Travel is a way to connect with the world. And travel the world with your life partner is a way to get closer to each other, to connect with each other, and to tigthen the bond so much that you feel like nothing bad in the world could ever harm you. Because you have each other, know each other, love each other… This is what we feel about traveling the world together. But we’re sure that we are not the only couple on the planet who thinks that.
Not so long ago, we stumbled on the Instagram account of Chelsea and Ash, a queer couple from Minneapolis. After reading their story, we found out that travel matters to them as a couple as much as it does to us. So, we decided to ask them to share their story with us – and with you – and to all the LGBTQ+ community.
Meet the girls behind “En Route with Love”!
I’d always held the belief that I needed to be able to travel with my partner before making any life-changing commitments because there are so many intense moments that happen en route. Beautiful moments. Scary moments. Difficult moments. Memorable moments. You really get to know the person you are with when you’re spending two or more weeks together in a new country. Lucky for me, Ash was that perfect travel companion, and that perfect partner.
When explaining how we met, my wife tells the same story every time. It varies slightly from mine in that Ash loves sharing how instantly passionate I became around the topic of travel. It was a Saturday night at a local Minneapolis queer bar when I first saw Ash. After some prodding from my friend, and a little liquid courage, I made my way over to them. We struck up a conversation in which I dove into a long, detailed explanation of my last trip abroad. I told them how traveling held an incredibly special place in my heart. And I enthusiastically pressed upon them the necessity of taking a trip overseas. Looking back, it could have been my charm (cough) or the vibrant description of my trip. But ultimately something must have worked because three months later we were planning our first vacation abroad together.
It was April 2017, and two of my friends and I were making arrangements for a trip to Europe that summer. We decided that we would start in Iceland and hop over to Norway altogether. And then I would split from them to explore England on my own. I explained these plans to Ash one morning while walking from their house in South Minneapolis to a local breakfast diner, when they proposed the idea of flying out to meet me in London. I will never forget the moment of complete joy I felt at the thought that my partner… of only a couple months… Who had never been overseas before, but wanted to fly across the Atlantic ocean just to spend time with me. I was ecstatic and began counting down the days to our big trip.
My friends and I left for Iceland and Norway mid-July 2017. We spent 10 days exploring Reykjavik, Oslo, Bergen, and a few places in between before I got on a plane to meet Ash in London. Ash’s plane was scheduled to arrive at Heathrow airport prior to mine. So by the time I got through customs they were already there waiting for me. To this day, Ash still says that I never looked queerer: hiking boots, flannel shirt, backpack… They loved it (and so did I!). It was so good to see their face and wrap my arms around them. We grabbed two coffees and got on the train towards London to begin our adventure.
Our vacation started and ended in the capital city, but we also spent some time driving around the south of England. During our trip we made sure to visit historical sites like Hastings Castle, Bodiam Castle, Arundel Castle, and Stonehenge. But also made it a priority to explore queer-friendly spots. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay near Brighton, one of the biggest LGBTQA+ cities in England and only an hour and forty minutes south of London.
We rented a mother-in-law suite from a queer couple just blocks from incredible white cliffs overlooking the English Channel. Brighton was preparing for its big pride celebration. So many of the bars that lined the beach were decorated with rainbow colors and promoting various pride events. Although we were bummed to miss what we could only imagine as one of the best pride celebrations in the country, we were happy we got to see the city preparing for it.
London’s Soho district was probably our favorite queer area. Ash and I ended our night at She Soho, a nightclub catering to women and gender queer folks. Entering through the front door and immediately walking down into a basement, we found ourselves in a small, dome-shaped room lined with corrugated metal. A DJ took up a fifth of the floor, while the bar took up another. The remaining space was filled with dancing people, fitting in where they could.
We grabbed a couple of drinks, and made our way to the front of the DJ booth. It felt great to be out in a new place, experiencing a new style of social life, with my best friend and partner. Ash and I had a great time and danced for a couple of hours before calling it a night. The club may have been small, but it welcomed us into its space and provided all the key ingredients to having a fantastic night.
As queer travelers, our trip to England was primarily positive. Folks responded well to us holding hands in public. AirBnb hosts didn’t bat an eye when they learned we were together. And other than one or two ‘looks’ in the smaller towns, most people enjoyed seeing us in love. I could go on forever with all of the amazing things we experienced together in this country. But this specific blog post is not the place for that (you can visit our website for the full details!).
Ultimately, what our first trip abroad together did was prove to us that we were ready for the next step in our relationship. So it was during our last night in England that we made plans to move in with one another. Travel has a way of providing clarity, growth, and assurance. Our vacation to England was so important for us in these ways that I wanted to capture it; to have it forever. I began a website and blog called En Route -with- Love, with a goal to have every single trip that Ash and I take together on record, describing both the physical adventure and emotional experience. It has not only provided us with a way to relive important parts of our past. But it has also become a creative outlet for myself and a space for information sharing from fellow LGBTQA+ travelers.
Ash has embraced my passion for travel, jumping in head first to plan and execute adventures with me. We’ve traveled overseas three times, been out of the country with one another a total of four. And continue to create and update our 15-year plan of new places to visit. I couldn’t imagine going on these adventures with anyone else. Travel is, and forever will be, a special way to connect with my love.