Gay travel, especially the broadly visible gay travel of gay cruises has no parallel in its ability to foster the interpersonal interactions and broader discussions that advance the cause of gay human rights. Two men on an Atlantis Events cruise this week were arrested on suspicion of buggery and plead guilty to indecent exposure during the ship’s call in Dominica. The incident raised all kinds of familiar commentary: Why does Atlantis Events go to a place with sodomy laws on their books? Why don’t we boycott these places?
Antiquated laws about gay sex still exist on the books in many countries, including our own. Sometimes non-discriminatory laws are applied in a homophobic manner. It happens all over the globe, often unpredictably, at the whim of whatever official is in charge that day. Boycotts are most appropriate when a government actively and aggressively discriminates. And they are usually less effective than active engagement. The Caribbean hotbed of homophobia has been in the spotlight for years now, but it’s progressively weakening, and gay cruises are in part to thank for the positive changes. These islands are deeply reliant on tourism for their economic survival. And tourism is uniquely positioned to change the hearts and minds of those who would condemn us without knowing us. The arrival of a gay cruise — whose very visible clientele is typically more generous and polite than their straight counterparts — goes a long way to open dialog and build support for our rights.
Atlantis Events has been running vacations for 20 years. Who would it benefit if they sailed a small circle around the U.S. Virgin Islands? I feel bad for the guys who were arrested. Should Atlantis have anticipated the risk better? Could they have better warned those guests? Maybe so. Atlantis Events and the vacation industry as a whole tend to gloss over the risks of travel. If they didn’t, we’d all probably stay home. But this risk was small — it’s not as if hundreds or even dozens of passengers were arrested on discriminatory charges. We can’t always predict what will happen when we travel to a new destination. Travel can be dangerous. The world is at once full of beauty and fury, of new possibilities, ancient mysteries, and unanticipated dangers. But the rewards of travel are great.
Our desires for discovery and adventure can’t be fulfilled on our iPads. We need to get out there to experience new sights, smells and tastes. Our exposure to different cultures and people teaches us about them, and about ourselves. It doesn’t always go smoothly. In my three decades of traveling the globe, I’ve yet to take a trip where I didn’t come home knowing something I wish I knew before hand. In my two decades of travel journalism, I’ve tried to share that knowledge with others to improve the risk/reward ratio of their travels. Nota Bene: Save the balcony buggery for days at sea.
BTW, if you’re interested in gay travel, sign up here for a free copy of my new gay travel magazine, debuting this summer!