Real Couples' Humanitarian Honeymoons
Continued (page 2 of 4)
Isn't It Romantic
Scraping paint and hauling cement—not exactly moonlight and champagne. But romance on voluntours is almost always present in another form. Newlyweds Jena and Kristopher Douglas of Bar Harbor, ME, chose a two-week volunteer stay in Chennai, India, for their honeymoon. While there, the couple helped orphaned and abandoned children, once homeless or living in extreme poverty, by teaching them English and giving them the affection and attention kids crave. "I don’t know how to explain what it was like to work with these kids," says Jena, who, like her husband, manages a restaurant on an island off the Maine coast. "All I can say is that we absolutely fell in love. We talk about them as if they were our own children. Leaving was emotional, to say the least, but we felt like we made a genuine difference in their lives."
"This was certainly not your traditional romantic honeymoon," Jena continues, "but I couldn’t think of anything more rewarding than working as a team to help others. It gave us a sense of closeness, and it was such an adventure! And seeing Kris with the kids helped me gain so much more respect for this person I already loved."
These sentiments are shared by Molly Jacobson and Michael Grossman, of Arlington, MA, who also volunteered in India for two weeks as part of a six-month around-the-world honeymoon. The couple recall their service as being romantic—because of what they learned about each other. "Volunteering itself isn’t necessarily romantic," says Molly, who teaches seventh-grade history in Wellesley; her husband is the director of finance at a private school in Boston. "But watching Mike teach is something I delighted in—he was an inspiration. I thought often about the aspects of him that I fell in love with."
Time for Play
That’s not to say volunteer honeymooners can’t also enjoy leisure activities and romance in the more traditional sense. Most voluntours allow for some downtime, including day trips and weekend adventures to local cultural and scenic attractions.
Jena and Kris, for example, took short trips to nearby places of interest in India, such as the temples, mosques and beaches of the ancient city of Pondicherry. While in Ecuador, Sandra and Mark traveled by bus to the mountain town of Otavalo, known for its handicrafts market, and climbed the 19,347-foot-tall Cotopaxi Volcano. And during their time in Tanzania, Teresa and Andrew made it to the summit of 19,335-foot Kilimanjaro.
Like Teresa and Andrew, Kristin Stohner and Brandon Dion of Los Angeles planned their volunteer honeymoon to Tanzania, focusing on building a school for orphans as well as teaching AIDS/HIV awareness to the community. Working with i-to-i, they planned a trip that included not only service but some well-deserved self-indulgence, too.
Their trip began with a one-week stop in Zanzibar, which gave them time to relax and get to know the culture a bit before beginning their service. There, they explored the island’s beaches, snorkeled and even got henna tattoos on their feet. The couple stayed in an oceanview bungalow at a luxe resort, where they enjoyed dinners of champagne and such local delicacies as barracuda. One evening, the couple returned to their bungalow to find that the hotel staff had moved their bed out to the balcony, made it up with mosquito netting and sprinkled it with flowers. That night, they slept beneath the stars.