnell, on the Today Show) or outright prostitution by not just a few people. This may not be too extreme, considering a person will be expected to remunerate his/her benefactor, somehow. Especially when we consider the sites criterion for the broke travelers is that they be “attractive”- in my mind’s eye I’m watching an old banker wink and undo a notch on his belt . So: are we to believe this is the rise of a diabolical international sex ring, bent on extracting innocence from young travelers for a stroll down the Seine?

Probably not, no. We should remember: this is the 21st century, and there will absolutely come a heap of gasps from the, dare I say, the more prudish, who are less concerned with the safety of individuals (after all, no one’s boycotting mountain biking) and more that the idea of, in effect, selling oneself for monetary benefit is distasteful. It is likely that the venture is dangerous, but it’s the naive who say that travel isn’t, anyway. Between shacking up with a rich stranger in 5-star hotel, who may or may not have misread ‘Finland’ for ‘fellatio’, or walking to a hostel so cheap the doorman lies dead on the reception counter, there are probably a lot of people who’d pick Mr. Licentious Moneybags.

It’s not a lack of adventurousness that compels me to say that: why, in such situations, I’d be glad to hoist the corpse from the desk, throw it into the Yangtze river and bam: I’ve got myself a job in mainland China. But the Miss Travel site, theoretically, opens up two doors, for those that want them open: that of having a financially failsafe in case it all goes pearshaped and also to go places you wouldn’t go otherwise e.g. restaurants, hotels, which are a large part of the novelty of visiting a country. Conversely, for the generous party, some companionship where you might not have it.

Funding your travel through such a controversial method may attract some unwanted consequences

I say hypothetically, because the generous person themselves may not be a failsafe: in fact, they might be capricious and frugal, leaving you on the second day sans money, sans hope. And a word of caution to all the financially-gifted individuals: you’d better make darn-sure you’re companion is the fit filly she says she is, and not some washed-out tramp from Essex (sorry Essex).

When we add up the pros and cons, it is apparent why there is so much controversy surrounding the site, but that perhaps it is more to do with the ambiguous uneasiness people feel about online dating, then the facts. Furthermore, this is a interestingly complex issue: other people talking about this phenomenon approach it from a psychological perspective, and rightly so. However, I believe the morality of Miss Travel’s girls and boys are quite safe.

Lastly: if anyone is thinking of getting involved in the buisness of love for money (or travel), to take the journalist and one-time sugar-baby Helen Croydon’s advice – don’t do it for the money, but out of genuine attraction. And if you fall in love in Ibiza, so be it.

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