Celebrating PRIDE Month

Celebrating Pride Month: Connecting with the LGBTQ+ community around the world

As we celebrate Pride month this June, we invite our LGBTQ+ staff members and members from our Remote Year Nation to share some of their personal stories.

Now that Pride month is coming to a close, we invite our Remote Year Nation to share their stories on how traveling and working remotely with Remote Year has helped them connect with their LGBTQ+ community and their own identity.

In each city we travel to and work from, we discover the local history of LGBTQ+ communities. In Athens, we’ve learned about the language created by the LGBTQ+ community, we’ve met talented drag performers in Chiang Mai, and we’ve explored LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in Medellin - just to name a few. As we explore the world together, we make deep and meaningful connections while also discovering our own identities along the way. 

 Erin Conroy

Name: Erin Conroy

Current Location: New York

Programs: 1-month Trip Lisbon, 1-month Trip Medellin

Profession: Director | Ad Solutions

Instagram: @erinmaeconroy

Originally from Long Island, Erin lived and worked in the New York Metropolitan area for 10+ years. Her day job is advertising, but she’s also trained in improvisation/sketch comedy at The Second City and iO Theaters in Chicago. When she’s not traveling somewhere new, you'll find her lounging and reading a book on one of her favorite beaches!

Was there a moment on your Remote Year programs that made you feel more connected with the LGBTQ+ community?

My first RY trip was a 1-month trip to Lisbon, Portugal. Our community leader Daniel and city manager Bernardo facilitated such an open and accepting environment. I was newly exploring my queer identity. I felt so safe showing up as my most authentic self in a group of "strangers", that I even surprised myself with how open I was! Thank you to Daniel and Bernardo for creating such a supportive and welcoming community for everyone!

What is the biggest impact that Remote Year had on your life as an LGBTQ+ person?‍

Traveling with a group of strangers to a new place inevitably gets you out of your comfort zone and pushes you to learn more about yourself and those around you. The RY community is full of accepting and empathic people, and having such a supportive group of new friends allowed me to accept myself more fully, especially as someone who came out in my late 20s/early 30s!

Luke Lopez

Name: Luke Lopez

Current Location: Traveling (currently in Valencia, Spain)

Programs: Currently on month 7 of his 12-month Journey Around the World

Profession: Inclusive Design Director | Luke Lopez Creative

Instagram: @lukelopez

Luke is a big-hearted, proudly queer, and multi-racial artist from Toronto, Canada who forges meaning everywhere he goes. He’s a natural at connecting with people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets. Through the years he’s learned that his best work is at the intersection of creativity, empathy, purpose, and storytelling. His impact and career experience span 12+ years in the fields of government, healthcare, marketing, advertising, public relations, media, customer service, non-profit, beauty, and fashion. 

Was there a moment on your Remote Year programs that made you feel more connected with the LGBTQ+ community?

As a queer person myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the Non-Binary Stories experience in Medellin, where I learned a ton about the LGBTQ+ life and history in the city. It kicks off on Calle del Pecado (The Street of Sin), a mix of contrasts where the trans community worked and emerged. Then we explored La Casa College, where Abraxas Aguilar (the 1st out trans politician) in Prado Centro built an art collage house garnering 7 Guinness World Records. It was a wonder to see their home which is basically a living and breathing art piece. We ended up at the provocative Los Colores Medellin, originally a brothel for trans/non-binary sex workers, which is now a motel for the burgeoning kink and fetish community. It's a wonderful space protecting the queer community, letting them safely create art, and providing a place for them to perform. It was a queer night to remember in Medellin and a way to give back to my community. We had the super talented and gorgeous queer artist Acida show us around as a tour guide, which was a highlight. The whole evening was art in motion celebrating queerness to its fullest and I felt connected to my community in such a unique and personal way.

What is the biggest impact that Remote Year had on your life as an LGBTQ+ person?‍

I've realized that there is still so much more work that needs to be done all over the world for queer folk. In some places we visited, there are still highly machismo cultures where queer communities barely even exist. Then there are places with explicit queer rights, communities, and safe spaces. It's jarring to experience the disparity while traveling, but also humbling to remember how lucky I am to live in a place (Canada) that has a fulsome set of rights, spaces, and communities that I have access to, that helps me feel seen and find belonging. It has inspired me to see what I want to impact and influence in my work in the future and where there are gaps that need to be addressed. Global queer leadership has become an even bigger priority for me. Ultimately, my goal is to help all equity-seeking groups feel like they can bring their whole selves to work + life and be celebrated and succeed for it.

Ray Fast

Name: Ray Fast

Current Location: On Remote Year

Programs: 12-month Journey Around the World

Profession: Director - Travel Experience | PerkSpot

Instagram: @senorrapido08

Ray is originally from a small town near Kalamazoo, Michigan. He went to college in Indiana and lived in Chicago for 13 years before joining a Remote Year 12-month Journey Around the World in October 2021. He loves to travel and he has managed to turn his passion into a profession. Once, he even managed to be on 3 continents in 24 hours. When he’s not treading the globe and he’s parked on the couch, he’s a big sci-fi fan, especially when there's an epic soundtrack involved. His latest obsession is the Dune soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.

