Tag Archives: gay lifestyle

MODERN GAY TRAVEL: ISRAEL

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Israel several times, each time for a different reason. The first time I visited was in 2003 whilst on a youth program. We travelled the length and breadth of the country for three weeks, seeing every site, museum and two-star hotel that the country had to offer. The trip culminated in Eilat where I stayed on with a group of friends for a few days. It was during this time that I had my first adult gay experience. He was a soldier on leave from the army and our group had adopted him as one of our own. We all hung out together, drinking in our hotel rooms, going out for dinner, swimming in the hotel pool. One night after everyone had gone to bed, he and I decided to go for a late night dip. It was January in Israel, winter, but the pool was warm and the hotel near empty. We were messing around, as teenagers do. Just innocent, general roughhousing at first but the energy changed the more body contact we made. Sensing an opportunity, I dared him to take off his swimming costume. He said that he would if I would, so excitedly,  I did. There we were, two guys, totally naked in the middle of the Middle East, not knowing what would happen next. Running into the pool was a man-made waterfall – one of those typical water features one would find in a holiday resort built in the 90’s. I dared him to jump off it. He did. Minus a few side glances in the high school locker rooms, it was the first time that I had properly seen another guy naked in the flesh.

The temperature dropped significantly so we returned to my hotel room which I was sharing with a girl friend. I suggested that we wash the chlorine off our bodies. He jumped into the shower first and then I joined him. We washed our respective bodies and climbed into the queen size bed which was dressed with one of those thick, floral bed covers – another nostalgic feature of resorts from the ’90s. I remembered how he had mentioned the fact that he wanted to study to be a physiotherapist after completing his army service. I recommended that he begin his education by practicing on me. He did. We eventually fell asleep next to one another. My leg occasionally brushed his leg. Once or twice his arm fell onto mine as he rolled over during the night. The four hours from pool to shower to bed felt like an absolute lifetime. My heart was beating feverishly. I had never felt so conscious or aware of the immediate moment as I had during our time together. It was the most errotic experience even without any sexual contact. The next day I left Eilat. Generously he drove me to the airport where we hugged, wished each other the best and parted ways. I don’t remember his name.

My second visit to Israel was the following December and it was far less eventful. I was still deeply in the closet and I was travelling with my family – a combination that very much limits one’s gay escapades. Most of the time was spent touring the country and visiting sites I had seen less than 12-months prior, only this time I was lucky enough to be upgraded from a two-star experience to a five-star experience. Bless my dear mother, she can hardly be described as pretentious, that is until it comes to hotels.

It was just before New Years 2004 as our tour guide pulled up to a hotel in Jerusalem that was far below par according to Mrs van Sant’s strict hotel criteria. Location – poor. Facilities – outdated. Decor – in desperate need of a makeover. Service – non existent. Rooms – dirty. Not wanting to add to the existing tension in the Middle East, my father knew that he had to act fast in order to avert an international incident. We checked-out before we even had a chance to check-in and were swiftly moved to the David Citadel.  Now this hotel was much more to mother’s liking. Facilities – modern. Decor – divine. Service – exceptional. Rooms – modern and spacious. I can’t recall much of the rest of the trip but I do remember that I was sporting some sort of a mullet which apparently at the time was the height of fashion.

My next trip to Israel was four years later whilst I was living in Milan. By now I was becoming a fully fledged homosexual. Living in my own apartment in Milan, completely unknown in the gay community and not tied down by expectations or reputation meant that for the first time in my life I felt free to see and do everything that gay life had to offer. I took with me to Israel this excitement when in May 2008 I visited a friend who was studying at Tel Aviv University. He was living in a very cool, up-and-coming hipster area called Florentin. I recall that the apartment buildings were run down and didn’t have front doors meaning that visitors could come and go as they pleased. What they lacked in security they made up in charm, particularly because each building had a communal rooftop which were used by the locals for day drinking, laundry, dinner parties and general socialising. I visited quite a few cafes and bars that were beginning to open in the area but what I really wanted to do was explore the gay side of Tel Aviv. Unfortunately my straight friend, who perhaps was not 100% sure of his own sexuality at the time, was not very supportive of my endeavours. One evening, after passing a gay bar that I had read about during my extensive research online, I suggested that we pop-in for one drink.  He was not interested and suggested that I go inside alone while he waited outside. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to see at least one gay bar in Tel Aviv, I entered alone. It’s not much fun being inside a bar and knowing someone is outside waiting for you. Remember when you were a kid and your mum used to come pick you up from your friend’s house but you weren’t ready to leave? It was reminiscent of that.

