Now is the time to make good on those new year resolutions. You want to travel more; be adventurous; live a more spontaneous life. How would you like to embark on “A Blind Date with the World™?”
Don’t worry, that relationship will be unforgettable and built to last… for at least 23 days.
The Global Scavenger Hunt is a real-life Amazing Race-type adventure. From April 17 to May 9, fifteen international teams will circumnavigate the globe, visiting at least ten countries over the three weeks, competing for the title of “The World’s Greatest Travelers.”
You won’t know any of your destinations until you arrive at the airport. And you’ll be participating in a series of culturally enriching, site-specific scavenger hunts along the way. Each stop will include its own immersive micro-adventure that will test your travel knowledge, survival skills and moxie.
You thirsty? From January 15-19, liquor brands from around the world, cocktail enthusiasts and some of the most talented mixologists in the country head to Texas to celebrate the craft cocktail.
Now in its ninth year, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference toasts the artistry behind a delicious drink, while engaging all members of the cocktail-loving community and supporting charitable organizations.
For more information on favorite seminars and events, read my full listing on Travel Squire.
One billion viewers, from all over the world, will be watching the live telecast of New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square. And as the Waterford Crystal ball descends to welcome a new decade, one million penned-in people will have braved frigid temperatures for the chance to see it live from the ground. Lucky for you IQ has you on his “NICE” list this year and thinks you deserve some better options…
To learn about private perches, fabulous viewing parties and even the option of a “private escort” to watch the ball drop, read IQ’s full article, published in Travel Squire.
The new buzzy destination topping everybody’s lists these days is Merida. Mexico’s new IT girl is enjoying quite a moment, with accolades and coverage in major travel publications, including Condé Nast Traveler’s 2019 Readers’ Choice Award for “World’s Best Small City.”
IQ’s Merida Gay Travel Guide
Though it is the capital and largest city of Mexico’s Yucatan State, Merida is pedestrian-friendly and compact, with most tourism centered around the Centro Historico (historic center). It is accessible by direct flights from Miami, Houston and Tijuana/San Diego; and only a three-hour drive from the Cancun airport, with flight options from major cities all over the world. And you’ll feel comfortable here. After all, Merida was voted the second safest city in all of North America by CEOWorld Magazine—ranked above any city in the United States.
Also, Merida has potential to evolve into Mexico’s newest LGBTQ+ destination. Earlier this year, Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, Miguel Torruco Marques, the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) and Queer Destinations signed a “Letter of Intent” to further promote LGBTQ+ tourism to Mexico. The first action in this new effort, engaging and instructing the tourism private sector in Yucatan, was held in Merida.
DAYS FOR DRINKING
Liver be damned: Merida is a day drinking city! The parties center around its cantina culture, starting at noon and closing at 10pm. Though many locals have their favorite neighborhood spot, the most popular cantina in Merida is La Negrita. Literally, every single person I asked for a recommendation mentioned La Negrita. Expect fantastic live Cuban music, dancing and a very friendly crowd. It’s the type of place where, if you are fortunate to get a table (and for that, you should arrive early), you’ll instantly spark a conversation with your neighbor. The musical vibe of Merida has a strong Caribbean influence and salsa dancing reigns supreme, so this Cuban boy felt quite at home.
For day-drinking with a side of man muscle visit Cantina Bullpen, Merida’s gay cantina featuring go-go boys throughout the day. In keeping with traditional cantina hours, Bullpen closes at 10pm, so it’s a great place to start the party.
NIGHTS FOR GO-GOS
Nighttime is Papi time. The stripper bar Papis does its name juicy justice, with a plentiful selection of muscular muchachos strutting on the bar and leaving little to the imagination. The cheesiness of their costumes is part of the charm. During my visit, I saw a cowboy, fireman, cop and construction worker—all started fully dressed and ended with a fully erect lasso, firehose, billy-club and hammer. Yes, you will see penis. And though the audience was mainly gay men, the crowd had a nice mix of adoring ladies enjoying the show as well. Apparently straight women like hot, naked men too.
