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Your Toolbox for International Travel

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How does being on a maintenance crew help you to travel?

To think that digging deeper into one stagnant place, sometimes literally to run electrical wiring or plant trees, would in turn help spread your wings. Yet, there are many things I learned as part of the maintenance crew at a camp facility. Paint will always make it’s way onto your clothing, coffee truly does boost morale, and leaf blowers are a source of power and unparalleled joy. Physical work is interestingly fulfilling, sometimes those who work the hardest earn the least, and time must be made for creation.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned in these two weeks: Don’t forget your tools.

So naturally, that’s what I did. Amidst the chill of a November morning, my coffee still waking up in waves of steam, I dragged my legs across the gravel road. Back towards the shed, where the day started and where our future progress rested. When I secured my grasp on the small, silver chunks of the ratchet set, I felt as though I was bringing the team to victory. My muscles turned slowly, I checked the volume of my podcast, and made my way back down the road.

As I prepare to fly to South America on November 28th, I have searched the high and low depths of the internet for answers to so many questions. I failed in finding the shed of hope or a shiny, metallic cluster of utensils for assistance. So, I have compiled the various tools from my research into the following list. Consider this to be our traveling toolbox, one that we can grab from our pockets for an easy fix or how-to.

With my steadfast belief in the power of travel to aid in our understandings of ourselves and others, I hope this toolbox helps you feel better equipped to buy that ticket! 

Dolla-Dolla Bills

-Spread it like Skippy!

Avoid traveling with a lump sum of cash. Spread your money throughout your belongings and your clothing to help you adapt in emergency situations.

-Travelers Checks or Prepaid Credit

Avoid a cash shortage by using variations of payment, such as a Travelers Check or Credit Card. Although somewhat archaic, Travelers Checks can only be cashed by you, can help with budgeting, and don’t rely on an ATM. However, they do rely on your ability to find local banks and may still have currency exchange charges.

Through VISA, TravelEx, and Mastercard, you can purchase prepaid credit cards offered at a nearby Rite-Aid, Wal-mart, or CVS. These cards can be used at accepting locations, as well as upon your return to your homeland. Fidelity is a great option that offers cards without foreign-transaction fees or minimum balance limits.

-Call your Bank

Make sure to update your bank account with your travel plans. It is a real burden to be abroad with a frozen credit card, especially when the suspected fraud is simply you trying to buy a souvenir in Paris .

-Cover the Real Bills

Automate your payments and postpone incoming mail prior to your departure. Review your insurance plans and commit to a travel insurance payment if necessary.

-RFID Wallet

Made by Pacsafe and sold by REI Co-Op, this wallet prevents electronic-scanning theft, prevents cut-and-run theft, and can hold multiple passports and cash.

Security and Health

-Make Copies of your Passport and Health Forms

Carry replications of your passport with you and leave a few copies with an emergency contact. This should also be done for prescription and immunization forms, a great side-effect of a routine check-up at your primary care before leaving.

-Register with the Designated Embassy

This will simplify the process of contacting the government for any needs of safety or assistance. When doing so, you can check for entry/exit fees or necessary vaccinations.

-Create an Itinerary

Make an outline of your expected plans, especially your purpose of entry and departure information, and the conversation with immigration officials will flow more smoothly. This will encourage you to organize your own plans, print any maps, and leave behind an itinerary with an emergency contact.

-First-Aid and Health Supplies

With an immune system that weakens with a sneeze, I have learned to always carry a Med-Kit. This page from the CDC helps to narrow down what will be worth having on-reserve.

-Osprey Backpack

I will be carrying such medicine in this pack, the Ariel AGTM 75L, throughout my upcoming trip and beyond. With a simple rain cover, it does an exceptional job fitting all of my needs, blocks any roaming hands, and it sits comfortably on my hips!

Ayo Technology

-Cellular Plan

Contact your provider, find the most logical international plan at a reasonable cost, and make sure to activate the global settings on your phone. It is possible to forgo your home plan and take advantage of the cellular data of the country you’re visiting by transferring your SIM-card, which should hold your saved contacts and numbers, into a phone purchased abroad. 

