My Top Travel Moments…So Far

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Most travel writers and bloggers do a post at the end of each year reflecting back on their best travel moments for the respective year being discussed. I actually never write a post like that mostly because I am always behind on other posts with lots of information I believe you all might need for planning your own travel adventures. I’m still behind on writing a lot of content but currently we all have lots of time due to the global COVID19 pandemic. In fact, a lot of people have lost their jobs and are struggling to figure out how they will survive so, as you can imagine, searches for travel information are down to nearly zero. That means my business has taken a major hit and I am wondering what the future has in store for me in regards to travel writing. I’ve even considered throwing the towel in and moving on with my life. However, I am not quite ready to quit but I do think it is high time I write one of those “best travel moments” post. That being said, I will focus on both the best and worst travel moments throughout the last 5 years of travel.

I look forward to creating new travel memories in the future but before I get ahead of myself, let’s look back! You can totally skip to any of the moments you might be most interested in by using this table of contents.

Why I Travel
Top Travel Moments
Enjoying hot wine and the streets of Strasbourg

We all have reasons we travel and every single one of those reasons is perfectly acceptable. Personally, I find it far too challenging to boil the reasons I travel down to just one. In fact, that wouldn’t really do my journey much justice at all. I think the number one reason I travel is because, frankly, it is fun. That’s right…if I was forced to choose one reason then that would be it. At it’s core, travel should be fun and enjoyable. Of course, there are caveats. Now, what exactly makes travel fun depends on the person. For me, I love the sense of adventure I gain from traveling around and experiencing new things. The way I travel often involves visiting small towns, remote locations, and participating in activities most people don’t consider. Through these experiences I gain a better understanding of the people I encounter and the places I visit. Travel experiences make me a better person because I become more knowledgeable about the world and my mind’s horizons are broadened. In a nutshell, that’s why I travel! I’d definitely like to learn why you travel or want to travel so leave some comments if you’d like to share.

Travel Memories
Top Travel Moments | My Normal Gay Life
Beach Time!

Leaving home and heading out on an adventure into the world means you will inevitably make some travel memories. It isn’t something you plan. There are just moments that happen and when they do, you’ll never forget them. Memorable moments are one of the things that make life such an enjoyable experience. Pretty much anything can influence a moment to make it become a memory we hold onto dearly. Perhaps you witness some incredible act of nature or you simply experience the muted peace of early morning in a city you’re visiting. Maybe you meet someone and connect with them instantly or it could be that you find yourself in a less than ideal situation. Whatever the moment might be, these moments help us appreciate our own lives, open our minds, and make us develop into better people.

Some travel memories are good and some are bad. A lot of travel bloggers and writers only focus on the good because that’s usually what people want to hear about.  I, on the other hand, am not most bloggers for a number of reason and therefore will focus on the good, the bad and the funny. It’s time to reflect on a number of travel memories I’ve made over the last few years and I hope you find them entertaining and perhaps inspirational. Let’s keep those travel juices flowing so when this pandemic is over, you are energized to have new adventures and create new travel memories.

The Bad

I’m going to start with the bad memories I have of traveling because often times bad moments in life stand out the most. In these moments, the bad things happening to us can seem like the biggest crises on the planet. That’s why they stand out. But while it is never fun to go through bad times, these moments and memories are just as important and influential as the good times. In fact, it is during bad or tumultuous times we grow the most as people.

Marriage Woes in Panama
Panama City story with My Normal gay Life
Panama City skyline

A couple years ago, Alfred randomly needed to go to Panama for work. He presented at a conference there or something to that extent. In any case, he asked if I’d like to go and I jumped on it because I have not traveled extensively through Latin America. I thought it would be fun to explore a new country. We boarded our Delta flight and made our way to Panama. Right before we arrived, the flight attendants passed out customs forms. We asked for two but the flight attendant told us we would be fine with one since we are married. Well, that was a big lie. We filled out the form and waited in the customs line. When it was our turn, the customs agent would not let us enter the country together as a couple. In fact, he stated “we don’t allow that shit here” in Spanish. Alfred was able to go ahead but I was forced to leave the line and fill out a separate customs form. As I waited in the line, I watched other heterosexual families pass through customs with no problems whatsoever.

