On a hot summer evening in June, the most vibrant set of nails ever graced Onhisowntrip’s Instagram Live session. No, I’m not kidding! For a good amount of time I had been thinking of getting someone from the LGBTQIA community on one of our live sessions to talk about travelling as a member of the said community and to celebrate the month of Pride!
Pride month is celebrated world over in the month of June. It actually began to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that occurred in USA back in 1969. The police had started random raids that day and the LGBTQIA community fought back against oppression, to mark their right to their sexual orientation and identity and to say no to the mistreatment meted out to them. The history of Pride started out to remember that and with time it became a mark of acceptance and celebration of the community. It is celebrated globally with colourful parades, shows and a whole fiesta! Needless to say, this year the celebration had to be indoors on account of the prevailing pandemic. What’s beautiful is how the indoor unfurling of Pride has been a time used by people to talk about issues faced by the community and the world at large, to vocalize things, to spread more awareness and in turn more acceptance.
When the idea of a Live session dedicated to Pride, acceptance and travel came to my mind, the whole thought process had many layers. Of course, I wanted to talk about Pride in the aims of normalizing something so important. Then there was the fact that as a traveller a huge aspect of joy while travelling comes from how freeing one finds it, to be in a new place, to be whoever you want to be and to do as you please. So, the question that popped up was whether our LGBTQIA friends too find travel liberating or is it stifling at times? And if we as a travel community, can just talk about these things in order to make them feel more heard and loved. Lastly, undoubtedly a major factor was to maybe reach out to someone who is still in the closet or who has not been vocal about their identity and association with the community for whatever reasons. Their reasons are absolutely understandable but if for a moment we could have them hear someone who tells them its okay, have them witness two dozen people agree that its okay and to just see that the world is quite loving too, then maybe, just maybe we could give them a moment of comfort too. A little courage, a little comfort, just something we wanted to send across in a virtual hug.
With all this running in my head, I knew I wanted to try and get Ravi Roth! Ravi is a gay travel blogger, YouTuber and actor. He has been travelling for 13 years and has visited over 31 countries. A major portion of his travels is dedicated to talking to people in the LGBTQIA community wherever he goes, to talk to them about the culture and acceptance in their country, about their history and to share his own experiences with the world at large to learn from them. Having seen a whole bunch of Ravi’s videos I knew that to him travelling is so much about his interaction with people (something I fully related with) and I so keenly appreciated how vocal he is in order to tell more and more folks not just in the community itself but in the world at large about these things. Not to forget or overlook the fact that Ravi is very EXTRAAAA and very open about being so! He is the sort of person whose energy is infectious and who’s so happily, so colourfully embracing and owning himself!
He very sweetly agreed to do this and I was super excited. My first glimpse of him was Ravi all decked up with silver eyeshadow, colourful nails, a gorgeously decorated backdrop and the trademark Ravi Roth “Extra” hot pink fan! I have to say I’m amazed by the sort of effort a stranger from across the world can put into doing something together. It could be thanks to the topic of discussion; it could be thanks to the fact that that’s just how awesome they are or it could be all of the above! Diving into our conversation we first spoke of how Ravi became a travel blogger. He told us about a trip he took with a former partner to parts of Europe. What started out as a personal trip suddenly saw Ravi interacting with the locals and making videos of those interactions for fun. This however tugged at his heart and he knew he wanted to do more and more of this. It wasn’t a big surprise because the man himself said that he had always been the sort of individual who would approach anyone and strike up a conversation to pick their brain.
We started talking about his travel experiences. He told us about how Bali disappointed him because he had gone there with so many expectations and although a beautiful country, Bali doesn’t much more than a single street with some gay bars on the LGBTQIA forefront. We spoke of his Israeli roots and how surprisingly Israel is very open and welcoming to the community at large. Interestingly, when I asked him about which countries which have been the most welcoming and the most unwelcoming, he had one answer for both. USA. On the one hand, the country has a sizeable portion of the community leading lives very openly while unfortunately on the other hand, there are also certain times when uncalled for names and slurs can be inflicted upon one. Here Ravi said that what one essentially needs to remember is the fact that no one place is fully accepting or unaccepting, it is always an individual aspect and thus, we all try to reach out to more and more people for more acceptance.
Naturally, this brought our conversation to the subject of India. Ravi asked me if there are cities or towns that witness the open presence of the LGBTQIA community. I told him honestly how no city or town at large can be said to be very open but how only selective places or pubs within the bigger cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, etc. have limited spaces that are comfortable with the community. A fact that highlights the need for us to be more vocal about Pride and about acceptance so that more of us can normalize this and encourage our friends to lead lives as per their desired choice.
This though led us to the fact that Ravi is actually quite intrigued by India. I know I know that the name Ravi had you thinking that he’s Indian but surprise surprise guys! Turns out our colourful friend from America has parents who love India, so, not only do you find a baby Ganesh in their home, they also named their children with Indian first names! The love is genuine guys, Ravi hogs on Indian food and even listens to Indian music. I bet you cannot guess his favourite Indian song. Its “Hare Krishna”! Yesss. Somewhere my mom is reading this and muttering about how I don’t listen to Hindi bhajans but find American friends who do…oops! :p Needless to say, Ravi has now been informed that when in India there are folks who’ll be happy to show him around. ?
What I truly appreciated about Ravi amongst so many things was how vocal he was about the Black Rights Matter movement. Instead of harping on the plight of the gay community alone, he chose to acknowledge his privilege as a white man and address how the racism that plagues the society is something that needs to be rectified too. He said how Pride had started out with the Stonewall Riots to stand up for something and today the time has again come to stand up against racism. And I couldn’t agree more. May we open our hearts to all, may we bid farewell to discrimination in every form and you know that journey always starts first from our own homes.
Lastly, of course I had to ask Ravi about what he would like to tell anyone in the LGBTQIA community who is still in the closet or who is still trying to figure out things. Our dash of vibrance and energy said that remember that it will of course be difficult but sooner or later you will find a family that accepts, loves and cherishes you for who you truly are whether that’s your biological family or a chosen family (friends, etc.). More than anything, you have to love yourself to begin with, as indicated by his tank top above!
So, on a summer Sunday night in June, across continents a man called Ravi Roth left me smiling. Actually, he left me beaming with his persona, his tales and his heart. And he left me thinking and hoping that the celebration of Pride brings about much greater acceptance across the world and even in a country like ours. I hope that if even one person out there reading this feels a little inspired by Ravi, they embrace it. I hope they remember that although it’s a tough road, sooner or later they will find that family that loves them for all they are. And hopefully, they too will be travelling the world to explore its many faces, to feel that sense of liberation that somehow travel offers and that they too will be spreading the rainbow of love on the sky.
Happy Pride everyone! <3