One of the world's most popular men's lifestyle & hipster travel blogs with stories from around the world — gay city destinations & cultural experiences. This blog is your travel guide to the coolest things to do and see around the world, from an American hipster in Berlin
Today, May 17th, is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia—IDAHOT. I wanted to take the occasion to share my thoughts about gay pride and why I believe it still matters.
Pride is a powerful thing. It’s a terribly strong emotion. Honestly, you can be proud about anything—from your nationality to your ethnicity, your gender to your sexuality. You can even be proud about things that you get to decide and control: such as your religion or an adopted home, your coffee snobbery or maybe you simply stan an artist.
Pride can also be dangerous. It’s often blinding and narrows one’s view. But for those people that are open to understanding and appreciating other cultures, pride can be powerful and useful. Personally I’m proud of many things about my life. Sure, there is much to be improved upon, but there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of pride in who you are and what you do. Pride in an over-saturated extreme can be dangerous, but so can most things.
But right now, right at this moment: gay pride is still so very important. As was announced in this week’s Rainbow Index, equality is being threatened around the world. Even with marriage equality available in an increasing amount of countries, some are backtracking (looking at you Bermuda), and others are still refusing to recognize equal rights.
It might be easy to see the increased visibility of queer people in our culture as a sign of progress. And it is, but it’s not enough. There are more and more queer characters on our TV shows and in our movies. LGBTQ movies are finally getting the recognition they deserve—with mainstream media attention and darlings of the award circuit.
Pride festivals today serve many different purposes. It’s a chance to celebrate, of course. And while many of our biggest gay prides around the world celebrate our identities (and we’ve got many!), there are still so many reasons why pride matters now just as much as it has in the past.
Because there’s still more work to be done
Gay pride festivals are a reminder of what’s been done, and a push to keep working toward full equality. As mentioned above, there are still so many rights unavailable to LGBTQ people around the world—even in the most progressive countries.
Because visibility is important
Yes, there are more out and proud celebrities today than probably any point in history. We’re living through a modern sexual revolution. Sexual politics is at the forefront of many of our social and cultural policies—and making headlines around the world.
Visibility is so important to those young queer boys and girls—the ones who aren’t sure if they’re alone in the world. To get people talking about a beautiful and vibrant LGBTQ community (however diverse it is) certainly helps. Especially for the many subgroups of the community: transgender men and women, disabled, handicapped, HIV+.
There are so many unique parts of the LGBTQ community and everyone deserves respect and attention for their cause. Full equality isn’t just the right to marry. It must take in all of our unique differences. And visibility is oftentimes the first step for gaining support and recognition.
Because we’re all so unique
The LGBTQ acronym takes in a lot of different identities, genders, and sexualities which makes it nearly impossible to lump all of us together. Pride festivals are the time of year when we all try to come together. It doesn’t always work. In Berlin, there are often competing gay pride festivals on the same weekend—the mainstream one and then an alternative one fighting for more progressive politics.
With calls of travel boycotts and increased news about the rise of fascism and anti-progressive governments, there is much to remember about gay rights around the world. While some countries are marching forward, some are inevitably moving backward.
Most gay pride festivals I’ve been to have been joyous occasions—full of fun and cheer—but many around the world are still very political. There are gay and lesbians fighting for their lives in some places, let alone their equality.
Because queer culture is special
Summertime is the time for festivals: music, food, cultural, camping, movie…if there’s something that can be celebrated, there’s almost always a festival for it in the summer. Gay pride is no different and each gay pride I’ve been to has been a unique and different experience from the next.
Oftentimes, gay pride festivals take place over the course of a week and feature everything from international queer musicians to LGBTQ-themed films. Of course, many of the American and European pride festivals include a lot of big parties and wild nightlife, but many also feature political and cultural events alongside the celebrations.
Because it’s important to have public support
There’s something really special about seeing straight allies and other supporters at a gay pride event. I’ve got plenty of friends who fully support equality, but all year long…it’s a mostly silent support. Then it’s time for a gay pride parade and suddenly they’re the first ones to suggest marching, rallying or otherwise. That means the world to me. And I suspect for others as well.
I know from my own personal experience, seeing prominent and influential out gays and lesbians helped me overcome my own fears. Add during a pride party where there are so many smiling and supportive people, a week of gay-themed events…suddenly a regular festival can mean so much more. Pride matters. Maybe not to everyone. But to some. And that’s all you really need.
• • •
I’ve met plenty of gay men and women who are quick to dismiss gay pride festivals as fueled parties, hyper-sexualized and “bad” for equality. Those people are wrong. It’s important to be proud of who we are, proud of what we’ve done so far, and eager to do more. Yes, there’s a lot of fun to be had—but pride is still important even for those that just want to wear crop-tops and sniff poppers on the street.