It was mortifying. However, it made me realize even more that gay travel still matters and LGBT travelers need to know this type of information. This incidence further solidified my resolve to help create and influence a more inclusive travel industry.

Stolen Passport in France
Travel moments and stories with My Normal Gay Life Blog
Grenoble Street Scene

Typically, I travel to France about 4-5 times a year due to Alfred having business in the country. I’ve grown to adore the country and have had my fair share of both good and bad experiences. The cities we base ourselves out of while in France are Paris and Grenoble and then I usually take trains to other parts of the country to explore. During one of our trips, I couldn’t go anywhere because of yellow vest protests and train strikes. With no car, I was stuck in Grenoble…which wasn’t so bad. I used the time to explore the city more in depth. During this particular trip, I also decided to go shopping for clothes because I prefer the way European clothing fit me. When I left our hotel, I took my backpack and my wallet. As I was walking to the shops, I decided to stop for a quick bite to eat at a McDonald’s. I know many of you will turn your nose up at that but I don’t care. As I was sitting there eating, my backpack was stolen. I looked down and it was gone.

At first, I didn’t really panic or anything. The backpack was empty and my wallet and phone were both in my pocket. The thieves stole something with no value. But then I remembered that my passport was inside the bag. That’s when I panicked. I searched around to see if perhaps the thieves had tossed it when they realized the bag was empty but no such luck. I ended up having to go file a police report at the local station which proved a bit difficult since I don’t speak French very well. After that, Alfred and I went back to Paris and visited the US Embassy to get an emergency passport. It all worked out in the end but was such a hassle.

Here is everything you need to know if you lose of have your passport stolen.

The Romania Incident
Travel moments with My Normal Gay life
View from the belltower in Sighișoara

The second time I visited Romania was so that I could participate in a massive press trip with many other bloggers and journalists. We traveled all across the country by bus and saw some of the more remote areas. While it was a lot of fun seeing the beautiful parts of Romania, the press trip itself was generally a disaster. The descent downhill started before we even really commenced traveling through the country. The organizers of this trip held a conference of sorts at the very beginning in Bucharest where they and other representatives of Romania talked about how great Romania is and opened the floor to questions from us, the audience. As a gay travel blogger, I decided to ask what Romania is doing to ensure the safety of its LGBT visitors. As soon as I asked the question, there was silence from those on stage for a second and the moderator didn’t even give anyone the chance to respond. Another audience member stood up and demanded they answer my question so one of them answered. She explained that in her city, Constanța, they had a special hotel and section of the city for people like me. She even described us a flower children. Needless to say, everyone in the audience was pretty offended by their response.

The trip continued rolling downhill from there with sexual harassment from the organizers and property damage. We were forced to be in a number of uncomfortable situations and polenta ended up being what we ate most the time. It was enough to set pretty much all the participants off on each other at varying points during the trip. You can read all about it in my article, Is Romania Gay-friendly, where I discuss my treatment and the treatment of the women in our group by the organizers.

Getting Sick in Ecuador
Top Travel Moments | My Normal Gay Life
Swinging at Casa del Arbol in Baños.

I think we can all agree getting sick during a trip is pretty much one of the worst things. It just feels like an illness is made all the worst when we are not in our homes and it disrupts our travel adventures. During my first big trip a few years ago, I spent more than a month traveling through Ecuador with my friends, the Nomadic Boys. We saw and experienced so many incredible things as we traversed the country via car, bus, ship, and train. Everything was going rather smoothly until we got to the town of Baños. One night while we were staying in this town, I became very thirsty and in my sleepy state, I drank water from the faucet in our apartment.  That was definitely a mistake as the next morning I definitely felt the repercussions of drinking the water. Luckily, I had my two friends with me who made sure I was OK and it passed quickly. I won’t ever forget one of them knocking on the bathroom door to ask if I was OK…I felt so embarrassed. But these things happen…especially when you travel.

Read all about my experience taking a train across Ecuador called Tren Crucero!

