It must have been halfway somewhere between Sweden and Germany when we received an email from the Editorial Director of Lonely Planet. Now, receiving travel-related emails is usually something we are dealing with on an everyday basis. But this email should be an entirely different one and at the same time mark the highlight of our work as travel bloggers so far. After years of traveling the world as an openly gay couple sharing our experiences on our blog and social media platforms while giving advice and tips to fellow LGBTQ+ travelers, we were about to receive one of the biggest honors a gay travel blog such as Couple of Men could possibly get – the Best in Travel 2021 LGBTIQ+ Storyteller Award by Lonely Planet.
Exciting News in a difficult (travel) year
Already for many years, the world’s leading publisher of travel guides awards the top and Best in Travel destinations for the coming year. The year 2020 should become a very challenging year for all of us, particularly for those working in the travel industry. Changes in the way we (will) travel became inevitable and with these changes, the adjustment of the awards, too. Global challenges such as the integration of local communities, the fight for diversity and equality, and the overall important topic of sustainability move into the focus, especially when it comes to travel. Therefore, the goal of this year’s Best in Travel 2021 awards is aiming to “… shin[e]ing a light on the individuals shaping the future of travel…”, Lonely Planet states in their press release. So, what’s new this year with Best in Travel?
Best in Travel 2021 – Lonely Planet’s New Awards
For the past 10 years, Lonely Planet has held its Best in Travel awards every Autumn listing the countries, regions, and cities that are recommended as travel destinations for the following year. Last year, for example, one of our favorite travel destinations Salzburg was awarded as Best in Travel 2020. So far, the campaign has been launched as a book and also an online digital campaign with a reach of millions around the globe. But travel is always changing.
“Ten of this year’s awards are specifically for people and places who have excelled in diversity, including awards for cultural diversity, inclusive storytelling, underexplored history, native food, inclusive tours, and accessible destinations.” – Lonely Planet.
Sustainability, Community, Diversity – Three pillars reflecting a new world of travel
Best in Travel 2021 champions people who make travel a force for good, all the more essential in an unprecedented year that has disrupted and deprioritized travel. Best in Travel 2021 reflects how travel contributes to sustainability, community, and inclusivity and ponders how we can best explore the world responsibly. Rather than delivering a destination bucket list, Lonely Planet focused on how people travel now: outdoors; in family groups; purposefully; with careful attention to the communities they will explore.
Lonely Planet Video: LGBTIQ+ Storytellers 2021
For our travel videos, check out our YouTube channel >
Between sunsets, hotel rooms, & Activism | Interview
The female part of Couple of Men, Sarah, set up an interview with us. She was curious about our story behind Couple of Men from the beginnings in 2016 to today receive the Best in Travel Diversity & Inclusivity Award for being the best LGBTIQ+ Storyteller for 2021. It is still new to us to write it, but yeah, we are now the founders of an award-winning Gay Travel Blog! That’s awesome – Wow!
You are now awarded as the Lonely Planet Best in Travel LGBTQ+ Storytellers for 2021. How did they inform you about it?
Karl: This is a cute story. On our first and only trip this year we traveled from Sweden to Germany to Austria back to the Netherlands. We were in Dresden, in our hotel room. We received an email that said: ‚We are happy that we can make your Monday a bit sweeter. You are chosen for the award of Lonely Planet Best in Travel LGBTQ+ storytellers 2021.‘ Of course, we knew beforehand that we were nominated but we never expected to win against the other nominees.
Daan: Especially since all our other travel plans for 2020 were canceled due to COVID-19. So it felt like we wouldn’t get to travel at all, but between peaks of Corona we actually managed to complete one trip and so it was nice that we received the news while being on the road.
What was your reaction?
Karl: It was a positive and a surprise.
Daan: It is somewhat symbolic even. Because every time we go somewhere for a trip, Karl buys the Lonely Planet to inform himself about the destination. So Lonely Planet has always been part of our journeys. So, it is great to see that the company that we trust when we travel and that inspires us, rewards us for the work we are doing.
Why do you consider this award important for yourself?
Karl: For us, it is almost an approval. It showed us that we are doing the right thing by providing LGBTQ+ travelers with information where they can safely spend their best time of the year.
Daan: It is great to see that what we do is interesting enough for a bigger audience. Of course, we know that people like what we do, otherwise we wouldn’t have all our followers, but receiving such feedback from a large company is a different level. And for us, it came exactly at the right moment, when we needed it because 2020 has been very difficult and all our trips got canceled.
In which way is it important for the LGBT community?
Karl: It is good to see that also a smaller audience can be important and that even a niche topic can have such a large impact on people. Because it is crucial to inform LGBTQ+ travelers about the situation in certain countries to keep them safe and the fact that this has been noticed and rewarded is significant. And hopefully, this is just the beginning.