Like the famous “we’re here, we’re queer” slogan, we need to respect our differences and push for more recognition. Pride festivals, marches, and events are an important part of the process.
Since 2009, the ILGA-Europe has released an annual ranking of European countries and the legal and policy situations for LGBTQ people in those countries. The 2018 Rainbow Index and Map(released today) examined the laws and policies from 49 European countries using a set of 58 criteria.
Ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (May 17), the Rainbow Map provides a useful resource for understanding the LGBT rights situation across Europe. And the rankings provide valuable insight into how the politics of Europe have shifted in the past year. Unfortunately, what today’s news shows is a slow-down on progressive policies. A lot of these countries still have a long way to go for full-equality for their LGBTQ citizens—an important note to remember.
The 2018 Rainbow Europe Map and Index reveal that fewer countries are moving up the country ranking; many are stagnating, including countries that are traditionally perceived as equality frontrunners. Malta takes the top ranking for the third year in a row with a 91% rating, while Belgium inched up to a second-place ranking (with a 79% rating) thanks to updated legal and gender recognition procedures.
Interestingly, while Malta continues to feature at the number one spot for LGBT-friendliness, other countries that are typically viewed as progressive are not among the Rainbow Map’s frontrunners—including the Netherlands which actually dropped outside the Rainbow Europe top 10. (Germany doesn’t even make the top 10 list even with their recent LGBTQ-friendly laws and policies enacted in the past two years).
How ILGA-Europe ranks the countries
In order to create the Rainbow rankings, ILGA-Europe examines laws and policies from 49 countries using a set of 58 criteria and sub-criteria. These criteria are divided between six thematic topics: (1) equality and non-discrimination; (2) family; (3) hate crime and hate speech; (4) legal gender recognition and bodily integrity; (5) civil society space; and (6) asylum.
This past week I was invited to attend a showing of an off-Broadway play, Afterglow. It’s been playing at the Davenport Theater for about a year and it’s schedule was recently extended to go through NYC Pride in June.
The theater is dark and for half the audience, you’ve got to walk over the stage to get to your seats. A three dimensional square in the middle of the room, a white sheet hiding it from your view. This is how the play starts—before it even starts, you’re immersed in the set while finding your seat. Clothes are strewn on the floor and there are strange and subtle sounds playing overhead that you can’t quite make out.
Afterglow tells the story of three young men and their intertwining relationships with one another. A successful, young couple, Josh and Alex, have an open relationship and the play opens with a threesome they’re having with Darius (full nudity and all!). As the play progresses, the relationships between each character shift, forcing a deeper understanding of love, loyalty, and relationships.
I’ve seen a handful of gay theater performances before (at the Edinburgh Fringe and in London’s many theater pubs), and Afterglow comfortably fits within a genre of queer theater attempting to portray modern gay dating and relationships. Even if the plot was fairly predictable, the acting and set design more than made it an interesting and engaging performance.
There was, of course, lots of nudity, and the three actors were incredibly skilled at getting dressed and undressed on stage in rapid-fire moments. The nudity wasn’t distracting, however, but helpful in breaking down the tension felt from the difficult conversations.
Gay dating and gay relationships are on full display during Afterglow—the messy emotions, desires, and urges. With quality writing, the idea of what it means to be young and gay today is skillfully portrayed through a few deep and meaningful conversations on stage. Love, sex, and relationships mean so many different things to different people, and Afterglow presents a broad spectrum of each.
It’s a one-act play and as a relatively small production, that means the three actors are responsible for each of the scene and set changes. It was in these little moments between scenes where the real beauty of the characters shines through.
Without spoiling anything, the moods between the characters change and fluctuate throughout the play, and the interactions between the actors during the scene changes reflect those moods. It’s a little detail; a beautiful attention to the story. And it’s a reflection on how complicated gay relationships between friends, lovers, and husbands can become.
It’s still pretty hard to imagine how it happened. But here I am. It’s been a whirlwind month of stories I probably shouldn’t tell, but why the hell not, here we go.
My first month living in Brooklyn was everything I expected to be, but better.
It wasn’t a secret, but before moving to Brooklyn, I was absolutely terrified. I could count on one hand the amount of people I knew in New York City. A tiny handful of close friends, and then plenty of acquaintances. Making friends in a new city is never easy, and I heard NYC was either sink or swim, so I showed up with as much energy and motivation as I could muster to make the most of it.
While I arrived in New York City in March (couchsurfing with friends in the East Village), I didn’t make the move to my own apartment until April 1st. I used an app called Roomi to find a one-month sublet. It’d been a while since I lived with a roommate, but my new Brooklyn roommate and I got on really well. We cooked and ate together, drank together, watched Drag Race together…
It was easy and comfortable and our spacious apartment in the legendary McKibbin Lofts (on the edge between Williamsburg and Bushwick) was perfectly located. New to Brooklyn, I didn’t know much about the neighborhoods or the area except what I’ve read on random articles making fun of hipsters (eye roll), but I was surprised how quickly I was able to learn the neighborhood.
