My Normal Gay Life Founder Shares His Best Travel Packing Tips to Stay Organized

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

My name is Jose Harvey and I am a travel writer from Raleigh, North Carolina on the east coast of the United States. That is where I am based. I am currently in Grenoble, France exploring the small towns and villages of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of the country.

When it comes to my personality, I am very much a type A personality and ENFP. Technical designations aside, I like to plan out my travel and keep it flexible. For instance, yesterday I planned to do my own food tour of the city of Grenoble. Instead, the opportunity to visit the city of Annecy came up so I went with the flow. I don’t tend to be super relaxed but I do enjoy being on the road. I have a thirst for adventure in every aspect of my life and travel really fulfills that need.

My interests and hobbies include ecotourism, world history, LGBT history, photography, videography, art and theater, food experiences, off-the-beaten path travel, gardening, hiking and the outdoors, culture, and politics-just to name a few.

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

How and why did you get into traveling?

About three years ago, my (now) husband and I got married. Gay marriage was legalized for about a year in my state at that point in time and we knew it was time. So we had a big wedding, exchanged rings, and spent a ton of money on it all. Afterward, I felt a little empty because the process was over and it had kept me busy for over a year. I was also in my second graduate program at the time, so I decided to add another labor-intensive project to my workload and start a blog. Originally, I intended the blog to focus on my life as a married gay man. But I realized writing about the day-to-day life was kind of boring and really no different than any other non-gay couple. The subject I always felt excited to write about was our travels. Travel was and is super important to us as a couple. So I started focusing on that and here we are now.

I suppose what influenced me to start is a desire to be independent. I don’t really like the idea of working for a traditional company. Sitting behind a desk and working on someone else’s projects just seems miserable to me. Aside from that, I love to write and I love photography. This is a way for me to combine the two of them.

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

I’ve had a lot of inspiration from my fellow bloggers. The Nomadic Boys were a huge inspiration for me. I love their blog and what they represent. They’ve always been super supportive of me and we are great friends now. I also was a little influenced by the It Gets Better campaign. I thought the blog could really compliment it all. And I’ve actually received loads of messaged from readers telling me how the blog has helped them be their authentic selves. That really keeps me going.

As for getting prepared for my first travel, there wasn’t much to it. I’m adventurous. I packed a bag and hopped on a plane to Ireland. When it comes to finances, I recognize I am a bit privileged. I told my husband what I wanted to do and he 100% supported my pursuit of this career. That’s pretty special. He was on board from the very beginning. Without his support, I definitely could not do what I currently do. We are lucky that we don’t really have too many financial worries and have our ducks in a row. We have a number of business ventures, which means I can focus on what I love.

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

How do you prepare for your adventures and travels?

I work out five days a week when I am at home. It’s important to keep in shape and fit because that helps me stay healthy while I’m on the road. While I am on the road, I try to work out as much as a I can but I’m not always successful. I also try to watch what I eat.

I never leave home without my DSLR which is important for awesome photography. I also carry my GoPro and gimbal for stability. My phone is super important. On top of that, converters are usually a must and power banks as well. As for bags, I use Deuter brand backpacks. I just find the bags to be super durable and lightweight. I don’t really rely on books for travel. Most the information I need can be found online.

When it comes to planning my travels, I usually decide on a region. Then I decide on countries within that region. Then I decide on specific cities, towns, landmarks, or natural wonders I’d like to see. After all these decisions, I consider budget and whittle things down a bit. I try to figure out lodging and transportation but usually do that on the fly. Like I said, I prefer to have a preliminary plan but then I sort of just wing it.

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

How do you finance your travels?

A lot of people think being a travel writer means I am constantly going on free vacations. But this is certainly not the case. I pay for most my travel myself because I don’t want my readers and fans to perceive me as a sell out. In other words, by not heavily associating with specific brands, I can keep my writing more authentic and it doesn’t feel as though I am selling a product to my readers. This is very important to me and I think it comes across pretty well in the blog.

