Ten years ago, I embarked on Out Adventures’ first-ever gay tour of Thailand. Today I reflect on what it’s taken to get this far and why I wouldn’t trade the blood, sweat and tears (literally) for anything.
10 – Being a business owner can be lonely
A few years after starting Out Adventures together, my partner Steven and I separated. Building a business can be an incredibly lonely experience, especially in times of failure when one often questions their decisions. Few people have been able to understand the financial and emotional weight that goes hand in hand with entrepreneurship.
9 – I am @roboutadventures
For years I fought being @roboutadventures “the travel guy” and the face of Out Adventures. I wanted our tours to speak for themselves. It took me a while to come to the realization that passion really sells a tour – not just pretty photos. Today I’m more than happy to be that smiling face inspiring gay men and women to travel. That said, it’s always a breath of fresh air when people talk to me about something – anything – other than travel. For example, I love food and savour any opportunity to regale people with my ever-changing Top Ten Restaurant list. 🙂
8 – Gay Travel isn’t all six packs, sex and drugs
While I love looking at a six-pack on the dance floor, I made an early decision to represent a variety of men and women in our marketing and on our tours. By focusing our efforts on the destinations and incredible experiences that make that country unique, I’ve proven this gay travel company doesn’t need to rely on bronzer and biceps to sell tours.
7 – Unwelcoming destinations can be the most rewarding to visit
I have learned meaningful experiences can come from an honest discussion with those who don’t necessarily share our views. I’ve also learned that instead of boycotting a destination, gay travellers can do so much better by spending their pink dollars at welcoming establishments, progressing the gay agenda in the process. Finally, a government doesn’t always represent the popular opinion of its people (cough cough, America). Love or hate my thoughts on this? Listen to this episode of the Gay Travel Podcast where I further share my unfiltered opinion.
6 – Supporting LGBT locals feels good
I’ve met many incredible LGBT trailblazers around the world, and I am a true believer in sharing their stories with our adventurers. For example, we break bread with a prominent journalist and LGBT activist in India. Our travellers have the opportunity to bring much-needed supplies to an LGBT non-profit in Cuba. We even keep it light by attending LGBT events like Queer Lisboa Film Festival in Portugal. It’s such an incredible feeling to support our international brothers and sisters.
5 – Purpose and reputation = success
Ten years ago, I had grand dreams of owning a big house and maybe a sailboat. What I’ve learned, however, is that having a purpose brings so much more meaning than profit. Don’t get me wrong, our business must be profitable. And I still love a nice place to live! But profit doesn’t guide my every decision. We consider ourselves an organization that strives to make ethical decisions, whether or not it means we make (or lose) a buck. As a result, I know for a fact we have one of the best reputations in the biz.
4 – Business is personal
The LGBT travel world is such a beautiful place to do business, and being boutique means we get to know our travellers. Many “clients” have become great friends, and I’m more than happy to blur the lines.
3 – Local guides do it better
I have learned the most authentic travel experience comes from a local guide who knows their culture better than anyone. The head office staff and I love to host tours, but it is our local guides who are the cornerstone of our epic adventures. We have local guides around the world, some of which have been with Out Adventures for almost 10 years!
2 – Bigger isn’t always better
We aren’t the biggest gay tour company, but we are often regarded as one of the best. I had a vision of a company with dozens of head office staff – but we’ve remained a lean team over the years. Some staff have come and gone, but our team is always like a little family. I may have started this company, but my team has collectively created the Out Adventures you know today. Take a minute to get to know my motley crew here.
1 – Career & passion go hand in hand
People told me, “don’t mix your passion in life with your career. You’ll regret it.” To this, I say, “Thank you, next!”.
Alongside my incredible crew, I’m breaking down barriers, changing hearts and minds, showing off this wonderful planet, and, most importantly, fostering an environment in which lifelong and meaningful relationships are formed. All while embracing my lifelong passion for travel! *hair toss*
Here’s to 10 Years of life lessons and humbling experiences. I can’t wait to see what nuggets of wisdom I’ll harvest over the next decade of gay travel!
Yours in Adventure,
All photos courtesy of Robert Sharp.