Happy Pride Season everyone! A time to celebrate how far we’ve come, but also a time to realise how much we still need to do. The world is a beautiful place, but not every place is warm-heartedly welcoming LGBT travellers – yet. Luckily there are some changemakers out there, conquering the world with love. We are on a quest to connect with these heroes and have them tell their story. And when someone writes on his blog “my goal is to inspire you all to travel more, experience more, and love more”, you have to interview him: meet Barry Joy a.k.a. Asian Maple Leaf.
In three words
Asian, Canadian, Travel
Was that a cop-out?
Fine: Kind, joyful, responsible
Tell us more about yourself!
My name is Barry, I was born and raised in Toronto and currently live in NYC. I have been in NYC for just over 3 years but still travel back to Toronto once a month to visit family and friends. Even though I work in a bank during the day, my passion is travel. Before all the glitz of my current travel style, I remember travelling to Mexico for the first time in my early 20s before I knew any better… We went during New Years (first mistake) so it was super expensive and ended up at a 2-3 star hotel as part of a vacation package without doing much research (2nd mistake). I stuffed my face at the buffet trying to make the most out of the cost (3rd mistake) and got sick from the food, throwing up all over the room (4th mistake – we had to pay extra for the cleaning). We also didn’t really plan out what we wanted to see so we ended up booking a few bus tours from the hotel (5th mistake). Despite all that, am still grateful for that trip because it contributed to my desire to see the world.
Barry also interviewed us, you can read the article here!
Have you always wanted to become a gay travel ambassador?
No, I always just wanted to travel for the love of travel. That said, I have always been like a travel sales person to my family and friends trying to convince them to join me on trips. I then started to share my experiences with my Instagram followers before I started my travel blog so that I can include more details about my adventures.
You work as a writer and editor for many other publications. How did “Asian Maple Leaf” start/what does it have those other publications don’t?
I started AsianMapleLeaf.com as just an extension of my Instagram account, just so I can share more of my adventures. This is also the difference between my blog and other publications – the voice and tone of the others are more neutral to appeal to a broader audience. My blog is my voice and about my experiences.
You’re Asian-Canadian, we envy that; you get to experience cultural enrichment from home (& in a great country). What cultures do you feel connected with?
Growing up as a Chinese born Canadian, I learned about our family and heritage from my parents and through all the Chinese tv shows we would use to watch growing up. That said, I also grew up in a largely Italian neighbourhood so I was exposed to multiculturalism really early on. I am so fortunate to be born and raised in Canada, one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. My belief is that this diversity helps us as a nation, and me as a person, build a great foundation for peace and inclusion. I am fully connected with both my Chinese and Canadian cultures hence the name Asian Maple Leaf!
One of our Korean friends had terrible experiences in Europe, where ignorant guys would say “ni hao” to her. What is your experience – while travelling – regarding stereotyping/racism?
There is definitely some stereotyping/racism in travel – I have been thought to be Thai, Korean and even Japanese before. There was one time when I was in London with my ex, who is Caucasian, and someone came up to chat with us (well more my ex since he largely ignored me) and he asked my ex when he was in Thailand last, implying I was his Thai-boy. I was so mad!
With my ex, I would make him ask for everything because we knew he would get more respect by default and as such, I was able to indirect benefit from “white privilege”. However, now that I am traveling with boyfriend, who is black, I find myself asking more partially because I feel like I would get a more favourable response.
What can white folks do better?
First off, I truly believe most people are very aware of the stereotyping/racism. I think for the others, it’s about being more sensitive to others around you. I also think it’s about taking action and stepping in to help defend racism – it’s one thing for people of the offended ethnic group to complain or protest but it is a lot more powerful when others (like white folks) join in.
You’re gay! How does that influence your travels? Tell us the struggles & beauties of it!
Yup, gay and loving it! =) I tend to take into consideration if a destination is gay-friendly/safe before deciding if I want to go. The beautify of it is that I find we gays tend to unite and I sometimes feel like I already have friends at the destination just from the fact that we share the commonality of being gay.
Do you prefer to travel together or solo?
I am a needy traveler – I like to travel together either with my bf or friends. I like being able to share the moments of discovery and joy. That and because I need someone to help me take good Instagram photos!
How do you connect with other gay travellers?
Instagram! I find it’s a great way to connect to other gay travelers and friends. Another way is to just to go out to the gay village or bars and strike up a conversation.
More gay travel? Read our interview with Nomadic Boys about Gay Travel Blogging & Anti-LGBT Laws
What’s missing in the LGBT travel community?
Not sure if it’s missing anything but I do think we can use our collective travel presence and travel dollars to better drive gay rights and change in countries that need help.
What’s your favourite LGBT destination? Why?
Just one?! For cities – I have to say I love NYC and Toronto (I live in both for a reason). They are both amazing cities where you can just be yourself. Check out my blog post about the reasons why I love Toronto.
For non-cities, I would have to say Mykonos Greece because there’s sun, hot guys and it’s beautiful there. I also think Puerto Vallarta is an up and coming LGBT destination. I haven’t been there in a while but I recall seeing a lot of gay nightlife and I know there are areas of the Zona Romantica that are very gay-friendly.
You’re located in NYC, what’s the best LGBT tip you have for us?
New Yorkers may at first come off as being mean or harsh but everyone is actually very friendly and quite inclusive. New York is a big city with a lot to offer – a lot of the best events and parties are not widely advertised to the general public so make sure you connect with a local and ask around for special events or fun house parties.
Last, but not least: what are your plans for Pride?
I am actually heading to Toronto for Pride. Unfortunately, Toronto and NYC pride often take place over the same weekend. As much as I love NYC and NYC Pride – I love Toronto more! I personally find Toronto transforms as a city to welcome the gay community and I just love the energy and love.
More LGBT interviews? Read our interview with Lindsay Cale from Dopes on the Road about introvert & androgynous travel and working online with wifey!
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