I have a confession to make. While the whole world was bashing the launch of MissTravel.com, the curious-kitty in me decided to take the plunge, indulge in my own investigation, and formulate my own conclusions. After all, shouldn’t we be doing that with everything in life? I made a profile and was interested in meeting someone from the site in person to truly understand their motives for joining.
My Back Story/Inspiration:
Those who know me on a personal level can easily describe me as a “glass-half-full” type of gal. Always joyful, positive, and perhaps a bit idealistic (though never naive, don’t confuse the two), I’m fearless when it comes to stepping out of my own comfort zone, because let’s face it – that’s usually where the magic happens when it comes to self-discovery and growth. When we put ourselves in obscure situations, we tend to learn many of our valuable life lessons.
On a recent trip to Chicago with some of my girlfriends, my free-spirited friend Allison, told me about how she has been hosting dozens of strangers on her couch while filming a documentary about CouchSurfing.com. At first I was shocked that she easily trusted strangers that she only knew from an online profile, but after listening to her reasoning, she was absolutely right in my eyes. Her response was something along the lines of, “many people live in fear and expect the worst from people. You have to believe in the common good of the universe and you’ll attract that. In fact, out of every single person from around the world that has stayed with us on my couch, zero have been negative experiences. I’ve made dozens of like-minded friends and learned quite a bit so far.”
Back to MissTravel… let me first say that I have never had a profile on any online “dating” website ever in my life. Nor have I been on a “blind date”. I’m quite sheltered from modern dating, I guess. This was about to be a completely new [and slightly uncomfortable] experience for me. While making my profile, I made sure that there was nothing suggestive in my writing and photos. I was not looking for a sugar daddy, casual sex, or any kind of dubious arrangement. I merely wanted to meet with a fellow travel enthusiast for lunch or coffee.
Considering that my main photo was not the slightest bit suggestive or “promiscuous”, I was shocked that I actually received dozens of messages from “generous” members and about 10 “trip proposals” within the first few days of being on the site. Men from around the globe asked me to travel with them to luxurious places such as Hong Kong, St. Kitts, Hawaii, and Rome – just to name a few.
While I did not respond to many of the messages, I did have contact with two members in particular. Of the two that I responded to was a man in his early thirties from Australia who reports on his profile that his annual income is over $1 million dollars. He had mentioned to me that he would be visiting New York for two weeks and was interested in getting to know me over brunch.
I agreed – we’d be in a crowded public place, what’s the worst that can happen? Of course I told my parents and close friends what I was doing, who I was meeting, and where I was going for safety reasons. And I made it very clear in all of my contact that this was a brunch-and-only-brunch kind of meeting.
Before meeting “MrTravel” on Saturday at 11 am at a trendy Chelsea brunch hot-spot called CookShop, I met up with my close blogger-buddy, Bonnie (Frugal Travel Lawyer) who also happened to be in NYC that morning at the Westin in Times Square. I told her what I was doing and how I was super nervous (so nervous that I almost bailed) because I have never met anyone from an online site before. She thankfully rested nerves and told me to pretend I was Diane Sawyer conducting an investigative interview. She was right. It was just brunch… and a blog post.
When I arrived at CookShop, MrTravel was there waiting outside and we were immediately escorted (bad word?) to our table. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much we had in common. Our conversation and laughter felt totally normal, and there was never an awkward silence. It was a fantastic experience. I initially expected brunch to last about 45 minutes, and I couldn’t believe that a whole two and a half hours flew by!
So what did we talk about? Everything from travel (duh), to Chinese medicine, to spider bites, to cancer… and what seemed like everything in between. Of course I had to ask him the obvious – Why exactly did he join MissTravel?
He told me that he also primarily joined out of curiosity because the site was receiving so much media attention during its immediate debut. He was open-minded about the idea of meeting locals during his travels. He also said that being in a new global city every week for work is very lonely. He described himself as a self-proclaimed foodie who enjoys trying a different restaurant at every meal but does not like to dine alone. Traveling to him is learning, and there’s no better way to experience culture than to sit down and talk to the people who live in it.
I also asked him how many people he’s met since being on the site, and he said I was his 4th brunch date.
After brunch was over, we shook hands and parted ways. Now, who says there’s no such thing as free lunch?
With any situation in life, you will attract what you project. You are in control of every interaction you have in life. Whether you’re meeting somebody on the street, at a business meeting, or even on a site like MissTravel, it’s important to be smart and set your boundaries. In all honesty, I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone – I have a new-found confidence (I can apparently survive in the online-dating world, LOL) and a positive experience to look back on.
P.S. – if the idea of traveling with a stranger still creeps you out, or perhaps you’re all “miss independent”, you can always travel for free using my favorite method – by picking up the best travel credit card with an awesome sign-up bonus.