New Series: The EXpedia Blog Goes LGBT with Adam Groffman
Adam, we’ll be focusing on LGBT travel in the coming months and you will be contributing a selection of great LGBT travel guides for some of the best cities in Europe, North America & beyond!
Could you introduce yourself in a sentence – or two ;-)?
Hi! I’m originally from the USA having lived in both Texas and Boston, but since 2010 I’ve been traveling around the world and documenting my adventures on my gay travel blog, Travels of Adam. Since 2012, I’ve lived in Berlin, Germany—one of my favorite cities and a great place to explore.
How did you end up working as a travel blogger and journalist?
For as long as I can remember, travel has been an important part of my life. In college, I studied abroad twice—in London and in Sydney. I started out studying journalism, but I soon realized my passion was actually in art and design. Rather than changing my degree/major and potentially sacrificing my opportunities to study abroad, I opted to stay in the communication school with a degree in advertising and a focus on the rest of my studies in art/design. After graduation, I went to work immediately for one of the world’s largest publishers as a graphic designer—my dream job (at the time!). After three years working as a book designer, I realized at one point that I hadn’t left the country since college. So what did I do? I booked a flight for a spur-of-the-moment weekend adventure from Boston to Reykjavik—not your typical weekend, but I only had so much vacation time! From then on, I was hooked on the idea to travel more, so I saved my money for the next 9 months and eventually quit my job to take a gap year traveling around the world. And I just never stopped 😉
You are currently based in Berlin. How did that come about?
For my big trip around the world, my gap year, I saved up $20,000—a lot of money! After 15 months traveling, my money was almost gone but I managed to get a small but substantial tax refund from my last year of employment. I was in Vietnam and I’d heard for months about cool and hip Berlin was (this was 2011), so I took a risk and booked a plane ticket to Berlin just in time for CSD (Christopher Street Day – gay pride). I spent the next three weeks backpacking through Europe with the idea that I’d eventually have to find a cheap flight home to the USA to look for a job, but I quickly realized Berlin was for me—and I quit traveling to rent an apartment in Berlin for the rest of the summer. And then I just never left 😉
What is it that you like about Berlin?
Berlin has this crazy, unique energy. For a long time it was a divided city, and in the past few decades having come together again, there’s this sense that the city is still coming to terms with itself. And with its history as an LGBT hotspot (from the 1920s, even—Berlin can claim to be home to one of the earliest gay neighborhoods!) and a growing art scene, the city just feels so malleable. You can make of it what you want and it’s that energy and creativity that makes it such a friendly place to be.
How do you prepare yourself before your travels? Do you follow any standard routines?
Before any trip—whether it’s just a weekend in London or two weeks traveling through Thailand—I’m usually panicking. I’m a notoriously awful planner so in the hours before leaving I’ll be printing my tickets, scrambling to find my travel toiletries and somehow always forgetting where I last left my sunglasses (I so rarely get to use them in Berlin!).
How do you find the places you decide to explore?
I use social media a lot—Twitter has saved me more often than I can count with friends and strangers offering up recommendations. I also use Foursquare/Swarm quite a bit and to find gay places, I’m generally looking for the local LGBT magazines or maps in each city (usually at some gay café or bar in a stack of flyers an pamphlets). Traveling has really opened me up and made me much more extroverted than my natural introverted self, so when I’m traveling alone I generally don’t mind asking strangers for tips and advice—whether that’s in person or through an app. And then I make a point to visit what I can and include my favorites in my series of Hipster City Guides.
What are your three favourite places in the world?
I’m not going to say Berlin because that’s too predictable. But my top three favorite cities are Tel Aviv, London and Barcelona. Each offers something a bit different; they’re all gay-friendly, have great nightlife options and incredible art collections, museums and galleries. And of course the food isn’t bad in each city, either! I’ll be the first to admit, though—I’ve got expensive taste! These aren’t cheap cities so I never get to spend as much time in each as I’d like to…
What was the most outstanding travel experience you can remember?
I’ve got a thing for deserts—there’s this strange calmness and quietness in the desert. Not to mention the weird plants and animals that live in these desolate places. I’ve gone camping and hiking in various deserts across the world—Wadi Rum in Jordan, the Negev Desert in Israel, Jujuy in Argentina, White Sands in New Mexico—but the most fantastic and surreal was hiking up Mount Sinai in Egypt. I just remember waiting at the top of the mountain for sunrise and this incredible view out over the world. Even though there were so many other tourists there, I felt some kind of profound connection to the desert and to the world.
Any travel essentials that you never go travelling without?
I’m 100% dependent upon my phone – it’s my camera when I’m traveling, my connection to the world through Twitter and Instagram and my way to document so many of my travels. But I also always travel with a pen in my pocket because you never know when inspiration will strike and I still do my most personal writing in a small Moleskine journal. I also always try to travel with a watch because it makes understanding the time zones a bit easier.
How many languages do you speak?
English is my native language and since moving to Germany, I’ve learned German—though I wouldn’t quite say I’m fluent! Over the past two years I’ve also started learning Spanish again and have taken a few Spanish classes in Spain (most recently was last month with a small language school in Andalusia!). Learning languages while traveling is a good way to combine my love for travel and my interest in connecting with more people…
And last but not least – what do you do when you’re not travelling or writing about it?
Cooking! I love to cook (and to eat!). And when I’m traveling, I’m mostly eating out or looking for street food, so when I’m home in Berlin, I love to cook. I’ll try to cook recipes from my recent travels. For example, when I took a Spanish course last month in Andalusia, I also took a cooking course (this one) and came home with a lot of new recipes. After all my adventures abroad, I just love inviting friends over for a night of food and funny conversations!
You can find the interview in German here.