I Honeymooned With 30 Strangers

by Stephanie Montes

I love my husband, Jerry, and I value my alone time with him. You know those couples that always need other people around to have a good time? That's not us. But on what's supposed to be the most romantic trip we'll ever take (yes I'm talking about our honeymoon), we decide to travel around Italy with 30 complete strangers.

When choosing where to go and how, the one thing I'm adamant about is booking a group tour. I've traveled with Go Ahead Tours three times (to Costa Rica, Guatemala and Belize) and with its sister company EF Tours to Spain. They just make planning so easy—I recommend them to everybody. Between a full-time job and planning a wedding, I've had zero time to research the best sights, not to mention where to stay and how to get around. I do wonder how much of a romance killer it might be to travel with so many people, but the fact that everything (flights, hotels, itinerary, tour guides and transportation) is done for us means we're signing up regardless. We pick Venice, Florence and Rome and get ready to say arrivederci.

Being on the tour gives me the opportunity to experience my husband in a new way—different than any other solo vacation we've ever taken.

After much anticipation, we land in Venice and are greeted by our tour guide who has a boat fired up and ready to take us down the Grand Canal to our hotel (how George and Amal of us, I know). Once we arrive, we meet the people with whom we're about to spend the next two weeks. We have a big family dinner—Venetian style—and get to know the group (ranging from teens to over-60s).

I travel and dine with strangers all the time for work, so I’ve gotten pretty good at not-so-small small talk, but it's interesting to see Jerry out of his element. He can be shy at times, so seeing him in this vulnerable state is a new experience for me even though we've been together for nine years (we have all the same friends). I catch myself staring at him as he slowly breaks out of his shell. But my favorite thing is sitting next to my hubby on the bus en route to the next city or landmark. I know, I know! There's a whole country to be discovered and I'm enjoying myself on a bus? But it feels almost like sitting next to your crush on a field trip. Being on the tour gives me the opportunity to experience my husband in a new way—different than any other solo vacation we’ve ever taken.

Off the bus, we head from landmark to landmark as a group. Sure, it's weird at first, but the group quickly becomes our security blanket in a foreign place. We even begin to get protective of one another when locals or other tourists try to mess with us! When you're all each other has, it's easy to get real close, real quick. In Sorrento (our last stop, so at this point we're nice and chummy), some of our hotel rooms are nestled in a corner on the ground floor of the resort. Before we know it, we're jumping over one another's walls to share a balcony—we turn up the music and hang out before dinner.

I know what you're thinking—do we ever get any time alone? It is our honeymoon after all! The answer is yes. We take a romantic gondola ride in Venice, throw coins in the Trevi Fountain, siesta for hours, share a gelato on the Spanish Steps, all on our own. While wine tasting in Tuscany we sneak off and get lost for a while. We even take a day off from exploring with the group to learn how to make pasta in Rome. However, as much as I love our solo strolls through romantic alleys, who doesn't need space every now and again? That's where the group comes in. We have a blast getting to know people from all walks of life we wouldn't normally encounter at home—not to mention the genius travel tips and hilarious stories. And truthfully we enjoy the family feeling of coming back for dinnertime, especially since we're so far from home.

Now that we're back, I'm thankful for the time we had in Italy. Jerry and I joke about how we've never taken a honeymoon before but this has to be the best one ever. We can't believe how much we saw in two weeks. Ever since tripping with Go Ahead Tours for the first time, I swore I'd never travel any other way, and now that I've used them to plan my honeymoon, I know I won't. And let's be real, if worse comes to worse, you can always count on your new friends to be around when you've had enough of your significant other. Sorry, Jerry!