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Les Talk, More Travel

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Leslie

I’m Leslie (Les Talk!): an introvert (Less Talk!) who is also super gay (Lez Talk!), and loves to travel (More Travel)! Les Talk, More Travel is about local and international adventures for intrepid queers, lovers of the Pacific Northwest, and other interested humans!

Hot Goss! Scalding Tea: Interview with En Route with Love

Last month I had the pleasure of doing an interview with En Route with Love, a queer married couple from Minnesota who love to travel. It was so much fun; they are lovely and asked such insightful questions about blogging, identity, overseas work, and queer travel.

Here’s a bit of the interview; head over to their post to read the whole thing! You’ll find out about working in Australia and South Korea, my favourite places in Canada and abroad, travelling while gay, and the thing I can’t be without while travelling! Drumrollllll…. check out the full article here! Without further ado, here’s a little teaser 😉

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)

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 😉

Read more at En Route with Love!

An Afternoon on the Glasgow Mural Trail

Kyla and I love each other, but we also love our freedom when we travel! We were both pretty independent travellers when we met, and we try to work in solo travel time, even when we travel together. Depending on where we are, that might mean a few hours to a couple of days.

In Scotland, it worked nicely into our plans for her to rent a car and take a dream road trip up to Skye, while I got a much-needed dose of city exploration time in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I only had a few hours in Glasgow, but I was so impressed with the city! Some quick Googling showed me that there was an epic mural trail there, so that’s how I spent my afternoon. It was a great way to see different parts of the city, and I stumbled on TWO festivals along the way (involving drinking and live music, carnival rides, and a family ceilidh)!

The main website about the murals is City Centre Mural Trail. It has a thorough map of the trail, and you can click on each number to get a picture and more information about it.

The only issue I had was accessing the map without data on my phone. I couldn’t find a good app to download when I had access to wi-fi, so I just decided ahead of time on a general idea of what I wanted to see most, since I didn’t have time to do the whole thing while still giving myself the flexibility to wander down random streets and into markets and cafes and ceilidhs! I mapped it out on Google Maps beforehand, so that I could cross-reference it with the mural map (#nerdy), but I still had to find wi-fi a couple times. Usually, this was my own fault for reading the map wrong or just not looking UP at the right wall! But if you’re flexible and happy to get a little lost, you’ll have no problem! If you’d prefer to know exactly where you are to make sure you don’t miss any murals, I’d recommend downloading an offline map app, like Maps.me.

Self-guided tours not your thing? Glasgow offers guided street art tours for 10 pounds! https://www.walkingtoursin.com/street-art-tour

Here are the pieces I saw:

Staying in Edinburgh? No doubt Glasgow deserves more time, but if you have limited days, it’s an easy day or half day trip. It’s an hourish-long train ride from Edinburgh, or about an hour and a half by bus, with multiple trips on each per hour.

Happy (mural) trails! Have you been? Let me know your favourite piece of art!

How to See Puffins in Iceland: Vik and the South Coast

Looking for more Iceland info? I’ve got you! Check out my 5 day Reykjavik and South Coast itinerary or tips for a queer vacation in Iceland.

One of the main things we wanted to do in Iceland was see puffins, and we managed to find them two nights in a row! They are the cutest bird I’ve ever seen! I freaked out when I spotted them flying around awkwardly, but the look on Kyla’s face when she first saw them made my trip: PURE JOY!

Here are some tips for seeing puffins in South Iceland, so that you can feel pure joy too! The two locations I talk about are near the small town of Vik (about 2.5 hours from Reykjavik).

When? In general, May to late August is when puffins arrive back on land from their ocean adventures. Dyrhólaey is CLOSED during nesting season, which includes parts of May and June (I imagine that this sensitive time isn’t the best to seek them out elsewhere, either, but you can probably still see them on cliffs near Reynisfjara). July or early August would be the best time to spot them, and they can most reliably be seen between 7-10 a.m. and 6-10 p.m. If it’s rainy, you’re in luck: there’s a possibility of seeing them during the day! We saw lots on rainy evenings! If it’s sunny, they may not be back until after 9 p.m. Here’s some info from a Vík tourist map:

Where? Reynisfjara: You should visit this beach whether or not you’re looking for puffins! It has black sand, lava stack formations, and mystical basalt columns. Right as you pass the first set of basalt columns (from the parking lot), face the cliffs, and you should see puffins! From a distance, my first clue was a flying football-shaped thing!

Where? Dyrholaey: This promontory offers great views of Reynisfjara and Vík to the east, and black sand beach for days to the west. We drove all the way up to the top. It says 4 wheel drive only; it was fine for our little rental, but it’s quite a steep gravel road. You can also park below and walk up. Up top, there’s a lighthouse, and the cliffs nearby were where we spotted the puffins! If you look down (again, look for the awkward flying footballs and head towards them), you should see some, not too far from the path!

How? Don’t forget your binoculars and camera with zoom! Be respectful of the birds’ habitats and be safe: don’t go beyond any ropes or signage. Happy birdwatching!

5 Day Stopover in Iceland: A Summer Itinerary for Reykjavik and the South Coast

Looking for LGBTQ+ travel tips? Check out my post about queer travel in Iceland.

Is there a perfect amount of time to spend in Iceland? I doubt it! If you’re taking a trip just to Iceland, you’ll probably want to spend over a week driving around the whole Ring Road, or plan for a few days of hiking in Landmannalaugar. If you just want a tiny taste of the country on your way to or from Europe, a couple of days should suffice. In the winter, the limited hours of daylight may dictate how much time you need.

Five days in Iceland was perfect for us – it was a stop on the way to some other destinations, but also a dream trip on it’s own. It’s just enough time to leave you wanting more! I’ve made up a 5 day itinerary, including information about popular sites, getting around, food, and – most importantly – how and where to spot PUFFINS!*

Keep an eye out for a separate post with a packing list and detailed cost breakdown. Check out our 5 day itinerary below:

Continue reading “5 Day Stopover in Iceland: A Summer Itinerary for Reykjavik and the South Coast”

Queer Iceland: Tips for LGBTQ+ Travellers

Looking for more info about Iceland? Check out my 5 day Iceland itinerary for detailed information about Reykjavik and the South Coast.

This past summer, my girlfriend and I spent 5 days in the magical land of fire and ice! As far as we could tell, Iceland is a great place to be gay. We felt totally comfortable being couple-y there. That said, it’s always good to know what to expect as a queer traveller before arriving in a new country. Savvy lesbian travellers Lez See The World wrote a comprehensive post which details local laws and the social climate for lesbian travellers to Iceland; it’s definitely worth a read before you go!

Whether or not you visit a bar or attend an event aimed specifically at LGBTQ+ folks, you should generally have a safe and comfortable experience as a queer traveller in Iceland. This of course is from my perspective as a cis-gender woman and, as Kyla describes us, we could pass as “frumpy straight girls or femmey lesbians”.

Here are some businesses and events to keep on your gaydar for Reykjavik/Iceland:

  • Pink Iceland: Ok so I’m kind of obsessed with Pink Iceland! I’ve followed them for years now on Instagram; they plan the most beautiful (straight and not-straight) weddings, host some amazing tours, and are very involved in the Reykjavik queer community. It didn’t work into our schedule for us to do a tour with them, but we still stopped by their office, checked out their little store, met their cute doggo member, and chatted with the very friendly employees who told us about some events and invited us to join them for drinks later (sadly, too jetlagged)! It felt so welcoming; they are clearly an amazing company, and I encourage you to do a tour with them if you can! They also have some tips for LGBT travellers on their website.
  • Pride: You know you’re in a fabulous place when they have TWO Pride festivals! Pink Iceland hosts Winter Pride – Rainbow Reykjavik – in February. Last year they hosted Detox of Drag Race fame, and you can even find a mural in her honour in town! Reykjavik Pride is in August, and this year’s events included a community event painting a rainbow on the street, a queer literature walk and Stonewall museum exhibit, a drag competition, parties, of course a parade, and much more!
  • Kiki Queer Bar: the only gay bar/club in Reykjavik, free entry, Happy Hour till late, chill areas with tables and booths, semi-regular events, the outside is PAINTED RAINBOW, what more can you ask for?! Bravo bar, next door to Kiki, seems to be an unofficial queer hangout spot – it has a cozy and inviting atmosphere and an uber long happy hour (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.), which includes flights of craft beer!
  • Sometimes you can catch drag and burlesque shows in town; Gaukurinn bar seems to be the main event host, and Drag-Sugur would be a good page to watch for events.
  • Iceland has recently passed a progressive new law regarding the rights of trans, non-binary, and intersex folks. There’s a Facebook group called Trans Island; although the associated website and events are mostly in Icelandic, they might be worth connecting with if you’re looking for resources specifically relevant to trans folks. Andrymi appears to host an English-speaking support group “for trans and questioning people” on the 3rd Thursday of every month. A lot of their events sound very queer or queer-friendly!

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list! Do you have anything to add? Let me know in the comments. Lez hope you have a gay old time in Iceland!

