I am a faithful believer in the magic of traveling. I grew up visiting relatives every other year in Mexico for Christmas, visiting the villages where my parents were raised, imagining them as a child like me. I met new cousins, played card games with my uncle and was blessed by my great aunts. We did not travel much beyond visits to relatives but, fortunately, I had relatives in various places in Mexico and although my parents were from small and rural towns of Jalisco, I had an older sister who lived in Mexico City, with its millions of inhabitants. I also got to meet older gay relatives and reading the horny gay graffiti on the doors of the men’s restroom of the bus depot I realized that I was not the only gay boy. In the end, everything was novel and impressive.
But as a young man I did not always appreciate these family trips that my parents undertook with so much sacrifice. I considered them more obligatory than recreational, as a pilgrimage, and while I respected them it was not until I was an adult that I understood and could appreciate how much they influenced me and did me good.
When you travel you have the opportunity to learn from others and form your own opinions, beyond stereotypes. You may be inspired to make a change in your own community. Traveling I have learned that not everyone is obsessed with and wants to emigrate to the US and, at the same time, I understood the size of my parents’ decision to emigrate to Los Angeles. I suggest to every college student I meet to study abroad.
I know that not everyone can travel far or out of the country, either because of immigration status, budget, or lack of feeling safe, but it is not necessary to go far. You can travel to another library or park nearby. The idea is to explore new horizons, alone or with friends. Although traveling is not a panacea, the following tips will help you prepare and enjoy your trip to the fullest, no matter how far or near it is.
Talk to friends who live or have visited before. What do they suggest visiting? At what time of day or during what season? Which foods do you have to try? Maybe they can host or accompany you. In addition I always check one, or more, travel guides. Some focus on a particular aspect, be it food or culture, while others are more comprehensive. And you can borrow them from the library, you don’t need to buy them. My favorites are the Rough Guide travel guides because they almost always include a lot of local history and LGBT sights. You can also read a novel or a memoir set in your destination.
You can also find many resources on You Tube. There are dozens of YouTubers that are dedicated to sharing their experiences and travel tips, many speak Spanish or are LGBT themselves. The Trip Advisor website is an encyclopedia of travel resources, including things to do. And finally if you communicate with local nonprofit groups ahead of time you may be able to support or volunteer in some way.