NEAR WEST SIDE — Jetta and Jeff Vasilatos are a jet-setting couple. Armed with well-worn passports, they’ve regularly journeyed from their Near West Side home to foreign shores.
The two have roamed Japan, Argentina, South Africa, Italy and most points in between. So the prospect of the couple joining the new Bravo travel show, “Tour Group” which starts on March 1, was a no-brainer.
“It was the chance of a lifetime,” said Jetta.
“Imagine someone like Rick Steves [the international travel expert and TV personality] taking you around the world and the audience gets to experience it with you,” Jeff added.
The adventurous pair were keen on celebrating their lives together after Jeff had a near fatal traffic accident in 2013. He got hit by a car while riding his moped in stop-and-go traffic on North Avenue in Oak Park.
He suffered a broken sternum, ribs and collarbone.
“It took a year and a half before I had full range of motion,” Jeff said. “I couldn’t move my right side, I couldn't work, I couldn’t drive. Suddenly, I had to listen to a doctor or find my life severely hampered. I did what I had to do. I lost time and money, but I’m still here.”
Jeff and Jetta Vasilatos of Bravo's "Tour Group." [DNAinfo/Rosalind Cummings-Yeates]
With busy schedules, the couple hadn’t been able to travel together since the accident. Jetta is founder of Twist Global, where she has created marketing campaigns for global brands such as Coca-Cola and Unilever and local spots such as Sweet Maple Cafe, an uber popular breakfast spot on Taylor Street. Jeff does property and real estate evaluation, in addition to working as a construction engineer for the Water Reclamation District.
So when a Facebook friend suggested to Jetta that she and Jeff would be a great fit for the show last February, they pounced on the opportunity.
“My friend told me on a Friday, and by Saturday, we had a Skype interview with Bravo,” Jetta said.
The audition process moved quickly, so quickly that Jetta and Jeff barely had time to prepare for the six-week trip around the world.
The kicker: Bravo didn’t tell any of the 11 cast members where they were going.
"We got the green light after a couple of weeks. The conditions were, we had to get [vaccination] shots before we go, but they didn’t tell us where,” said Jetta. “They told us we could take one medium-sized suitcase; it won’t be cold; and we might do physical activity. I’m like, 'What else?' We don’t know who we’re traveling with. We don’t know the tour guides. All we know is that it’s a trip of a lifetime, but what does that look like?"
Judging from the preview clips, it looks like a trip of a lifetime. Three tour guides arrange exotic experiences for the cast members across the globe, from riding camels in Morocco to scuba diving in the Maldives.
The group traveled to seven countries and dove into a special cultural activity in each one. The cast of 11 hailed from all over the U.S. — but only Jetta and Jeff represented Chicago.
“We put our best foot forward, the stereotypes people might have about Chicago you won’t see,” said Jeff.
"We kept it real. We didn’t follow the herd,” added Jetta.
On Bravo shows, following the herd typically means lots of drama, which the two insist they had no part of, although there is a memorable clip of Jeff telling a rather wispy cast mate that back home in Chicago they would advise her to “eat a sandwich.”
Despite being a “mixed” couple of a Sox fan (Jetta) and a Cubs fan (Jeff), the two boast a 15-year marriage that provided inspiration for all their single cast mates.
“People would talk to us about love and ask, ‘What’s your secret?'” Jeff said.
One of their secrets is teamwork; they smoothly devised a plan to go off by themselves in each country.
“We had a system,” explained Jeff. “Jetta would keep the group occupied, and I would go scouting for places for us to visit later. Jetta made sure I had fun, and I made sure that she could shop.”
So what about Jetta’s inevitable hair dramas, shopping dilemmas and “bug eating”? Did Jeff persuade the skinny girl to eat? How did he deal with Jetta FaceTiming their dog, Chance?
The couple would not reveal any more details except that Jetta will “be live tweeting some of the stuff that didn’t get in.”
Bravo’s "Tour Group" premieres Tuesday, March 1 at 9 p.m. Follow Jetta on Twitter @jettasetting and Jeff @jeff_vasilatos.
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