One thing you learn pretty quickly in Brooklyn: people like to hang out on their rooftops!
PS: Finding an apartment in Brooklyn is relatively easy, but finding a *good* apartment is substantially more challenging. I’ve been couchsurfing and subletting my way through the city up until now, but I’m still looking for an apartment (a studio, 1-bedroom, or 2-bedroom with a friend) to put down some actual roots. Got a lead? Let me know!
Bushwick in Brooklyn is especially popular for its street art
Discovering Brooklyn’s neighborhoods
Brooklyn is big. Like VERY big. Before moving to Brooklyn, I made a point to reach out to friends and acquaintances through social media and ask for tips. I posted on Twitter about moving to Brooklyn (see below, sorry Mom!) and collected what tips and recommendations that I could. I did a lot of that before I even got here and started filling out a Google map with recommended bars, restaurants, cafés and clubs.
Having all of that mapped out beforehand, I could already start to see what areas would be the most interesting for me. I didn’t buy a guidebook but almost exclusively relied on people’s first-hand recommendations. And every single person that I met in the last month I would ask for additional recommendations. I literally had no shame in asking—because honestly, I’m new to the city, new to the neighborhood, and I’m determined to make the most of it. So you’ve just got to ask everyone and anyone!
Google Maps is your friend! Use it to discover new places and make your way around a new neighborhood
How to explore Brooklyn’s neighborhoods
Ask everyone and anyone for tips
Build your own map to the city using Google Maps and favoriting places
Making friends in Brooklyn – just be silly and embrace it all!
Making friends and meeting people
Like I mentioned, this was my biggest fear about moving to a new city—let alone a city as big and lonely as NYC (Brooklyn). I’m in my 30s now and making friends just isn’t as easy as it used to be. But once I was here and starting to get settled in Brooklyn, I realized there wasn’t much to be afraid of. With the right attitude and a whole lot of gumption, I’ve made plenty of new friends!
First off, you’ve just got to put yourself out there. I learned a long time ago that it’s stupid to feel shame. Just do something, worry about it later (or never), and move on. Meeting people in NYC was surprisingly easy as soon as you decide to just do it and not care about the consequences. I found the best ways to meet people and make friends was through a handful of groups and apps.
Grindr and Tinder worked remarkably well for me for dates—and even when we didn’t click for anything more than a coffee, it was still a good way to get to know people here. And again, every person I met (no matter how quickly), I made them give me a recommendation or two to add to my Google map. (I have no shame.)
Be prepared to download a lot of useful apps (most of them are free) to make exploring NYC easier and more affordable
Instagram and Twitter are also great for networking. I’ve now made a handful of NYC friends just through both social media because, honestly, most (good) people love showing off their city (and why shouldn’t they when it’s a city like NYC!).
But here’s the thing: using these social apps to chat people is only the first step. The next step is actually MEETING the people you’re talking to. Again, having no shame, and a recent philosophy to “SAY YES TO EVERYTHING” meant that I found myself in a lot of random and unexpected places. But that’s how you meet people! (Fair warning: meeting strangers from the internet might seem scary but if you simply trust your instincts and be responsible about it, there’s very little to actually worry about.)
How to make friends and meet new people in Brooklyn
Don’t be afraid to meet strangers (just use your best judgement)
Use social media like Instagram and Twitter to connect with locals
Use dating and hookup apps to meet new people for friends (or even just to get travel tips)
Say yes to everything
In a Brooklyn bar, at happy hour of course!
Finding things to do
Absolutely the best way to meet people has been with various Facebook groups. Again—a lot of these recommendations came directly from people who live here, but I discovered a handful that were really good. Groups like Bed-Stuy Boys and Brooklyn Queer Social both introduced me to a lot of queer and gay events happening in Brooklyn—everything from sex parties to underground club nights.
Subscribing to various venues’ Facebook events also made it easy to find out about new things happening in town. There are also a handful of email lists (again, for everything from sex parties to drag shows and even queer theater), so there’s always a way to find out about something new. You’ve just got to ask and make yourself available to new people and new experiences.
How to find cool things to do in Brooklyn
Find and join local Facebook groups that match your interests
Go to events, meet people, and ask about other events to go to
Subscribe to The Skint for free and cheap event listings across Manhattan and Brooklyn
Just wander the streets of Brooklyn enough, and you’ll stumble on some really unusual stuff
Brooklyn on a budget
Okay, listen. Moving to a new city is NOT CHEAP. Especially if you want to do it right. You’ve got to make yourself available for lots of things, and that means showing up and being willing to invest in your new beginning.
