Steph & Katie are the married Canadian lesbian couple behind Lez See the World, a travel and lifestyle community for queer women (they host a private Facebook group and have arranged in person meet-ups in the past). They both grew up in Vancouver, where Steph played competitive ice hockey and Katie learned dance and music. Steph earned her bachelor’s degree in film and communications but also trained elite athletes and coached professional women’s ice hockey, attended pastry school, and worked as a photographer and videographer. Katie pursued a career in professional dance — performing on stage and in film and television — and worked as a model for nearly a decade.
After meeting and discovering their mutual wanderlust, the couple has traveled the world together, venturing across Canada and the US, throughout Western Europe and the UK, down to Central and South America, and to Asia, and Australia. The pandemic may have thwarted their plans last year but they continued to make space for queer women’s voices. Steph & Katie recently spoke with Out Traveler about their work and plans for the future.
Steph, we really want to hear a little about playing competitive ice hockey in Canada. What was that like?
Hockey has been such a huge part of my life. I convinced my parents to sign me up when I was 5 years old, even though at that time everyone thought hockey was ‘just for boys.’ I played competitive Rep boys hockey until I was 14, and then switched to AAA senior women's. I played on US National Championship teams, NCAA Division 1, and professionally in [Canada's] Western Women's Hockey League before it disbanded due to lack of funding. I had an amazing time playing and coaching hockey, even though it wasn’t and still isn’t a full-time career option for women. Hopefully with all the work that professional women players are doing now, there will be viable opportunities for women to play pro hockey and be paid a living wage in the near future!
Katie do you still dance?
I was put in dance lessons before I was 3 years old, and I grew up dancing competitively. I became a professional performer in my teens and I danced in stage shows, at events, and in film and television for many years. Dance also led me to my modeling career and I’ve worked as a professional freelance model for over a decade! Right before the pandemic started I even wrote a book for photographers, and started speaking at workshops and seminars as an educator. At this point I consider myself semi-retired, as COVID has really brought these creative industries to a halt. I’m not sure what things will look like when this is all over and whether or not I’ll get back to modeling and dancing, but I know it will always be a part of my life in some way. I’m also really grateful that a lot of my skills as a model and performer cross over into the work we do with Lez See the World. I still get the opportunity to be an artist and get creative, and I’m so grateful for that.
You have a home in Vancouver. If you were going to show someone around town where would you take them first?
Vancouver is home for us. It’s the city where we met and it’s also where we are currently living and waiting things out. We’re really fortunate to have purchased a condo here in 2019, so we’ve had somewhere comfortable to stay over this past year. Vancouver is such a beautiful place, and during non-COVID times we have so much fun showing friends around! Some of our favorite spots are the city beaches, Stanley Park, all the local craft breweries, Granville Island, the North Shore mountains, Gastown, and the False Creek Seawall. We would definitely take someone to the seawall first!
You also have a home in Niagara Falls and do Airbnb. What is it like hosting while also being active travelers yourselves?
We do, yes! We bought a house in Niagara Falls in 2015 when we were living and working in Ontario. We love the Airbnb community and we’ve used the platform as both hosts and travelers for a very long time. Property rentals have been a big part of our business over these past 5 years and we’re so grateful for that. We love it! Things have changed a lot during the pandemic because people aren’t able to travel, and so we’re very fortunate to have had some great long-term renters in our Niagara Falls home. We normally get out there 2-3 times a year to check on everything and get things done around the house, but we haven’t made it back since the end of 2019. We have an amazing manager who handles things and takes care of our renters and things have been going smoothly!
Tell us about a #TravelFail and how you recovered.
Our worst travel fail was probably in Barcelona, Spain in 2016. The Airbnb we booked ended up feeling really unsafe but we couldn’t find anywhere else to stay for our time there. We stuck it out and filed a complaint because the host had security cameras inside the apartment, and the front door to the building didn’t lock properly. We actually got a full refund, which made it way less of a fail but it really put a damper on our visit! We’ll have to go back to Barcelona someday to properly experience the city.
The couple in front of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.
What are your top travel tips for LGBTQ+ travelers?
Our main tip is to do your research before traveling! Everyone’s comfort level will be different, but a lot of LGBTQ+ travelers will want to consider how safe they feel being out and open while on a trip. If you don’t like to closet yourself or maybe you’re traveling with a partner and want to feel safe holding hands in public, it’s important to research a destination before considering traveling there. Every country in the world has different LGBTQ+ laws, and some are far more conservative than others. We personally choose to travel to destinations that are more open and accepting, but everyone’s different and that’s okay! If you’re like us and you like to be out and proud on your travels, there are a lot of really amazing destinations around the world that are very LGBTQ+ friendly. There are a lot of great resources online that discuss the laws and social climate of different destinations, as well as offer information about the local gay scene if there is one. It can be really fun to connect with the local queer community while traveling! Above all, be safe and have fun!
Steph and Katie in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Is there a place (hotel, neighborhood, city, country, region) that you are particularly fond of visiting? Why?
We’ve always considered ourselves city people and so we love traveling to big cities! New York City, Paris, Buenos Aires, London, Sydney, and Tokyo are some of our all-time faves. We also really enjoy beach destinations and could see ourselves going back to some of our favorites like Aruba, Costa Rica, and Mexico over and over again. But the place that is most special to us of anywhere in the world, has to be our home city of Vancouver. It’s where we met, where we fell in love, where we made our first home together, and where we got married. It will always be the place we are most fond of, and no matter where we live in the future or where we travel to next, we will always make our way back here.
Are you already back to traveling? Where are you going next?
Yes! Fortunately non-essential travel became allowed within our province and the rest of Canada earlier this month, and so we have started easing back in. We’re starting with travel adventures within BC because we have so many beautiful local destinations to explore! Our first trip was to Whistler, and right now we’re up in the Okanagan. Since November we have been following all the rules and regulations and staying within our health region, so it feels so good to get out and start travelling responsibly now that it’s safe to do so. We’re excited to get back to being on the road full-time and living our location-independent lifestyle!
What’s the best or worst thing about traveling as a lesbian couple?
The best thing about traveling as a lesbian couple is getting to have amazing travel experiences together, and probably the fact that we can pack everything together and share clothes! The worst thing is definitely having to be hyper vigilant and thinking about our safety at all times. We tend to travel to destinations that are more open and accepting, but it’s still something we are always aware of. Even with all the privileges we hold, we still always have to be thinking about our safety as openly queer people and as women. The world isn’t always a safe place for our community, and that definitely influences our decisions and experiences as travelers.
What’s your top prediction about travel in 2021?
As the vaccines continue to roll-out around the world we’re hopeful that travel will slowly return to normal. Here in Canada we’re hoping that the land border to the US will open up again once it’s safe. Our prediction is that there will be a big focus on road-trips and local travel, and less of a focus on air travel and long-haul trips. We think that a lot of people will likely ease back in to travel by exploring their own areas first, and traveling to destinations they can get to by car.
Below, Steph and Katie enjoy sunset at Palm Beach, Aruba.