Our first solo traveler Interview- Dustin Schur
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Hi, I’m Dustin Schur, I grew up in suburbia Connecticut but most recently lived in midtown Manhattan for the last three years. From an early age my parents always emphasized the importance of experiences over material things, and we often took trips as a family. In high school I went on community service trips with Builders Beyond Borders to Central and South America, and in my early 20’s returned as an advisor chaperoning teens.
What triggered you into going on a solo world adventure?
Whenever I’d been between jobs I would tell myself here is my chance to really travel, but I would always worry about resumé gaps and being irresponsible so instead would hit the interview circuit and retether myself to the 9-5. After getting let go with three months notice I figured fuck it, this is my way out. My apartment lease and job were ending the same day, I had money saved, so why not? I couldn’t find anyone else ready to take the plunge, and this itch had been festering far too long, it was time to explore.
Why now and not earlier in your life?
I was too focused on building a stable life, I had a good job, a partner, we bought a house. I was trying to do all the things adults are “supposed” to do, but maybe it wasn’t what I wanted to do? Despite my efforts this path didn’t work out, I was in a dead end job and single (and looking ). All the things I had prioritized were stalled, and I was unhappy. So remedying that became my new priority.
What was the first thing you felt the moment you booked your flight?
I was anxious, anxious to get this adventure started. With three months of lead time everything was packed and in place, my nephew was born a couple days early so I was free to go. I booked my one way ticket to Amsterdam for the very next day and so my #eatgaylove began.
How did this experience differ from traveling with friends or family?
When traveling with friends and family it’s always on vacation mode, which means something different to everyone. Relaxing by the pool, shopping, fancy meals, activities. So depending on who I’m with it’s always a compromise of what to do and when, especially since it’s on a tight timeframe. On my own I can be spontaneous, and do exactly what I want without being selfish. While lonely at times I definitely hit my stride in Southeast Asia flowing in and out of different groups of travelers to share experiences with.
How did you prepare for your trip?
I didn’t do much. I had lined up places to stay with friends in various cities and timed it to link up with some other friends I knew traveling. But once I was solo I tended to just book as I went and ask other travelers what’s good.
Where have your solo adventures taken you and what have you taken from each of these places?
I went from Amsterdam to London to Paris and Berlin, and then flew to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, and am currently writing this from the slow boat to Laos. Each place has been such a different and amazing experience, sometimes doing things solo, or with friends, or making new ones. I’ve been lucky enough to have lots of friends to see along the way, but it’s also super fun to meet new people I would never have otherwise interacted with in my NYC bubble. I’ve learned, I’ve laughed, I’ve gone blonde, I’ve explosive diarrhead.
Will you come back to any of these countries? If so, which one?
Thailand has been my favorite by far. I already have a job sponsor from that time drunk Dustin just decided he was gonna bartend and was asked to come back. So I’m more wondering if I’ll be back to visit or stay for a bit.
Have you been pointed out or harassed for being homosexual in any of these places? If so, how did you manage the situation?
Not at all, and I never made any effort to hide it. In Amsterdam I said perhaps one too many yeses and ended up in a crack house. The dealer was quite nice and we were chatting, he asked me about girls back in America and with only a moments hesitation I decided to be myself and told him I didn’t like girls. Without missing a beat he asked if I like Caribbean guys because he could have one over in a half hour (prostitution is legal there). The only way the world is going to be comfortable with gays is if we are comfortable ourselves. This was only the second day of my trip but my final time hesitating.
Has there been a place you haven’t felt safe? If so, how did you deal with it?
I never felt unsafe, I always carry condoms just in case.
Is there anything you have learned about yourself with this experience?
I’ve become much more comfortable with things that used to give me anxiety. If I wanna eat alone or sit and read a book, I do. If I want to socialize and make friends, I no longer have any concerns about just walking up to a group of strangers. I’m curious to see how it’s gonna be when I come back to my old life, whether on visit or permanently.
If you could go back in time and do something differently what would that be?
Part of me wishes I did this sooner, I often find myself the oldest in my traveling groups. But I also think I’m much more secure both with who I am and financially, and therefore better able to optimize this adventure. And I never get tired of the shocked looks when people realize I’m a decade their senior.
What advice can you give to anyone out there thinking of solo traveling?
Don’t be afraid to travel alone, I’ve met some pretty strange birds along the way and even they find their flock. As a gay traveler, you have a super unique tool at your disposal, Grindr! I’ve used this to find out advice from locals and other travelers, I’ve met some great local hosts to show me around, and even bumped into people I knew and didn’t realize were in the same city. And I’m sure it could help save on some lodging costs if you’re looking for that kind of adventure 🙄.
Is solo traveling something that you will be willing to do again?
Yes, while I’d love someone to come along to share in this with me it’s no longer something I fret over. And now I have a network of travel buddies from all over to world to cross paths with again.
What’s next for Dustin?
I’m pretty sure the first rule of backpacking is never to ask this question! I might begrudgingly go back to my old employer for a 6 month consultancy, or right on back to Asia after the new year. In either case, there’s a lot more world to explore.
THANK YOU DUSTIN for such an amazing interview. For more of Dustin’s solo travel adventures follow him on Instagram at @dustypantz. This is just the first of many interviews to come. Keep coming back for more awesome stories and interviews of world travel lovers like yourself.