Jonathan Bennett and Jaymes Vaughan on the Future of LGBTQ+ Travel

The couple will launch OUTbound, an LGBTQ+ focused travel venture, this year

2019 Don't Hide It Flaunt It Awards
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It’s Pride Month! We’re kicking off this joyous, meaningful month with a collection of features completely dedicated to LGBTQ+ travelers. Follow along on a gay writer’s adventures at Pride around the world; read about a bisexual woman’s journey to The Gambia to visit her staunchly religious family; and hear from a non-gender-conforming traveler about unexpected challenges and triumphs on the road. Then, find inspiration for your future trips with our guides to the best LGBTQ+ hidden gem attractions in every state, amazing national park sites with LGBTQ+ history, and actor Jonathan Bennett’s new travel venture. However you make your way through the features, we’re glad you’re here with us to celebrate the beauty and importance of inclusivity and representation within the travel space and beyond.

Pop culture junkies worldwide know Jonathan Bennett from his role as heartthrob Aaron Samuels in the 2004 classic "Mean Girls," as well as for his starring role in Hallmark’s groundbreaking 2020 LGBTQ-themed Christmas movie, "The Christmas House." Now, alongside his fiancée, "Amazing Race" alum and "Celebrity Page" TV host Jaymes Vaughan, Bennett is launching a new travel venture, OUTBound, which will create custom itineraries for LGBTQ+ travelers. Bennett and Vaughan recently sat down with TripSavvy to talk about their love of adventure, a tough moment of discrimination they experienced as gay travelers, and the ways they’re working to make travel feel more safe and inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community.

Both of you love to travel and travel often. How would you say LGBTQ+ travelers approach travel differently than those outside of the community?

Jonathan Bennett: What a lot of people who aren’t members of the LGBTQ+ community don’t realize is that just going on the deck of a ship and being able to hold your partner’s hand or give your partner a kiss at dinner in front of a sunset is a scary situation sometimes. Because you don’t know who you’re around. You don’t know what the reaction is going to be. You don’t know if you’re going to be subject to ridicule. 

Jaymes Vaughan: There’s always just a little reservation when you’re in certain environments. You always have to have a level of awareness wherever you are. If you're in a mixed environment, unfortunately, you sometimes don’t know who you’re dealing with. So it’s important to find an environment where you can show affection and be yourself without fear. 

Has either of you had personal experiences when you’ve traveled where you felt unsafe or felt that you were treated differently as an LGBTQ person? 

JB: It’s something we experienced recently during wedding planning. One resort wouldn’t allow us to get married there, and that’s when we realized that our wedding—from the engagement to the honeymoon—is much bigger than ourselves. We thought we could sit here and wallow in it, or we can go and create the safe spaces that we want to see. We can shine a spotlight on places where our community is accepted. 

JV: If you don’t find a space that’s for you, then make one. 

That sounds a lot like what you’re doing with your new venture, OUTbound. Where did the idea to launch your own travel company come from?

JV: We realized, as guys who love travel and love vacationing, that there wasn’t really something that ticked the box of what we wanted. We wanted travel that was about building a family, building a community, and seeing the world with other LGBTQ+ people. It was something we were having difficulty finding.

What are some of the ways OUTbound is different than a traditional LGBT cruise?

JV: Traditional gay cruising has a reputation for being only circuit parties. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we’re personally not big into the party scene. We're chartering small ships—200 passengers or less—because our main focus is building a community of LGBTQ+ travelers who want to get to know each other, who want to spend time together. And we're creating custom itineraries for them to do just that. It’s a lot harder to have those community-based experiences on a big ship. 

JB: What we love about OUTbound is that everyone that you’ll find onboard is our staff or our guests. In the ports we're going to, we've partnered with local LGBTQ+ tour operators. Our goal is to make our guests really feel like they can be themselves at all times. We feel like we’ve created a safe space for LGBTQ+ people to travel the world and be celebrated while they're doing it.

Jaymes, you were a contestant on "The Amazing Race." A lot of people who saw your run on the show would assume that you’re very adventurous. What’s the most adventurous travel experience you both have had?

JV: I think after you do something like "The Amazing Race," you’re always itching to keep traveling more and to keep experiencing more cultures. It’s really driven me to continue to prioritize travel in my life. When I swam with the Russian synchronized swimming team in Moscow, I remember thinking, this is the craziest and most adventurous thing I will ever do. Then fast forward a week later, and I’m dangling from a crane 16 stories in the air in a straight jacket, about to bungee down to receive my next clue! 

JB: I was the first non-Olympian to carry the Olympic torch for the Seoul Olympics in 2018. I got to go there for NBC, and I got to be in the middle of all the mountains there, where they were setting up all of the games. It was just such an incredible experience, and it really sparked a sense of adventure inside me.

You two are in the midst of planning a wedding. Have you thought of honeymoon destinations yet?

JV: Honestly, we’re counting all of these amazing trips coming up as all part of our honeymoon. We were thinking, "Should we plan a honeymoon?" And then we were like, "Oh wait, we already have several honeymoons planned." We’re treating all of the OUTbound 2022 destinations after our wedding as our honeymoon.

What are you most looking forward to in a post-pandemic world?

JV: It’s so simple, but: hugging people. I got to see my family last week for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and I finally got to hug them. It was a very cool thing. 

JB: I’m really looking forward to our first OUTbound trip to Greece this November. A lot of our old friends have booked the trip, so we're going to get to go to these bucket-list destinations like the Greek Isles and have them there with us. It's going to be really special. 

JV: We’re going to get to finally hug them in Greece. It doesn’t get more perfect than that.