Nomadic Boys is the travel blog of Stefan Arestis and Sebastien Chaneac (pictured kissing in front of a mural of Batman and Superman in Manchester UK) who have been traveling together for over a decade. Stefan is a Greek Cypriot, born in London. Sebastien is from Lyon in France. They recently spoke with Out Traveler about their relationship and travels.
How did you guys get together?
We met in the G-A-Y bar in Soho, London in February 2009. It was love at first sight! In our London days, Stefan used to be a lawyer, Sebastien a computer programer. We eventually moved in together, bought our own place, and would do lots of two week holidays when we could get the time off work. Over time we realised we wanted a complete change and to see more of the world, particularly Asia. So after several years of planning and saving, we quit our jobs and London lives and left in 2014 for what was meant to be a sabbatical in Asia. This trip turned into a two-year adventure across the continent, followed by another two-year stint in Latin America. Nomadic Boys grew off the back of this. What started as a blog to keep our friends/family updated evolved into what has now become our full time vocation.
Prior to meeting each other, we had traveled a great deal individually. Stefan had done many inter-railing adventures across Europe and undertaken various volunteer programs in South America. Seby, originally from France, had done many solo trip closer to home, but his big move before meeting Stefan was to the UK - a big deal for a young French boy with limited English skills!
If you were going to show a queer friend around your home base (London, right?) where would you take them?
In London we would recommend the gay scene of Soho, a few shows in the West End (Kinky Boots and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie our two current favs) and a walk across the Embankment along the South Bank for the best views, particularly on Waterloo Bridge where you have Westminster on one side, and the city, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf on the other. Pro tip for travelers flying into LHR: aim to get a window seat on the right hand side of the plane for the best views of the city!
(Stefan and Sebastien on The Gili Islands in Lombok, Indonesia)
You recently wrote about the time you almost got arrested for being gay in Delhi. What was that experience like? What advice do you have for other LGBTQ+ travelers to avoid similar experiences?
This post was in relation to our trip in India back in late 2014. This was a time when the Indian Supreme Court was flip/flopping about legalising LGBTQ+ rights. In a nutshell, the Delhi high court decriminalised the anti-gay law in 2009, however the higher Supreme Court overturned this judgement in late 2013, making it illegal again. They subsequently got rid of this archaic law in a euphoric decision in 2018. So when we were there in 2014, it was technically illegal to be gay. In reality what this means is that the authorities, the police in particular, can use it as a way to elicit a bribe from for example gay club promoters. During our visit, we discovered a gay underground party happening in Delhi which we went to. At around midnight, the lights in the club suddenly switched off, the music stopped and everyone headed to the windows to see two police officers talking to the club promoter. We were terrified, but our friend reassured us telling us that this was common. The police came to collect their bribe from the promoters and in turn everyone is allowed to leave the club in peace from the back door.
Obviously in modern-day India, this is no longer an issue in light of the Supreme Court finally getting rid of the archaic anti-gay law. However, we always advise LGBTQ+ travelers heading to countries with dubious anti-gay rights is to do your research first. Check the laws and your local government advice about that destination before making your decision. Once you’ve assessed the risks, it’s really a personal decision as to whether or not you want to visit that destination. Many LGBTQ+ travelers feel it is an insult to visit countries with anti-gay laws and we quite understand this sentiment, we certainly used to think like this before our big trip in Russia on the Trans Siberian Railway. However, having visited a handful of countries with archaic anti-gay laws in place (like Singapore, Malaysia, the Maldives, Lebanon, Sri Lanka), we quickly realised that it is far more productive to go there and connect with the local LGBTQ+ community and support local gay-owned or gay-friendly businesses. We have a detailed summary of all our practical tips and advice for LGBTQ+ travelers on our gay travel page, which we recommend you check out.
Do you have a favorite queer destination? A bar, restaurant, hotel, beach, or shop that stands out?
There are many, but if we had to pick one, it would be Bangkok, Thailand. We love the gay scene of Silom, especially in Silom Soi 4 between Balcony, Telephone, and Stranger gay bars. Thailand’s also terrific because it offers so much for LGBTQ+ travelers -- a rich cultural heritage in the North, plenty of gay parties happening throughout the year, incredible beaches in the islands in the south (Koh Lipe being our favorite) and delicious food. In terms of hotels, we love the W Bangkok. It’s not only super lush, but the W brand generally is well known for being really embracing to LGBTQ+ travelers and we love them for this!
(Pictured the Nomadic Boys at Medellin Castillo Castle, Colombia)
Tell us about a #TravelFail and how you recovered.
During our trip in Colombia, we stayed a few weeks in the capital, Bogota. When out exploring the cool Bohemian downtown La Candelaria neighborhood, we stopped at a cafe for lunch. Stefan left his bag in a chair behind him. Both of us completely ignored this. Stefan got up to go to the toilet, then when he returned, the bag was gone! As seasoned travelers, you would have thought that by now we’d learn not to leave our bags unattended. Thankfully the bag only had cash and a few other insignificant pieces of clothing in it, which we successfully managed to claim back from our travel insurance. But as the policeman told Stefan later on, “No dar papaya!” which literally means, “Don’t show off your papayas in public!” Papayas is a Colombian synonym for your valuables. Important travel lesson learned: put your chair leg over your bag strap when putting it down away from your person — and always have adequate travel insurance!
Another travel fail in that same trip — we were out having dinner in a restaurant in Bogota. We ordered a few cocktails to start our meal, but we were missing straws. Stefan, keen to practice his Spanish called the waiter over, but we couldn’t remember the word for a “straw” in Spanish. A quick check on Google Translate told us it is “paja” — which is indeed the right word for most Spanish speaking countries… So Stefan proudly asked the sweet young waiter guy in Spanish for a “paja.” The waiter looked at Stefan nervously, giggled, then ran away. We looked at each other completely bemused, then another waiter came back to us — an older lady, who spoke fluent English. We asked her again for a paja. She smiled, then explained to us “in Colombia a paja is a slang/rude word, but I understand what you mean, don’t worry!” Turns out, a paja is Colombian slang for “a wank”…! How did we recover? We bumped into that same waiter guy in the Theatron gay club later that evening and bought his a drink to apologize.
(in Cavo Maris, Cyprus)
What else should we know about you and your work?
What started as a humble blog to tell our friends/family about our travels has since evolved into what is now one of the most popular online resources for LGBTQ+ travelers. Our mission is to inspire and show gay travellers that they can visit more places in the world than they thought possible, by providing a first-hand account of our travel adventures, which will help them plan a fun and safe trip. We believe we should be able to travel wherever we want regardless of our sexual orientation. We also believe that connecting with LGBTQ+ locals makes our travels more meaningful and allows us to experience a unique perspective of the gay scene and the gay life of that country. You can read more about this on the Gay Stories section of our website, which has all the interviews with done with LGBTQ+ locals we’ve met from our travels.