Flash forward to eight years later and I was back in Tel Aviv to meet my boyfriend who had already been in the city for a week to perform in a musical. We had had a fight just before he left and the relationship had moved into very rocky territory but I needed a holiday after a manic week working in Paris so decided to go ahead with our holiday which we had been planning for months. Our first few hours together were extremely uncomfortable however after copious amounts of alcohol we managed to settle into each other’s flow. The next day we broke up.

Although I wouldn’t recommend it, we managed to spend the next week together on holiday as ex-boyfriends, enjoying the food and nightlife for which Tel Aviv is famous. We stayed at Brown Beach House which was perfectly located between the bustling Allenby Street and Tel Aviv beach. We ate at Port Said, an incredibly cool and simple dining experience from famous Israeli chef Eyal Shani that is busy every night of the week. We visited the Dead Sea and Jerusalem and spent our last day relaxing on day beds, sipping mojitos in the sun at the ridiculously expensive but very European private beach club, Gazebbo. Our nights were filled with drinking at the now permanently closed gay Tel Aviv institution Evita Bar and Shpagat – a bar and meeting point where gay and straight locals gather before heading out to wilder places. Even though our nights always ended together, in the same bed, my ex and I managed to keep our hands to ourselves. Except for one night. Sun, drinks and the energy of Tel Aviv will have that effect on you.

gay tel aviv

I’ve now recently returned from my fifth trip to Israel. I was with my family again only this time I was with them in Israel as an out and proud gay man. On this occasion we stayed at a newly opened boutique hotel called Shenkin Hotel which was absolutely charming. Tel Aviv has come a long way in terms of hotels since my first visit in 2003. With tourism taking off and capital flowing into the city, there has been a surge in world-class hotels. Shenkin Hotel was not only modern and well situated behind the boutique shopping street from which it takes its name, but the staff were friendly and invaluable to have to hand when in need of restaurant and bar recommendations. On Tuesday evening the fabulous Israeli guy behind the reception desk (who was sporting beautifully manicured, black polished nails) suggested that I go to VRS at Pasaz. Accompanying me was my sister and her fiance. The party was wild, the boys were gorgeous and the music was the perfect blend of electro-pop, deep house and techno. Tel Aviv is one of those few cities in the world where people still smoke inside clubs and bars. This isn’t to everyone’s liking, particularly my very health conscious sister who had to leave after one-drink due to being overcome by smoke inhalation. Luckily, just before I was about to accompany her and her fiance back to our hotel, a friendly Israeli guy offered to look after me should I decide to stay for one more drink. Not ready to go home, I took him up on his offer and ended up staying at the club with him until closing. In fact, he looked after me so well that he even offered me a bed to rest my weary dancing feet.

The rest of the week was spent sun soaking on the beach and exploring Tel Aviv’s incredible food scene which included breakfast at Benedict, messy Middle Eastern fare at Miznon, two visits to Port Said and a long dinner with many delicious and inventive plates at Ha’Basta. I went back to Shpagat, which I’ve decided is my favourite gay place in Tel Aviv for pre-party drinks and was taken by a local friend to speakeasy bar, Cookies Cream where they played the funkiest disco music this side of 1973. To cap off my best trip to Israel to date, I spent the last four days of my holiday at the Ritz Carlton in Herzliyah which is at the height of luxury and a great place to escape from the craziness of Tel Aviv.

My next trip to Israel will hopefully be for Tel Aviv’s world famous pride in June 2018. While I’ve never been before, I’ve heard from friends that this truly is the best gay pride in the world not only because of the gorgeous men that descend on the city and the wild parties that line the beaches but because of the inclusivity and openness that Tel Aviv residents show towards their LGBTIQ+ visitors – something rather unique for the Middle East.

To come with me on all my travels and adventures, follow me on Instagram and Snapchat @joshvansant.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FRIDAY MUSIC FIX: ROBYN

gay music blog

Three seconds into Robyn’s ‘Hang With Me’ and I’m hooked. The electronic beat grabs me by the ears and forces me into alt-pop heaven. 10 seconds later and the distinctive Swedish vocals kick in. I’m melting into a kaleidoscope of juicy sounds that permeate throughout my body, causing the hairs on my arm to stand up. It’s like sucking on the teet of the universe and all I want to do is drink more. I want, nay, I need to dance to this song forever; carelessly throw my arms into the air, close my eyes and let Robyn envelop me. Not many songs have such a visceral effect on my insides but this song is different. It’s a perfectly formed pop-song that takes me on a journey. I’m in a field in Sweden, I’m on a dancefloor in San Francisco, I’m 16 years-old and in my bedroom, I’m having sex with a gorgeous stranger. 3 minutes in and I’m having a full blown ear-ection. Finish me off Robyn. And she does. And the song ends and 3 minutes and 34 seconds later, I’m spent.

gay influencerbest gay influencer

gay music lifestyle blog

gay blog

Painting by Kris Knight 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

DO NOT MISTAKE FUN FOR HAPPINESS

Ours is the generation of YOLO, of reality tv and meaningless fame, of social media memories that disappear in seconds. Ours is the generation of ‘do it now cause you don’t know what tomorrow will bring’, of motivational quotes and avocado brunches, of altruistic ambitions announced under shirtless selfies. Ours is the generation of pleasure before perseverance, entitlement before effort and fun in place of happiness.

We’ve been sold the idea that our lives should be an endless stream of enriching experiences (at a cost) and that if we’re not having fun, then we’re not happy. When we look around at our peers we become anxious because it seems that everyone else is having a much better time than us. Fun then becomes social currency – we chase the good times to gather content to upload onto our feeds to make us the envy of others to gather likes to maintain our egoes which convinces us that we’re happy. More fun equals more happiness.  We’ve placed fun above all else because we think that fun equates to happiness. How wrong we are.

This is not a phenomenon reserved solely for gay men but it is an affliction that we own so well. We drink, take drugs, party hard and curate the best parts of our lives on Instagram. Big smiles, washboard abs, group shots of us and all our gay friends at Coachella, in Mykonos, at WE parties, at drag bingo, at drag brunch, watching Drag Race. Isn’t it fabulous? Isn’t it fun? Well of course it is but it shouldn’t be mistaken for happiness. When the music stops and the tan fades and the last contestant sashays away, how do you feel then? If your joy continues then you’re on the right track but if you’re waiting for the next party or the next holiday and those moments in between are filled with yearning, discontentment or doubt then something is wrong.

Fun is fleeting – it’s a short lived experience that is dependent on outside factors which are temporary. Happiness is dependent on nothing outside of itself. It’s rooted in feelings of love, joy and contentment. It’s the feeling of oneness with what is.

Now I don’t want to come across as the fun police nor do I want my ramblings to be misinterpreted as a call to avoid the good times. Life is meant to be enjoyable and we should embrace the special moments that punctuate the common. What I am suggesting is that we become more conscious of the motivation behind our actions. For so long I blindly pursued my hedonistic side, running around the world being wild and free with no care for consequences. I thought that I was being driven by a YOLO approach to life but what I’ve come to realise is that I had been seeking happiness and that I had confused it for fun. It didn’t matter which club I’d been in, who I had slept with or how crazy the experience had been, those moments did not sustain me for much longer after they passed.

Gay men have long been stereotyped as fun and fabulous; the go-to guys for straight girls who want to have a good time or a wild night out. Why is that? Are we such a hoot because we have more of a tendency to disguise our unhappiness with flamboyance? Do we have more fun because we need the distraction?

