Chatting with Leslie (@lesliehab)
En Route -with- Love’s second interview provided me with the opportunity to connect with another wonderful traveler (and very talented writer!!). 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.
Leslie lives with her girlfriend on Vancouver Island, Canada. She's a queer introvert who loves to travel, and has spent time teaching English in South Korea, picking fruit in Australia, and hiking around the PNW. Follow her on Instagram @lesliehab (mostly for pictures of local and international travel, and her cute girlfriend), or on Facebook at Les Talk, More Travel.
You have an incredible blog, lestalkmoretravel.com, that covers not only travel, but also posts about the LGBT community and being an introvert. How do these three themes play into one another in your writing?
Thank you so much! Les Talk, More Travel was born in 2015 from the intersection of what I considered the 3 most important aspects of my identity at the time. My intention was to write articles related to each of these topics, and the ways they interact. These days, I find myself writing a lot more informational (queer) travel posts. These are what people tend to search for when they find my blog, and I include the kind of information I look for when I'm planning a trip. That said, I love writing those deeper and more introspective posts! They do take quite a bit more time, and it obviously means being vulnerable, but they're generally my favourite. I'm hoping to write a bit more about introversion in the coming months, since I feel like that's the topic I've slacked on the most (and it’s an important one)!
One of your blog posts, "On Blogging: Don't Change! Be Yourself!" really resonated with me, and I am sure other bloggers that share their personal stories with a greater audience. Through my lens, it spoke to the pressures of changing your 'appearance' to keep up with other bloggers who have a lot of followers and/or are sponsored. From your experience, what tips can you share with those who are just starting out in the travel-blogging world?
I've had a lot of trouble differentiating between "blogging" and "writing", because blogging has always been about writing for me, but some of the most successful travel bloggers are not successful because of their fantastic writing skills (most DO have these skills, but not exclusively) - it's that they are driven, often self-taught, business and marketing-minded individuals. I would love to build those skills myself, but what I have the capacity for at the moment is just continuing to write consistent, information-filled (sometimes silly!) blog posts.
Think hard about what motivates you to write and keep a blog. Do you look forward to writing? I do! I find it therapeutic and fun, and I’ll love it even if I never make money doing it. Would you still want to blog if it doesn’t end up being lucrative? Would you still want to blog if it does? How would you feel if you were pressured to write about a specific topic at a specific time?
My suggestions: write about things you feel passionately about, be picky about what you say yes to, and don't undervalue your time. Know that it takes TIME, money, hard work, research, and skill-building to monetize your blog, if that's what you choose to do.
Overall, in the last few years of having Les Talk, More Travel, one of the things I’ve felt the most pride and satisfaction from has been having members of MY community - other lesbian and queer travel bloggers - acknowledge my blog and connect with me so that we could collaborate in some way. Like this interview with En Route with Love! What an honour :) THOSE are the most important and rewarding connections to foster!
Your blog post "How Travel Helped Me Come Out" is also a very personal and important piece of writing. There is a small portion on how you took some of your travel time to soak up queer television, and as a person who relied heavily on media arts to come out, I am curious as to how this influenced you in your journey?
Media arts are so important! I do think it's different now, because most TV shows have at least one queer character, often a lesbian, and often a femme lesbian. That wasn't something I had really even considered when I first saw the L Word, and then I was like whoaaa lesbians can look like me (well like... a way hotter version of me :P), so... I could be a lesbian?! As I tried to work up the courage to come out (this lasted a few years), queer shows and movies helped me feel less isolated. There may not have been too many with happy endings, but just knowing they were out there, that there were other people who watched them, helped me believe in the possibility of community in the future. (Or maybe I didn’t think that far ahead and just liked watching all the gay ladies hook up :P)
How has your experience traveling with a same-sex partner differed than traveling as a solo, queer individual?
I think that because I can pass as straight, my experience travelling with my partner is much more queer than when I’m on my own. We're usually a visible couple, and when we're together we tend to explore the queer scene a little more. When I'm on my own, I do try to seek out queer spaces, but I just travel differently. I spend a lot more time introverting - exploring during the day, and staying in in the evening. My girlfriend and I are really lucky; we both love solo travel, so even when we travel together, we try to work in some days and sometimes overnights where we go off and do our own thing. I think our identities as independent travellers are just as important - if not more - than our identities as queer travellers!
Do you feel more or less guarded being openly queer when you travel in regards to public acceptance? What has been your experience with this?
It really depends on the place. Like most LGBTQ+ couples I know, we research destinations ahead of time to find out how queer-friendly they are. It's not the deciding factor in terms of whether or not we go, but it affects how we act in public. We save PDA for places where we feel safe, and will usually even wait to hold hands until we get a sense of the place. Sometimes, it's about gut instinct, even if a place is supposedly 'friendly'.
