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6 Challenges You'll Face as a Solo Gay Backpacker

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1. You're more aware than ever that you're an outsider.

If you're backpacking, it's likely you'll spend a night or 10 in a dingy hostel. There'll be dirty dishes, drunken pub-crawls and if we're being honest - sex, and a lot of it. Young people on the road are renowned for their aggressive "expressions" of heterosexuality. More than once, I've woken up to the sounds and smells of a male/female duo rocking the bunk bed with such intensity that they might ricochet off and cause a small earthquake. These environments can be confronting if you're gay and travelling alone. You might find yourself sitting on the end of a shared dinner table with some "loose as" blonde surfer from the Australian Gold Coast explaining loudly to a group of dreamy-eyed English school leavers about how much "poon he slayed" in Ibiza and think, "Where do I fit in?"

2. You'll have to come out again and again and again.

Telling your friends and family that you're gay is a rewarding experience, but as any homosexual will tell you, it's not always easy. When you're travelling, you'll be going through this process week in and week out. Expect awkward conversations with girls (or boys!) who were giving you eyes across the bar and the possibility that the group of 10 "lads" who all played rugby together at school might suddenly become uncomfortable suddenly because - you know - it's "just weird". Granted, this isn't always the case. The majority of your fellow travellers won't even blink when you reveal the truth, but the stress of doing so can still be exhausting.

3. Finding other gays can be difficult.

An important part of what makes travel so special is the vast quantities of people that you meet and consequently, the limitless possibilities for social interaction. Unfortunately, unless you're into Grindr, Hornett, Scruff or any of the other gay social networks that killed the gay bar, it can be hard making buddies who share your same-sex attraction. Firstly, gays are significantly underrepresented on the backpacking scene - perhaps for the reasons listed in this article; and secondly, anyone you do meet via a gay social network will be shadowed by the possibility/probability of sex. Which, while enticing to some, can be frustrating for others.

4. Risk of possible persecution.

While the global attitude toward same-sex relationships has improved infinitely in the last 20 years, there are some countries where homosexuality is punishable with the death sentence. In some places, like Dubai for example, it is possible to seek out communities of gays who gather in hotel rooms and other secret places in a desperate attempt to socialise freely. Take a look at this chart if you're unsure whether the country you're in is safe or not.

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5. You can feel like a lab rat.

After you've come out (for the week) to your newfound friends, it's possible you'll end of being swooped up by a young girl who's "never had a gay best friend before but is dying to hang out" or the classic "shy guy" who, after a few drinks, is suddenly acting a lot more limp wristed and telling you between slurred words that "he'd probably fuck a dude if he was drunk". Yes, travelling teaches people a lot about themselves and yes, this often comes through experimentation but no - just because you're someone who's a little more settled in their own skin, you shouldn't be an easy target for people who want a new experience. Just by making it onto the road in the first place, you've earned the right to be busy finding your own.

6. Access to sexual health services.

If you're a backpacker who's only recently self-actualised your sexuality, it's not unlikely you'll be running a sexual muck. However, with great fun comes great responsibility, so be prepared - if you're unsafe in the sack when you're travelling, you might wind up having to balls up and explain to a Hungarian nurse, who doesn't speak any English, that you're a little, err, worried. These experiences can be very daunting. Take it from someone who knows.

I find that the challenges and rewards that you face and receive on the road have less to do with sexuality and adventure and more to do with what it means to be alive. Homosexuals who don't travel will still identify with what it's like to be an outsider, or what it's like to come out more than once, but crossing countries solo amplifies the scale of these challenges significantly. Overwhelming? You betcha. But once you're laughing your head off with foreigners you only met a few hours before or marveling down the pebbled streets of European cities or swimming in crystal blue lagoons where you can see your feet on the ocean floor - all while being comfortable and honest to yourself- you'll wonder why you ever even cared about the whole "gay" thing in the first place.

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