The Funny

There are some memories from my travels that are both good and bad…and I like to call these funny. When I think about these moments, I chuckle. Sometimes these moments seem unreal

No Clothes in Florida
Destin, Florida
Beach Time in Florida

Alfred and I have made many trips from our home in North Carolina down to Florida to visit family and go to theme parks. During one of these road trips, we drove to Gainesville, Florida so Alfred could take an exam for his graduate program. When we arrived to our Airbnb the first night, I told Alfred that I wanted to change my shirt and wear something that was in our other suitcase in the trunk. He looks at me and worriedly says; “What other bag?” I tell him to stop joking because I’m obviously referring to the bag we packed with the majority of our clothes. Well, suffice it to say Alfred forgot to pack our bag and we had no clothes except what we were wearing at the moment. The night before, I asked Alfred to pack so we could go ahead and get our bags into the car and not forget anything. He wanted to pack in the morning instead and promised he’d remember to put our bag in the car. We drove all the way from North Carolina to Florida and had no clothes.

It was a very stressful moment but it was quickly solved with a quick little shopping spree to buy new outfits. In hindsight, it is funny. But it’s something I don’t plan to let him forget.

Missed Flight to Ireland
Cliffs of moher
Loving the Cliffs of Moher

The first time Alfred and I ever took an international trip together, we hopped over the Atlantic Ocean to Ireland. It was a fantastic trip with stops in Dublin, Howth, Newgrange, Cork, and many places in between. However, we ran into a problem before we even left the United States. We had a fairly long time between our connecting flights so we hung out in the airport lounge. While there, we had our fair share of alcoholic beverages and then made our way to the our gate. The only problem was Alfred read our tickets wrong and the plane was already boarded with the gate closed. So we missed our first international flight together. We ended up staying the night in Atlanta and exploring the city a bit the next day. Then we boarded another flight and made our way to Ireland.

In most people’s world this would be quite a disastrous story and likely cause a lot of panic. I remember being so nonchalant about the whole situation once we realized we missed our flight probably due to the alcohol. We just rolled with it and it’s a pretty funny story today.

Plan your trip with my Ireland road trip itinerary!

Dog Chase  in Ireland
Cliffs Moher Ireland top travel moments
Getting the shot at the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

During the same trip in Ireland, we decided to drive across the country to experience as much of it as we could. What you need to understand about Ireland is that there are many areas where the road doesn’t seem like a real road. Suddenly you might find yourself driving down a dirt path with trees very close to the edge. It’s a bit unreal. At one point, we really thought we were lost so we stopped the car to get our GPS out of our suitcase. As I was walking around the car, a small pack of dogs approached and chased me back into the vehicle. I promise there were a number of larger dogs but Alfred swears they were small Chihuahua-sized pups. In any case, I now tell people I was chased by a pack of dogs in Ireland.

Bus Ride in Ecuador
Quilotoa Lake in Ecuador
Hiking Quilotoa Lake

One of my most vivid memories was the bus ride from Latacunga to Quilotoa Lake in Ecuador.  Quilotoa is a 2 mile wide (3 kilometres) volcanic caldera and the most western volcano in Ecuador so it was high on our list of must-see places. The day started off with a ton of confusion as it took everything to figure out which bus was heading the direction we needed to go. But when we finally figured which bus was the correct bus, we were able to breathe a little. WRONG. The bus ride was one of the most memorable and terrifying of my life. I don’t know how but this bus was going as fast as a normal sports car. I’m not even joking. My friends and I were terrified and yelling at the bus driver who could care less. He sped around switchback after switchback going down a road with no guardrails. I even texted Alfred that I loved him because I was certain we would go over the side of the mountain and that was the end. When we finally arrived to Quilatoa, we were so happy to get off the bus. We hiked to the lake, had lunch in a local’s home, and then decided to head back to Latacunga.

There was no way we were getting back on that bus though. We met some women visiting from Denmark who were living in Peru and we all chipped in to hire a local to drive us back down to town. I ended up falling asleep and abruptly waking up realizing we had no idea if the guy was actually driving us back down to town or if he was taking us somewhere else. In the end, everything turned out fine but it was quite a funny adventure.

The Good
Waking up in the Galapagos Islands
Traveling the galapagos Islands
Enjoying the end of a day at the Galapagos Islands.

