It was 2015 when Eric, who preferred a pseudonym to be used for his name, first discovered the dating site, MissTravel. Eric, a 35-year-old chief financial officer at a tech company, was on his way back from Thailand when a fellow airline passenger recommended the site. Advertised as a platform where travelers can find companions, MissTravel sits under a veil of controversy for its unsaid connotation of being a marketplace to barter sex for trips.
MissTravel functions the way most dating sites do: a basic profile is filled out and matches are made with the added step of posting upcoming trips. Once signed up, you identify as one of three options: “Take Me Along” for aspiring travelers looking to offer their company in exchange for an all-expense paid trip. “I Have My Own Ticket,” an option for those looking to split travel costs evenly; or, “I Have an Extra Ticket” where you seek to pay for someone to accompany you on a trip.
I had originally come across MissTravel while researching whether young women trade sex for free travel. The answer, as I quickly learned is yes. The average age of women on MissTravel – whose tagline once read: Beautiful Women will Travel for Free – is 27, while men – who make up the majority of the MissTravel user base, are an average of 35 years of age. Of the men using MissTravel, a whopping 82 percent of male users opt for the “I Have an Extra Ticket” option, in which they pay for a travel companion; and just four percent of male users are the benefactors of free trips, choosing the “Take Me Along” option.
“I’ve done Match.com, I’ve done eHarmony and I find it’s easier to meet people on the MissTravel site,” said Eric. Eric had been traveling in Thailand alone and – after learning about the site – figured his trips would be better with a companion in tow. “It’s like going out on a date except you’re on 17 dates because you’re on vacation and with each other all the time.”
Eric pays for women to travel with him. With his demanding job and restricting schedule, MissTravel takes on the heavy lifting of finding a companion and travel partner. “Typically I’ll fly [women] with me and then they’ll stay in my hotel and everything,” he explains. “Really the only additional cost is to take care of the flight and take care of the entertainment over there.” While Eric doesn’t have the expectation of sex when inviting a woman to join him, admittedly the implication of getting intimate is there. “You just kinda know the nature of the site when you sign up.”
According to a statement from MissTravel, “MissTravel is a unique platform that connects travel enthusiasts from across the world. Unlike on other dating sites, members on MissTravel know they can meet like-minded individuals on the site who are eager to explore the world and are willing to travel with them.” The website was founded in April 2012 by Brandon Wade, the founder of Seeking Arrangement, OpenMinded (a site geared towards open relationships) and What’s Your Price? (an online dating auction for women).
In a previous interview with Culture Trip, Wade explained he started MissTravel with the desire to “build a platform where people who love to travel can connect with one another, while providing access to travel for those who might not be able to afford it on their own.”
While most of the users on MissTravel who snag free trips are women, Sam (who also preferred a pseudonym be used) is one of only four percent of male users who are treated by women to trips. “I believe I’ve met four women through MissTravel. The first was a trip to Laguna Beach, which was great because, being from Hawaii, I love the ocean. A month or two after Laguna, she flew out to Hawaii, and I showed her around the island,” explains Sam. “The only other trip I’ve been on through the site was to Maui. My date met me in Honolulu and then we traveled to Maui for a weekend trip together. I think she paid for the flights with miles, but we split most of the expenses when in Maui if I remember correctly.” As Sam explains, being treated to free flights and a weekend trip was a fairly normal experience. “I didn’t feel weird about her flying me out, and she didn’t make it weird so it was not a major thing.”
While Eric and Sam both offer different glimpses into MissTravel, both find the platform to be useful. “Tinder is full of tourists, which doesn’t appeal to me in the same way as MissTravel,” adds Sam. “MissTravel is more about finding a common connection.” When asked whether he was intimate with his new found female companions, Sam – like Eric – leaves much to the imagination and says simply, “a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.”