As a gay man myself, I am more than thrilled to learn of new advancements, strides and political reform surrounding the LGBT sphere. Marriage equality has just now spread to New York City, the world's capital, in my opinion, which will set the stage for other states, countries and nations to follow. I now have a greater sense of pride both in my Manhattan cubicle living space and when I travel abroad. When traveling to foreign lands, it may or may not be appropriate to work those DSquared2 daisy dukes or waive our vibrant rainbow flags.
Gay travelers are widely accepted around the world. Hotels, restaurants and most of the travel industry, for that matter, promote the acceptance of the "Pink Travel Dollar," the gay travel currency, if you will, which does not fluctuate during conservative economic times. Hoteliers and travel proprietors have noticed this trend, yielding gay-friendly or LGBT-exclusive properties and services. As all destinations differ by culture, when is it appropriate to share your feelings, and when is it best to keep it hush-hush? A few simple rules and travel tips will help the LGBT traveler remain comfortable, confident and, most of all, safe on your highly anticipated international jaunt.
Tip 1: R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to the country you are visiting. Although you may truly enjoy your public displays of affection in your local city, the residents of New Delhi, India, or Dubai in the UAE, may find it insulting, as homosexuality is basically illegal. Don't be confused when two men in Delhi walk arm and arm -- it's a brotherly thing, not a gay thing. A quick Google search on gay life in your destination will yield the code of conduct that you should adhere to on your journey. Treat the destination and its people as if they were the hosts of the most glamorous social gathering in your own city.
Tip 2: If there is no gay life, don't seek it out. I know, as do most gay men, that the one of the greatest aspects of travel is to visit the local gay scene in a foreign land. With our friends, significant partners and husbands, we find ourselves sniffing out the truffles in the forest of gay. Nothing thrills us more than meeting, greeting and internally comprehending how other gays live around the world. Surprisingly, we frequently find that we are very similar around the globe. However, if a gay scene does not exist in Dubai, hold back those thoughts that "there must be an underground scene..." There most definitely is, but keep your Western tush out of that scene.
Tip 3: Bring your flare to the tabletops. Some destinations promote wild behavior where one can truly let their guard down and act uninhibited. When your plane lands in a destination, such as Mykonos, for that last-harrah, end-of-summer trip, you best blow it out. There are many destinations that are known for their extreme gay party life. From Fire Island to Ibiza, London to Tel Aviv, Rio to New York City, be sure let out your inner and outer gay; we are all there for the same reasons. These types of destinations create a sense of international unity among the LGBT community and offer a slightly different approach to gay life in each respective city.
Tip 4: Select products and services that recognize who you are. Most travelers are going on an adventure to explore their own desires. Some travelers, both LGBT and non-LGBT, may focus on classic art in Europe, or may head to Africa to simply watch birds. Some may explore voluntourism; others may want to spend cash on notorious shopping streets. Travel is one of the most important aspects of one's life besides health and family, amongst other important values and things. In order for your desires to be met on your next trip, make sure to select vendors and travel products that know the LGBT market. Find a great gay travel agent or tour operator who is proficient in what they do or in specific destinations. Find a hotel that promotes the LGBT lifestyle; frequently, hotels offer an exclusive LGBT division to their companies, such as Hyatt, American Airlines, and Orient Express, just to name a few. Before your departure, visit the city's LGBT tourism office website. You may frequently find venues that are gay-friendly. Another great source is the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA). This fantastic organization is the ultimate resource in researching which hotels, restaurants and destinations support the gay community. The IGLTA will also assist you in finding travel agents, tour operators and everything in between to assure you of a welcoming and comfortable trip. By selecting exclusive professional LGBT products, your trip will be that much more of a delight.
Tip # 5: Spread the word. Travel more; venture out to more obscure destinations where LGBT life may not be as colorful as it is in Los Angeles or Chicago. Another stamp in your passports translates to another destination that you have experienced and conquered. Consider traveling to India, which will give you an eye-opening view on life, spirituality and culture. While homosexuality is not necessarily praised, the people of India are extremely warm and welcoming to gays. Russia is another destination where LGBT life is mostly underground, and the underground scene is huge. However, gays are certainly welcome to explore Russia. The more aware a destination becomes of the LGBT world, the more prepared it will become to welcome foreigners and to create a more suitable environment for LGBT residents. It is not only the destination that leaves an impression on you; you are certainly leaving an impression on the people of the destination.
All in all, it is best to be a cautious traveler, LGBT or not. Be sure to research your destination before departure in order to understand their mannerisms, culture and acceptance of gays. Once you arrive in your destination, feel it out, and understand your limits. Most of all, be yourself and open-minded, just as you wish the destination to be.