Daan: Lonely Planet has always had certain paragraphs with information for LGBTQ+ travelers, but an award is of course a lot bigger. It is important for all kinds of minorities that a big company like Lonely Planet sees, hears, and supports them. That is for sure a step in the right direction.
The annual updated ranking of Spartacus’ Gay Travel Index for 2020 informs travelers about the situation of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people in 202 countries and regions around the world. Which countries are gay-friendly? Where do LGBTQ+ travelers have to be extra careful?
It has been a long journey for Couple of Men to get where you are now. Which problems did you have to face on the way?
Daan: Our love has become a part of our brand and our business. So even on our ‚holiday‘ trips, we work a lot. And sometimes we forget to enjoy the moment. We are for example at the most beautiful beach, get to see a romantic sunset and all we think about is how to position our camera for the best photo shot. Because we are both perfectionists, and we want to deliver the best content possible. That can be exhausting and stressful and of course, there were always moments when we felt like we don’t want to do this anymore.
Karl: And in 2020 within 24 hours all of our travel plans were canceled due to Corona. The good thing is though that we are freelancers and come from different professions, so there are always opportunities for us when traveling is not possible at the moment. On a personal level, there has been a moment that I struggled with. This was for an Instagram take-over for a pride event in a European capital and I experienced a lot of hate, digitally and personally. In the end, the Instagram take-over needed to be stopped because there were too many hate comments.
When you travel together, which problems are you confronted with as a gay couple?
Daan: I think it very much depends on the place you go to, how lucky you are, and how aware you are. And even though we are in Amsterdam, which is one of the most liberal places in Europe, it still happens that gay couples get beaten up. Sometimes it is just bad luck with the wrong place and the wrong time. We usually hold hands because we like it, but also to make people getting a bit more used to the sight of men showing affection like that in public. Especially in places where this does not happen too often. Then hopefully next time people will find it less weird. We prefer not to slap people in the face with it, we rather want to give them something to think about and to push them just a little bit.
Karl: I believe that LGBTQ+ people learn to adjust and read the environment for situations that could be dangerous and to avoid them.
On Where to be Gay, we would like to share information about the situation of the international LGBTQ+ community, their rights as well as the struggle. Our goal is to support lesbian, gay, trans, and queer people in their fight for equality and acceptance in their countries. We want them to be seen by sharing their stories.
Why do you think it is important for LGBTQ+ to travel?
Daan: I think traveling holds a great chance because that way places that are not exposed to people being openly LGBTQ+ will learn about it. That also helps the local LGBTQ+ community because they cannot be as open as a tourist can.
Karl: There are still places where being gay is considered inappropriate, dirty, or wrong. So, hopefully, we as a gay couple traveling can help the local community to achieve more acceptance in the future. There are countries that we refuse to go to for our safety, but that does not mean that we do not wish to support the local community. And for that, we have our reporter Sarah who goes to these places for us.
How do you think your website can help with that?
Daan: We started our blog to showcase our travel story and attractive destinations, but we also find that a lot of our followers find comfort in observing our trips and seeing us being openly gay in different parts of the world. Maybe they do not have the chance in their lives to be who they are but at least we get to show them that there are places where it is possible.
Karl: It is great to see how our project has developed. We do not only write about our travel experience but also about local LGBTQ+ businesses and couples and their stories. With that Couple of Men has reached a whole new level and the information that we give has more depth to it. And by that, we believe we can inspire and motivate people to be who they are and to do what they want. And this is our way of activism.
And of course, we asked the questions: Why us?
And this was the answer we got:
“With engaging content and fabulous photography, the blog is considered a mine of information on LGBTIQ+ destinations, accommodation, restaurants, bars, activities, and excursions. Now based in Amsterdam, Karl and Daan’s joyful, loving relationship shines through each post, and they share personal aspects of their lives with their followers, including the lovely story of Karl becoming a (gay) dad to his son and daughter. In doing so, they aim to reach out to anyone struggling with their gender identity or sexual orientation.” – Lonely Planet.
Pretty cool, right? But we know that all this would not have been possible without you. You read, like, and share our posts and articles and use them to enjoy the best time of the year – traveling and on vacation. Thank you for being part of our journey. Thank you for supporting us!
And after the LGBTQ+ Storyteller Award – Our Story continues…
What a year! We had, of course, a full trip schedule planned for this year including trips to the US, Asia, and, of course, around Europe. Everything was canceled, for good reason, undoubtedly. What came as a shock at first, turned into a year at home with our cat and enough time, to redecorate our house. And this is what we are continuing to do in the next couple of months. Stay tuned for some gay home stories with some insights into our private home in Amsterdam.
But don’t you worry – we will also share some new stories of past trips we did not publish yet. Peru, Malta, and the next episodes of Karl being a gay dad with now two children!
And as always: Do you want to know more about our gay travels around the world? Stay tuned on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. See you again in Amsterdam or somewhere around the world!
Karl & Daan.
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