I made a conscious decision before my move to Brooklyn to have a few months’ rent saved up where I could focus on being social, meeting people, and doing new things, rather than prioritizing my freelance work. I’m still doing my work, but priority #1 is to succeed in Brooklyn—and that means getting to know the city and the people here. I’m networking like crazy and eventually once I’ve got a rhythm here, I’ll be able to slow down the activities and pump up the work. **famous last words**
Of course, spending money when you have unlimited resources is easy. And I definitely do *not* have unlimited resources. I’ve managed to find cheap eats (again: you’ve just got to ask for local recommendations), to cook when I can, and to drink at home when possible—that’s saved me some money. I just made sure to show up for my move to Brooklyn with a little bit of a safety net to really enjoy this first month (and maybe a second 😉).
My favorite drink from Europe – at an exorbitant price in Brooklyn, but it’s all about budgeting!
Using apps to save money has also been a huge asset. The Acorns app has allowed me to save 50 cents on every Uber ride with its “found money” scheme. Other apps like MealPal and Spotluck have made it easier to save on restaurants (though I haven’t used them yet; they’ve just been recommended to me). Plus there’s always happy hour—probably the best part of America is the happy hour. Literally the only time worth drinking in a bar!
How to live in Brooklyn on a budget
Go to bars during happy hours for the best drink deals
Use apps like Acorns, MealPal, Spotluck or others to save on various experiences, activities, or restaurants
Move to Brooklyn with a bit of a safety net to really enjoy and get to know the city at first
Track your expenses if you dare (I tried out youneedabudget.com this first month and it was pretty intense, but seems really useful)
Go out long enough in Brooklyn and you end up with a collection of clothes check tags as photos on your phone!
Sex and dating in Brooklyn
Maybe it’s just the adrenaline from moving a new city, or maybe it’s just that springtime energy in the air, but finding sex and/or dates has never been easier for me. This city is hot, hot, hot and there are just so many ways and places to meet people in Brooklyn. So long as you put yourself out there.
For gay dating, there is of course: Grindr, Tinder, and Scruff. But I also have been looking for queer meetups and events to meet people. The apps are great and guys move fast here, but there are plenty of other queer events happening in town that make it easy to meet other gay guys.
Brooklyn Queer Social does an event every month and TheMenEvent.com hosts various speed dating events. I went to a speed dating event in Manhattan and met a handful of people—it was surprisingly fun and a decent way to make some friends. (Bonus: use my referral code TRAVELSOFADAM for a special discount on their events!) There’s also GuySocial.com which arranges fun meetups (including NYC’s only gay roller skate!
How to meet for sex and dating in Brooklyn
Use the dating and hookup apps
Don’t be afraid to visit meetups and events alone. You’re new to the city, just show up and introduce yourself!
Check out TheMenEvent.com for gay speed dating (including a millionaire matchmaker event!) and use code TRAVELSOFADAM for a special discount!
Subscribe to the GuySocial.com events (also on Meetup.com) for a way to meet other gays
The view of Manhattan from a Brooklyn rooftop in Greenpoint
Getting around Brooklyn
This has been one of the biggest challenges for my first month in Brooklyn. Thankfully, I’ve been living in Bushwick and while it’s pretty isolated from other areas of the borough, it’s pretty well connected to Manhattan and a lot of the gay bars and nightlife I’ve been hitting up.
It’s also 100% necessary to buy a MTA MetroCard. I’m not sure it was actually worth it, to be totally honest, but having the pass (for just $121) meant that I never felt awkward about going out to explore or visit a different area. It’s purely mental, but spending the money on the MetroCard in advance prevented me from worrying about the cost of travel for random events, meetups, or hookups.
Brooklyn’s size and awkward public transportation also means you’re just going to find yourself taking Ubers and Lyfts—there’s just no getting around it, unfortunately. UberPOOL and Lyft Line help a bit with the cost; just be prepared to sit in the back of a car for a while.
Citi Bikes (the NYC and Brooklyn bike-sharing program) are also pretty well distributed in Brooklyn. Unfortunately the weather in March was relatively awful and I wasn’t prepared to ride a bike in a brand new city in terrible weather. Maybe this next month…
How to get around Brooklyn
If it’s your first month, invest in a MetroCard—it just makes it so much easier to get around
Use Uber and Lyft to get between places in Brooklyn, or be prepared to walk. BONUS: Get 50 cents back every time you use Uber if you sync it up with the Acorns investing app
A lot of my friends also swear by using Citi Bike and cycling around the borough
Brooklyn – it’s just so much fun!
How much did it cost?
Moving to NYC (and Brooklyn, in particular) isn’t cheap. But we already knew that. Rent can be anywhere from $800 to $1200 for a sublet, depending upon location and how many roommates you end up with (if any). I probably spent about $200-$300 per week on events/activities, restaurants, dining out, drinking in bars, and club entrances. But I managed to keep my costs down by not eating at expensive restaurants (street food burritos for the win!) and at least a few meals a week were $1 slices of pizza.
