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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

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Building A Local LGBTQ+ Travel Itinerary With Grindr

Beyond finding “fun,” Grindr’s global network of 12 million monthly users can offer local LGBTQ+ recommendations and experiences for hundreds of destinations – you just need to explore…

By Stephan Petar 

As soon as your Grindr profile says “visiting,” the app’s distinctive notification ping starts going off. It notifies you of the locals trying to grab your attention with a “Hey,” an unlocked album or a simple “Looking?” 

It’s easy to dismiss Grindr as a hookup app to find fun. While that is a common intention (I’ll admit to it), the app is also a beneficial travel tool and one I encourage others to use when planning a trip. That’s why, as soon as I exit the plane and step into Wi-Fi range, I search for the little yellow skull and change my bio to some variation of “Canadian visiting, send recommendations!”

Building an itinerary using Google or TripAdvisor can become repetitive. It can lack local and LGBTQ+ recommendations in favour of points of interest that every tourist will inevitably flock to. Of course, when in Rome, see The Coliseum where Lizzie McGuire fictionally performed What Dream Are Made Of, or have a staring contest with the Mona Lisa in Paris.

Finding a LGBTQ+ travel experience can be hard. If you type in “LGBTQ+ [enter destination],” you’ll easily find a rainbow crosswalk, a queer district, clubs and sauna recommendations. You’ll even likely discover sites that are iconic to the global community or those featured in pop culture. Other than that, though, you’re really digging for any sort of LGBTQ+ experience or history, which isn’t surprising, as those stories were usually overlooked or silenced.

ABOVE (left): HIV mural in Belgium / ABOVE (right top): Axel and Eigil, T-shirts in Denmark from the first same-sex couple in the world to enter in a legal union / ABOVE (right bottom): Rainbow Street in Iceland (All photo by Stephan Petar)

A survey revealed that 57 per cent of Canadian LGBTQ+ travelers are more likely to choose travel that allows them to learn more about the historical aspects of the LGBTQ+ community in their chosen destination. That is almost the same number (56 per cent) when compared to all respondents in the full survey, which spoke to more than 5,500 individuals in over 20 countries. 

That’s where a “hookup” app like Grindr, or even Scruff, can come in handy. Before leaving, I use the Grindr Explore function (limitless access with Grindr Xtra or Unlimited, and three profile unlocks daily with the free version), and begin making connections with locals. I recommend putting your travel dates in the profile, so they’re aware you’re not some bored Canadian looking for nudes. 

The function introduces individuals who become unofficial tour guides. They’re people who live the LGBTQ+ lifestyle at that destination and have either been part of its history or heard stories from community members about it. 

They can guide you to murals, monuments or businesses; tell you where up-and-coming drag queens or kings are performing; or where local artists who are part of the community are showcasing their work. They can also likely advise on popularized points of interest that have an LGBTQ+ connection. Not to mention tell you how that club/bar that Google recommended may have played a larger role in regards to LGBTQ+ activism. 

Photo by Astrobobo on Pixabay

You can also get general advice and tips that are honest, because you’re speaking with people advocating for how amazing their city is. They want to be a good host and make sure you enjoy your time. So, you’ll get the details on best places to eat or drink, what to check out, when to go out, the tourist traps to avoid and more. 

I’ve experienced all of this first-hand. In Iceland, I didn’t listen to the advice of tour guides or hotel staff, but rather dictated my entire food journey thanks to men on Grindr. One recommendation was to eat at a fish store where locals get their daily catch, as it had a small kitchen that serves lunch. These unofficial tour guides have led me to quieter beaches in Cascais, Portugal, where locals and their dogs relax, swim and jump off an old stone bridge. They even suggest day trips to other small overlooked towns.

The last statistic I’ll pull from is that 68 per cent of Canadian respondents (and 64 per cent globally) consider their safety and well-being when choosing a destination. My Belgium friend, who I met on Grindr and largely inspired how I use the app, told me that above all, “Grindr is a social media platform, so people can recommend to you places to go that are safe and [places] that should be avoided at all costs.”

It’s especially true for those visiting places that don’t have the best LGBTQ+ track record, and for solo travellers in search of companions. Sometimes you need a travel buddy, and while websites suggest free walking tours or hostels as a way to make friends, they’re suggestions not always looked at with an LGBTQ+ lens. Coming out to complete strangers can be difficult and dangerous. This is a dilemma for many of my solo travelling friends and myself, but with any LGBTQ+ social app, you diminish that risk. 

Grindr (or any LGBTQ+ dating app) is a powerful travel tool no matter what its popular reputation suggests. It’s a network creating community and providing unique experiences to broaden your knowledge that you’ll likely share with others. Just remember to pay it forward with your own recommendations when a tourist comes into town.

STEPHAN PETAR is a born and raised Torontonian, known for developing lifestyle, entertainment, travel, historical and 2SLGBTQ+ content. He enjoys wandering the streets of any destination he visits, where he’s guaranteed to discover something new or meet someone who will inspire his next story. 

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