Queer people have always known the value of escape. We've long known that mobility is a privilege, and we've used it to congregate together in destinations where we can be ourselves. So it's no surprise that travel holds such a special place in our community's heart. While our communities are incredibly diverse -- and our reasons for travel can be remarkably individual -- our collective desire to do so is one reason the LGBTQ+ community was the first to hit the skies after 9/11 and why we're still finding ways to get out and explore our world in 2020's new normal.
"I love getting out of my bubble," says Ravi Roth (pictured below), who has trekked across the globe, exploring queer culture in over 30 countries for his travel brand Ravi Round The World (check out his adventures on YouTube). The host of the upcoming YouTube travel series Gaycation Travel Show (premiering in 2021) acknowledges that his current "bubble" is New York City, "which is one of the most diverse cities on the globe."
Photo courtesy of Ravi Roth.
But that can make even trips to "small town USA...incredibly eye opening," Roth admits. "Traveling is one of the only activities in life that forces me to live in the moment and be fully present."
"Travel has been a big part of my life ever since my first trip to see extended family in Hong Kong," says Barry Hoy (below), an Out Traveler writer who also documents his travels on Instagram and the AsianMapleLeaf blog. "The descent was literally right into the heart of the city and felt like we were going between the skyscrapers. The trip itself was exhilarating! It was nothing I'd ever seen before. I loved every moment of it from seeing my family and eating all the yummy food, to immersing into the culture of the city."
Hoy says that "travel brings out the inner kid in me and allows me to discover and learn from every interaction and sight. It is my passion."
So, while we're all eager to get back out into the world again, how do we stay safe while doing so?
The experts advise doing your research and traveling responsibly. "We are all itching to get back out there," Roth says, "But being socially and culturally responsible is the only way tourism will be able to resume again."
Hoy agrees. "Plan ahead and research the destination to make sure you are aware and are abiding by the local requirements," he says. "Also, make sure the sights, activities, and restaurants you want to check out are open. Stay safe and make sure you bring disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and extra masks."
Hoy also recommends prioritizing destinations where LGBTQ+ people are "celebrated and not just tolerated. I find it so much more fun traveling to a destination where I can just be myself."
A new microsite by Orbitz hopes to help queer travelers do just that. The travel booking company has been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community for almost 20 years. In 2002, it launched GayOrbitz.com, becoming the first mainstream agency to establish a LGBTQ+ travel page. The following year the brand is credited with creating the first TV ad to include "unambiguously gay" representation in a mainstream pitch to queer consumers.
Featuring travel guides and advice from dozens of queer travel experts and influencers, the LGBTQ+ Orbitz microsite recently debuted allows travelers to choose from thousands of hotels committed to non-discrimination and welcoming openly LGBTQIA travelers.
Hoy says he also uses some mainstream travel sites that aren't just LGBTQ+ specific. "I love reading about real traveler experiences," he explains.
Roth says he also turns to Instagram for inspiration, following influencers who are responding to these difficult times, managing to still "consistently turn out incredible content, do safe road trips, repurpose old videos, and rebrand themselves during the pandemic." Accounts Roth follows include 27travels, travelingiq, readytostare, 2traveldads, _breakingthedistance, and nomadicboys.
Don't think these travel experts don't have some bloopers in their travels, though.
"When I landed in Santiago, Chile, after not sleeping at all on the plane I needed coffee," Roth recalls of one such snafu. "After dropping my belongings at my hotel I was on the hunt for a coffee. I didn't realize that 98 percent of the population didn't speak English. I spoke terrible Spanish. I found a local cafe and proudly asked for un pico coffee. The entire staff started laughing. I found one person that spoke English and they said I asked for dick! Un pico is dick and un poco is small coffee."
For Hoy, it was a trip to the West coast that didn't go as expected. "We were planning to check out San Francisco first before renting a car to drive to Tuolumne County and Yosemite National Park," about 167 miles away. "We went all the way to Avis to pick up the rental car and I realized I didn't take my driver's license. I have a Canadian driver's license that I keep in my Canadian wallet and I had my New York State ID card with me on this trip."
Because his boyfriend Teraj (host of Gay Travel Today) doesn't drive, Hoy says he "was totally in panic mode and was trying to think if there was any way to get a car without a valid physical license. The answer is 'No.'"
The couple (pictured above) ended up taking an Uber to Yosemite from the city, a more than two-hour trip. "What made it worse was the fact that there were only a few Uber cars once out there since the area is so rural, so we had to wait forever to get anywhere! We also had to arrange for a car to bring us back to the city so that we could catch our flight."
Still, no regrets, says Hoy, whose relatable travel goof definitely left him with "an adventure to remember."
Today, Hoy and Roth, each based in New York City, are fans of safe, regional travel. Roth says he's also "obsessed with local queer culture," and looks forward to sharing the city with friends who come to NYC to visit.
"From shopping and eating at local-owned businesses to divey queer bars in Brooklyn to surviving on a budget, I can really take someone through an authentic New York City experience," Roth adds.
Hoy says he's "enjoying the beauty in my own backyard, whether it's upstate or neighboring states. There are still so many places in New York State I have not seen yet. For example, I recently stayed in a yurt in the middle of a farm just two hours north of the city. There are so many unique places to discover close to home, you just need to look for it."
"Don't plan too much!" Roth adds, urging LGBTQ+ travelers to leave room in their schedule for serendipity. "The best part of traveling is spontaneity. Find a queer bar or cafe and let the locals help plan your trip. Do something outside of your comfort zone!"
No matter how you choose to travel going forward, always travel safe. Because when you're ready to take on the world, Orbitz is ready to help you find that special journey and travel with pride.