Don’t let me stop you from seeking pleasure – I encourage you to let the good times roll on. Have fun, be wild, be free but be conscious of your motivations. Know that life happens in between the Instagramable moments. Understand that instant gratification is not sustainable. Be aware that fun is temporary. Learn to find happiness in the mundane.

Image Credit: ‘Viva Las Vegas’ by Matthias Vriens McGrath

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

SELF SABOTAGE AND THE MAGIC 10%

best gay blog

I honestly believe that we are our own worst enemies. Growing up gay can be fraught with hardship due to the external pressures we feel from peers, our family and society but it’s the pressure we put on ourselves that can have the most debilitating effect. We don’t often realise the impact of our subconscious minds on our ability to live fulfilling lives. Why is that we never feel fulfilled? Because we self sabotage and what’s worse is that we self sabotage without being consciously aware that we’re doing it.

I used to think that fulfilment would magically find me when I had ticked a certain list of criteria pertaining to my body, career, sexuality, popularity and financial status. My life journey has now led me to understand that fulfilment is something you find within yourself that is not based on the accumulation of things or achievements beyond the self. I have also learnt that many people, myself included will never feel fully satisfied until we can overcome the sly devil inside of us that sabotages our efforts when we’re close to achieving success. Self sabotage leads to disappointment which is a roadblock to finding fulfilment within yourself.

Take this blog for example – in October I committed to writing 31 posts in the lead up to my 31st birthday. I started off strongly enough, posting an article everyday but as I neared the finish line something unconscious clicked inside of me which prevented me from writing until today. It was as if my intention to complete the task to which I had publicly committed was inherently flawed by cause of my own committal. Basically, because I had said I would do it, I couldn’t. I could not write the last few articles much like many other things in my life that I have abruptly stopped right before succeeding at them. This left me utterly disappointment and reciting a harsh yet familiar internal dialogue about my inability to complete a task to which I pledged.

Another example is at the gym where I’ve applied myself to strict regimes that I have confidently followed until spontaneously falling off the bandwagon which always coincides with the same point in time that I’m starting to see positive results from all my hard work. It is as if something inside of me doesn’t want me to succeed and when it sees me trying it lures me into a false sense of comfort before sneaking up on me and undoing all my efforts.

My own self sabotage and reflection of my habits has taught me a valuable lesson – the 10% principle. I’ve come to believe that you can put in 90% of the work but it’s the last 10%, the last push, the last effort, the last hurdle which is where the magic happens. There’s a point where you can see the finish line and if you’re not paying attention you’ll miss the mark and start running backwards unless you find the willpower to push through for only 10% more. That’s the point when everything changes. I believe that the most successful people in their fields are those who have learnt to overcome self sabotage and who push themselves 10% further than the rest of the population. Although it’s a small percentage of the overall effort, it is that portion of the work that makes all the difference.

It took me almost seven months to finally update my blog even though I felt the pressure inside of myself to do so everyday. Had I applied the 10% rule a little earlier then I would have had so much great content to share with you, my wonderful reader. Now I hope to make it up to you with more regular posts and content that I hope you’ll find interesting.

Image by Wendy Loke Photography

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

THE POWER OF MEDITATION

naked teen boy

I’d like to share with you a secret that will bring you peace, focus and stillness. It is something that I try practice daily and when I miss the opportunity to do so, I can feel the difference in my mood and mindset. I’m talking about meditation and while I’m certainly not the first person to preach its benefits, I am a strong believer in its power. Meditation is often mistakenly associated with people on the fringes of society, practiced by men with shaved heads in hemp trousers but the truth is that it’s a secret natural mood enhancer enjoyed by people from all walks of life.

