It’s refreshing to know that gay travel books are still being written. “Mr Hudson Explores: The Gay Man’s Travel Companion” was published in 2019. In early September 2021, “Sassy Planet: A Queer Guide to 40 Cities, Big and Small” was released. The book was written by David Dodge, Harish Bhandari, and Nick Schiarizzi. I’ve read an advanced copy and can confirm: it would be a great addition to your library.
The risk with printed travel books is that they inevitably go out of date. Clearly, Penguin Random House has figured that out. This book is not just a listings guide. It features interviews with LGBT+ business owners, Drag Race Alumni, brilliant photos and historical information. LGBT+ elders give their take on how their cities have changed. You’ll discover the best places to go out in Mexico City and where to go cruising in Hawaii.
We caught up with the authors to find out more.
1. What inspired you to write this book when so much travel information is available online?
The truth is so much travel information is not available online when it comes to resources for queer travelers — the information is often out of date, inaccurate or written by a gay blogger on, like, a LiveJournal or something. Lots of gay men, when we travel somewhere new, will instead log onto to one of the apps — Grindr, Scruff, etc — and just chat with the locals about cool queer stuff to do. We just took that idea and turned it into a book!
2. You interviewed a lot of people for Sassy Planet. Which interview surprised you the most?
I think the most interesting interviews we did were just with random locals through the apps, who would tell us about what life was like as LGBTQ people in their cities. We’d learn about bars, parties, cruising spots (there’s a queer grocery store in Santiago, Chile, apparently…) and all sorts of other interesting things about cities around the world that you could never learn just by googling.
3. Do you have a favourite destination?
We are based in New York City, so this is obviously one of our favorite places, but honestly, there’s something interesting about every city in this book, whether it’s Omaha or Taipei.
4. You also cover places where it’s illegal to be gay. What advice would you give to LGBT+ travellers visiting places that are less socially liberal?
Our rationale for including places in the book that aren’t LGBTQ friendly wasn’t necessarily to encourage queer people to travel to those places — we still need to be incredibly careful when we travel in many parts of the world, and we all need to use our best judgments when (and whether) we travel to places where homosexuality is still criminalized or unaccepted in the dominant culture. But queer people nonetheless exist in these countries — and where there are queers, there is queer culture, some of which may not be accessible to tourists. We wanted to show what we could of this culture in a responsible manner.
5. What was it like writing a travel book during the pandemic?
It was honestly a great project to have at such a tough time globally. We all travel a ton normally, and obviously weren’t able to do that throughout the quarantine. Writing a travel book, and chatting with super interesting queer people all over the globe about super interesting queer stuff, gave us something to look forward to.
But many of the people we were interviewing were in the entertainment and arts industries, which were very hard hit by the pandemic. So it was tough to hear how much the pandemic had impacted queer spaces, artists, parties etc. all over the globe. Some of the spaces we included in the book still aren’t open — and may not ever reopen. But you can’t keep the queers down, and we’re excited to see what crazy, innovative ways these spaces and performers bounce back.
6. Do you think travel will be different after COVID?
It’s going to take the travel industry years to recover to pre-Covid levels. And different places are recovering at different speeds — with wealthier nations bouncing back much quicker than poorer ones. So there’s going to continue to be a huge imbalance in where people will want to travel, or will be able to, for the foreseeable future, which sucks. But we hope our book — which encourages queer people to think outside the normal “fruit loop” of LGBTQ travel destinations (New York, Fire Island, Mykonos, etc) — will bring attention to some long overlooked cities, and help the travel industry recover as quickly, and as queerly, as possible.