What are your tips on researching places to stay and things to do when traveling to countries that may not be as accepting of queer couples?
This is a long one! Short answer: Connect with local queers if possible! LGBTQ+ travel bloggers (like the ones featured on this website!) are always good resources. Search “lesbian/queer/gay/LGBT (destination)” and you are likely to find some decent information! For accommodation, try searching Airbnb or Couchsurfing for terms like "lesbian" or "queer". Meetup.com and Facebook often have active, queer social groups and links to events pages.
Long answer: I would say that Step One is to look up laws and rights regarding homosexuality/same-sex relationships in the country. If it’s illegal or things sounds really bad, do you really want to go? I would think about not only my own safety (as a white, cis, straight-passing tourist who can come and go as I please), but the safety of queer residents.
Is it taboo to come out to family or employers there? Is there community, is there access to health info or LGBTQ+ rights groups? I can't always find these answers. But I think as queer travellers, it's really important to be conscious of the privilege we have when we travel to countries where - even if we have a bad experience - we made the choice to come and we have the option (and funds) to leave. We have the option to display affection in public, or to choose not to, and know that we can go home to our regular lives and spaces where we're comfortable being queer.
I don’t mean to say this in a judgemental way - I’ve been to countries in the past without doing thorough research, and I may choose to visit countries in the future where it’s illegal to be gay. Just something I think critically about when brainstorming how to become a better traveller ;)
You have had multiple experiences working and living overseas: picking fruit in Australia; teaching English in Korea; how difficult was it to find work and what tips would you give to others looking to do something similar?
I actually wrote a really long answer to this question, but I think it might be beyond the scope of this interview. I’d like to write a post about it sometime, but in the meantime, please feel free to send me any questions you have about working holidays in Australia, including fruit picking, and teaching English in South Korea!
The short answer: when I visited, it was not very hard to find work in either Australia (2008-2009) or Korea (2012-2015)! The long answer: it depends. If you're like me, it's important to be picky (in both places), and you need to meet some requirements for visas and jobs (e.g. in South Korea, you need a bachelor’s degrees for most teaching jobs).
As a preliminary step, websites I found helpful in Australia were https://www.gumtree.com.au/jobs, and https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest (for fruit picking), but walking into a shop or restaurant that’s hiring is a good bet in cities. In Korea, Daves ESL cafe (http://www.eslcafe.com/) is a great place to start. Be picky if you want to work in a specific city, be aware of the working hours, and ask lots of questions.
You have been to multiple continents, and a handful of countries. What has been your favorite place that you've visited and why?
You've asked so many wonderful, thought-provoking questions... but this is by far the hardest one! However, I love reflecting on places I've been :) I’ve been lucky enough to visit 33 countries, and have lived on a few continents. Every experience was important (and usually delicious). Seoul holds a special place in my heart because I lived there for two years at a time when my identity was really taking shape. I really miss it in a painful, nostalgic way sometimes, but I know that going back would be a different - yet still wonderful - experience. But beyond my personal experience, Korea is such a wonderful destination! The food, the public baths, the landscapes, the subway system, the city neighbourhoods, the noraebangs (karaoke-type rooms), the people, the history - you name it, Korea’s got it.
More recent faves have been trips with my amazing girlfriend, for obvious reasons! We took a fantastic trip down the Oregon Coast a couple years ago, playing on sand dunes and whale watching from shore. We also did a 4 day hike along the coast on Vancouver Island (our home), which was incredible (like… HARD, but fun)!
Do you feel it is just as important for people to explore their own country/state as it is for them to travel abroad?
YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES! I'm a strong believer in travel being everything from exploring your own city to visiting a new country. I could spend the next few years never leaving British Columbia and never run out of beautiful places to see. My biggest travel goal for the coming year is to visit more of the small islands close to Vancouver Island.
What are some "must see" areas in Canada that you would recommend to queer travelers visiting for the first time?
The West Coast of Canada is a great place for queer travellers! It's generally very safe, especially in cities like Vancouver and Victoria, and there’s an queer community. Plus, it's stunningly beautiful: PNW beaches, ancient forests, mountain views - it’s all here. Come to Vancouver Island, queer travellers, I'd love to meet you!
I could keep going with recommendations for places all over Canada (I’m from Ottawa originally); let me know if you have questions about travel in the Great White North!
Last fun question: What is one thing that you CAN'T be without when traveling?
Podcasts! I’ve started downloading a bunch before I travel. I love By the Book: two hilarious women try living by different self-help books for 2 weeks at a time and talk about their experiences!