It was February 2009 when Sebastien Chaneac and Stefan Arestis met in a London bar. The dark-haired man of Greek origin -Stefan- had settled in the English city to practice as a lawyer; he was just at a job interview when he locked eyes with Sebastien. The cute boy across the bar was celebrating his last days in London with friends; he was going to move to Spain to enjoy the wines, the jabugo ham and the soccer players. But in the end, he changed his mind.
Chaneac and Arestisse dated, moved in together and passed the 30 barrier when they decided to take a swerve to change their lifestyle: the routine had a taste of boredom. It was then that they decided to put their careers on hold to pack their bags and embark on exotic destinations. Stefan was fascinated with the adventures of Genghis Kahn. And Sebastian was ready for a little adventure. In June 2014, they began their first journey with an 18-month journey exploring Asia. And they did not stop anymore: Latin America, Europe and the Middle East were their next destinations. They created the Nomadic Boys blog for their family and friends but, over time, they began to receive visits and sponsors: many wanted to know what it is like to travel the world for a gay couple. What at first was a means to communicate with their relatives became a business to finance a nomadic life.
Exploring remote corners, gastronomic delights and the best LGBT+ scenes, 10 years ago Stefan and Sebastian opened a window to the world to tell how this gay couple lives their adventure.
—On your first big trip together you toured Asia, why did you choose it?
Seby: Our first trip as a couple was in 2012 to Thailand, and then to Japan. We liked it so much that we wanted to return. Both of these destinations are very safe for gay people, although there are obviously many places on the continent that are not.
Stephan: I love historical fiction and ever since I read wolf of sorrowsby Conn Iggulden (on the life of Genghis Khan and his dynasty) I really wanted to visit Mongolia and take the Trans-Siberian. This was what inspired the first part of our trip to Asia, although we were a little hesitant at first and pretended to be “friends” for our safety.
—When did they say: “Okay, this is not just a gap year, we want this lifestyle”?
Seby: Initially, our trip was meant to be a gap year in Asia, and we created nomad boys in 2014 so that our family and friends would be aware of our travels – especially my mom who was worried about us and my dad who wanted to see the world through us. But a year after traveling, we started to get more and more traffic on the web and some brands started contacting us for collaborations. Everything went off from there.
SA: I used to work as a lawyer, but I quit when I got fed up with the career and wanted a change. My plan was to become a teacher after the trip to Asia but when the web started to take off, I put that idea aside for a while to dedicate myself to Nomadic Boys. I was researching what other former lawyers were doing to work online and came across Jodi Ettenberg’s “Legal Nomads” blog. She is a former Canadian lawyer who also did the Trans-Siberian and explored Mongolia in the same way that I wanted to. Instantly, I fell in love with her. She inspired me a lot and introduced me to blogging. Today we have a writer, editor, and social media manager working with us.
—How are they financed?
Seby: We receive around 250 thousand monthly visits to our site and this traffic translates into advertising, along with commissions from the hotels and tours that we recommend.
SA: We also have several paid campaigns throughout the year focused on our social networks.
What is it like to travel as a gay couple?
SA: For gay couples it’s a bit more complicated than for our straight friends. The first question we have to ask ourselves is “is it safe or legal to be gay in that destination?” Next, we have to consider, “do we have to act like friends?”, “do we have to set our social networks to private and avoid any posting during the trip?”.
—On your second trip you were in Argentina and several Latin American countries, what motivated you to come?
Seby: Argentina is one of the most gay friendly in the world and I always wanted to go – along with the rest of Latin America. It is famous for being very open to homosexuals and for its gay scene in Buenos Aires, where there are even gay milongas. It is something that we recommend to all LGBT+ tourists.
SA: I had already been and fell in love: the boys, the meat, the tango, the wine, the passion… I really wanted to go back with Seby so we could experience it. It was also an opportunity to give a talk on influential people LGBT+ at the G Network conference. There we were able to connect with many businesses gay friendly.
—In your experience, which is the most gay-friendly country and which is the most dangerous?
Seby: Spain and the Netherlands are the most open. They are two places where you feel very safe as a gay tourist wherever you are, even in rural areas. The most dangerous countries we visited were Lebanon and Russia, the latter for obvious reasons. In Lebanon there is anti-gay legislation and you are found posting any gay content on social networks during the trip, immigration officers can stop you, interrogate you and you are on a blacklist that prohibits you from returning to the country. This happened to us and we were scared to death.
SA: I agree with Seby, but I would add Canada and any Nordic countries, like Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway. These are the places that consistently top the charts for protecting LGBT+ rights and for how gay-friendly they are. You really feel that when you’re there, whether it’s in a big city or in a remote little town.
—What was the gay scene that surprised you?
Seby: Taiwan, another super gay-friendly place that many people probably don’t know about. It was the first (and only) country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The gay scene is huge and a lot of fun.
—I understand that the blog is also a tool to help the gay community, especially in countries with more restrictive laws. Why choose these destinations?
SA: In the beginning, we had a lot of negative press for traveling to countries with anti-gay legislation and being told it was better to “boycott” them, but we realized that it was much more effective to go to those places to support gay businesses that are struggling in a difficult environment. In the end, a homophobic government wants gay people not to go, so why give them that? Why not do the opposite and show that we are present and, most importantly, make visible that there are LGBT+ people living in that country?
—After living this nomadic life for 8 years, what is the negative part of being constantly in transit?
Seby: For a long time, we longed to have an enclave point and Covid gave us that. We took refuge in Cyprus – Stefan’s hometown – and got married before the pandemic. We were going to organize the wedding but the Covid spoiled the plan. We like Cyprus very much and we were able to return to normal life.
SA: Traveling all the time is exhausting and we try to counteract that by finding a place to base ourselves long-term that allows us to travel to other places from there, instead of being constantly on the move.
– Do you have plans to settle soon to, for example, have children?
SA: When it comes to starting a family, we are both very popular uncles and godfathers. I would like to adopt a few puppies and kittens but we know this won’t be possible until we settle down somewhere longer term and move to a bigger place. It’s in the cards, but not yet, there are so many places we want to visit!