While my alcohol intake has gone up A LOT since moving to Brooklyn (is this city just full of alcoholics?!), I managed to keep my costs down by mostly drinking during happy hours and always ordering the drink specials.
How much does it cost to live in Brooklyn?
Everyone has their own budget, but if you plan for things being a bit more expensive at first, you’ll be in a better position to enjoy the city
Rent can be anywhere from $800 to $1200. (I paid $1100 for a 1-month Bushwick sublet.)
In your first month living somewhere new, expect to pay a bit more for food and drinks while you stay active going out, meeting new people, and trying new things
There’s no secret formula to traveling for free, but I find the more people travel, the more ways they find to make the experience affordable. Once you start traveling often enough, it’s like an addiction and suddenly you find yourself saving and budgeting for the next trip, the next adventure.
Since moving to New York City, I’ve found myself on a strict budget trying to make the most with my money. I haven’t stopped traveling and don’t plan to, but living in a city with a cost of living I’m not quite used to, I’ve suddenly found myself constantly budgeting my expenses. That’s how I recently discovered some new apps which make travel much more affordable.
Today, I’ll share how I use the Acorns personal finance app to save 2 to 10% on many travel expenses. Look out for more travel hacking budget tips in the future!
Note: there are affiliate links in this post, but I wouldn’t recommend anything I don’t already use regularly. Acorns is a really cool app which I’ve been using to save money where I can. And if you sign up with my link here, you’ll get a bonus $5 just to get started!
What is Acorns?
Acorns is a personal finance app that automatically rounds up purchases and invests your spare change. For example, if you spend $3.62 on a cup of coffee, Acorns automatically puts $0.38 into an investment account. You can withdraw that money at any time.
But the real draw is the special Found Money section on the Acorns app. With Found Money, you receive cash back into your investment account for shopping with select partners. Some available offers include $0.50 for riding with Uber (every time!), 4% cash back on Expedia, 2.5% on Apple purchases, 2.5% on Asos purchases, and countless others in every type of industry.
Note that Acorns has a $1/month charge on accounts with savings less than a million dollars. The Found Money I get back through the app, though, more than makes up for this fee. And bonus! Acorns is FREE for college students!
The Best Way to Save with Acorns
Acorns has so many Found Money partners that I always check the app before making any significant purchase. Now that I’ve been using it for a few months, there are a few standout travel partners which make it especially appealing. Here are the offers I use most often:
4% Off Any Hotel Booking with Expedia
Expedia has great rates for hotels, and getting 4% back on top of that just for booking adds up. A $300 hotel stay would get you $12 back in Found Money.
1.8% Back on Airbnb Bookings
When I travel, I stay in a lot of Airbnbs for that local experience. Airbnb rarely offers discounts or promotions, so take advantage of this promotion through Acorns while it lasts! There’s also a separate $200 promotion for becoming an Airbnb host.
$0.50 for each Uber Ride
Book an Uber through the Acorns app and you get $0.50 for each ride you take. Note that you can use this and other offers multiple times. Normally I prefer to use public transportation, but I’ve found myself using Uber more and more for short trips since moving to New York City. You just have to remember to click the link through the Acorns app to get the reward—but it’s second nature for me by this point. (I always make a point to remember the things that get me free money!)
There are dozens of other offers in the Acorns apps, including cash back for rental cars and hotels. To take advantage of any of them, go the Found Money tab in the Acorns app and click an offer link to make your purchase. You must use a credit card you’ve linked with Acorns and complete the transaction through the app to qualify for the promotions.
Stacking Acorns with Credit Card Rewards
Advanced travel hackers are probably already familiar with earning points for travel. You can combine Acorns cash back rewards with credit card points for an even better deal. For example, I linked the Chase Sapphire Reserve card with my Acorns account. This card earns three points per dollar spent on travel, which can be redeemed for 1.5 cents on travel purchases. This is the equivalent of getting 4.5% cash back.
So when booking on Airbnb through Acorns, I get a 7.3% effective discount each time.
You can also sometimes combine Acorns Found Money with other discounts and coupons. I once saved $200 on a flight booking through Upside.com by combining a $100 Acorns promotion with a $100 discount for new users (link).
How to get your Found Money
Found Money may take up to 120 days to post to your account, but sometimes arrives faster. On one occasion Acorns didn’t detect a purchase and I had to contact Acorns to request a manual credit—so be sure to track your purchases.
Tip: Don’t get caught up in the cash back game
Travel is about creating new experiences, deepening relationships, and becoming closer to ourselves. It’s nice to save a bit here and there whenever possible, but be careful that the end does not justify the means. I would never book an Uber over taking the bus just because I can save 50 cents through Acorns, for example.
I like to think about travel in terms of what it can do for me—not in terms of how I can save money. Still, it never hurts to get a little back when you can.
