Traveling with ‘the one’ nowadays seems like the ultimate dream. We’re living it, and it is an absolute fairy tale. But, traveling the world as a lesbian couple isn’t as easy as packing your bags and go. Compared to straight travel couples, and arguably to solo female travelers, there is much more to think about regarding safety. We have traveled to countries with anti-gay laws and we refuse to boycott countries for that reason, we believe traveling the world is for everyone! In light of #LesbianVisibilityDay, we want to share our tips & tricks for traveling as a lesbian couple and encourage you to do it too.
BE WILLING TO ADAPT
If you don’t want to adapt, stay home or travel to a destination with a similar culture to your own. Think about the reason why you travel. Is your travel a break from normal life, a vacation or a holiday? In other words: do you want to relax and don’t think about anything? Find an LGBT-friendly destination. Traveling in other cultures comes at the price: you have to adapt. And we LOVE that! That might sound weird: why do you love adapting – and not being your “true self”? Well, we love to learn about other cultures, we love to learn about traditions, different beliefs, and customs. Also of countries with anti-gay laws. Be respectful of other cultures, and you’ll find other cultures might change you for the better! But: be prepared to adapt, to pretend you’re “just friends”, to accept a room with twin beds and most of all: be willing to leave your PDA in the hotel room.
RESEARCH ANTI-GAY LAWS
It’s always a good idea to research anti-gay laws in countries you travel to. Wikipedia, Lonely Planet and best friend Google can tell you all about those. Before traveling to Russia we found out being gay isn’t the issue: promoting LGBT lifestyle is. About Brunei, we found that homosexual activity is punished with the death penalty. In Malaysia, all-male homosexual activity results in a penalty (fines, prison or whippings), but for females, it’s officially legal. What’s important to realize: laws aren’t always enforced and often, laws apply to locals, and not to tourists. Also, there is a big difference between legislation and social opinion. Just because same-sex marriage is legal in the States, doesn’t mean you can be out and proud in all states. And just because Malaysia has laws where same-sex activity is punished, doesn’t mean you can’t visit – all countries have LGBT communities, girls!
Ultimately, the best thing to do is to travel and go experience that culture. What we love about the internet: you can connect with like-minded travelers and reach out to people who already experienced the culture! There are LGBT Facebook groups and you can ask people about their experiences. Important note: everyone’s experience is different. One big factor here is passability: if you pass for cisgender females (like us), and you adapt and respect the culture, chances are small you’ll get in any troubles. Honestly, lesbian invisibility is your friend as much as your enemy while traveling. Confession: Maartje decided to grow her hair for our world trip, to blend in better. Trying to blend in is always a good idea, which is why you have to look around and be aware of cultural norms and values. If you travel through Asia you’ll notice you have to take off your shoes in temples, homestays, and hotels, so of course, you do it too. You’ll also notice nobody shows PDA. So why would you? On the other hand, we noticed girls in Russia and Korea walk hand in hand all the time, so we figured we could too!
FIND SAFE SPACES
Every country has an LGBT community + allies. There are many LGBT friendly hotels, tour organizations, and bars. Especially in strict countries, we haven’t actively tried to find those places. It simply isn’t that important to us. What we do love, is to meet locals everywhere we go. Through Couchsurfing.com we stay in people’s homes and learn about the culture, first hand. We don’t usually tell them we’re a couple, although you totally could! We choose not to because we know people look at you differently when they know you’re a couple, even if they accept it. We’re also just two girls traveling – and that’s how we like locals to meet us. Sometimes they do know or ask us about it. In Korea, our CS-host just casually mentioned ‘I know you’re a couple’. That was it, he didn’t want to get into it, but he simply wanted us to know: I know and I invited you into my home.
BEING SAFE AS FEMALE TRAVELLERS
Female travelers have to think about safety all the time. As a lesbian couple, you have to think about all those things too. As we mentioned before: adapt to the culture. Not only relationship-wise but gender-wise. There are different gender expectations in every country. Be respectful of that. If women wear a hijab, wear a hijab. Dress modestly wherever you go. Pay attention to other women: what do they do and what not? Aside from adapting to the culture and respecting norms and values, there is more to traveling safely. Trust your instincts and don’t walk in dark alleys; don’t do anything you wouldn’t back home. Also, don’t get wasted: you want to be in control and be aware of your surroundings. Share your itinerary with family/friends, buy a SIM card and be connected, know the areas, and always walk with confidence. Talking to locals can be great too, through Couchsurfing we always know where to go and where not to go. Again, trust your instincts: not everyone is nice.
Most of all: have fun! Traveling together is amazing, you cannot believe how much fun you’ll have, how much better you’ll get to know one another and how much stronger your relationship gets. It’s a beautiful adventure that is worth it. To all the girl couples: go travel! We need to show the world isn’t an evil place: it’s incredibly beautiful. The more we’re out there, the more will go out there. We believe we can change the world, one LGBT travel couple at a time!
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
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Have you read our interview with other lesbian travel couples yet?