Tips for the gay traveller

The vast majority of L.G.B.T. people don’t think about safety enough, said Charlie Rounds, the board chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association Foundation.

We don’t plan our travels around our sexuality and we certainly don’t think we should feel any different than any other married couple traveling the world.Having said that, unfortunately we are a little different.

Traveling as a gay couple sometimes we have to be a bit more mindful. We have to suss out the atmosphere and people of where we are, be respectful of certain cultures and traditions all while never losing sight of who we are. It is a fine balance but we’ve managed to make it work really well so far.

We’ve been asked a few times how it is for two gay women traveling on the road. What concerns we have or situations we’ve encountered. All in all, we don’t really find it to be a big issue, although there have been a few incidents where we thought twice about our safety.

When we were in a small mountain village in the French Pyrenees we ran into an uncomfortable situation. We were camping on a paid aires by a beautiful river, we had already been there for two days and had thoroughly explored the village. We had passed by the local bar one night, not thinking anything of it. Later that  evening when it started to rain we were sitting in the van making dinner with the windows open when suddenly two men approached the side of the van. It really startled us and it was clear that they were both pretty drunk. Drink in hand they insisted we come out to a party with them. Repeatedly we told them that we weren’t interested but thanked them for the offer. After a few minutes of declining their invitation they decided to leave. As they left they came around to the other window, banged on it, and said that they would be back later for drinks and coffee. We told them no several more times as they were leaving. You can imagine that this set the tone for the rest of the night. We were so rattled that we thought maybe we should pack up, leave and drive to a different town. Due to the bad weather that was rolling in, we weren’t able to leave. Thankfully they didn’t come back that night and we felt better by the morning.

Our approach when we find ourselves in these situations is to simply be polite. You never want to insert yourself into a confrontational stand-off but you also need to have your wits about you, and protect each other. For safety sake, we do travel with a wooden truncheon that hangs by the door.

We’ve spending a lot of time online looking for articles and websites that relate to gay travellers like us. When we visit a new place we aren’t looking for the coolest gay bar or the gay part of town, we want to be immersed in all of what the place has to offer. A few of the articles we’ve found have mentioned how daunting cultural sensitivity can be which we found interesting as we don’t really find this to be true. Travelling is about education. Educate yourself and travel with respect. If you do this correctly you can also bring so much knowledge to someone who may have thought differently about the LGBT community.

Here is a list of our 5 gay travel tips:

1. Know where you are:
There are a lot of countries in this world where gay couples have no rights. It is smart to be aware of these countries and to understand the culture and potential dangers. We aren’t saying don’t visit these places, but if and when you do, you  have to be very mindful of your sexuality. Charlie Rounds, the board chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association Foundation  says gay travellers don’t think enough about safety before making travel plans.

2. Understand local laws:
There are different laws regarding homosexuality that varies from country to country.  It is always a good idea to be up on current laws as they do change from year to year. Spend some time before your trip familiarizing yourself with what you can expect as a gay traveller.

3. Be smart about where you park for the night:
As a couple that travels in our van we are always mindful of where we park up for the night. We do like being out in the middle of nowhere but in saying that we always feel a lot more comfortable when we see another van on the pitch. That doesn’t mean we are door-to-door with them, but it’s nice to know someone is across the field. If you are parking on a side road service station, something we always practice is to park under the lights. It does suck a little bit when you’re trying to sleep but you have to think about your safety.

4. Exercise discretion:
Common sense, am I right?

5. Trust your instincts:
Trust your gut. If you’re ever feeling weird about a situation, don’t even think twice about leaving. Even if that means loading up your van in the middle of the night to move on; you know when things are feeling off. Its not worth it to hang around if the vibes aren’t right.

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