Recently I enjoyed 15 days traveling through much of the American Southwest, a region aptly called the wide-open spaces.
I spent the first nine days in California’s San Bernardino Mountains, in the company of three hundred men, at the CMEN (Community of Men Enjoying Naturism) West Coast Gathering. I spent the rest of my southwestern outing on a road trip with my friend Casey, visiting Palm Springs and the Salton Sea in California; Lake Havasu (with the transplanted London Bridge), Oatman, Williams and the Grand Canyon in Arizona; Hoover Dam in Arizona and Nevada; and Las Vegas in Nevada. Except for Palm Springs, these were places that I have never been before, though the Grand Canyon has been on top of my bucket list for decades. All in all, it was a near-perfect experience, one that I will not soon forget.
I enjoy travel, and I regret that financial restraints and personal commitments keep me from traveling more often. The best thing about travel is that it takes me away from my ordinary surroundings and obligations into a world where the surroundings are far from ordinary, and my obligations are virtually nonexistent. While I travel, the political divisions and social problems of the world move to the back burner. The battles between Charlie Crist and Ron Desantis, or between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, matter less when one is enjoying the view from Route 66 in the Mohave Desert. It is reassuring to know that, barring a natural or human catastrophe, the Grand Canyon will still be magnificent; the San Bernardino Mountains will be majestic; the Las Vegas Strip will be gaudy, and the men of CMEN and Palm Springs will be friendly.
Mention of CMEN and Palm Springs suggests why LGBT people are more likely than others to travel. One reason is financial: many queer people, especially gay men, lack children to raise or have much disposable income. They also have a personal incentive to travel, especially those who live in societies where diverse sexual orientations or gender identities are restricted. Stephen Foster, in The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, writes about “the travels of homosexual men (rarely lesbians) in search of someplace on earth where the taboos of the Christian West have no validity.” For many gay or bisexual men, travel gives them an opportunity to enjoy a sexual smorgasbord not found back home. As The Guide, “the magazine of Gay Travel, Entertainment, Politics, & Sex” (now sadly defunct) noted in 1999, “if your address book lists friends you could crash with in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Caracas, and Los Angeles, chances are pretty good you’re gay. More than serially-coupled heterosexuals or long-mating lesbians, gay males are the free radicals of social life. For the pioneers of queer, sex and love shared with people from other cultures, ethnicities, classes, and ages freed something in them that helped make them become who they were.” It still does. In any case, what happens in Vegas (or CMEN or Palm Springs) stays there.
In short, a week of travel is better for your emotional and mental well-being than an hour-long session on a therapist’s couch; and I recommend it to all who can afford it. There are many ways to travel, though in my book nothing beats a gathering of like-minded people, or a road trip with a good friend. Just remember to enjoy yourself along the way. In travel, as in life, the journey is just as important as the destination.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.