However, at times, I participate in press trips with brands or tourism boards. These offer the opportunity to visit an area seeking promotion. I enjoy trips like this because I get to see and experience a lot and usually meet other travel writers.

I’d certainly be open to sponsors but at this moment, I have none. Any sponsor working with me would need to understand that I will continue to be authentic.

  • I do have a few side gigs.
  • I work as a freelance Communications Manager for the NC State University Agroecology Education Farm.
  • My husband and I own a small garden décor manufacturing company.
  • I’ll soon be part of owner of a construction company.

Travel costs can add up pretty quickly when you travel as much as I do. However, I tend to travel on a budget and am not extravagant. I prefer to not go into my personal finances. However, I spend money mostly on traveling. I will use my gear until it wears out.

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

Why is traveling important for you?

Travel is important to me because I crave experiences. I spent nearly 28 years of my life receiving formal education. I believe education is extremely important. However, through travel I’ve gained additional knowledge not obtainable through books or a classroom. I’ve come to understand various cultures better, why history worked out the way it has better, and come to understand myself deeper.

Travel gives me this other kind of knowledge, which is just as valuable as book knowledge. Meeting people and being an active participant in this world we live in is fulfilling. So I travel to be fulfilled. At this point in my life, travel fulfills me. Of course, this could change.

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

How do you bring your things with you?

I own a large and small Deuter backpack. I own two Samsonite suitcases. I own one REI hiking backpack. And I use packing cubes to stay organized. When I travel, I typically only carry a small backpack despite owning all these bags. So I definitely have more than enough space with my bags. I just don’t take a lot with me because it is unnecessary.

How do you organize things in your bags?

When it comes to packing, I actually have a couple articles on the blog that goes into detail. My philosophy is to pack as little as possible because I don’t want to lug around a lot of weight while I travel. Simplified packing really does make my life easier. But as for others, I’d suggest people consider what their goals are for travel. Then pack accordingly. A vacation might require a lot of outfits. But other types of travel may require far less. It’s all according to one’s goals.

I use packing cubes. They’re a lifesaver! So everything has its place. Usually, I use my clothes to cushion my electronics. Honestly, the only thing I want is a dedicated place for electronic chords.

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

How do your bags and gear hold up?

My bags hold up fine. I don’t have any issues with them. Like I said, I don’t pack a lot and take only the gear I need. I think everyone should use packing cubes and definitely invest in something to keep you electronic cables organized.

What has been your best travel-related purchase below $100?

Packing cubes are by far one of my best travel-related purchases. They help keep everything perfectly organized. You can have them super cheaply off Amazon. Amazon has its own brand of packing cubes.

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

What is your best advice for other travelers?

I think it’s really important to adapt to your surroundings and not all travelers agree with me on this one. When we travel to other places, it’s important to remember we are visiting someone else’s home. As an LGBT traveler, sometimes I can’t, nor should I, flaunt. It can be dangerous but that doesn’t mean I should not visit certain places. Are there places where I refuse to visit? Certainly. But there are many places where LGBT people are not quite understood and I still visit those places. We won’t effect any change if we avoid these places. That’s just one example.

Another example has to do with diet. If you are a vegetarian then you need to consider the local foods and customs of the region. Don’t visit a village where the people might slaughter a goat in your honor and then turn your nose up. It is so important to be culturally sensitive and show respect. Remember, you are the visitor.

As for getting out the door, just do it. Seriously, what are you waiting for. You’ll always have excuses. Time to ignore those excuses and do it anyway.

My Normal Gay Life Jose Harvey

What will the future bring?

Well, there are some pretty crazy changes coming to my life. I’ll still travel no matter what. But we’ll have to see to what extent. I am so excited for the changes though! I’m not able to divulge those details yet but stay tuned on the blog.

Visit Jose Harvey on his website and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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