When Alfred and I decided to go to the Galapagos Islands, I could hardly believe it was happening for a couple of reasons. First, it was prohibitively expensive to visit the islands the way we chose to do it. We bought the captain’s room aboard the M/Y Passion luxury yacht (now called WildAid’s Passion). The ship and our lodging was incredible and definitely luxurious but it came with the price tag you’d expect at $16,000 for the 10 day voyage. Of course that included everything but this is definitely considered a once in a lifetime bucket list trip for us. Don’t worry…if you want to visit the Galapagos Islands, you can do it without spending this much…and I have all the information you need about a Galapagos cruise here.

The other reason I couldn’t believe it was happening is because it just seemed so unreal. I would explore one of the most remote and biologically unique places in the world. It was truly a dream come true. The first day we woke up and looked out the windows to our room felt incredible. There was one of the Galapagos Islands, a place I read about in books, and it was real. It was waiting for me to hop on a tender and go for a hike. It was truly one of the top travel moments in my life.

Roaming around the French countryside
My top travel moments so far | My Normal Gay Life
Alfred absolutely loving the walled city of Provins.

If you’ve followed my life journey for any amount of time then you know I have a great fondness for France. You could accurately describe me as a Francophile because I love the French language, exploring the country’s towns, eating French food, and just everything that makes the country so wonderful. With that being said, it is not hard to imagine that one of my favorite memories is roaming the French countryside visiting small towns and taking it all in. Of course this is more like a cumulative memory as it consists of a conglomeration of many different trips but you get the point. It’s hard to put into words why I am so found of roaming around in France but by doing so, I’ve seen Medieval ramparts, Roman ruins, the homes of important historic figures, the sites of battles, walked through breathtaking churches, and generally gained a better understanding of what makes the France the wonderful country that it is. I am immediately filled with happiness when I take my seat on a train heading to a new adventure in a small town most people outside of France have never heard of…it’s just happiness in its purest form for me.

Horseback riding in Cuba
Top Travel Moments | My Normal Gay Life Blog
Horseback Riding in Cuba

One of my favorite things to do is go horseback riding even though I don’t get to do it often. Horses are such beautiful animals and I really enjoy exploring with them. During my trip to Cuba, I visited Havana and Trinidad. During my time in Trinidad, I booked a tour of the Valley of the Sugar Mills on horseback and it was incredible. The valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and just so remote and wild. At one point, the area was the largest sugar producing region in the world. Today, it is mostly an untamed natural region that lets you get a glimpse of Cuba’s untamed wilderness. During the ride, we journeyed through sugar cane fields, forests, and up to vantage points where we could see the surrounding countryside. We even made a stop at a waterfall and enjoyed a nice beverage before continuing on our journey. This is definitely in my top ten travel moments.

Feeling awestruck in Zion National Park
Top Travel Moments | My Normal Gay Life Blog
I got lucky and shot this photo in Zion National Park.

When we visited Las Vegas in 2019, I decided that I definitely needed to make the drive out to Zion National Park in Southwest Utah because I’ve always heard stories about the beautiful park. Well, beautiful is an absolute understatement. This park is astounding. We arrived and had a few hours to drive through the park. It seemed around every bend there was another stunning scene that simply took our breath away. There are moments in life when something happens that is just amazing or when I see something that is mind blowing and I think to myself; ” If there’s a god then I am probably looking at them right now.” Zion National Park was definitely a place that made that thought cross my mind. It was wonderful to experience this place with Alfred.

As you can see I’ve had quite a few memorable moments over the last four years during my travels. Some of these moments were good, some were bad, and some were just funny. I wouldn’t trade any of them because they add to my overall experience as a traveler. I am sure there are plenty more ahead of me!

What about you? Do you have any favorite travel moments?

J Harvey

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J. Harvey

J Harvey is a travel writer based in North Carolina. With two masters degrees, he decided to forget working a normal 9-5 job and instead create a travel blog focusing on travel for a more inclusive community. He hopes to increase LGBT representation within the travel industry while inspiring others to travel in whatever capacity.

J. Harvey has 185 posts and counting. See all posts by J. Harvey

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