The largest LGBTQ+ club in Merida is Blue Gay Club, about a ten-minute drive from the Centro. Ubers are inexpensive and plentiful in Merida, so travel within the city is very easy to navigate. My night started with a drag performance that was challenging to follow even though I speak Spanish. I’d suggest arriving closer to midnight, when the focus shifts to a more traditional club night, with go-go boys and dancing. You should know the crowd was also pretty mixed, so all will feel welcome. For a change of scene, Deseo is next door and also owned by Blue. The bar feels more intimate and has an outdoor patio (and also go-go boys). And though I did not partake of their company, it was clear that private dances were available from the fellas at both bars.
MERIDA GAY TOURS
Once you recover from your evening, you’ll be quite busy. Merida is a perfect base from which to explore the Yucatan State’s most unique and revered sights, including 19 Mayan archeological sites and countless cenotes: fresh-water sinkholes and underground rivers.
You’ll need some wheels to explore beyond the city. Why not add an adorable, knowledgeable gay guide? The boys of Merida Gay Tours can help plan your entire trip and customize an adventure suited just for you. Created by a gay couple interested in growing the city’s LGBTQ+ tourism, David and Ricardo can arrange sightseeing tours of Merida, recommend specific gay-friendly nightlife spots or create a multi-day itinerary throughout the state. Their packaged experiences include days at the beach, Mayan archeological sites and visits to nearby “Magical Towns.” They are accommodating, sweet and will instantly make you feel like you’ve reconnected with a long-lost friend. Have I mentioned they’re adorable? They can also help orient you toward roving nightlife events that aren’t held in large clubs. The weekend I visited we ended up at a “house ball” hosted by La Fantasía Salón, complete with voguing battles and plentiful cheap tequila. Category was Merida Friendliness and these kids slayed.
Merida is a contemporary city with reverence to its Mayan and Spanish colonial history. It’s a great home base for your explorations and it’s the LGBTQ+ center of the Yucatan State. Merida is also fun, beautiful and exploding in popularity. Get thee there pronto and witness this jewel of a city evolving into Mexico’s newest queer destination.
Each year, culinary connoisseurs convene in Northern Italy’s Piedmont region to honor the white truffle. This rare and very expensive type of mushroom is only available in this region a few months out of the year. From townies to top chefs, autumn is the season to celebrate the gastronomic treasure whose shavings transform any dish into a luxury item.
Ongoing through November 24, the International Alba White Truffle Fair is one of Italy’s longest-running festivals, celebrating its 89th birthday this year. Held in the old town of Alba, a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy, the Fair initially focused on the food and wine of the region but has now expanded to include immersive experiences and cultural events.
Every Saturday and Sunday, the White Truffle World Market buzzes with exhibitors, purveyors, chefs and local wineries. Within the 2,000-square-yard market, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase truffles certified by the National Truffle Study Centre and hobnob with likeminded foodies, all gathered in praise of the seasonal favorite with the distinct scent and delicious flavor.
About an hour drive from the Cancun International Airport, the State of Yucatan countryside is a gateway to ancient Mayan culture and a study in how ancestral traditions are kept alive by the current generation. It also may be one of Mexico’s best kept tourism secrets, though that is soon about to change.
The State of Yucatan is one of three states that occupy the Yucatan Peninsula. Though American visitors are most familiar with the Mexican Caribbean stretch between Cancun and Tulum (which is in the State of Quintana Roo), the neighboring State of Yucatan is readying for its prime-time debut.
The new President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December 2018, largely campaigned on creating the Mayan Train that would transport visitors from the tourist-saturated areas (the aforementioned Cancun, Tulum, etc.) to less-discovered gems. The proposed 913 miles of track are scheduled to be functioning by 2023. Though the ambitious project is not without its controversies, one thing is certain: it will alter tourism in the region.
Don’t wait. Currently, the best way to explore the Yucatan State is on a road trip that can include archeological wonders, complex cultures and unspoiled natural habitats. As Mexico’s second busiest airport (after Mexico City), Cancun is an easy direct flight from many U.S. cities; then drive inland…
Read more about my travels through the Yucatan State of Mexico inTravel Squire.
Washington D.C. is going to the dogs. Whether you are politically liberal, conservative or moderate, it’s time to see D.C. from a new perspective.
