Chatting with @isntshelovely88
In an effort to connect with queer travelers around the globe, I’ve been reaching out to folks from the LGBTQA+ community to hear more about their personal travel experiences. My hope is that sharing these stories will not only provide readers with the opportunity to learn, but that it will also open doors to places they may not have previously been aware of where the queer community is welcome.
I am so excited to introduce Sam of @isntshelovely88 via En Route -with- Love’s third travel interview! Sam and Danielle are a couple from Texas who decided to give up their 9-to-5 jobs in order to work seasonally in Denali, Alaska over the summers. They road trip from Texas to Denali, and back, while making fun stops along the way!
Looking at your Instagram posts, I can tell that you are a lover of the outdoors. How has nature impacted your life and helped inform where you choose to travel?
Spending time in nature has impacted my life by inspiring me to push myself outside of my comfort zone while challenging me physically, spiritually and emotionally. It gives me a sense of freedom, appreciation and peace of mind I haven't found elsewhere. During our travels we like to explore new trails and different scenery and see where the paths take us.
Is most of your traveling done solo, with friends, or with your partner?
Most of my traveling is done with my partner. We're grateful that our current career paths allow us to take these journeys together. When the opportunity presents itself we do enjoy taking trips with family and friends.
Do you and your partner share the same passion for travel? Do you like going to the same types of places, or does your travel style differ from one another?
We do share the same passion for travel and our travel styles are similar in that we are open to taking on all kinds of new experiences on our trips. When planning, I tend to focus more on hikes, and different landscapes to explore; while Danielle is a wiz at finding us great restaurants to try and events to attend. Along with enjoying the outdoors, we both love to stop in cities along our route and enjoy the local scene.
How often are you away from home? How does travel impact your everyday life?
We are away from home 6 months out of the year and on the road for about 6 weeks of that time. Since starting seasonal work and regular travel we've downsized a lot and are better at prioritizing things we actually need in our daily lives. When we first started our jobs we got rid of most things in our apartment and traded in each of our vehicles for something we could drive across the country in. It's definitely been a welcomed change!
Camping, flying, driving, staying in a hotel...What type of traveling do you prefer and why?
We are very budget conscious and found that camping and driving allows us to see more things and spend more time on the road without breaking the bank. Depending on our location we alternate between car and tent camping in different campgrounds along our route. We love the freedom of being able to set up camp for the night, relax, and wake up to some incredible views. Occasionally, we will indulge ourselves and stay in a hotel when camping options are slim.
Your travel photos are incredible and you do a brilliant job of exposing nature in its rawest form, but also incorporating an emotional aspect to it through the lighting or subjects in your shots. What thoughts are going through your head when you snap an image?
I have to say the incredible landscapes and places we go to do a lot of the work for me! It's often that we end up in the right place at the right time. Aside from that, most of these places we are visiting for the first time and I like to try and capture that moment of appreciation and awe in a photo. A lot of time I feel enveloped in the space; the trees, the sky, the surrounding water and I like to try and give the viewer a sense of my surroundings from my perspective.
How has your camping experience been in the various parks you've visited? Are there places you would not recommend after experiencing them?
We've been fortunate to have had pleasant experiences camping while visiting various parks. I don't think there are any places I wouldn't recommend, although, trying to find a place to camp around the San Francisco area proved to be difficult. I would encourage everyone to do their research as far as accommodations, operating times, etc. We've had to make a change in plans when getting to some campgrounds after their operating season was over.
For those who don't do outdoor activities often... or ever... but want to try incorporating more into their travels, what tips do you have in making sure that they are completely prepared for a place they may not be familiar with?
Research, research, research! I use numerous online resources (I'll include a list below) to give me some insight on what I might be getting myself into. Find what interests you and take baby steps if you're unsure. You don't have to go out and climb a mountain on your first attempt but there may be a short, accessible hike you can take that will be just as rewarding to you. General tips I like to follow while outdoors: always be aware of your surroundings and make sure someone knows your general location. Realize that we are guests in the wilderness and we have to treat the space and creatures within them with respect. Stay hydrated and have fun!
You have been to a number of National Parks in both the US and Canada; Kenai Fjords, Olympic, Denali, Arches, and more. What parks would you highlight as being the most memorable to you, and why?
I'd say I have a bit of a biased opinion when it comes to National Parks. Denali National Park in Alaska is the first NP I had ever been to and is the place that set this lifestyle in motion for us. It's also the place where Danielle proposed to me and it holds a very special place in my heart. The vast landscape, abundance of wildlife and visual changes in the seasons make Denali the most memorable park for me. Olympic National Park in Washington was also a place that stands out in our travels. Within only a couple of days we were able to explore the diversity within the park, including fields of rolling meadows, a lively rainforest and enormous driftwood on Rilato Beach. How has being an LGBTQ+ traveler impacted your experiences positively or negatively? Are there more inclusive areas that you would recommend over others?
I'm thankful we haven't had any negative experiences being LGBTQ+ travelers. Places that stand out to me as being ultra inclusive would be Vancouver, B.C. and metropolitan areas of Portland, Oregon.
Hiking is a big part of exploring the outdoors. Which hikes would you recommend as "must dos" for other travelers?
One of my favorite hikes to recommend to people would be McKinley Bar Trail, near Wonder Lake, within Denali National Park. I consider this a must do because of the ease of the hike and the proximity and views of Mount Denali.
What destination is next on your list and have you started planning for it?
This coming summer we plan on seeing a lot more of Canada. Specifically, Banff and Jasper National Park are on our list of places to go. We haven't delved into the details just yet, but we've discussed working it into our route. Outside of that, we plan on doing more research on international locations we'd enjoy visiting.
Last fun question: What is your dream destination and why?
My dream destination would be Croatia. It has a very rich culture and diverse landscape. There are tons of beaches, waterfalls, and castles I can't wait to explore!
Online resources I use when planning our travels: