Last Updated on May 6, 2022
In today’s guest post, Sam of Leztravelforlife.com shares what it was like for her and her wife Courtney to travel around Mexico as a lesbian couple. Originally from South Carolina, Sam and Courtney took a leap in 2020 and quit their 9-to-5 jobs to travel the world! With their LGBTQ+ travel blog, Sam and Courtney want to inspire other travelers to see the world in a sustainable and affordable way.
What it’s like to travel in Mexico as a lesbian couple
I still remember landing in Mexico City for the first time. We had no idea what we were doing there, or why we chose it. We had backpacks the size of a mini cooper on our backs. We stepped outside in the sun and waved over a taxi with our terrible Spanish. I remember weaving in and out of rush hour traffic. The smell of exhaust mixed with charred meat at a taco stand on the side of the road.
This was all just the beginning. The beginning of a year-long journey that taught us that Mexico is a beautiful, complicated place. We spent our days exploring new streets, new cuisine, and left feeling like Mexico had changed us forever. This trip was unlike any other, this time we would travel slowly, and really connect with each new city as our home.
Why did we move to Mexico?
Courtney and I had been together for 6 years when we decided to move to Mexico. We had spent years working a 9-5 job taking short trips when we could, but always craved more. We wanted to find a way to live a life free of the limitations of a 9-5 job. We realized that just because we were raised to go to school, get a job, and buy a house, it didn’t mean that this was the only way to live our lives. How long would we travel for? A year? That seemed like a good amount of time, but in reality we really didn’t know how long we would be gone for.
In 2020, my mom and uncle suddenly died one month apart from each other. It was after experiencing these painful losses that we realized life was too short to keep waiting around to pursue this dream of traveling full-time. We were both terrified to let go of a life we had known for so long, and family members couldn’t believe we were selling everything and leaving the country with just a backpack. We left behind our pets with family, and set off.
Courtney identifies as a more androgynous lesbian, whereas I am more feminine. We wondered what our experience would be like: Would there be stares? Whispering? We experienced this in our hometowns in the US – so would it be different?
At first, Mexico City was intimidating, overwhelming, and massive! We fumbled daily with the correct change at the local ‘tienda’ or gas station. We used the wrong words to describe what we needed at the market. We met so many new people from all over the world, with differing world views, and life experiences. We listened, and these conversations allowed us to explore the complicated politics and religious beliefs of the Mexican people. We were cautioned to express our sexuality carefully, as Mexico has legalized same-sex marriage in some states, but not all.
Courtney and I pranced around Mexico City, taking in all it had to offer while extending our extroverted energy out into the world. We soaked in all the smells of street food stands, loud music, local art and history museums.
If you aren’t familiar with international travel, there are always local customs and cultural norms you should follow. This can sometimes feel crippling. A new language, a foreign currency, different forms of transportation, new foods. However, it can also be invigorating, exciting, and a learning experience that can change your perspective of the world. Even taking a week-long trip to a new country can create curiosity to learn more. While there is no handbook on how to travel in a foreign country, and everyone’s experience is different, I’m want to share my experience as a lesbian who lived in Mexico for a year.
After falling in love with Mexico City, we pressed forward. We enjoyed the fast pace of city life, but we were craving the ocean. We moved on to Puerto Vallarta, which defied all the warnings we were given before continuing our Mexican journey. Puerto Vallarta is one of the top gay travel destinations in Latin America. We had no idea! It has one of the largest pride celebrations in Latin America. We felt like we were living in a bubble that couldn’t possibly be Mexico. All of the locals were welcoming and warm and embraced the growing LGBTQ population that vacationed and relocated here full time. After enjoying our unplanned gaycation in Puerto Vallarta for 3 months, we decided to head to the wild state of Chiapas and explore the jungle.
Chiapas is where we were asked “are you two sisters” for the first time. We have had this question before while traveling in Latin America and we usually look at each other, smile and say “no we are not sisters”. We usually just leave it at that, hoping they won’t have any more follow up questions for us. We usually stray away from saying we are married or partners because we are met with strange looks in return.
Chiapas was a different world than Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta. It is the poorest state in Mexico, and it also has a very complicated political situation. There is a large indigenous population in Chiapas, they are very oppressed and struggle to have the same legal rights as other Mexicans. They live in their own villages, have their own education, their own language, and their own customs. We realized two white lesbian Americans walking around really wasn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
These relationship questions are asked by your taxi drivers, tour guides, coffee shop employees and are typically coming from a place of curiosity. The first hostel we stayed in in Mexico City was run by a Mexican lady. We often chatted with her about local markets and street food we should try. Once we asked her “why do you think all the locals stare at us? Do you think its because they know we are gay?” she said “no, they aren’t even thinking of that, they are curious. They are interested in your look and know you are from the United States. Most Mexicans are fascinated by United States culture”. This immediately changed the way we viewed all of the staring. Typically when someone stares at us we become paranoid, as if they know we are gay and are disgusted by it. This allowed us to relax a lot more.
While we never spoke fluent Spanish, we never felt like locals were saying anything about us while walking by, nor did we get catcalled or whistled at, which was something we experienced in other Latin American countries.
PDA as a Gay Couple in Mexico
Did avoiding PDA impact our experience in Mexico? Definitely not. Courtney and I are generally modest with our behavior and affection in public anyway. It must be because we both were born and raised in the ‘bible belt’, the southeastern part of the US, and drawing attention to ourselves would get you called “faggot” in a heartbeat there (I’ll save that for another time.)
Also know that depending on where you are in Mexico (Puerto Vallarta is an example) you can show PDA in public with a lot less risk. It is all based on your comfort level. Feel out each city as you go, and always use common sense.
Should lesbians be afraid to travel in Mexico?
Well, you’ve read a lot of words. You may still be wondering: Should lesbians be afraid to travel in Mexico? No, of course not! My wife and I spoke with a Mexican professor who is studying gender studies and begs the question “Where are the Lesbians?” in Mexico. We are trying to understand why its so common for gay men to travel, yet you rarely see lesbians traveling.
We hope to encourage all members of the LGBTQ community to travel more through our travel blog. Our goal is to provide detailed information on each location so you can plan your trip while feeling prepared and safe. Traveling and living in Mexico completely changed our lives and we hope to encourage other members of the LGBTQ community to discover its beauty as well.
About the author: Sam is short and sassy and has always dreamed of stepping outside the 9-5 life. She feeds every street animal she comes across during her travels. Her and her wife are forever searching for queer-friendly destinations to encourage more LGBTQ travelers to explore the world! Read more of their adventures on Leztravelforlife.com, and follow Sam and Courtney’s adventures on Instagram.