The St. Gregory Hotel is inviting you to experience Washington D.C., doggy style. Bridging political divisions by encouraging travelers to seek a more grounded view of our nation’s capital, the St. Gregory will loan guests a GoPro and GoPro harness for their dog. Yes, your Maltese is now making movies.
Starting at $155 per night, the “Pawlitical Landscape” package includes luxury accommodations in the Dupont Circle-area boutique hotel, the use of a comfy embroidered doggy bed, personalized dog bowl, locally sourced treats from Doggy Style Bakery, Boutique and Pet Spa and their canine concierge’s list of pup-loving neighborhood spots. And, of course, the GoPro camera and dog harness to document your spaniel’s Spielberg experience…
As I crossed the gangway to board the Celebrity Cruises’ Summit for VACAYA’s maiden voyage this summer, the Scissor Sisters serenading over the speakers reassured me that “a kiki is a party for calming all your nerves.” I took it as welcome foreshadowing that the first large-scale LGBTQ+ travel company to launch in decades had taken the initiative to musically score my journey from the moment I boarded. Yes, h-h-honey, they were serving and working and turning out VACAYA’s inaugural kiki.
I instantly became giddy with anticipation. This was my first gay cruise. Somehow, I’d made it this long — a seasoned gay man in his 40s — without ever specifically sailing with my community.
What was different now? VACAYA is setting out to change the existing model of queer travel. From its inception, it set the lofty goal of serving the entire LGBTQIAPK community. On its website it clearly explains and creates an alphabet soup utopia that welcomes (in its words): “Lesbian, Gay, Transgender/Transsexual, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, Asexual/Ally, Pansexual/Polyamorous and Kink.”
As VACAYA co-founder Patrick Gunn said, “If you believe love is love, you belong on our vacations.” And we did. Though the largest percentage of guests was men, they were men of all ages, shapes and sizes — another coup for inclusivity. And from my conversations with the topless ladies splashing in the pool and my new friends from East Lansing, Michigan, Jennifer and Johanna, who I met at the ship’s ice cream parlor, all shared in the joyous excitement.
On the first day, VACAYA organized meetups for every flavor and proclivity of our inclusive spectrum. From pansexual to trans to straight ally guests, everyone had the opportunity to meet their like-minded neighbors for the next seven days. However, to make friends all one had to do was step out of the stateroom. In my many years attending gay events, I can’t remember being surrounded by a more engaging, welcoming crowd.
And, truly, it was a run-your-own-race kind of experience…
Today is National Coming Out Day. And yes, I know you know.
I want to first thank all my loved ones (and even my new friends who I may only know through social media) for tuning in to my zany, gay travel adventures. I have now been an out gay man longer than I was a closeted boy and young person. And yes, that means I’m old.
I believe it is essential that I continue to be visible. I believe it is essential that we continue to be vigilant.
As I share this happy picture of me—a very out and proud gay man—at Stonewall during this summer’s World Pride celebration in New York City, I am both elated by my privilege of living my life so openly in this amazing city (there are still 72 countries where homosexuality is illegal) and devastated by the state of current affairs in the United States.
Just this week, the Supreme Court heard three cases that can ultimately decide if LGBTQ+ employees are protected from discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin or religion.
Does that include sexual orientation or gender identity according to the federal laws of the United States? The Supreme Court decision is expected by June 2020.
The Trump Administration argued that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation or gender identify. It has also stacked federal courts throughout the country and appointed two judges to the Supreme Court to shift our nation’s Judicial Branch toward a conservative, potentially discriminatory power dynamic.
If it hasn’t sunk in, this affects me. This affects my boyfriend of 13 years. This affects my best friends. This affects the diverse members of my LGBTQ+ community.
And unless you’ve managed to live a sad, gray life without ever interacting with an LGBTQ+ person, this will affect a person you love.
So, if you have voted for socially conservative candidates in local, state and national races, I want you to know that you have voted against me, a person you may even love and “support.”
I am happy to be the smiley, rainbow-clad image in your mind when you weigh making these life-changing decisions at the ballot box. Or you can choose some other brother, sister, son, daughter, cousin, Pilates instructor, colorist or beloved cater waiter. But I am coming out to let you know that I—we—need your support and need that support to be stronger than niceties at our next social gathering.
I hope I can count on you. Happy National Coming Out Day.