Was there a moment on your Remote Year programs that made you feel more connected with the LGBTQ+ community?

I’d say the entire experience of meeting program members - both in my program and in others. The people that join these programs are so diverse. I’ve gained new friendships, but also an appreciation for just how diverse the community is, just by meeting other LGBTQ folks in casual settings on my travels. Back home, I would typically meet new friends through my existing social circle (friends, work, neighborhood, etc). Remote Year brings together people from all walks of life and that includes the LGBTQ community, so I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of different types of community members I might not have crossed paths with before. The larger network of connections that I made on the program has helped me feel connected to the community in new ways.

What is the biggest impact that Remote Year had on your life as an LGBTQ+ person?‍

It's made me more comfortable with "always coming out." For most of our adult lives, our social circle is relatively stable so unless you change jobs or move, you don't generally have to reintroduce yourself frequently. Remote Year blows all of that up in a great way - you're meeting new people constantly. Now 10+ years into being out, I don't want to hide anything anymore. These two factors together made me a lot more comfortable with casually mentioning that I'm gay much earlier in meeting new people.

Julen Ortega

Name: Julen Ortega

Current Location: Athens - moving to Istanbul end of June

Profession: European Regional Director | Remote Year

Instagram: @juls.ortega

Julen was born and raised in Valencia and spent the first 25 years of his life as a woman. He is now a 29-year-old trans man who is very happy to be able to fully be himself, while doing what he loves - travel. He was first bit by the travel bug at the age of 8, when his family moved to Strasbourg (France) for 4 years. When he turned 18, he got a job at Disneyland Paris, and that’s when his passion for working in tourism began. He loves meeting people from all over the world and his social life in Valencia has always involved multiple nationalities and diversity. He has put all his love and care into organizing the most unique experiences for the Remote Year Nation! 

Was there a moment on your Remote Year programs that made you feel more connected with the LGBTQ+ community?

We did an experience recently in Athens, Greece called ‘Uncensored Athens’. During this event, a guide was explaining to us about the different areas of Athens and how they were different to the tourist ones. These neighborhoods seemed broken, abandoned, dirty, and felt "unsafe". The walk was connected to the LGTBQ+ Community that lived on those streets. We learned about Caliarda, a language invented by the LGTBQ+ Community during the war to prevent police and soldiers from understanding them. This language is a mix of many cultures and other languages such as Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Greek, etc. It was amazing to learn about this historical fact and it made me think about how fortunate I am to be experiencing life as it is now in modern times. There is still a long way to go and many things still need to change, but learning about what the community created there just to be safe, take care of each other, and to survive their struggles together, was amazing.

What is the biggest impact that Remote Year had on your life as an LGBTQ+ person?‍

Wow, so many. But the most impactful thing is that thanks to RY I was able to save money and take 2 weeks off for my top surgery and I don't feel ashamed or bad for it. Completely the opposite, the whole team supported me and was constantly checking on me. This is something that I had been waiting to do for years. Had I not been a team member of RY I wouldn't have had that opportunity.

Juan Salazar

Name: Juan Salazar

Current Location: Medellin, Colombia

Programs: None, but have seen over 40 programs come through our cities as a Regional Director.

Profession: Regional Director - Latin America | Remote Year

Instagram: @juandso

Born in Colombia, Juan is Remote Year’s Latin America Regional Director. He has a Master's degree in International Hospitality Management and spent years working in the hospitality and entertainment industries before joining the Remote Year team. In addition to being a talented Regional Director, Juan is quite the polyglot! He speaks 4 languages fluently (English, Spanish, French, German), and also knows some Portuguese, Italian, and Mandarin. He has visited over 35 countries and is always on the lookout for his next exciting destination.

Was there a moment on your Remote Year programs that made you feel more connected with the LGBTQ+ community?

Working for Remote Year as a Regional Director in Latin America programs has given me newfound freedom as this is the first job where I feel I can be 100% myself. It’s great that staff and remotes are so open to the LGBTQ+ community. In some of our cities, we have activities that support the LQBTQ+ communities and I just love the response that we get every month from people who want to learn from these experiences.

What is the biggest impact that Remote Year had on your life as an LGBTQ+ person?‍

I feel so comfortable just being myself at the workplace for the first time in my life. This has never happened to me before. Being at peace with your identity allows you to focus on the important things in life. It allows you to grow faster both professionally and personally. I am very grateful for this. I now understand how important it is to provide a safe place for people to feel accepted, both in the professional world but also in their personal circle.

Local Experience

Creating a safe and inclusive environment is what makes our travels so special. We travel together, we learn from each other, and we connect, while working remotely and exploring the world.

Further Reading: