Interview: LGBT travel advice
Rich Duggan, who studied for his Undergraduate degree at Newcastle University and Masters degree at Northumbria University, both in Law, is the traveller we all aspire to be – having been lucky enough to visit five continents by the time he was 11 years old! Just in time for LGBT history month, Lexie Hall, a Geography student at Newcastle University, spoke to him about his travel experiences, his experiences as an LGBT traveller, and any advice he’d offer to others in his position.
1. What’s the best holiday or trip you’ve ever taken?
It would have to be to New York. It’s just such a vibrant city with so much going on, and is so friendly. It’s just magnificent; you can see pictures and see it on the TV but you can’t describe what it’s like until you’ve been there.
2. What are your travelling experiences more generally? What sort of places have you travelled to?
I was lucky enough to have visited five continents by the time I was 11. I visited Venezuela when I was six, the States a few times – San Francisco, Florida, Los Angeles, and I also stayed with family friends in Australia.
3. Did you travel much while you were at university? Or more before and after?
I went on lots of family holidays growing up but since starting university I’ve also travelled a lot with friends. I’ve never done the whole Thailand ‘gap yah’ thing; it was more lots of beach and clubbing holidays while at university.
4. Have you been on any trips with a particular LGBT focus, for example to a Gay Pride event or festival?
I go to Gran Canaria every year with my best friend – we go to Maspalomas, a gay resort, for a week. There’s a huge gay scene and we just spend the time clubbing and drinking. It’s hard to explain why we go. I think there’s just something about going somewhere and spending time with people who identify in the same way as you do. It’s similar to going to a gay club I suppose.
5. Have you found any specific destinations to be particularly welcoming to LGBT travellers?
Other than Maspalomas, New York also obviously has a massive LGBT focus. It’s very culturally gay – for example when I was there I went to The Village and the Stonewall Inn. More generally I do look out for gay bars when I go on holiday, as I find they give an indication of the LGBT climate and culture in that country. However, I do feel that anywhere mainstream in the western world is generally tolerant and welcoming to LGBT travellers – I don’t feel worried or unwelcome. Unless I walk around with a massive banner on my head saying “I am a homosexual”, they have no reason to know anyway.
6. Have you ever had any negative experiences or difficulties related to your sexuality while abroad?
I’m going to the Caribbean in a month where they do have more of a hostile attitudes towards LGBT individuals. However, although I’m disappointed by the attitudes in certain countries, I don’t feel as though I have to worry. It was a similar situation when I visited Egypt; it just makes me very sad. I’ve never experienced any direct homophobia, although this is possibly down to the resorts I have chosen to stay in. But I’ve never felt directly discriminated against.
7. Do you have any advice you could share with other LGBT travellers?
You’ve just got to have common sense. I’d say definitely do your research and look into the area you’re going to before you go. [e.g. new luxury travel site outofoffice.com specialises in the most exclusive destinations and holidays, all of which are gay-friendly.] Being gay is still illegal in so many countries – you have to think. My ex-boyfriend was from Egypt and told me so many awful stories; I think it can be a tendency of westerners to think that we’re untouchable. But it’s just not worth taking the risk. It’s so easy now to do research, what with the internet, and I’d also recommend looking for specific LGBT sections in guide books. For example, when I went to Mauritius I found out from the Lonely Planet series of books that the gay scene is very underground – something that’s interesting to know.
8. Where are you planning on travelling to next?!
I’m going to Seville in the next couple of weeks, before heading to the Caribbean at the end of March. I’m then going to Gran Canaria again in May, and then Paris in June. It’s a good thing I only work part time!
Being LGBT doesn’t need to compromise your desire to travel the world. Just ensure that you’re aware of your surroundings and Know Before You Go – head to the FCO's LGBT travel advice page for more information, and follow @FCOtravel on Twitter. And wherever you find yourself for the rest of the February, enjoy celebrating LGBT history month!