By its very nature, travel takes you out of your comfort zone. In fact, that’s the whole idea. If you ask people why they travel, they will likely tell you they want to grow from new experiences, have new adventures, and live life to the fullest. While these are all obviously fantastic things to strive for, they also require us to bring added stress — even if it is good stress! — into our lives. This stress can be significant for anyone, but for gay men, it can be especially so. There are a number of factors that you should keep in mind when traveling as a gay man, and here we will explore some of the most important considerations.
Know the Culture
The degree to which various cultures around the world are infused with homophobic biases is astonishingly broad. Even in America, there can be a huge difference between how comfortable you might feel walking down the street with your partner. Honestly, there can be a huge difference in just the span of a few dozen miles. In Chicago, you will probably not encounter many difficulties, but a few miles west into rural Illinois and you are far more likely to elicit sideways glances from less tolerant people.
This principle is the same in other parts of the world, except that instead of sideways glances, you may be in danger of winding up dead, robbed, in jail, or a million other horrible fates. And these are not limited to the countries you might think. While there are many European countries that are very LGBT-friendly, there are also a considerable number of European countries that actively curtail the right to even be gay, much less openly express it.
In Poland recently, a gay pride parade was openly attacked in Białystok, and the leading political figures in the country ran on homophobic platforms. That said, we should be very careful not to paint everyone with the same brush. There are millions of wonderful people in Poland (and the other eastern European countries, which tend to be more homophobic). You could easily meet a life-long friend or even your future husband in Poland. It is just that you are more likely to run into less enlightened individuals.
Stay on Top of Your Health
Just because you are traveling does not mean that your dietary rules can go right out the window. Sure, it is fine to indulge in an extra piece of cake or an extra glass of wine here or there. But for whatever reason, it can feel like when you go to a new place, you get to live by new rules. If you think about this ahead of time and plan for select indulgences, you can wind up far better off.
Instead, decide what diet you want to keep to, determine when you will exercise, use protection for intimate encounters, and have an at-home HIV test handy if you are planning on doing a lot of partying. If you do not know what your healthy boundaries are before you leave, it can be all but impossible to muster the willpower to correctly set them while you are in the middle of an adventure.
Know Where to Go Ahead of Time
While it is all well and good to be spontaneous, it is still important to make sure that the places you go and the people you will find yourself around will both be conducive to you having as much fun as possible as safely as possible. Fortunately, it is not very difficult to plan ahead. First off, use LGBT-specific travel booking sites. These will take the headache away from having to filter results to only LGBT-friendly results, or even finding sites that allow you to filter for them.
Then do your research. Read local blogs or travel blogs about what some of the best gay bars and coffee shops are. If research is not your thing, you can make a PG-13 version of various social media accounts to try and meet locals who just want to hang out and show you around town. Finally, it can pay to time your trip well. Most people do not consider this, but if you can discover when a pride parade, drag convention, or similar activities are going on, you will feel much more comfortable — in addition to being more likely to meet like-minded people to spend time with while there, too!