-Portable Power Bank

POM Power2Go helps me to stay charged, yet there are many options that will allow you to charge your devices on-the-go. These mobile batteries vary in terms of how many charge cycles they provide, the average charge time, and the number of devices that can be charged simultaneously.

-Plug Adapter

It’s electric! Really though, make sure you check the common plug type and voltage of the country or countries you are visiting. This Kikkerland adapter seems to be popular, while this Skross adapter will assist with both plug and voltage adaptation.

Other Knowledge Nuggets

-Can I have your Card?

Use this business pick-up-line and place the card in your wallet to avoid losing track of your hostel or favorite restaurant.

-Prevent Hanger

Save yourself (and others) and bring snacks everywhere.

-Transportation Apps

By downloading international maps, you can follow along with public transportation to confirm that you are taking the best route. Don’t forget about the screenshot! This allows you to save your route as an image, which you can zoom into and expand without using any data.

-Avoid Public Nudity

Or don’t, if that is your thing. But do pack some clothing in your carry-on and explore options for how to check your bag.

-Hydrate or Die-drate

Not all places boast the advantages of filtered tap water or fountains, so you will need to set aside a balance for purchasing water bottles. If you’re expecting low water accessibility, consider this gear for filtering and disinfecting your H2O.

As an LGBTQ+ Traveler

Do your research! It is well-known that the LGBTQ+ community faces specific political, economic, and social challenges around the world.

For anyone planning to travel alone and/or as an open member or ally to the LGBTQ+ community, here are the resources that I have found to be most helpful: GlobalGayz, GayTravel, and PurpleRoofs.


While this list may aid in travel preparation, it is certainly not all-inclusive. Please share this article and tell us at TravelPride what additional tools help you to travel more proudly! Thanks for reading, and be on the look-out for my first post from Peru!

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Letters From Abu Ghraib: Visiting the Middle East

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THE MIDDLE EAST – AUGUST, 29TH 2017 – Most of us know how horrible certain areas of this region can be to our community.  To say that the temperament towards LGBTQ+ people is hostile would be a severe understatement. Unfortunately, this is causing us to miss out on a myriad of fun and magical experiences. This article will share some top attractions from the Middle East (predominantly Dubai ) and give advice on how to remain undetected while visiting the region.  It will also detail the horrors that could happen to our community at any moment if we are not careful.

 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Boasting a very modern feel for a hot spot most people think is nothing more than picking sand out of your trunks, Dubai houses only the top destinations.  

If you love to shop and play all at the same time there is the legendary Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping malls on Earth. It is home to some of the top name brands such as Armani, Versace, and Alexander McQueen. There are children’s parks and gourmet restaurants attached, too. The mall even houses its own aquarium containing over thirty thousand species of marine life1.

On the flip side, some may prefer relaxation and leisure over activity. Certainly then, you must check out the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. JW is a Five-Star hotel in the heart of the city and sports cutting edge technology in its business center and a legendary spa. Bars and a top of the line fitness wing complete the hotel’s elegance2. Interesting trivia: You might remember Tom Cruise climbing up one of the towers in a certain film… from the outside!

 

Cairo, Egypt

 

Perhaps you are one of the people that yearn for a more rugged experience. Look no further than Egypt.  The nightlife may be fantastic, but even more impressive is the Great Pyramid of Giza, only a short distance away. The impressive, massive structure is actually a burial tomb of the ancient pharaohs and is one of the world’s seven wonders3. Be sure to pose by the guardian sphinx for some memorable snapshots. To cool off, take a stroll by the Nile River that runs past the city. Careful though: You must show respect for the Nile’s bounty lest you upset it’s protecting deities Isis and Sebek.

 

Warnings from the Author

 

Low key is the key. With countless news stories showing beheadings, stonings, and even ISIS casting helpless victims off tall buildings, many people ask why no one has stepped in to end these atrocities. The answer is simple: Homosexuality is illegal in most of the Middle East. This is not just a government law, but a religious one, too. If you are still planning a trip to this region, please pay attention to the next section of this article and seek outside resources and/or protection. For more information on what it is like to be LGBTQ+ in this region, it may be beneficial to read Brian Whitaker and Anna Wilson’s book, “Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East” or another similar text4. I know many of us hate hiding who we are and if that is you, there is nothing wrong with that – but I encourage you to rethink your plans. I have a special word of caution for women: If you are travelling with men and they should happen to offend you in any way, do not let native Arabic men/women see any signs of an altercation. Address matters privately and quietly in the safety of your hotel room or living quarters.

