The Best Parts of Queer Travel Might Surprise You
Traveling as a queer person can have its ups and downs, and in my time writing on Medium I’ve lightly delved into some of those negative aspects. However I want to take the time to appreciate, exhibit, and examine the positives of queer travel!
The positives are often the most unexpected and delightful parts of rainbow adventuring. They’re a mix of both frequent and rare occurrences that really do make LGBT+ travel great.
The Staring Kids
Getting starred at in public might not be the first thing on everyone’s list of a good time. But when I’m traveling through the streets of another country or passing through airport after airport, the stares of children and teens that land on my short hair, my bare face, and my butchy fashion are pretty special.
Why? Because from their staring it’s clear they don’t often (if ever) see people who look like me, and by my simply existing in their world for a moment, I’ve expanded their concept of what other’s can look like and how their own self-expression can look too.
The stares of teenagers, who look like I once did in their uncertainty about themselves, particularly pull at my queer heart with the mix of hope, awe, and sometimes intense contemplation I see on their faces— it reminds me that the search for queer role models and queer inspiration is a world-wide one.
Getting to be a Queer Historian
Everywhere I go, I love to play Queer Historian at museums of all kinds.
How do you play Queer Historian? It’s simple: in the examination of museum placards and exhibits, keep a Queer Historian’s eye out for anything that is obviously queer but has strategically been avoided being labeled as such. Then respectfully collect images of these on any device and share your discoveries with friends, family, and fellow queer people.
For example, a recent Queer Historian discovery I made was in Washington, D.C. at the National Geographic Museum.
There I read about Margaret Benson, a British Egyptologist, who became “fast friends” with another British traveler named Janet Gourlay while in Luxor. Gourlay subsequently accompanied and assisted on all of Benson’s excavations, and the pair then became “life-long companions” (quotes are directly from placards). Here’s the museum’s picture of them:
Hmm, can’t hide that one from me NatGeo; I’m a Queer Historian!
Traveling with a partner of the same gender is so incredibly, wonderfully, handy. Aside from the fact you can borrow clothing from each other if you’re similar sizes, there’s also the huge packing and luggage benefit that comes from sharing travel items.
For example, my partner and I only need one mini-hairdryer between us, and that saves space for one bottle of shampoo between us, which saves space for one small medicine bag between us, which saves space for…
You get the idea.
Additionally, when in need of an item in a pinch, such as a sanitary item, a razor, a chapstick, or some gender-affirming deodorant, it’s almost 100% likely your partner will have just what you need! So handy, and so strangely bonding.
No Travel Roles
Thankfully, queer adventuring says f*ck no to all the gender roles commonly associated with travel. Gender doesn’t dictate the way we work together to share the weights of adventuring, and this means we have the freedom to enjoy every part of being on holiday.
How? Here are some ways my partner and I are free from the gender roles we still see being played out by many cis-het tourists around us:
- We both drive — I enjoy driving in regional, outback, and country areas, and my partner enjoys driving through bustling cities. By sharing the driving in this way, we both get to do what we want and experience less stress because of it.
- We both create the itinerary — My partner likes to lay out the big stuff, like flight dates and what week we’ll be in this city, that country, that Park, or this festival. Where as I like to lay out the small, daily stuff, like quirky museums, art markets, shows, where to eat, and what adventure tours to do.
- We both ask for directions — Sometimes I want to, sometimes my partner wants to, and sometimes we both want to. Either way, we always get back on the right path.
- We both put up the tent — If my partner drove us to the campground, I’ll put up the tent while she eats and stretches her legs. If I’m making us breakfast the day we leave, she’ll pack up the whole campsite while I flip pancakes and eat the batter.
- We both cook, clean, pay, organise, book, and negotiate during our travels, often without even having to ask or get asked because we’re so in-tune with what the other is doing and feeling.
To summarise, it’s all equal when there’s no gender roles and we’re always left with more time and energy for fun.
Stripes above the Doorway
It’s a comfort that in most places I’ve travelled there’s one thing I can always search for: a queer space.
Whether it’s a popular gay club, or a small LGBT+ bar that’s tucked away in a corner of town, or a quaint lesbian-run cafe that has some local queer zines for sale at the back, or even an independent bookstore (english or not) that’s made a considerate point to stock a selection of LGBT+ texts.
When search engines and local guidebooks can’t help me find these spaces (sometimes they simply don’t exist on the map), the tell-tale rainbow stripes above a building’s doorway, in the window, or chalked next to the doormat outside is the signal I look for and feel welcomed by.
It’s wonderful that small businesses in communities all over the world are loving and aware enough to put a small (or huge) flag above their door to shepherd us weary, queer travellers into the relaxed warmth of a space that’s made-for, or inclusive-of, us.
The best part about queer travel is that me and so many members of the LGBT+ community are being bold enough to do it. And as we do, we’re finding more and more aspects to love about queer travel that are unique to our way of experiencing the world.