0

Out Adventures – LGBT Adventure and Sustainable Travel

Photo Courtesy of Out Adventures

Over the years, travel has evolved in so many wonderful ways it is impossible to list them all. Within this evolution, travelers decide what they wish to do on their voyages and book trips catering to those wonderful endeavors—from adventure and romance, to knowledge and quests for enlightenment.

Whatever the heart wants within these ventures, chances are, is now possible.

With the dawn of a new era of travel and types of travelers, comes the need for group vacations with like minded people. These are the travelers who seek a positive, fun-fill time away from real life and the ennui of the typical all-inclusive and resort traps. This is where Out Adventures comes in. With a demographic of mostly gay men between the ages of 40 and 45 years old from around the world, they offer customized tours, unique excursions and knowledgeable local experts to give each client authentic experiences of the lands they visit.

Photo Courtesy of Out Adventures

I had the pleasure of speaking with Robert Sharp, co-owner of Out Adventures.  After travelling the world extensively, with fellow co-owner Steven Larkin, they believed there was a gap in the travel industry in relation to LGBT travelers seeking adventure and sustainable travel. They partnered with Intrepid Travel, for the first little while, to fill this void and revolutionize the way LGBT adventure seekers view vacations.  Over the years, Out Adventures have grown exponentially running about 30 trips per year covering destinations such as Morocco, Thailand, Cambodia, Peru and Cuba (to name a few). When asked how far in advance a traveler should book, Robert replied, “Six months is the sweet spot.”

But this is not just another company. Out Adventures’ slogan tells its clients to get out and experience the real world. Robert would be the first to tell you, Out Adventures’ jaunts around the globe is not for everyone. On their website, they tell you quite implicitly, to “think twice before you book.” When asked why that advice, Robert explains “Out Adventures’ holidays fully appreciate cultures and lifestyles that are often very different from our own. You are not sheltered from the cultural differences, inefficiencies or frustrations that are part of the places we visit. The emphasis is placed on getting OUT and experiencing the real world.”

Quite simply? They do things like hiking the Inca Trail in Peru. It is not a simple task so you must do your research before booking with them. If you are not the hiking type then do not get that one—find another trip among Out Adventures’ vast array of globe-trotting festivities that would more suit your liking.

Photo Courtesy of Out Adventures

They are different from the mainstream travel agencies and package sellers out there. Why? The answer to that is simple—Out Adventures caters especially to Gay travelers and they are connected to the pulse of what their clients want and need.  “The mainstream brand can “pink wash” anything,” Robert tells me.  “But Out Adventures is more hands on. We can find ‘gay welcoming’ companies and guides. We’re more experienced in that area.”

Out Adventures is a fresh way of looking at what the LGBT community wants and needs when it comes to adventure travel. It gives them a positive place to freely go around the globe and soak in all the cultures and beauty the world has to offer. While Robert understands that not every experience will be perfect, he insists that Out Adventures plan and research everything to ensure their clients have the best, most amazing experience with their company and on their vacations. From what I gather from Robert Sharp, Out Adventures is not merely a company but a labour of love that they spread to every voyage they put together.

Oh and for you heterosexuals who would love to go—let’s say for some peace in the Galapagos Islands—with your LGBT BFF? Never fear, because I asked Robert about Out Adventures’ policy on that and he says quite simply, “you are welcome here.”

Now, if you’d like to see what Out Adventures has on tap for the upcoming season, please click here for their Calendar.

Follow them:

 twitter 

Facebook

Website

**A Special thank you to Robert Sharp of Out Adventures for allowing me to interview him for this article.

0

Port Macquarie – Australia!

Ladies and gentlemen! Please welcome Brian Curtin, fellow eXtasy author! He is here to show us beautiful Port Macquarie Australia!

Port Macquarie is roughly 400 Kilometres north of Sydney and 600 south of Brisbane Queensland. It is accessible by land, sea or air, with scheduled flights daily via Qantas and Virgin Blue to and from Sydney and Brisbane.