 

Conclusion

Again, I urge you to seek additional help from others both inside and outside of the Community.  It only adds to your benefit.  Most importantly, though, enjoy your trip!

 

  1. “Revel In Retail At The Dubai Mall.”  Dubai Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing.  29 Aug 2017.  https://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/dubai-mall.
  2. “JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai.”  Marriott International Inc.  2017.  http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbjw-jw-marriott-marquis-hotel-dubai/
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica.  “Pyramids of Giza.”   Encyclopaedia Britannica.  26 June 2017.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pyramids-of-Giza
  4. Whitaker, Brian & Anna Wilson.  “Unspeakable Love:  Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East.”  Amazon.com.  2006.  https://www.amazon.com/Unspeakable-Love-Lesbian-Life-Middle/dp/0520250176/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1504028713&sr=8-12&keywords=gays+in+the+middle+east+books

Originally posted 2017-09-22 12:50:33.

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TSA: Transphobic (in)Secure A**holes

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Traveling is stressful for everyone, especially when it’s time to go through airport security. People of color, those who speak English as a second language, the elderly, and trans folks are groups of travelers that often face different struggles when interacting with TSA agents than their white, cis, and straight counterparts. Not only are these encounters more frequent and unique, they have higher risk factors and more severe consequences when things don’t run smoothly.

If you aren’t deemed “normal” by the individual TSA agent supervising your line or X-ray station, you may not be able to get on your flight; you may be detained, harassed, and assaulted.

In September 2015, Shadi Petosky faced all of these monstrosities, and recorded her experience on her twitter account. Hida Viloria, a writer and intersex activist, also had a traumatizing experience in 2017. Apparently, little progress has been made regarding the lack of respect, and courtesy displayed by TSA agents.

#NotAllTSA

The Transportation Security Administration is but another example of a federal institution abusing their power, and causing more harm than good. It’s true that not all TSA agents fall under this description, but that doesn’t make the TSA as an agency or going through security at an airport any better. In fact, these “good” TSA agents are the epitome of “apathetic Americans.”

In this setting, the severe concentration of multitudes of microaggressions, coupled with a powerful position, do not yield a positive result.

Symptoms of a Larger Problem

Overcoming an obstacle is always easier when it is broken down into smaller pieces. By addressing individual factors that create the problematic TSA that we have today, we become one step closer to finding a solution. Three key features that intersect with one another can be identified not only in the TSA, but also federal institutions like the police, armed forces, and even corporations.

  1. Toxic Masculinity
  2. Insecurity
  3. Greed

Toxic Masculinity – the Root of Many Problems

According to Huffington Post,Toxic masculinity is built on two fundamental pillars: sexual conquest and violence.” When pat downs turn into groping, and escorting passengers becomes shoving, pushing, and literally dragging individuals, it becomes clear that the TSA stands firmly on both of these pillars.

Once introduced to this level of power, it’s easy for it to get to one’s head.  The National Center for Transgender Equality strongly encourages avoiding confrontations with TSA personnel if at all possible. Like a hard drug, just a taste can leave you craving more. Not only is this problematic, but it can easily become deadly with the simple addition of a baton.

Like a bully finding out their victim won’t be pushed around anymore, TSA agents and police officers feel scared and insecure when they are called out for their behavior. Their power is being threatened. These are the moments that we watch on the news and read about online. These are the moments when innocent people die.

Our Existence is Resistance

It may look like our future is bleak. We are living in dangerous times. Many do not “understand” our community, and with ignorance comes fear – a high-risk emotion, especially when coupled with access to weapons.

It is important to remember that not all violence is created with guns; never has the pen been mightier than the sword than when it is creating legislation.

However, we are not paralyzed; we can remind our senators and representatives of their true employers: their constituents.

Click here to find your senator and representative and how to contact them.

