A woman who had never been abroad until last year has now traveled the world for free by getting her online dates to pay for it.
Monica Lynn, 25, estimated her lavish trip, which involved camel trekking in Dubai and shopping sprees in Hong Kong, would have taken up to a decade to save for if she had funded it herself.
Before January last year Monica, a former financial adviser, had never left America, but now she has visited nine different countries.
Monica told how she came across an article about a dating website where singles can pay to bring prospective partners on holiday with them.
She said: “I came across MissTravel in an article about weird websites.
“I thought, ‘Yes, that sounds weird, but also kind of cool.’
“This website attracts very successful men who don’t have time to date in the normal way, so this allows them to accelerate the whole thing.
“They’re going on trips anyway, and they can afford to search through profiles and afford to bring one they like with them.
“Initially I thought, ‘Is this legitimate? Is this a thing?’
“But I signed up anyway, started chatting to a few guys, and really got into the idea.
“Before I found this site, I’d had never been outside the US and now my passport book is starting to get full — it’s opened up the world to me.”
MissTravel was founded by CEO Brandon Wade, who calls himself an “online dating entrepreneur." He’s been in the news before thanks to controversy over one of his other dating sites, SeekingArrangement, which lets “Sugar Daddies” and “Sugar Mommies” shower young people with cash, clothes and holidays in exchange for their company. Sound familiar?
Anyway, after quitting her job at wealth management firm Merrill Lynch in December 2014, Monica joined MissTravel and immediately began chatting to a 31-year-old managing director.
They exchanged messages for several weeks before he asked her if she would accompany him on a trip to Barbados.
Her date, who wishes to remain anonymous, paid for everything on their week’s jaunt, including flights, a stay at a five star resort and cocktails on the beach.
He also treated her to souvenirs and some silver jewelry.
Monica stressed there was no expectation she would sleep with her holiday buddy, arguing: “It’s like any other dating website.
“It’s just there’s lots of traveling involved.”
She added: “Maybe some people will do that, we’re all human — but it wasn’t for me, not with that first guy.
“It wasn’t awkward either — it was just like a regular date which didn’t really sizzle, except you were on a Caribbean island.
“Sex was never mentioned.
“We had fun but there was no sexual connection.
“He was like a friend. We’re still in touch.”
Though she didn’t go on any further trips with her Barbados partner, Monica soon met a second man who took her to San Francisco.
She didn’t feel the spark with this suitor either, but her luck changed when she met her third prospective match.
After speaking via messenger, she eventually flew to Italy to meet him and the pair connected instantly.
She said: “He’s Italian, he’s 28 and really gorgeous.
“He runs several successful online businesses, and also works in import and export.
“We had a connection before we even met, and that continued.”
Since they got together last year, the loved-up couple have embarked on seven holidays as a couple, including trips to Indonesia and the Philippines.
As a token of their commitment they have both agreed to stop using the MissTravel website.
Monica said: “After about six weeks, we decided to be exclusive to each other.
“My lifestyle hasn’t changed though. Any time he goes on a trip now he invites me.
“The way I see it, I found a guy I’m really serious about through online dating — with a lot of travel.”
She added: “What would most girls prefer?
“Going for dinner in their hometown, or watching the sunset on a clifftop restaurant with a guy who wanted to fly you to the other side of the world to be with him?
“It’s exponentially more romantic than anything a guy back home could do for you.
“Your senses are heightened.
“Everything is so spontaneous, it helps ignite the passion.
“And you’re getting to know each other in these amazing, exotic locations.”
Monica, who is working on a mobile app start-up when she is not jetsetting around the world, said she and her boyfriend have discussed where they might live in the future.
He is based in Italy, while she lives 5000 miles away in Alabama.
She said she currently doesn’t have any plans to leave her family or her dog Rex, as she “loves them too much” but added: “We’ll see what happens in future.”
Should it not work out, Monica admitted traditional dating has been ruined for her after her “life-changing” experience with MissTravel.
She explained: “Dating is dating, and there’s nothing wrong with a guy taking you to the cinema.
“But if I end up single again, I won’t be dating any other way.
“Traditional dates would just be too boring for me now.”
Monica revealed that her mum Lee, 59, initially thought her plan to use the dating website to see the world with men she’d never met was “completely crazy”.
But after assuring her she did online checks for every partner she vacationed with, she said her mom is proud her daughter is seeing places she never had the chance to while growing up.
She said: “My dad Jeff passed away when I was 12, so mom is really protective of me.
“But now she’s just really happy for me.
“She even makes comments about when me and ‘the Italian’ are going to tie the knot.
“I’ve always been a spontaneous girl, especially with guys I’m dating, but the last twelve months have transformed a small-town girl, living in Alabama for 20 years into a woman of the world.”
This article originally appeared on news.com.au.