The people here are extremely friendly in the clubs and in the street.

My favourite club is the Westport. Where you can sit and relax or wine and dine, with a magnificent view of the Hastings River through the massive glass wall, that extends from a lounge to a snack and coffee bar, and through to the restaurant. Visitors and children are welcome and children can sit almost anywhere provided adults accompany them.

There is an excellent bus service within township and outer smaller towns such as Kempsey, Wauchope, and Kendall.

Ideally situated at the mouth of the Hastings River and the blue Pacific Ocean, Port Macquarie is a water lovers paradise. Fifteen pristine beaches, most of them patrolled, line the coast from Port Macquarie south to the Camden Haven. Enjoy the coastal walks, surfing, sail boarding, swimming, fishing, whale watching, and even camel rides. Many beaches feature barbecue facilities and playgrounds.

The European settlement of Port Macquarie was established in 1821, three years after John Oxley reached the region by trekking down the Hastings River from the New England area. It is one of the oldest penal settlements outside of Sydney. Many early structures still stand today, along with a range of museums and interpretive centres, ideally suited to the history buff.

Today, with a population of over 40,000 people, Port Macquarie is the regional centre for the area.

You will be impressed by the range of accommodation, the pubs, clubs and shops and the diversity of places to wine and dine, including several award winning restaurants.

Brian Curtin

1

[Guest Blogger] Romance with Hawai’i – AJ Llewellyn

Hello everyone! I am so happy to welcome the lovely and talented AJ Llewellyn to First of a Thousand Steps!
______________________________
I was so thrilled to be asked to blog about my romance with the Hawaiian Islands today because they are never far from my mind or heart. Today especially, I feel it’s a gift to be able to share my thoughts because I am reading a mystery novel set in Honolulu that up until a certain point had me completely captivated. I knew all the sites the author talked about, knew the surfing breaks and the dirty streets of Chinatown…and then I came to a part where he made up a restaurant on River Street!

Matthias33 – Dreamstime.com

At first I was surprised. How come I didn’t know about this Ah Fook on River Street? The River Street I know is not a nice place to visit, in spite of its historic importance to the islands’ history. It’s a jumbled mess of Laundromats, flop houses that stink of human urine and a batch of loitering drunks trying to decide if they can be quick enough to pick-pocket you…

A quick Google search showed me I hadn’t been wrong. The restaurant doesn’t exist.
I suppose I shouldn’t be disappointed. Some authors opt for this fake restaurant routine but since everything else was so accurate in the story I felt a little robbed. I’d like to think of River Street as having a decent restaurant. In fact, I’d love to see River Street cleaned up.

Many of my books are set in Hawaii, most in Honolulu. I have a special love for Chinatown since it’s the oldest Chinatown in the whole of the United States, plus, it has survived plague, two fires (one whose origin is a mystery and the other set by the Department of Health in a misguided attempt to stem the tide of the plague).

It has survived World War II and the stream of military men who once crowded its streets to visit the 200 women on Hotel Street who serviced them. These women worked out of motel rooms turned brothels on the first floor of many of these once-cheap motels. Very few of the hotels are still there–but I found the Midway, on River Street ironically–though there is no marker, no indication of the history of these rundown places.

Chinatown has survived the loss of Wo Fat, the oldest Chinese restaurant in the US. So special was this place that Jack Lord, the original star and producer of Hawaii Five-O named his perpetual nemesis and the show’s lingering bad guy after it.

Five years ago I went to Wo Fat for dinner not knowing it was on its last legs. The restaurant, once two floors and an entire block of bustling action, was reduced to one section of the second floor. A rock and roll band played during a Sunday afternoon dim sum seating. I had no idea then that just a little bit of dancing would have seen the thin floor crashing through to the ground.

I was too busy enjoying my chop sui (their spelling, not mine) trying to imagine how different it might have tasted in World War II. My ancient host claimed it hadn’t changed a bit so I savored the sense-memory and used it in two books; The Forbidden Island and Vagabond Heart.

The restaurant is gone but the sign is still there. It probably always will be. And if you stand long enough in front of it, I swear you will smell chop sui drifting out of the windows.

Chinatown was once the special province of a remarkable man called Detective John Jardine who sensed before anybody else in the islands that Chinatown was a den of thieves. In the forties and fifties, when he was the top criminal investigator, Asian bad guys swamped the islands with their shell games, drug dealings, tattoo parlors, opium deals…you name it.

I read his autobiography and could identify with Jardine’s passion for the place in spite of its problems. A lot of the things he wrote about are still there. And that’s why I love Chinatown and urge anyone reading this to visit.

First and foremost are the Buddhist river temples few guidebooks talk about. Many have been there for decades and they are a spiritual respite from the workaday world.

If you are lucky, you might meet one of the tour guides geared towards Asian visitors who will take you to the underground caves once used for drug smuggling!

And, if you are looking for an authentic, fresh flower lei and/or island flowers at bargain prices, look no further than King Street. This street is small but bursting with tiny lei shops where the women hand string their leis on cotton the way they have in the islands for centuries. King Street is possibly the island of Oahu’s best-kept secret.

If you want fresh fish, the Oahu Market has an astonishing array of fish you have never heard of. I went a couple of years ago and made a list of the stuff they had packed in ice. Then I Googled them. Some were parasitic fish that adhere themselves to sharks and whales…I never heard of such a thing and the teeth on these babies were frightening. No wonder we’ve seen an increase in shark attacks. These sea critters are pissed!

These fish found their way into my Waikiki Vampire series since they are often referred to as vampire fish…

For unusual fruits and vegetables, the markets on Maunakea Street all the way down toward River Street have been there for over a century. I love knowing that the veggie stands Detective Jardine once frequented are still there. Some of the fruit is doggone weird but hey, you can buy cheap flip-flops and back scratchers while you’re at it, so it’s all good in the hood.

Though there is much gentrification going on with old ginseng shops being turned into art galleries, the pavements of Chinatown are the same. So are the exteriors of the buildings.

My passion/fascination for River Street goes back to the time when a river really ran through the area. Now it’s blocked by a bridge, but it’s there. Back in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, Chinese housewives and freed sugar plantation workers bathed, washed their clothes and drew water from there. Chinatown at the turn of the twentieth century was so overcrowded and sanitation so poor that the plague broke out thanks to escaping rats docking from trade ships. The photos of the local men gathered in the city’s center, naked, as their meager possessions are burned by the state officials still haunt me.

In April, I visited Chinatown with my writing partner, Serena Yates. We ate dim sum at Legends seafood, immortalized in my entire Phantom Lover series. I was thrilled that ships still dock at the nearby Aloha Tower, though I didn’t see any half-naked girls wading out to sea with leis and ukuleles to greet them.
Maybe, like me, they were too busy eating toasted taro balls.

Serena was as taken by Legends as I was…I hope her visit there stirred her senses and her creative juices. I know it did for me.

It is with a sense of nostalgia for time and times I never knew but wished I had that I return to Chinatown again and again. As the Hawaiians like to say, “They were days that were days indeed…”

And if you should go to Chinatown and notice a man standing under the art deco lampposts watching you from his hiding place of cigarette smoke and the brim of his fedora, it’s probably the ghost of Detective Jardine. He died a long time ago but was only inducted to Hawaii’s hall of fame in the year 2000.

I’ve seen him myself. Watching me. Watching his town. He’s gone, but still loves Chinatown. He is there, just beyond the rainbow, watching us all…as we each in our own and very unique ways, find Aloha.

Aloha oe,
A.J.
http://www.ajllewellyn.com
http://www.twitter.com/ajllewellyn
http://www.facebook.com/aj.llewellyn