When people talk about “gay England,” there’s almost always one city they’re referring to. The seaside town of Brighton has and always will be the “gay capital” of the United Kingdom. A long history as a resort down for the rich, famous, and hedonistic, Brighton has always attracted an eclectic mix of LGBTQ travelers. And some government estimates put the city’s population at 10-15% as LGBT.
Famous travelers to Brighton have included the likes of Oscar Wilde—who famously wrote his play The Importance of Being Earnest while in town one summer at the end of the 19th century. Brighton just always has had this gay reputation.
There’s a certain funky attitude in Brighton, too. Colorful and diverse, weird, loud, uninhibited. Maybe it comes from the sea air, but local Brighton residents just live as they like. And that’s what makes the city so interesting.
THE WEEKEND GUIDE TO BRIGHTON
Things to Do
The Brighton Pavilion
As a long-time resort town, Brighton has attracted tourists for centuries—so much so, that the royal family built what exists today as the Royal Pavilion. Built by King George IV, it was his summertime palace designed in a gaudy and overbearing style with Asian-architectural influences and colorful interiors. When you first see it, the building looks out of place—but then you remember: this is Brighton, and they do what they want here. The nearby gardens offer a peaceful respite—especially in the warmer months!
One of Brighton’s newest attractions (open since 2016) is also its tallest. The British Airways i360 stands 162 meters tall at the foot of the former West Pier. Ticket prices are 17 GBP or less and offer the chance to view Brighton from above in a fully panoramic experience. While going up the tower, you can order drinks from the bar and even while the experience is under 25 minutes total, it’s a fun thing to do for a first-time visitor.
The view from above in the British Airways i360 – “we love Brighton”
For a taste of Brighton’s gay history, the Piers and Queers walking tour is run by Brighton Local tour operator Only in Brighton. It’s a unique and interesting insight into Brighton’s history: a spotlight on the travelers and locals that have passed through Brighton for a century, leaving a trail of clues to the city’s LGBTQ history—including people like Oscar Wilde and Colonel Sir Victor Barker, each with their own unusual travel tales from Brighton’s queerest city.
However, while Brighton’s history is notable, the real attraction of the city today is its quirky atmosphere. It’s best to get a taste of it while wandering the North Lane Bazaar—a mishmash of streets packed with cafés, restaurants, bars, and boutiques.
Hipsters everywhere in the North Lanes
Where to Eat, Drink, and Party
Regency Square, located between the city center and the nearby Hove, is home to a number of great restaurants and bars. On weekends, The New Club serves one of Brighton’s most popular brunches in a cool restaurant in the style of a NYC diner with an LA attitude. And while in Brighton, you can’t miss the seafood! Regency Restaurant has one of the best deals in town with a full fish & seafood menu. The Brighton Pier (even if touristic) is also a great place for a snack or the British classic fish & chips.
Seafood at the Regency Restaurant – affordable AND delicious!
But part of Brighton’s charm is its international flair. In the North Lane Bazaar, you can find everything from vegan street food, classic burgers, to contemporary Indian cuisine (don’t miss The Chili Pickle—a Bombay-style eatery with twists on Indian classics).
Brighton’s nightlife is as varied as its citizens—with a bit of something for every type of traveler. There’s the Komedia Club in the North Lanes with everything from comedy to cabaret. In the gay village, the Marlborough Pub is the most open and accepting of the LGBTQ bars and even hosts most of the queer theater that takes place during the annual Brighton Fringe.
Inside one of Brighton’s many gay bars!
Bar Broadway, just a little closer to the beach, plays showtunes in a social setting—great for groups! And the Charles Street Tap, both a bar and a club with its popular music playing on the TV screens, attracts men and women, but the real fun happens at Club Revenge on the corner. The late-night club (and the late-night pizza restaurant next door, VIP Pizza) are always crowded with fun groups dancing until closing.
Where to Stay
Located walking distance to Brighton’s gay nightlife, the New Steine guest house is a convenient and cozy choice. Rooms are simple but front-facing ones look out into the lovely New Steine garden with views out to the sea, even. The on-site restaurant serves delicious French cuisine and offers a standard breakfast.
Brighton has so many boutique hotels, it’s just a matter of choosing one for the best price in the best location. The New Steine hotel is simple but stylish, and its’ location can’t be beat!
For a more funky hotel choice, the Hotel Pelirocco offers something different. The stylish boutique hotel isn’t located in the main drag near all the gay clubs, but it’s not too far that you can’t walk. The boutique hotel’s most interesting feature, however, is its theme: rock and roll. Each room inside the has a different music theme—from the Pin up Parlour to the Play Room. (The Pin Up Parlour is a homage to the British Diana Dors, the UK version of Marilyn Monroe. The Play Room is…well, let’s leave some things to the imagination. Here’s a hint, though: the bed has no corners…and there may or may not be a stripper pole in the room.) Prices at Hotel Pelirocco are a little more expensive, but if you’re looking for something funky and fun, it’s a good choice.