My personal favourite mediation is led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the leader of the Art of Living movement. I came across his teachings through a friend of mine and I can honestly say that his messages and approach to life has changed my understanding of happiness and peace. The below mediation is simple to follow, short in length yet extremely powerful. Try this every morning for a week and enjoy the changes that it will bring to your life.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A MESSAGE FOR ALL THOSE THAT ARE LOST

best gay blogger

Children’s books are filled with life lessons and positive affirmations, many of which we miss the first time around. They are fables and stories, written with unbounded fantasy and wonder that come to life through the imaginations of untainted youthful minds. When we grow up and grow out of children’s books we forget the power contained within their pages. Now, reading back on books from my childhood I have come across quotes and excerpts that seem almost prayer like. Today I would like to share with you one of my favourite quotes in the hope that no matter where you are in the world and no matter what you are going through, you know that everything is going to be OK. This particular quote comes from the very wise Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh.

Classic-Winnie-the-Pooh-If-ever-there-is-a-tomorrow-baby-quote-vinyl-wall-quote-for

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

WHAT I MISS FROM INSIDE THE CLOSET

gay blonde twink

‘The Closet’ can be a terrifying, lonely and suffocating place. It’s a metaphorical cage that represents suppression, oppression and even depression.  Looking back on my own experience those three things were certainly true but amongst the darkness there were a few positives that I can now say I truly miss.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not always doom and gloom inside the closet. As you start to push open the metaphorical door and peer into the light beyond the crack exciting things start to happen. You realise that there is an enticing world out there with endless possibilities. Although you might not be ready to spring out of the shadows in all your rainbow glory, you start experimenting and testing the waters. The sense of curiosity, compounded by the guilt you feel for doing something ‘immoral’ can actually be quite exhilarating. I remember the thrill that came with kissing boys in the back of my car in deserted carparks or sneaking guys out of my bedroom window in my parents house. Sure most of these highs were then followed by lows and feelings of shame but during those stolen moments I felt ecstasy that I have found hard to replicate in my later years.

It’s the feeling of doing things for the first time, things that you are told are wrong but which feel so right – these are the times I miss from my youth and from inside my own closet. Finding moments to hold hands with a boy at a party when nobody was around and then letting go as soon as your friend walked into the room then desperately waiting for that friend to leave so that you can do it again.  Receiving messages on your phone from your crush and then telling your mum it was from your boss when she gets too nosey. Smiling at a stranger in the change rooms at an inter-school swimming meet. Once out of the closet these situations don’t hold the same sense of danger. The fear of getting caught is removed but it is the fear of getting caught that makes your heart beat faster and electrifies your senses.

When I first started experimenting with boys and going to gay clubs I felt as though I was doing something that was on the fringes of society. For someone who had been brought up in a somewhat conservative environment, being gay almost became an expression of rebellion for me. The cover ups and fabricated stories allowed me to be part of one world at night and then return to the normality of heterosexual, conservative life by day. It was fun, for a time.

After a while though the thrill of breaking the rules diminishes and you are left with the realisation that you cannot be happy and in the closet forever. For the short period of time, in the beginning of the long walk out of the closet, every experience is brand new, every man-to-man touch is a blessing and every moment, no matter how brief, spent out of the closet is a relief. These are feelings that can never be replicated again. This is what I miss from inside the closet.

Image by Damon Baker 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WHY GAY MEN ARE SO MEAN TO EACH OTHER

gay premium blog

I could have entitled this post ‘Why people are so mean to each other’ because the reason is common across all sexualities. For the purposes of this post though, I’m going to focus on the gay experience. Why? Because the factors at play that cause us to tear each other down are often stronger in gay men which can make us meaner than most.

Why do we look at the success of other gay men and find reasons to justify why they’re not deserving of it? Why do we make fun of fellow gay men who are different from us just for being themselves? Why do spread rumours, leave hurtful messages on social media and ostracise others from within our own community? The simple answer is insecurity and what is insecurity? Insecurity is the fear of not enough.

When we see people doing something for which we negatively judge them it’s because it stirs something within ourselves that we do not like. Do you discount someone else’s success by spreading rumours that he slept his way to the top? Chances are you are insecure about your own ability to achieve your goals. Have you purposely excluded someone from your friendship circle because you think that he’s not good enough to be your friend? Chances are that you yourself don’t feel worthy enough to be loved by others. Extreme action is in itself a reflection of its opposite. I will repeat that for emphasis. Extreme action is in itself a reflection of its opposite. The loudest people are often the most afraid, the most confident often the most anxious and the most popular are often the loneliest.