5 Things to Look Forward to at Victoria Pride 2019

Let me start out by saying that there are waaaay more than 5 things to look forward to at Pride! Last year, I put together a list of as many events as I could find, but this year, the Victoria Pride Society has done that work: check out their events page for a comprehensive list of Pride events in the city!

Other pages to watch for queer events this Pride season (and beyond) are:

These websites have lists and maps of public all-gender/gender neutral washrooms, with accessibility information: guide to public toilets in downtown Victoria; thrones for everyone (Tourism Victoria). I’ll do my best to include any additional accessibility info I can find.

Anyway, scroll those lists and pages for drag, workshops and panels, youth events, nights out, alt pride, outdoor events, and more. Here are the events I’m most looking forward to this year (warning: a few more than 5 may find their way in)!

Continue reading “5 Things to Look Forward to at Victoria Pride 2019”

Everything Salt Spring: 20+ Things to Do on Salt Spring Island, Minus the Market

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Salt Spring Island has a huge piece of my heart. It’s where Kyla grew up, and the first time I visited I got to meet her family AND their new baby goats. We ate homemade goat cheese, fresh eggs laid by their chickens, and veggies from their substantial garden. I’ve been back over a dozen times since, and every time, I feel like we do something that’s Uniquely Salt Spring(TM).

On the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland, it doesn’t really matter if you know a local or not. Whether you’re there for the day or staying for a while, you’re almost guaranteed to have a genuine Gulf Island experience on the island home of hippies, farmers, artists and artisans (and summer vacationers).

If you’ve heard of Salt Spring, you probably know about the famous Saturday market; many tourists love it; many locals – understandably – don’t: it clogs up ferries and roads, and brings hordes of people to the island. I personally LOVE the Saturday market: you can sample and buy anything from kale chips to cider, check out local artisan products, and then hang out in the park watching (or joining) free spirits drum and dance. If you’re lucky, you might get to meet Raffi– yes, Raffi, the singer of your childhood faves like Baby Beluga and Down By the Bay! He lives on the island, and he’s often there selling CDs. The market may be on your West Coast bucket list, and in many ways it’s worth the hype! 

HOWEVER, I’m here to argue that you can have an incredible time on Salt Spring without seeing the market. If you go on a summer Saturday, you’ll encounter massive crowds, potentially extra sailing waits for the ferry, tricky parking, and you may miss the bulk of what the island has to offer. 

No matter what, aim to see MORE than the market. Here are some things to do, see, eat and drink around this magical island:

Around Fulford Harbour

Around Ganges

Pride

Around the Island (Food and Drink)

Hikes and Walks

If you DO go to the market…

Overnight Accommodation

Continue reading “Everything Salt Spring: 20+ Things to Do on Salt Spring Island, Minus the Market”

2 Nights in Tofino

Last time I visited Tofino, it was a rainy November long weekend. Kyla and I were celebrating an anniversary, and the theme of the trip was to relaaaax and enjoy lots of hygge time without too many plans. That was a fabulous way to spend a weekend there, and you can read more about it here: Hygge Holiday: Tofino Hot Springs and Other Relaxing Things

This month, I had a chance to go back with my parents, and this time it was hot and sunny! Like uncharacteristically HOT; 20+ degrees Celsius made for a totally different Tofino experience!

We were able to fit a lot into just two nights, without it feeling rushed*. Of course, the more time you have, the better. If you plan to surf, you’ll probably want to spend more time there, and if you want to visit the hot springs, you may also want to have at least one more night. If your plan is to do a bit of hiking and beachcombing, soak in some sunsets (or get a little soaked, if it’s rainy season), and eat some tasty food in a place where the views are never less than stunning, it’s the perfect amount of time.

Here are some ideas for three days and two nights in and around this little surf town on the west coast of Vancouver Island:

Continue reading “2 Nights in Tofino”

Hygge Holiday: Tofino Hot Springs and Other Relaxing Things

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For a warmer weather itinerary, check out this post: 2 Nights in Tofino.

Kyla and I spent the November long weekend in Tofino, a surf town on western Vancouver Island. I’d only heard amazing things about Tofino since moving out here, and it lived up to the hype!

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Lots of people who visit the town choose to enjoy it the active way… surfing, hiking, that kind of thing. While it’s a fantastic place to do both of those things, and while I’ll definitely do more activities next time I go, we went the more… lazy relaxed route this time! Not only did we need a break, but we were both sick, so you could say that taking it easy was what the doctor ordered. And I mean… it’s not really that hard to chill out in a surf town! Here are 5 relaxing ways to explore Tofino:

Continue reading “Hygge Holiday: Tofino Hot Springs and Other Relaxing Things”

Juan de Fuca Trail Day 4: Payzant Creek to Botanical Beach Trailhead

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Day 4: Payzant Creek (km 40) to Botanical Beach Trailhead (km 47)

Read about our hikes from China Beach to Bear Beach, Bear Beach to Chin Beach, and Chin Beach to Payzant Creek.

