Meet a Traveler: Borja the Gay Explorer

Happy May! We are so excited to unveil a new feature here at School of Home called "Meet a Traveler." Exploring the world is such an integral part of what we do, but rather than constantly share our experiences we thought it would be fun to highlight some of the amazing LGBTQ+ travelers we've met through social media and on our travels. Each month will feature a different traveler, a short interview, and some of their amazing photos. Feel free to get in touch or leave a comment with your suggestions on who to feature!

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Borja Matheu is a traveler from Barcelona, Spain. In his mid-twenties, Borja made the decision a few years ago to drop out of the rat race and explore the world (in his signature white t-shirts). He shares his photos and experiences traveling as a gay man on his Instagram page, Borja the Gay Explorer, and will soon be launching a YouTube series. Let's get to know Borja!

What first inspired you to start traveling?

The people. The places you can go to are infinite and awesome, but after a few trips I
had the epiphany that the relationships you make is what shapes your experience.
Meeting locals, other tourists, expats and get a sense of what it’s like to be in their shoes
is the most amazing thing ever. This is how you get to feel the place, the culture, the
nature and like this is how I met some of the most interesting persons in the world and a
few of my best friends.

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Where was your very first trip?

We have to go way back for this one. I did my first trip when I turned 2 years old, I was
onboard a cruise ship for over two months! My parents love to travel and have been
exploring the world for a while. Then I was born, so they decided I had tag along.

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You mostly travel by yourself, what is it about solo travel that you enjoy?

I started solo traveling because it was practical. It’s difficult to find someone who has the
same itinerary, passions, budget and with whom you feel a special connection. When
evaluating if I want to travel with someone for a couple of weeks/months I ask myself: If I
got stuck at an airport with this person for 18 hours, would I still want to sit beside them
on the plane?

Solo traveling also allows you to do whatever you want without having to think if the
other person really wants to or if you’ll have to spend some of your time doing something
you don’t want in compensation. Time is so valuable and never comes back, especially
when you’re 4 nights in a place and then off to the next!

Another benefit of solo traveling is that you need to push yourself to meet and interact
with people. It’s very easy to go to a new city and explore it with your friend but it’s much
harder to do so alone. It’s a challenge but a fun one as you get to know yourself, your
fears, your thought process, what triggers happiness and how good are your social
skills. It’s very rewarding and I ended up developing a small group of close friends in
each city.

Anything you don’t like about traveling alone?

The downside of solo traveling is that some moments are meant to be shared. When you
make a nice group of friends it’s great but it becomes tougher in places where you don’t
entirely succeed or where you don’t feel so social. This normally happens when I’m the
happiest. During those moments I always think to myself “oh, I wish my family could be
here to see/experience this.”

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What's your travel style? Are you a luxury hotel kind of guy or do you like to get
off the beaten path and rough it a bit?

Why pick one when you can get the best of both? My background is in hospitality so I
love to experience different lodging styles. I do normally stay more at luxury hotels as I’m
a big fan of The Luxury Collection but one thing doesn’t exclude the other. I’ve enjoyed camping at Burning Man, staying at a hostel in Bangkok, a capsule hotel in Tokyo and
have also booked accommodations on Airbnb and Couchsurfing. Each lodging option
comes with certain benefits and it all depends on the type of travel you want to
experience. I would suggest exploring all of these at least once!

A big part of our love of travel is exploring new cuisines - what is the best meal
you’ve had while traveling?

Challenging question but if I had to put a meal above the rest, it would be my first dinner
in Delhi. The restaurant, Bukhara, is inside the ITC Maurya, a Luxury Collection [hotel], and the
first impression is a very authentic local restaurant vs the typical hotel restaurant you
would get somewhere else. Once seated you get visually stimulated with the open
kitchen and can start savoring the highly spiced dishes just with the smell of the venue.
Once your meal gets to the table, you realize that there’s no cutlery, you eat it with your
hands. After the first bite, all your senses are stimulated. I’m salivating just thinking
about it!

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As a gay man, have you faced any obstacles to traveling?

As an open gay man, I’ve experienced a few challenges when traveling. Some of the
destinations I’ve visited do not support LGBTQ+ rights and [they are] even considered illegal
and punishable. Scary but real. These experiences helped me purse activities that would
empower, normalize and inspire the LGTBQ+ community and therefore I started working
on my YouTube series The Gay Explorer. The series sees The Gay Explorer (myself)
traveling around the world and going on a date with a local guy. He will take me around
town and end with a chat on how it is being gay in that specific city and any gay issues
they’re facing. The aim is to provide travel-vlog like content whilst exploring and raising
awareness of issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community around the world.

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Besides the usual suspects (phone, camera, toothbrush, etc), what is one thing
you always take with you when traveling?

If you spend 30 seconds looking at any of my social channels you’ll immediately notice I
always wear a white t-shirt! That’s my main travel essential and the first thing I pack.
Why? A white t-shirt is easy to wash (just bleach it), easy to find in any store around the
world and it goes with any background you have. Imagine taking a picture in the forest
wearing a navy-blue t-shirt… doesn’t work.

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All travelers have a bucket list, what’s the top destination on yours?

Burning Man. Yes, I’ve been there once but it was one of the most amazing experiences
of my life as I was surrounded by inspiring and enlightening people in a utopian and out
of this world location. My first time was in 2017 and as they call it I was a Burning Man
virgin. The mix of people attending was awakening, from Burners in their 80’s, to fresh
ones in their late teens and even families with babies just a few months old. I would
suggest it to everyone reading this!

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Many thanks to Borja for being our very first Meet a Traveler feature! Make sure to follow Borja on Instagram, and don't forget to leave us a comment with your favorite LGBTQ+ traveler you'd like to see profiled here on School of Home!