Above: A Bolivian woman with her typical bowler hat and colorful shawl are among those that await you in South America.
The author: Sasha Alyson is the founder of Alyson Publications, the country's leading publisher of gay and lesbian books. He sold that company in 1995 to start Alyson Adventures, which specializes in active and adventure vacations for gay men and lesbians.
Also of interest:
Table of Contents of Venturing Out columns
Everyone expects to find lesbian and gay travelers in New York, London and Sydney, and in gay meccas such as Key West, Provincetown and Mykonos. But in Ethiopia? India? And Utah?
Increasingly, gay travelers are looking farther afield to more remote and exotic locations. Both experienced and novice travelers now have a wonderful variety of organized vacations available to them -- taking them to some of the world's most fascinating and obscure destinations in the company of lesbians and gay men.
Adventure Bound Expeditions of Boulder, Colorado, has organized an Ethiopian Safari this fall, from October 30 to November 16. The company offers two or three gay men's adventure trips annually; director David Johnson explains that his company tries to organize tours to a wide variety of unusual locations. The company is in its 10th year of operation and has offered trips to Nepal, Machu Picchu in Peru, Botswana, Chile, Transylvania, and Morocco. For more information about the Ethiopian trip, call (303) 449-0990 or email ADVENTBDEX@aol.com
Mariah Wilderness Expeditions will take its 10th annual group of women to Costa Rica, November 1 to 10, to enjoy some of this Central American country's beautiful sights. Tour members will have the opportunity to participate in scuba, kayaking, rafting, and snorkeling while exploring the country's lush tropical forests, cascading waterfalls, and cool rivers. Mariah can be contacted at (800) 462-7424.
Utah doesn't immediately spring to mind when the topic of gay travel comes up, but Park City has hosted a number of successful gay ski weeks, and Lizard Head Tours offers its "Pinnacles, Fins and Spires" trip October 5-11, 1997. The trip will take a group of gay men and women hiking amidst the spectacular rock formations of Utah's canyon country, with opportunities for mountain biking and rock climbing. No experience is necessary, just a strong spirit of adventure. Lizard Head is at (888) 540-2737, or via email at INFO@LizardHead.com.
Toto Tours is also conducting a number of unique trips for gay travelers this year. "Heaven on Earth" trip, November 6-16, is an "unorthodox" pilgrimage to the Holy Land, featuring visits to the gay nightclubs of Tel Aviv, a cruise on the Sea of Galilee, and a camel trek to a Bedouin feast. They're also taking a group of gay women and men hiking and biking in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, September 28 to October 4, 1997, to witness the reds, oranges and yellows of the Fall. Toto can be reached at (800) 565-1241.
In this age of the Southern Baptists boycotting Disney, we'd like to extend thanks to a number of national travel companies that have not shied away from their commitment to gay travelers. Among these are American Airlines, American Express, and National Car Rental.
National has instituted an Authorized Driver Policy, which recognizes same-gender relationships, eliminating some of the awkward moments, additional expense, and delays when renting a car with a domestic partner. Their policy is the first of its kind in the car rental industry.
The other major rental companies (Hertz, Avis, Alamo and Budget) either don't offer such a policy, or offer it only in certain markets or to certain customers, such as Hertz, to its Gold or Platinum Club members.
Rob Fyfe, an account manager for National based in San Francisco, explained that domestic partners need to have the same address, but like straight married couples, only one driver needs to present a credit card, and there is no additional driver fee.
Fyfe said National has worked closely with counter personnel to ensure they're familiar with the program. This was indeed the case with several agents at Nation whom we called at random. In contract, the reservations personnel at the other companies were often completely unfamiliar with the concept of a domestic partner, or confused about how their company treated same-gender relationships.
Postscript: October 2001: I heard from a gay couple that after several rentals with National, in which this policy was in effect, they were told at the time of their last rental that the policy had changed, and same-sex couples now have to pay the additional driver fee. National's website confirms this, stating that additional drivers may be added without charge only if they are "spouse, business partner, employer, or fellow associate who has an assigned corporate contract with National and drives the car for business purposes."
Next Month: The Gay Business Traveler: Researching a City Before You Visit.