Now more than ever we need to unite as a community. We need to remember that we are magical. We are beautiful. We are a strong, resilient, and courageous community, and we will not let these transphobic, insecure assholes keep us from getting on our flight!


Resources

For a PDF of The National Center for Transgender Equality’s Guide to Airport Security and Rights of Trans People, click here.

If you have been mistreated, or had an unsatisfactory experience with TSA personnel, click here for information on how to file a complaint.

If you have access to a smartphone, consider downloading the app FlyRights. It provides a way to immediately file a report of an incident of discrimination with TSA and DHS when it occurs. Click here for more information. It is available for both iPhones and Android smartphones.

Originally posted 2017-09-21 19:42:36.


Also published on Medium.

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5 Best Educational YouTubers for LGBTQ+ people

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Students are heading back to school, but why should young people be the only ones getting educated? With that in mind, here are my top five educational YouTubers for LGBTQ+ people, no matter your age.

 

Best for LGBTQ+ information: Ash Hardell

Everyone has questions about being LGBTQ+, even those within the community, and it can sometimes be hard to know how to get honest, reliable answers. Luckily Ash, who is genderqueer and pronoun indifferent, has answered a lot of the most burning questions for you.

Whether you’re interested in learning about a sexuality or gender identity other than your own (I had some questions about asexuality which I felt inappropriate to ask the asexuals that I knew in real life) or you’re still figuring out how you identify or you want to know how to be a better ally to your fellow queer people, they probably have a video for you.

 

Best for LGBTQ+ History: Tyler Oakley

They say that to know where we have to go, we must know where we’ve been, which is why it’s important to learn about LGBTQ+ history and celebrate it. Too much of history erases the contributions of LGBTQ+ people and it’s time to put an end to it.

Tyler is in the middle of a series where he talks about the trailblazing LGBTQ+ activists who inspire him; making sure to amplify POC  to avoid whitewashing our history and combat the vilification of their voices.

He also hosts a series called Stories of Queer Resistance, in which he discussed the Stonewall Riots which kicked off the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the USA (which I also covered back in July).

 

Best for Sex Ed: Sexplanations

I think most people would agree that their sex ed classes in school left a lot to be desired; using hetero-normative and cis-normative language, teaching abstinence-only, not teaching you about contraception for sexual acts other than penis in vagina sex.

Now when I began this piece I wanted to include all LGBTQ+ YouTubers but I ran into a slight problem with the sex ed section because gay men would talk about sex ed for MSM, lesbians would talk about WSW, trans people would talk about sex for trans people etc etc. However, I wanted someone who would address all facets of sex ed, so that no matter your sexuality or gender identity, you could become educated too.

Dr Lindsey Doe is a clinical sexologist who not only covers sexual health but also how to perform certain sex acts (giving a blowjob, cunnilingus, and eating ass) using inanimate objects to demonstrate. She also does her best to avoid problematic language- like associating penis with male and vagina with female- or shaming people for their sexual desires.

A strong advocate for consent, completely non-judgmental about sexual acts, and willing to answer your questions. She’s the sex ed teacher that I wish I’d had.

 

Best for Politics: Riley J Dennis

Riley, whom you may recognize from my podcast recommendations piece, vlogs regularly on trending politics and social justice issues, such as Drumpf’s firing of Comey, the Nazi riots in Charlottesville, and DACA.

She also breaks down complicated topics that rarely make it into the news cycle (like civil asset forfeiture and queer coding) into easily understandable segments without making you feel dumb, so if you think you could benefit from a more in-depth knowledge of the political issue de jour, then check out Riley’s channel.

 

Best for Mental Health:  MarinaShutUp

I don’t think it’s a secret that LGBTQ+ people have a higher rate of mental health problems than the general population (one of the unfortunate by-products of discrimination) so we should be honest about our issues and unafraid to voice them.

Marina, a queer woman of color, is very open about her struggles with mental health problems (like negative body image, depression, and social anxiety) as well as providing practical tips for self-care (look after yourself folks!). She’s honest about her own struggles, her mistakes, and her journey, which makes those watching feel less alone with their mental health issues.

 

So what did you think of these YouTubers? Who is your favorite on this list? Who do you wish I’d included? Let me know in the comments below.

Originally posted 2017-09-20 14:18:00.

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