Many of us gay men have been made to feel insecure through our formative years because of our sexuality. Once we are liberated we have the option to overcome that insecurity. For some though this insecurity becomes internalised, covered up; it is left unaddressed and surfaces as bitchiness, meanness and what can only be compared to adolescent behaviour (because adolescents are often the most insecure!).

Where does this insecurity originate? It comes from the fear of not enough. I’m not good enough. Rich enough. Handsome enough. Fit enough. Masculine enough. Popular enough. Smart enough. Loveable enough. Seeing good, rich, handsome, fit, masculine, popular, smart and loveable people awakens the insecurity within us. We tell ourselves that these people are flawed to make ourselves feel better because we are afraid that if they succeed then by law we must fail. This is the power of scarcity, a function of modern society which convinces us that we will never be or have enough. We have been misled to think that in order to get ahead we have to aggressively force our way past others but the universe doesn’t operate with that same limited mentality. The universe is abundant. There is enough oxygen for everyone, enough money to be made, enough opportunity for all those that seek it. Just because someone else has a boyfriend or an apartment or a dream job, does not mean that you cannot have those things too. When you look at the world from a place of abundance then the fear of not enough vanishes and with it your own insecurities.

Something else happens when you see the world from a perspective of abundance – you actually begin to see people differently too. People’s successes do not cause you shame or jealously but act as an example of what can be achieved. Instead of wishing failure on your fellow gay man, you honour his achievements which in turn actually empowers you to go after your own. It’s rather quite simple.

So if you’re ever the victim of a mean gay then now you know that he himself is actually suffering. A person who sees the world from a secure, abundant space will never be threatened by another’s triumphs nor will he find reason to be mean to his gay brethren.

Image by Sven Banziger 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ONE TRICK TO TELL IF A GUY IS INTO YOU

cute gay boy

There’s a surefire way to test whether a guy is firstly gay and secondly whether or not he’s into you. In today’s video, I recount an episode on the tube which taught me a valuable lesson about meeting gay guys and left me pining over the one that got away.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

MODERN GAY STYLE: NIKE

gay style blog

My wardrobe mainly consists of clothes in the shades of black, grey and white. When I’m feeling particularly adventurous then I may wear an all blue ensemble. It’s been fun to experiment with clothes while growing up but as I have gotten older and learnt what looks best for my skin and body type, I’ve settled on a style that works best for me which I update seasonally.

Black, white and grey may sound very boring but I like to accent this minimalist look with a striking sneaker or shoe. I’ve always been jealous of girls because girls can wear a simple jeans and t-shirt combo with a killer pair of heels and they’ll look a million dollars. Boys on the other hand don’t have the luxury of upgrading an outfit from casual to chic just by throwing on a different pair of shoes.

When it comes to the perfect signature sneaker, I always find myself lusting over a new edition of Nike. Right now I am absolutely loving my brand new pair of Nike Roshe One NM in black and white polka dots. These epic sneakers come in four different colourways and it’s my dream to have them all. Put together with a skinny black trouser, oversized black t-shirt and leather jacket, the Nike Roshe One NMs command attention so be warned that they aren’t for the stylistically shy.

Before I fell head over heels (yay, puns!) for my polka dot puppies, my previous affair was with a subtle, yet equally impactful pair of Roshe One Flyknit Premium in a delicious olive green. I was so attached to these sneakers that I was afraid to wear them out of the house for fear of ruining the crisp white midsole. Two month prior I also purchased them in grey.

Whoever said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, clearly never bought him a pair of Nikes. The way to my heart is through my feet. Honestly, I can wear the same clothes for the rest of my life but as long as I have a fresh pair of Nikes every few months then I’ll be a happy lad.

best men fashion blog gay fashion style blog

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,