And for those on a budget, the Travelodge attracts a mix of LGBTQ visitors to Brighton. It’s convenient location makes it a great spot to be based for weekend adventures. It’s located on the seafront, so for the city’s big events like Fringe and Pride, it can’t be beat. There are countless other hotel properties along the Brighton boardwalk at any number of price points, but the Travelodge offers great value for its location.
• • •
My visit to Brighton was supported by VisitBritain and VisitBrighton. You can read more tips about the city on my complete Brighton guide here. Another version of this Brighton gay guide also appears on the Expedia.de blog.
There are always distractions, sights to see, things to do, people to meet. It’s a delicate balance to take in the adventure of travel while staying connected with what’s back home.
But then when those special holidays roll around—there’s simply no excuse. You’ve got to send something home—something more than a message. And while a Facebook greeting might work in some instances, it’s usually not enough.
• • •
Mother’s Day gifts are a timeless tradition. I don’t tell my Mom enough, but she means the world to me. In fact, as I already mentioned, my move back to the USA earlier this year was as much about shaking things up as it is one to be closer to my family. But being so far from home (still), it’s not like I can pop over to my parents’ house with a fruit basket or fresh flowers. So, rather than miss out on sending her something this year for Mother’s day, I’m determined to send her a card.
But not just any card.
Recently I wrote about my love of postcards, and my desire to SEND MORE POSTCARDS. Not to mention my recent passion for getting offline a bit more—for connecting to the real world in a different and more meaningful way. And with my recent partnership with the MyPostcard travel app, I’ve started this new tradition by simply sending more postcards. And almost exclusively: sending them to my mom.
My mom is a relatively well-traveled person (in fact, some of my family is off on a vacation to Austria later this week!). My family has always been traveling, and with our family frequently spread out across the world, we’ve all been lucky to visit faraway places. Growing up, our home was always full of photos from our family travels.
But, as social media has started to dominate our travel experiences, those photos from our most recent travel adventures have disappeared. They’re on our phones, in a shared Google Photos account, the occasional selfie in a family WhatsApp group…
So, with MyPostcard, I’ve started sending photo postcards and selfies to my parents—ones that are printed on actual paper and that she can actually, physically, put up on the refrigerator.
Postcards are pretty much the perfect souvenir: partly a gift for my mom or my grandma or my aunt, and partly a reminder to me when I would eventually get home and see it on the coffee table.
Postcards create a special bond between the sender and receiver: a portal between two worlds, two people, from that exact, brief moment in time. But also: they’re not ephemeral. We keep postcards; they hang on our refrigerators, sit on the kitchen table, and those really special ones: they stay keepsakes for years and years, passed down through the family.
As Mother’s Day approaches, don’t wait until the last minute to send something. Find that selfie you took together last Christmas, put it on a custom postcard using the MyPostcard app, and send to your mom! Smiles all around!
When my sister first suggested a day trip for “snowshoeing,” I was immediately skeptical. It was mid-March and I was already done with winter. My warmest jackets, hats, and scarves packed away. But then she mentioned “fondue” and my interest was piqued.
Just outside of Geneva, a short train ride away, the city of Saint-Cergue offers an easy excursion for those looking for winter snow activities. A last-minute winter special: for just 35 CHF per person, you get all the things you need for snowshoeing plus an included lunch of fondue! Win-win.
Now, I generally love trying new things. But more often than not, before I’ll do it, I’ll make sure to research the hell out of it. So in the days leading up to our snowshoeing adventure, I googled all I could google about snowshoeing. I didn’t quite understand how it works or why it exists or even why people enjoy doing it. To me, it seemed cold and wet.
There were step-by-step guides online about “how to snowshoe” and “where to snowshoe,” things to avoid, what to look out for. It was all a bit overwhelming.
But then, Saturday came. It was like every other day in Geneva in March: grey and a little cool. We set out on the train with no snow in the sky or on the ground. But within an hour we were in Saint-Cergue going through snow-covered mountains. The way the temperature changes so drastically as you climb altitude—from the shores of Lake Geneva to the Swiss Alps—it’s impressive and overpowering. Cue the first instance on this day trip that reminded me how much fun nature is.
Once in Saint-Cergue, finding the tourist office was easy and the short intro on where to go and how to get our free fondue—easy. I could do this!
Thankfully I was with others who had snowshoed before—and they came prepared (with ski goggles, even!). At the edge of the small town on the border to the forested mountain, we put on our shoes and all those earlier worries about HOW to snowshoe were gone.
It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s a little bit silly.
