In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with Stefan and Sebastien, the travel-blogging couple behind Nomadic Boys. We chat with Stefan and Sebastien about how their passion for travel began, what it’s like to travel the world as a gay couple, their favorite things to do in their home of Cyprus, and much more. Check out their favorite destinations around the globe and find out where they’re off to next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
Since we met and started dating in 2009, travel was always one of the most important things we had in common. We both had a strong thirst to see the world and from the moment we began our relationships, we did many trips together, usually a weekend city break somewhere in Europe, or a 1-2 week holiday from the former office jobs somewhere further afield. However, this was never enough to quench our thirst for travel, so after many years of saving and planning, we left our lives and jobs in London in 2014 for what become a looooong sabbatical!
What does travel mean to you? Why do you feel it’s important?
Travelling opens your mind, your heart and perspective on life. It forces you to learn about different ways of living. Travelling also develops skills you didn’t know you had – you’re forced to be in a completely different set of circumstances you’re normally used to. For us, one of the main things it taught us is simply “not to sweat the small stuff”; things will inevitably go wrong, however there is always a solution for everything.
You guys run a travel blog called Nomadic Boys. Can you please tell us a bit about it? How did it come about? What makes it unique?
Nomadic Boys is unique because it focuses just on LGBTQ travel, based on our first-hand experiences. Our aim is to publish content to inspire LGBTQ travellers and help them plan the perfect, and safe, holiday. We have frequently had issues getting a double bed in hotels or need to seek out places where we know we are comfortable with basic PDAs (such as holding hands, dancing together, clearing an eyelash from the other’s cheek etc), particularly in countries which lack LGBTQ equality laws.
Our blog started from our big trip in Asia in 2014. This trip was meant to be a simply sabbatical “break” from our former office jobs in London – Stefan was a lawyer and Seby a computer programmer. The blog was at first a place to write about our travels in Asia for friends and family, and to share our photos/videos. However, after around 1 year in, started getting a spike in traffic and visits, which led to requests from businesses to collaborate. So we turned this into a more formal business, which has now become our full-time vocation.
The two of you have documented your experiences traveling as a gay couple in many locations around the world, including ones that aren’t known for being LGBT+ friendly. What’s something you’ve learned in your travels as a gay couple that you want others to know?
Our big trip in Asia started with the Trans Siberian in Moscow – Russia – a country renowned for not being very LGBTQ progressive! This was also at the time when Putin passed the awful anti-gay propaganda laws, so we were terrified of visiting. The truth is, our fear was OTT. We avoided going out to any gay places fearing they would be raided, we booked single beds in hotels and avoided all PDAs. We’re not saying that Russia is a gay-friendly destination, however, our approach was perhaps on the extreme side. We made a large group of gay friends in Moscow who live every day there without any problems. The city has quite a large gay scene, which is completely safe to go to. And at the hotels we stayed at, the staff were usually young, open-minded and couldn’t give two hoots if two men slept in a double bed, especially in the large brands. In short what we learnt is that whilst some places may have dubious LGBTQ laws, this shouldn’t stop you visiting. Obviously you need to be careful not to go around waving rainbow flags and kissing in public, but it shouldn’t stop you going out there and seeing the world.
And the most important thing we learnt is that in doing so, you have more of a substantial impact on the local LGBTQ community. We get criticized a lot from some of our readers who argue “why on earth are you encouraging us to spend our dollars on a country that wants to persecute and arrest us?” This used to be how we thought before. But in reality, you (as an LGBTQ traveler) going over there is going to have a far more substantial impact than boycotting them: the money we spend goes to gay-friendly businesses and helping them thrive. Boycotting them denies them this opportunity.
You guys currently live on Stefan’s home island of Cyprus. What makes Cyprus such a great travel destination? What do you suggest travelers do when they visit the island?
Cyprus has a rich history dating back to the Hellenic period. We’ve had the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Venetians and the British each leave a strong impact. Cyprus has some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean, particularly on the East side around Agia Napa – like Konnos Bay. The food is also a highlight: having mezedethes in a local taverna like Mousikos in Sotira village is a highlight, with culinary highlights unique to the island like halloumi and anari cheese, kleftiko and lots of yummy fruits throughout the year – pink pomegranates anyone?
Limassol is the most touristic city, with a pretty marina area and old town. There are natural parks to explore around Paphos, and our favourite, Cape Greco on the East side of the island, which is one of our favourite spots to go snorkeling. For divers, Larnaca has one of the most famous wreck dives (Zenobia), and Mackenzie Beach sits right next to the airport so you can get a cool beach selfie of you with a large plane right behind you landing.
Finally, the North of Cyprus is another highlight, albeit a controversial one. Stefan’s family are all originally from what is now the ghost town called Varosi in Famagusta; following the troubles with Turkey in 1974, all his family had to flee. The Turkish army still hold the North, which is only recognized by Turkey. Border crossings have increased over the past 10 years and we love going, more for Stefan’s curiosity to discover more about his ancestors there. Kyrenia in the North is a pretty port town, and the Karpas Peninsula is a long line of gorgeous coastline, practically empty with just a few wild donkeys for company.
