Wine Connoisseur? Ghost Enthusiast? New LGBTQ Travel Book Gives Options

June ushers in the official start of Summer but more significantly, it’s all things Pride, making it exactly the right month for Out In The World: An LGBTQIA+ (and Friends!) Travel Guide to More Than 100 Destinations Around the World, a new, luxe, lushly photographed, inclusive travel guide, with experiences for the LGBTQIA+ communities as well as their extended families and friends. Co-authored by writer and teacher Amy B. Scher (This Is How I Save My Life) and playwright and essayist Mark Jason Williams, both of whom are LBTQIA+, the duo selected 120 cities in North America and around the world. The breezy but comprehensive book has something for pretty much every kind of adventurer and even those with just a thimble of wanderlust, from the gourmands to the wine connoisseurs and hiking enthusiasts, and even the ghost lovers get a shout-out.

I spoke with Scher to find out what it’s like to be both a Jewish and queer traveler.

Shani R. Friedman: Where did you grow up? Did your family travel a lot when you were a kid?

Amy B. Scher: I grew up in Southern California. My family traveled a lot – from camping further up or down the state, to Vegas, in the days when there were only a couple of kid-friendly hotels. I always loved travel, namely road trips—where we’d unpack the car each night, falling into a mound of fluffy pillows and ready for the next day’s exploration. My sense of adventure was definitely nurtured by my hippie parents who had a VW bus named Bernie that became almost like another member of the family.

SRF: Did you grow up in a Jewish household? Does your Jewishness factor into your travels along with your LGBTQIA+ perspective?

ABS: I was raised Jewish. My grandparents and uncle are Survivors, and my dad was born in a displacement camp in Germany in 1947. I don’t remember our Jewishness being a factor in travel growing up. Except for when we came to the East Coast to visit family. Our family business was a deli and catering company in Plainfield, N.J., named Leon’s. I’d love to go there, sit at the counter, get hugged too tightly by the staff and regular customers, trying all the different Jewish cookies and pickles. It felt like home even though I never lived close by.

SRF: Did being the grandchild of Survivors (and the daughter of someone born in a Displaced Person’s camp) help shape your travels when you were grown (with both Jews and the queer community being persecuted people)?

ABS: As an adult traveler, I’ve felt more connected to my Jewishness for sure. In 2022, when my wife, mom, and I visited Salzburg, we crossed over into Germany to visit the displacement camp my dad was born in.

SRF: What made you decide to write the book? What was lacking in your travels? How did you come to find your co-author and write it?

ABS: [Mark and I] wrote the book because we didn’t feel included in the travel books out there. I think it’s much like I’ve felt about being Jewish. Being in the LGBTQIA community means maybe I need or want to feel included without my identity necessarily being emphasized in relationship to travel. For example, mainstream travel books either had a short section at the back for the queer community with a few suggestions, or there were entire queer-focused books that had only hotspots and stereotypical activities. I don’t want to travel for Pride parades. I want to feel comfortable and safe in a place while doing what everyone else is doing—eating at great restaurants, seeking out the hidden gems of the spot, and finding my next favorite souvenir at local shops. It’s the same for traveling as a Jew. I don’t want to hit just the Jewish-related museums. So that’s how this book came about. Both of us often travel with our mothers or straight friends and family members, so it was important not to exclude anyone (including those people). This book is mother-approved!

[We] met when I was on one of author and teacher Susan Shapiro’s panels. It was wild! I had moved to New York 48 hours before. He came up to me after and we became friends. A few years ago, I got an editor position at Thrillist, heading up their LGBTQ travel column. I hired Mark since he was already writing travel. And the rest is history!

SRF: How did you decide which destinations to include, and did you two visit all of them?

ABS: We really wanted people to have a choice of experiences—both in the US and internationally. So we chose about 50% of each. We first set out to fulfill themes like foodie destinations, place where people could be in nature, and so on. We’ve been to almost all of them between us, and we had boots on the ground (family and friends in the community) to the few we hadn’t been to.

SRF: How has your Pride Month been with your book rolling out? What’s next for you and for Mark? Do you two have another book in you?

ABS: It’s been so fun—many book tour stops. We’ve loved connecting with fellow travelers (and also many writers looking for insight on how to break into publishing). As far as future books, we’d love to! Mark is writing a travel memoir. I wrote one in 2018 and it was one of the most fulfilling projects of my life. But we’re hoping this becomes a series so we can help people get even further out into the world, maybe with focusing more on specific audiences, like families, couples, etc.

SRF: Last question. Were there cities you wanted to include that didn’t make the cut?

ABS: There were so many; we have enough for another book, which is incredible! Ten years ago we would have been scraping together inclusive places. Now we have too many. It’s something to celebrate.

For more on Out in the World: An LGBTQIA+ (and Friends!) Travel Guide to More Than 100 Destinations Around the World, go to the book’s website.