Let’s get started! If you would, please tell my readers about yourself – who you are, what significant moments made you who are you today, and why you travel and what it means to you:
So, I’m David, a twenty-something homo backpacker from London England. For most of my life, I hadn’t given very much thought to travel. And then in 2011, for the first time I had a desire to take a longer trip somewhere and so I somehow managed to wangle a month off work and I headed to Kerala in South India. That is still the most incredible trip I ever made, and it made me want to travel more. As soon as I returned, I quit my job. I then spent 2012 trying to become a freelance writer so that I could head off on my travels and work at the same time. On December 31st 2012, I flew to Bangkok, and I have been travelling since.
–I have some destination questions that I’d like you to speak a little on first: Where all have you traveled to? What’s high up on your list to visit in the near future? What was your least favorite place to visit, and why? What makes a place a gay-friendly destination? And what does not?
Since I decided to make travelling a proper ‘thing’, I have visited Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia – and I am currently sat in LAX airport waiting for a connecting flight to Guadalajara, Mexico. So, of course the next big trip is Mexico – I am massively excited about it because I once visited Oaxaca very briefly (and fell deeply in love with the place as everybody does) and have wanted to fully explore the country ever since that small trip in 2010.
My least favourite place to visit was Vietnam – and particularly Saigon. Everything in Vietnam just felt so difficult to me – you constantly have to negotiate, worry about being ripped off, and worry about having things stolen from you – I just found that it wasn’t worth the hassle – even for the country’s amazingly cheap beer.
A gay friendly destination could mean many things to many gay people as homosexuality is obviously not a monolith. To state the obvious, a place where homosexuality is legal is a good starting point – but I also like to land myself in cities that have gay bars as I use them as my ‘way in’ to a new city.
–You recently spent a long stint in Bangkok – what suggestions can you offer for my readers who are thinking of visiting? What are some of your favorite LGBT hotspots?
I loved Bangkok, but some people find it difficult. I can understand why, as it’s a big city and to have a good time in a big city you need to find your place in it. So before you visit, make sure that you know exactly what you want to get from the city and plan your trip accordingly. I knew that I wanted to get to grips with Bangkok’s famous gay scene and so I made sure that I booked accommodation in the gay neighbourhood of Silom – this gave me access to the gay bars and clubs in the city, and I could stumble back into my hostel bed without spending large amounts of cash on taxis.
For gay people visiting Bangkok I would definitely tell them to visit DJ Station – it’s just a really fun, packed, sweaty club that attracts a nice mix of locals and tourists.
-You’ve traveled to six countries so far (on this trip) and have spent eight and a half months on the road and I’m wondering if you could tell us all a story of an interesting thing that’s happened, a spectacular moment that changed your thinking, or about a situation that helped you learn some tough lessons:
Something that was really memorable for me was staying overnight in a small village in Mondulkiri, which is in the countryside of Cambodia. I drank copious amounts of rice wine with the locals and played games with the village kids (who seemed to have boundless energy) late into the night. For a lot of people, this kind of scenario wouldn’t be too unusual, but I come from a very small family in a city where everybody keeps themselves to themselves. It was great to spend time with families who couldn’t speak English whatsoever and to still feel a closeness to them.
–I have another barrage of questions for you... From your experience, what are your top travel tips for individuals who are thinking about jumping out into the world for an extended amount of time? What were some of your most difficult lessons that you were forced to learn the hard way? How do you afford your constant travels?
I’m happy to say that I haven’t had to face any really tough challenges. I knew of course that I’d be spending a lot of time alone as a solo traveller, but I have no problems spending lots of time in my own company and it hasn’t been a problem. If solo travellers are very attached to boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, or family back home, I would imagine that it could be a tougher experience – so that is something to keep in mind. I mostly finance my travels through freelance copywriting work, with a little bit of social media thrown in. And I just started making a little bit of money out of the blog too.
–David, let’s talk a little about being homosexual and how that impacts your travel experience... Have you noticed any negatives on your travels? What about positives? Are there any difficulties? Is it difficult to travel to certain cultures? If so, why? What are some tips for other gay individuals or couples who are interested in traveling the world? Does the term gay-friendly or gay-owned-and-operated impact your decisions while traveling?
I haven’t experienced anywhere that has been very hostile to homosexuality – I’ve been travelling in southeast Asia where there is generally no problem. It is illegal in Singapore and Malaysia, but you can still find pockets of gay culture there. The most difficult thing for me has been realizing that the world is not nearly as gay as I am. At home in London, I live in a gay neighbourhoood in which I go to gay bars with my gay friends. I don’t meet that many straight people day to day at home, which for me is the norm. And suddenly on my travels, I really felt like a minority.
I actually haven’t stayed in any gay owned places or been on any specifically gay tours. I like the idea of it, but those kinds of establishments are not targeted towards backpackers. The gay travel market is a high-end travel market and I just can’t afford to stay in those places as I am travelling in the long term.
–I often read other interviews with other travelers, and one of the more interesting questions asked that I’d like you to answer is, “If you were a super hero for one day, what powers would you have and why?”
I’d have the power to understand and speak any language. I find learning languages a really tedious and laborious process, but it is so useful to be able to make yourself understood in the local language when you are visiting a country.
–While I know the sites, the sounds, the people, the food, and the experience of traveling translates to all types of people and lifestyles... I am curious, what sort of experiences and attractions do you find to be more gay-friendly? What do you personally enjoy seeking out when you travel to a new place?
I love going to the local gay bars of a new place I am visiting. Because I am not really the sociable sort in hostels, I find it hard to make friends with other people who are travelling – also, they are usually younger than me, and if we do end up chatting then I find that we just don’t get along. So heading to the local gay bar, chatting to the owners and the regulars is my route into experiencing a new place. And it’s not gay at all, but I love walking and I will always take the opportunity to go on a mountain trek or a long walk through the countryside.
–I appreciate your time, thank you David! To send off this interview with an interesting bang, would you mind telling us a few words of wisdom, or perhaps tell us your favorite and most inspiring quote?
I’m not a massive fan of quotes and soundbites, nor am I a very wise person. But to anybody who is thinking of travelling, I’d tell them to have fun or move on. You aren’t always going to love the places that your friends love, or that travel bloggers love. And the great thing about travel is that if you do not like a place, you can simply move on.