Real Talk: The Intersection of Travel & Queerness
Our Customer Service Team Lead, Mike, sat down with a few folks for an eye-opening chat about all things travel as a member of the Queer community.
by EF Ultimate Break
The more we see of the world, the more we learn about ourselves and others. But along with self-discovery, new friends, and some frickin’ amazing experiences, there comes the added worries of safety, acceptance, and how open you can be with others, particularly as someone who identifies as LGBTQ+. So, we brought together a group of travelers to chat about just that.
Mike: We are here today with a group of amazing travel aficionados. If I may say so myself, to talk about travel within our queer identity. I am Mike. I am a team leader with the customer service team here at Ultimate Break. I am also very gay. And I think since I started traveling, I was able to understand a lot more about my own identity and my own queerness by seeing how vibrant the rest of the world is. So, we’re going to dig a little bit more into that and what it means for all of us to travel within our own unique identities.
If you could travel with any celebrity dead or alive, who would you choose?
SB: I would pick Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia. She was always so sassy and feisty, but also really open about her journey. And I loved her.
Mike: Andrew. Plane food. Do you like plane food or no?
Andrew: Love it. It’s like, so exciting on a plane, when the food comes around. It’s like you have so little to look forward to. Well, besides the destination. Yeah. So, when the food comes around, it's like something to do.
Mike: This can be about our queer own identities, but kind of more high-level. Like, what is travel to you?
Helen: I think traveling gives me that space to say like, okay, my life was here, but for this week it’s in a different place. I can be like myself. I can be totally open and feel like I am just like a tiny little ant in this huge city.
Mike: Getting together as a group of queer people, especially when you’re young and developing an identity is incredibly important. It can lead you to have these lifelong memories. How it was like traveling in a group, not necessarily just a queer group, but like how does that impact you as a queer person when you’re out in the world?
SB: In terms of group travel, I traveled to Israel when I was in college. I did struggle a bit on that trip trying to figure out if I should share my pronouns with people. And I did end up finding a, you know, sort of smaller group of friends within the large group of 40 or so of us that I could speak to about it. That led to a few people coming up to me on tour and being like, “I actually I’ve never told anybody this, but I’m coming up to you right now.” And I was like, wow! Like this is bringing a lot of energy and a lot of emotion, to be seen by that close group of friends and then have them feel like they could show themselves to me so I could also see them. Like, that was a very interesting process through these two weeks we spent traveling throughout Israel.
Mike: I’m curious if anybody else has had those kinds of experiences where you go abroad and you feel differently in a way that you, like is a catalyst for changing back at home or feeling more empowered or confident back at home. Anybody really resonate with that?
Kyle: I’d say definitely with group travel, especially towards the end of the trip as people have sort of opened up more and especially if there are other queer people on the tour, I’ve been able to connect with them on tour, like towards the end and they’re like, “Alright, let’s let it all out!” Like we trust each other now. And so, I’ve had good experiences with that.
Mike: What do you do to feel unapologetically yourself when you’re in a place that's uncomfortable or around a group of new people in an unfamiliar place?
Kyle: At least for me as a person of color, I manage two different identities. One of them I can’t shut off. Like, I walk around, people see me as a person of color, and another one is like the way that mannerisms, the way that I’m speaking. So, I have to manage in my head, like, how much should I control the part that like I can control just to feel safe. That’s just like my journey and I’m still like, moving forward in that and I’ll become more comfortable.
SB: Yeah, I actually recently had the opportunity. I went on a road trip from San Diego all the way back here to Boston with my dad. In Massachusetts, I don’t really think about the fact that, oh, I have a mullet, I have tattoos, I have piercings, I have specifically curated my look to be queer-coded. But when I was stopping at like, rural truck stops, and people are looking at my piercings and my tattoos and I was kind of getting ogled a bit, I was like, “‘Oh, okay, this is different.”’
I now have this great story. We were in a tiny town in Oklahoma, and we stopped at a Route 66 museum. And as we are getting tickets at the admission counter, my dad goes, “One senior ticket for me and one adult ticket for them.” And the woman at the counter goes “Just one ticket? You said ‘them.” And my dad, which, it wasn’t grammatically correct, but I appreciated the effort so much. He goes, “Yup, they’re a they!” As we left, I told my dad that I would not have shared that if it wasn’t for him being there and he was like, “Well, why wouldn’t you? People are never going to learn if they don't meet people like you.” The dichotomy of safety while also being yourself unapologetically and just going out into the world and being like, “Yeah, you may not know anyone who's like me, but here I am, I still exist.” I carried that with me the rest of the road trip and honestly will the rest of my life,
Andrew: I think traveling at a young age made me very aware of how much I would try to restrict certain behaviors that I would do that would show people that I was gay. Traveling, I think, gave me exposure to how much work I was putting in at home to alter the way that I am. And I think that helped me let that go. I felt like I owe it to my own community to start being unapologetic about who I am and the way that I live my life, because there’s people out there in the world who don't even have the choice.
Mike: I’m glad that you said that. I mean, not glad that you feel that way, but I think both of you were hitting on a point of like, what can the people I travel with do?
And then, last question. What would you tell a young queer traveler who’s nervous?
Andrew: I would say your identity is something that should be celebrated, and travel will help you celebrate it and be aware of your surroundings but be brave. And the last thing you should do is let your identity hold you back from living your life.
Helen: I would just echo what everybody said. Trust your gut above all else. That is the best barometer. I think as queer people, sometimes we don't feel like the world is like made for us in a lot of ways, but we’re made for the world. We’re meant to be out here. And don’t let the fear of traveling hold you back. But if you go with your gut and go with people that you love or trust, I think it makes for a beautiful experience.
Mike: Thank you all so much for your bravery to come out here and display your identity in this very vulnerable way. You all have such unique and interesting stories. Like you said, you have to think locally to impact globally. And the more we talk about these things, the more we say that we're here.
And to anybody watching this, you have a place in the world, just like Kyle said.