Our last day on the trail was a short one: we only had 7kms to go! We woke up to misty treetops, and quickly packed up all of our gear, not minding that it was wet and muddy. Off we went!

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Continue reading “Juan de Fuca Trail Day 4: Payzant Creek to Botanical Beach Trailhead”

Juan de Fuca Trail Day 3: Chin Beach to Payzant Creek

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Day 3: Chin Beach (km 21) – Payzant Creek (km 40)

Read about Day 1 and Day 2

This was the day I tried to get eaten by a bear!

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Day 3 started out like the others, only a little wetter. We got up early, and headed out towards Little Kuitshe Creek, where we were planning to camp that night.

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The hike from Chin Beach to Sombrio Beach started out with some steep ups and downs, similar to the previous day, but this time they didn’t go on forever. There was a flat bit! And a few creek crossings with ropes, but these were fun and we made them look more dramatic in photos than they really were!

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Since it had rained the night before, the day brought a new challenge: mud! We’d encountered muddy spots before, but for the most part, we’d been able to manoeuvre around them, using rocks and tree stumps and packed down patches.

But today, we got the gaiters out! We knew we’d packed them for a reason! We couldn’t really avoid trekking through deep mud just east of Sombrio Beach, but at least the gaiters helped keep it out of our shoes. (Unless you have brilliantly designed boots with a breathable mesh front, like mine! Mud for days!)

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As we made our way onto Sombrio Beach, we met a woman who told us that there was a bear on the beach! “Don’t worry,” she informed us, “it’s a local, it’s friendly, and it won’t come too close”. We were delighted to see the black bear, looking for snacks on some rocks in the water.

We stood watching – at a very safe distance, with other campers – and I decided that this would be a good time for lunch. “Not here!” Kyla whispered, her expression incredulous, as she gestured towards the bear. “Oh, duh! Silly me!” I laughed, taking a half-eaten Cliff Bar out of my backpack. “I just needed a quick snack though,” I explained, shoving the remainder of the bar into my face. She shook her head at me, as we both continued snapping shots of the gorgeous bear.

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Continue reading “Juan de Fuca Trail Day 3: Chin Beach to Payzant Creek”

Juan de Fuca Trail Day 2: Bear Beach to Chin Beach

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Day 2: Bear Beach (km 9) to Chin Beach (km 21)

Read about Day 1 here.

The 12 kilometres between Bear and Chin beaches are some of the hardest on the Juan de Fuca trail; almost the entire section is a series of steep ups and downs! We started out early, after filling our bellies with oatmeal and chocolate.

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Continue reading “Juan de Fuca Trail Day 2: Bear Beach to Chin Beach”

Juan de Fuca Trail Day 1: China Beach to Bear Beach


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Kyla and I recently spent 4 days hiking the Juan de Fuca trail, a 47km coastal rainforest hike on Vancouver Island’s southwest coast. It was really hard! (Especially for an inexperienced hiker with minimal training, oops!) Lots of steep ups and downs, muddy sections, and tricky creek crossings which required creative, acrobatic moves while wearing a gigantic backpack! That said, it was absolutely achievable, and SO worth it! The trail offered spectacular ocean views and wildlife sightings, great nights of camping on beaches, and lots of hilarity. It was exhilarating to finish, and I’m still riding that high, feeling proud of what we accomplished. (Proud enough to earn a break from multi-day hiking for a while!)

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Here’s the first post from my rundown of the trail (with occasional comments from Kyla!), with lots of pictures.  Continue reading “Juan de Fuca Trail Day 1: China Beach to Bear Beach”

Five Things to Do on Hornby Island

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Last month I got invited to join Kyla and her family for a long weekend of camping on Hornby Island (I’ll ‘b’ careful not to misspell it). We spent five days there, so I was prepared for lots of lazing around, which – don’t get me wrong! – is a fantastic way to spend a vacation. What I didn’t realize was that there’s tons to do and see there! So while the island’s laid-back vibe meant plenty of recharge time, it was balanced out with lots of time exploring cute spots in town, gorgeous beaches and coastal bluffs, and checking out the bottom of many glasses of mead! Here are 5 suggestions for things to see and do while on Hornby Island:

Continue reading “Five Things to Do on Hornby Island”

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