Holding hands on white sand beaches. Decadent chocolates paired with bubbling Champagne. Luxury hotels and plush beds covered in rose petals. These are some of the images that come to mind when thinking about the perfect honeymoon. For some, however, the ritual for cementing their love with their life partner is more unconventional.
Paying It Forward
When Olivia Campos graduated college in 2009 she decided to reward herself with a full month off before entering the world of 9-to-5 workdays and two weeks vacation. During this time, she decided she not only wanted to travel, but she wanted to travel with a purpose.
“I knew I would have fewer opportunities to travel once I started my career, and I had discovered how much I loved travel when I backpacked across Europe a year earlier,” Olivia explains. “I also wanted to pay forward my good fortune at the same time. I had just graduated college and had a great job lined up, so I felt so blessed and like it was time for me to give to others.”
A friend of hers had done the 2008 Kilimanjaro Trip with Trekking for Kids (TFK), and the purpose of the organization really appealed to Olivia.
TFK’s mission is to help orphans around the world by raising money through trekking. Each trekker pays for their trip as well as commits to fundraising $1,000, all of which goes toward projects that helps orphans in the region of the hike. The experience allows travelers to combine their love of outdoor adventure with volunteering.
At the time Olivia was looking into trips, the organization was coordinating a Spain-Morocco excursion. And despite having never hiked before, Olivia signed up.
“I even broke the cardinal rule and wore my hiking boots for the first time on Day 1 of the Camino de Santiago,” she jokes. “Lucky for me, being 22 worked in my favor and the trip was a wonderful, life-changing experience in every way.”
For Olivia, the trek was a beautiful and spiritual experience. Not only was the dramatic scenery uplifting, but spending time with the local children was rewarding and gave Olivia a new perspective on life and what was important. Working as a team with the other TFK hikers was also inspiring, as they pursued a common goal.
Meeting Her Match
In 2009, Olivia met her now-husband, Austin, at a training seminar in Los Angeles for Chevron, the company they both worked (and still work) for. While Olivia is a Chemical Engineer, Austin is a mechanical Engineer. It was an instant connection, and the two dated long distance for a year and a half until Olivia was able to get a transfer from the Gulf Coast to work in Salt Lake City, where Austin was based. Today, they live amongst Utah‘s beautiful deserts and mountains, a fitting landscape for the adventurous couple.
When they met, Olivia lovingly nicknamed Austin “The Ultimate Eagle Scout” because of his outdoorsy nature. One trait that drew her to him was his passion for travel, which had been ignited and burning since he traveled to China to pick up his adopted little sisters from their respective orphanages.
An Unconventional Honeymoon
The couple set a date to be married, April 27, 2013. Olivia couldn’t have been happier, especially when Austin proposed an idea, a big smile planted on his face.
“TFK is going back to Kili next year,” he said. “And they’re coordinating an optional safari at the end. We should go!”
Volunteer honeymoons were an excellent way to cement a couple’s love while also giving back to those in need. Olivia was elated; that is, until she realized there was almost no way she could take the time off with her limited vacation days. With the TFK trip in February, the wedding in April and a honeymoon to plan, there was no she could do all three. Unless…
Suddenly, they got an idea. What if they made the Kilimanjaro trip the honeymoon? Sure, it was two months before the wedding, but Olivia and Austin are not a conventional couple, with their passion for travel and goodwill overriding their need to follow society’s guidelines on marriage traditions.
Shortly after, the couple was hit with another epiphany. They had already been living together for a year, and over time had accumulated enough kitchen appliances and home decor to suit their needs. So, they decided to tie their wedding registry in with the upcoming TKF trip.
When surfing the internet, Olivia stumbled upon travelersjoy.com, a website that allows your friends and family to give you the experience of your dream honeymoon.
“It was perfect for us!” gushes Olivia. “Our friends and family gifted us trekking poles, sleeping bags, socks and other trekking gear, as well as donations to the wonderful children of the Kili Centre [orphanage].”
Instead of relaxing under palm trees and sampling waterside wine pairing dinners, the couple had a honeymoon that not only gave them new memories together, but also provided a meaningful, life changing experience.
An Unbreakable Love
The experience also cemented Olivia’s confidence in her relationship. Despite challenges during the trip, Austin’s faith in her to complete the trek helped get her through. It also showed her how powerful their shared passions made them as a couple, helping to improve the lives of the Kili Centre children, which they both found to be a humbling experience. And between hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and watching a lion take down a wildebeest from a mere few years away on safari, they’d enjoyed more adventurous novel experiences together than most couples do in a lifetime.
Then Olivia and Austin got married. As great as it felt to officially intertwine their lives, the congratulations given by their friends and family on finding someone else who shared the same curious and intrepid spirit made it clear others saw their special connection, too. And as the theme of the wedding and honeymoon had been the TFK Kilimanjaro trip, the couple printed hundreds of photos from the experience to use as “Thank Yous,” showing their friends and family the memories they had provided them on their once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon they gave us.
Would you book a volunteer-based honeymoon? Please share in the comments below.
About The Author
Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and doing orphanage work in Ghana.
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