Traveling abroad can be both fabulous and formidable. And that goes double when you’re a member of the LGBTQ community. As far as we’ve come, it can still be tough to know what local attitudes about queer travelers might be.
Celebrity couple Jonathan Bennett and Jaymes Vaughan are taking all the guesswork out and putting all the fun back in with OUTbound, their new queer-travel venture.
You may recognize Jonathan Bennett from Mean Girls or his reprised role on Shondaland’s Station 19, or even his cameo in Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” video. He also released a Mean Girls-inspired Burn Cookbook and starred in the recent Hallmark film The Christmas House.
Jaymes Vaughan is an actor, director, writer, and producer who, impressively, finished second on CBS’s Amazing Race. He’s also hosted American Music Awards’ Red Carpet Live TV special, and he now hosts Celebrity Page.
And together, the engaged duo also made history recently by simply appearing in a photograph.
Bennett and Vaughan became the first gay couple to ever appear on the cover of The Knot wedding magazine in April. But when it comes to advocating for the LGBTQ community, that photo was just the beginning, they say. “Advocacy is so important, and so we’re going to do our wedding as loud and proud as possible, because there are some little Jaymes and Jonathans out there who need to see it to have that hope,” Vaughan explains.
“We realize it’s so much bigger than us,” he adds. “So let’s use it. Let’s use it in every way we can. We have this platform. We definitely are aware of our privilege. So let’s use it to open those doors the best we can.”
That includes, of course, opening the doors to LGBTQ travel. Enter OUTbound, the result of the couple’s vision for developing a sense of family, creating safe spaces where people can be free to be themselves, and crafting experiences steeped in the joys of travel without fear and without all the work. “We are all-inclusive and all-included,” Bennett explains. “Everyone’s welcome, and everything is included.”
When they say everyone, they mean everyone—especially those who might not have found the best cruise fit. Jaymes explains, “There are people in their 20s that don’t necessarily want to party, but who want to see the world. There are people in their 60s and 70s and 80s that want to see the world, but don’t want to just go on a cruise and sit there. They want to do things.”
From food to drinks to planned excursions, OUTbound takes care of guests’ every need. “When you get off the ship, you don’t have to think. What we like when we go on vacation is not having to plan anything. Well, at OUTbound, you don’t. We’ll take care of every single part of your journey. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and check things off your bucket list,” Bennett says.
And OUTbound’s trips are indeed worthy of any bucket list. Their cruise that is now booking for November is a Greek Isles Cruise featuring an optional pre-cruise Gods and Monsters-themed Halloween party, a cocktail toast overlooking the famed Acropolis, and a brunch with RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Heidi N Closet, Jan, and Jackie Cox.
The first stop on the cruise is Mykonos, and guests will get two nights there instead of the traditional one night (or even just a brief port stop) because OUTbound wants guests to have the chance to really explore the awe-inspiring destinations on the itinerary.
They charter entire ships, but their largest ship is only 99 cabins in order to offer what Bennett calls, “intimate, boutique experiences to bucket-list destinations. It’s about going to those locations that you’ve always dreamed about going to, and going with a family where you’re safe and you are celebrated while you do it. We’re really creating a community that’s also a Pride party at sea. That is OUTbound in a nutshell.”
For Bennett and Vaughan, travel is about more than just taking a trip. It’s about expanding minds and making connections in a way that no other experience provides. “Those moments where you get to actually be a part of the [local] culture are the moments that really grab you and make you say, ‘I want to do more of this,’” Vaughan emphasizes.
Their ultimate goal is to create the kind of lasting relationships that can only spring from unforgettable shared experiences. “If you and I see the Acropolis together, I’m always going to remember that you and I saw the Acropolis together,” Vaughan explains. “And I’m always going to have that jaw-dropping moment that we shared, where our emotions and excitement level were all elevated.”
“We always say, ‘If you think that ‘gay’ cruising isn’t for you, then we’re the cruise for you,’” Bennett says. “Because we’re not gay cruising,” Vaughan adds. “We’re LGBTQ+ cruising.”
For more information, check out iamoutbound.com.
This article appears in the May 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.