We spent a little over two hours following a trail of pink ribbons across the mountain, eventually circling back to Saint-Cergue. Up and down hills, through some wide open fields and through the woods (plus at least rolling down one hill for the fun of it). We got wet; it was cold. But it was so much fun!
And bonus: by the time we got back to Saint-Cergue, we were h-u-n-g-r-y and had fondue practically waiting for us at a cozy restaurant. We upgraded our meal with some wine and other snacks—because duh. And while we had been snowshoeing for nearly two hours, we spent almost the same amount of time eating fondue and drinking wine.
That’s my kind of outdoor activity!
Here’s the thing about snowshoeing, though: you have to slow down. Even though we were at the tail end of winter here, there was still plenty of snow on the ground (and it snowed for most of the last half of the hike). Big, wide steps. And there’s no room for using a phone. First of all, there wasn’t much reception up on the snow-covered mountain. Second, it was very, very wet outside.
You’re sort of forced to just exist in nature—out there for a walk. We started to notice the animal tracks in the snow, the different types of trees along the trail. There was a calmness—just our voices while we wandered through the area. It was peaceful and the perfect way to disconnect, even if for just a few hours. By the time we made it to the fondue restaurant, I’d forgotten to even bother check my social media.
Snowshoeing was so, so cool. 10 out of 10 would do it again!
What is it about a holiday where you sometimes just talk a little more? Or how while on holiday you might be a little bit extra outgoing, a little more friendly and inquisitive of strangers? I didn’t always notice this strange travel habit, but during my most recent weekend in London, I found myself confident and outgoing in just about every encounter. And especially so at the hotel I found myself in for the weekend: arguably one of London’s most hipster hotel brands, The Hoxton.
I’ve been to the Hoxton at Holborn before. I’d heard it was a good place to work and since I’m pretty much writing wherever I can these days, I’d stumbled into the hotel lobby looking for a place to get some work done. If you haven’t been to the Hoxton before, you’ll know that this was a fruitless endeavor.
The Hoxton is literally one of the best spots in London to work from, and because of that, the lobby is often crowded. When you walk through the simple sliding glass doors (so chic!), the first thing you see are a set of couches—crowded with people of all ages, either hunched over their laptops or engaged in conversation (probably a business meeting).
To the right, a bar. To the left, more tables, couches and bookshelves. In the back corner, the hotel check-in. You’d almost think this wasn’t even a hotel. The check-in desk is buried in some far off corner.
The Hoxton has two locations in London—one in Holborn and the other (the original) in Shoreditch. I’ve now stayed in both hotels and, without question, it’s my favorite place to stay in London. Room prices can be pricey (prices from about £120/night), but I booked my last visit on the HotelTonight app for a last-minute discount (for less than £90!).
I’ve praised The Hoxton hotel brand countless times before—it’s one of my favorite brands because of a number of reasons. I can’t speak for all their locations (there are new hotels in Amsterdam and Paris, and they’re apparently soon launching hotels in the USA). Here are my top reasons for why I just really love The Hoxton London hotels…
Why I Love the Hoxton hotels in London
This is generally my number reason on how/why I choose a hotel, and The Hoxton wins with both their London properties. The Hoxton Holborn location is right in the heart of the trendy Seven Dials shopping district, steps away from Soho with all of its gay bars and theaters.
The Hoxton Shoreditch is just down the street from the Old Street underground location and walking distance to Shoreditch High Street (again, near plenty of gay bars and some of London’s trendiest restaurants—not to mention the East London markets on Brick Lane, Broadway, and Columbia Road.
As an independent hotel company, the brand utilizes its location to impact its design. The Shoreditch location has a huge fireplace in the main lobby (which doubles as a café and bar) which seems to be older than the building itself. You’ll find local photographers’ works on the walls and rooms are all well-designed for their space with pops of color amid fun and funky patterns. It’s simple but stylish and just what you’re looking for when you need a place to crash in London’s coolest areas.
While the Hoxton is more upscale than many hotels, if you plan it right (and use hotel comparison sites like hotelscombined.com or even last-minute booking apps like HotelTonight), you can usually score a relatively decent deal. For a hotel in downtown London, it’s relatively affordable and the perks of the location and style make it well worth the spend.
Okay, who doesn’t love a good mirror? I can’t tell you how many selfies I took in front of these things in the rooms—because, well, you know. It’s just another touch to the design and it makes the space really feel more-than comfortable.
Takeaway breakfast bags
Like any good one-night stand, one of The Hoxton’s signature moves is its breakfast game. In your room, you find a small door hanger which lets you check off how many breakfasts you need (one or two), any special requests, and what time you want it delivered. It shows up outside your door on a hook at the pre-determined time and you can enjoy it at your leisure. Easy.
• • •
Listen, I don’t gush over hotels very often but The Hoxton is just so good for what you pay. You can check prices here or visit their website for more about their story.
In The Hoxton Holborn – one of London’s most hipster hotels