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Destinations

Host or travel? How I find friends in unexpected places

Travelling solo is my favourite thing to do. Because as a gay man I’m never really alone — there’s a global network of guys out there just waiting to show me a good time!

I love travelling. But that’s not news, I guess most people do. Even more than the thrill of seeing a spectacular landscape, immersing myself in a new culture or getting lost in a foreign museum though, I love travelling because I get to meet other gay men, and see how they live.

Grindr plays a big part in this. Well, Grindr, Scruff, Hornet etc.; they’re my Lonely Planet these days. In fact, I rarely plan much when going on an adventure because I know that I’ll likely meet some gay dudes and that they’ll tell me all the fun things to do. Plus, I’m more likely to get laid. And who doesn’t want a happy ending after their free local insight tour?

This dynamic is also one of the things I love about being a gay man. I immediately have access to an international community of other guys who are there to lend a helping hand, and with whom I often become lifelong friends.

“One of the brilliant things about LGBTI culture in the age of globalisation is that it traverses national boundaries.”

One of the brilliant things about LGBTI culture in the age of globalisation is that it traverses national boundaries. We’ve developed unique ways of communicating to ensure we’re not outed and endangered, like our pioneering efforts in the realms of online dating. We have our own vernacular; how many straight men do you see high-fiving with an exuberant ‘Yass Queen!!’? We even have our own pop culture. For example, most gay foreigners (in my experience) seem inexplicably to have caught an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

And if all that fails, we generally have a strong foundation of shared experience to fall back on. What gay man hasn’t experienced feelings of bullying or persecution in their society? We connect over feelings of injustice that only members of our community really understand.

When chatting to a new gay mate, foreign or domestic, I’m always interested to know about his coming out story, or the reasons he hasn’t been able to. Then I like to share mine. Not because it’s especially tragic or interesting — my parents would have been devastated if they didn’t have a gay child — but because it’s a different perspective, a hopeful one. And it demonstrates that, even when your family is accepting, the journey can still be quite hard.

“My parents would have been devastated if they didn’t have a gay child”

Of course, there are negative aspects to the whole online app experience. You might meet some off-putting characters that you never want to see again. Then there’s bullying and racism, catfishing and homophobia.

And you’ve got to look after yourself. Homosexuality is still illegal or taboo in many far-off lands, so proximity-based technologies may present a danger as well as an advantage. But if you can look past the crap, and take steps to look after yourself, the apps can serve as great tools for connectivity, and add a new dimension to your travel adventures.

Like the time I sat talking to a hilarious Scotsman in Dubai Airport for hours while we drank beers and waited for our flights. That was way better than sleeping on the floor with half an eye on my suitcase.

“Apps can serve as great tools for connectivity, and add a new dimension to your travel adventures”

Or the time I snuck into the Marina Bay Sands infinity pool with a clued-in Thai guy and wiled away the evening toasting the incredible view.

And the time a handsome Dutchman took me and my man bag on a tour of Paris on the back of his bike.

During the last 10 years I’ve lived in Melbourne, Lyon, Copenhagen, Berlin, Darwin and now Alice Springs, not to mention all the holidays in between. And in every locale I’ve made the most of the online dating scene for friends and fun times.

True to form, once alighting here in Alice, I jumped straight on Grindr to pick up some playmates, and soon found the gay community here is not only thriving, but accepts newcomers with open arms.

“Here in Alice, I jumped straight on Grindr to pick up some playmates”

Perhaps fortuitously, I arrived at a politically charged time. There’s plenty of socialising to do around marriage equality campaign events for the Yes vote. Nonetheless, I’d expected a dusty backwater, and instead found a smiling, generous group of gays ready to take me under their wings.

I’ve pretty much exhausted Grindr chat now. While the community here is wonderfully welcoming, it’s also pretty small. After the first dozen tiles you either hit Darwin or Adelaide.

But now that I’m settled, I get to pay it forward!

I got a message from a Frenchman over the weekend. A complete stranger scoping out some buddies for his impending trip down under. We got chatting and I found out that he’s coming to Alice with his boyfriend because he’s always dreamed of seeing the Australian desert.

This time I get to play tour guide — the next best thing to embarking on an adventure of my own.

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