How many days/weeks do you travel in any given year? What types of places do you like to visit?
We do a trip around every month on average. We love to visit new places we’ve never been to before. This year included Moldova, Romania and Georgia. We also love Asia and planning a big trip around Xmas and NYE in Taiwan, Thailand and Japan.
We love visiting places that offer a mix of culture, interesting new foods, gay scene of sorts and outdoor adventures like trekking and scuba diving.
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
Our aim is to publish content that is inspiring, relatable and engaging. We hope our audience feels that when they read one of our blog posts or stumble on one of our social media posts. The main thing is to not feel that being gay is a bar on travelling!
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, the best place to have lunch, the best sightseeing, etc.
Thailand top 5:
- Bangkok: one of the best gay scenes in Silom with bars like Telephone, Balcony, Stranger and DJ Station club
- Koh Lipe: our favourite island in Thailand. We love the gay-owned Gipsy Resort which is right on Sunrise Beach – you wake up and go into the warm water and you’re surrounded by coral and little clownfish popping their heads up to say hello.
- Street food markets: almost everywhere in Thailand are a treat both for the atmosphere and of course the many delicious foods like pad thai and som tam spicy green papaya salad.
- Chiang Mai: the cultural heart of Thailand with loads of Buddhists temples as well as many outdoor activities in the mountain area surrounding the city like mountain biking.
- Diving: we got our scuba diving courses (PADI Open Water and Advanced) on Koh Lipe, which has become like a university for diving! Courses are cheap here and the island has a cool, youthful feel to it.
How many countries have you visited so far?
But this includes many repeat visits, particularly to placeas like Canada, USA, Russia, Brazil…We prefer to put more focus on unique travel experiences rather than country counting; if for example you’ve only visited Moscow, you can’t say you’ve truly seen the whole of Russia, and vice versa for say New York for USA or Rio for Brazil etc
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
It’s Asian all the way: Japanese (which is also a UNESCO listed cuisine!), Sri Lankan and Thai.
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
A huge Cypriot bias because we are based here – Mousikos in Sotira village. When friends/family visit and they want to try Cypriot mezethes in an authentic Greek Taverna, we bring them here – most famous is their halloumi and kleftiko.
What is your favorite travel movie?
Life of Pie for Stefan
Seby was most inspired by Memoirs of a Geisha, which led to us dressing up like Geisha in Tokyo one time….
What is your favorite international airport?
Vancouver so far – we have an AMEX card which gives us lounge access and the Vancouver one has so far been the best by far. The worst is Charles de Gaulle in Paris – the landing strip takes forever, the staff are miserable, facilities are sparse (try finding a toilet to use), the lounge is really limited and you need to remember to go to your gate asap because there is always a loooooong queue for security and then passport/immigration checks.
Which city had the friendliest people?
Tokyo and anywhere in the Philippines. The Japanese just nail it when it comes to customer service. They are the most advanced nation we’ve ever been to, with everything done with a sweet welcoming smile and bow (a must-watch is the new Queer Eye series in Japan). Filipinos have a thing about the Filipino hospitality. Wherever you are in the world, their faces just light up and exude this natural warmth – we love them!
Besides each other, who is your favorite travel companion?
For Stefan it’s his sister Natalie and his nephews Alec and Callum. We have a really tight relationship and always try to do at least one family holiday together every year. This year was in Colombia, next year Alec expressed an interest in Madagascar… Whichever we choose, Stefan is extremely proud of his “cool Guncle” status he has with his nephews.
For Seby it’s his best friend Marie and her children who he is godfather to. They are also French but now living in Vancouver. Every year, they aim to plan a cruise in the Caribbean together.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
Editing photos! Honestly, it’s sooooo boring, super time consuming, but very necessary, and can be done offline without internet access.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
The Galapagos Islands. We were fortunate to lead a branded “Nomadic Boys Gay Cruises” around these really unique islands – twice! We sailed around the islands aboard a very plush yacht with a gay company in Quito called Ishpingo Tours. It was not only exotic, but one of the most incredible things we’ve done. The highlight was snorkeling with sea lion pups whilst dodging a few large rays and turtles swimming over us. Incredible!
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Do it! But obviously be sensible and have a strong plan to suit your finances. We saved for 2 years prior and ensure we always have access to emergency funds in the event of an emergency. Our aim was to work online in some capacity so that we were never tied down to a place and could easily move around to a new place if and when we needed to.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
For Seby: noise cancellation headphones, earplugs, paracetamol, diving mask
For Stefan: snacks for Seby for when he gets hangry, his iPhone, his toothbrush/toothpaste and his Seby
What is your ultimate dream destination?
For Stefan: Antarctica
For Seby: Thailand beaches
What is your favorite travel quote?
“The journey not the arrival matters.” –T.S. Eliot
Where are you headed next?
We are going for a big trip in Asia for Xmas/NYE, starting with Taiwan, Thailand and then Japan.
We are Stefan and Sebastien, French/Greek gay couple from London. Nomadic Boys is our gay travel blog where we publish weekly LGBTQ content from our travels around the world.