Photo: Ludwig Favre, from Mr Hudson Explores, gestalten 2019
Location: Los Angeles
Mr Hudson Explores offers travel destinations and hotel, restaurant, and sightseeing recommendations for the discerning gay traveler. In contrast to many LGBTQ tourism guides, it goes beyond the best bars and party spots, taking readers on a stylish local journey through destinations both known and lesser explored. The classics are there – London, Paris, and New York – but so are unexpected cities, including Portland, Tel Aviv, and Shanghai. As founder Bastiaan Ellen puts it, these are “destinations for gays, but not necessarily gay destinations.”
Founded by Bastiaan Ellen, the idea was born when he became frustrated with travel sites that only focused on the gay party scene. He wanted style, culture, food, and shopping worth writing home about – or at least Instagramming. On the website, Mr Hudson Explores, there is a wealth of architectural hotel gems, local eateries, places for the perfect sunset cocktail, and the best boutiques to pick up a souvenir or two for friends back home. The guides aren’t just for gays either; every bon vivant is sure to find a few treasures.
Gestalten has just released a Mr Hudson Explores book, featuring twenty destinations around the world. Passion for travel, adventure, and style radiate from every page – warmly inviting all travelers to explore the destinations within.
Photo: Alina Krasieva for Milkshake, from Mr Hudson Explores, gestalten 2019
Location: Milkshake Festival, Amsterdam
Where does the pseudonym Mr Hudson come from?
Henry Hudson was a seventeenth-century English explorer who made several attempts to find a passage through the Americas to China and India. While he didn’t find one (although to be fair to Henry, there wasn’t one to be found), he did return many times to explore the area, discovering the natural harbor that became New York City. His findings encouraged some of the first settlers to head for the New World, and Hudson Bay in Canada and the Hudson River in New York are both named after him. What I love about Henry Hudson is that he was a gentleman driven by a passion for adventure and discovery, who inspired thousands of people to follow in his footsteps. I couldn’t think of any better inspiration for the brand.
How would you describe the Mr Hudson Explores audience?
People who travel in style and want every aspect of their trip to be an incredible experience. Explorers who are looking for something a little different and special, beyond gay bars and clubs. A community of travelers who share an appreciation of beauty, authenticity, and diversity, and a passion for meeting new, like-minded people when abroad.
Photo: Alejandro Scott, from Mr Hudson Explores, gestalten 2019
Location: CINEMQ, Shanghai
Have you found that the world has become more open to LGBTQ travelers in recent years?
It is difficult to separate a country’s attitude to gay travelers from their stance on gay rights and equality of their own citizens. Luckily, most countries have made significant progress in advancing LGBTQ rights, but we still have a long road ahead of us. As a new wave of intolerance sweeps the globe, and some western nations seem to regress rather than move forward, we must continue to be visible, assert our claims, and celebrate who we are. Discrimination of people who identify as LGBTQ is not just a problem to solve for us as a community, but for society as a whole. The recent backlash against the Sultan of Brunei, initiated by George Clooney, who isn’t gay, is a very encouraging example of how the majority can look out for a minority. Gay rights are human rights, in the end.
What are some things you wish were different for gay travelers?
In an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter if you were gay or straight when traveling – you would be treated the same, regardless of sexuality. I am a gay man, which has certain implications for the way I experience the world, but I am so many other things as well: a foodie, a design-lover, a cinephile, someone who meditates, who appreciates the city as well as nature, and so on. It would be fantastic if we no longer needed the label “gay-friendly” or “inclusive” to describe hotels, and if we no longer had to endure the relatively harmless but still annoyingly heteronormative “I see we booked you into a double room. Would you like me to move you guys into a twin instead?” that every gay person on the road with a same-sex partner has probably encountered when checking in. We don’t need the red carpet to be rolled out when we arrive – in fact, most gay people I know would prefer to be treated like everyone else. I think this is what most travel providers need to understand more than anything.
Photo: Robert Rieger for FvF Productions, from Mr Hudson Explores, gestalten 2019
Location: Pauly Saal, Berlin
Photo: Courtesy of Murdock, from Mr Hudson Explores, gestalten 2019
Location: Murdock, London
What are a few of your favorite locations featured in the book, and why?
Asking me to answer this question is almost like asking a parent to pick their favorite child – they all have their own personality and style, but you love them all in equal measure. Having said that, London is one of my favorite cities in the world. I fell in love with it when I started to visit in my twenties and ended up living there for thirteen years. It is a destination that is hard to beat for all the culture to be enjoyed: art museums, galleries, theaters, it has them all in spades. It is also a very diverse city, with pretty much every nationality and community represented; it’s almost the world in one place. Architecturally, it’s not the most beautiful city on Earth, but I quite like its mish-mash of styles and vibes. Madrid, where I live now, also comes highly recommended. It’s beautiful, vibrant, and the people are lovely and welcoming. This is a city where it’s not all about work and career; Madrileños value time to socialize with friends and family, and doing so over some food and drink. They also know how to party, so if you’re looking for culture, great food, and having a good time, Madrid definitely is the place to be. And finally, I’d like to mention Tokyo. This is a place where everything works, a city of exciting contrasts between the old and the new, and of great beauty. Even though nine million call Tokyo home, it never feels overwhelming – there is a serenity to this metropolis that is difficult to grasp. And don’t get me started on the food!
Photo: Gay Haze, from Mr Hudson Explores, gestalten 2019
Location: Gay Haze, Brussels
It’s impossible to talk about your social media without mentioning the gorgeous men. Are these all travelers from your network?
Yes, user-generated content is at the heart of our social media approach. We cannot think of a better way to inspire people to go places than by showcasing the beautiful travel photos of our handsome explorers!
Where are you headed this summer?
Summer is a great time to stay put. Taking trips is more expensive when everyone else is traveling as well, so my husband and I tend to take our bigger holidays out of season. I love taking short breaks in Europe during the summer, and living in Madrid means we have Spain and Portugal on our doorstep right now. I love San Sebastián and Bilbao (you have to try the seafood if you haven’t yet) on the Spanish north coast, as well as Porto and Lisbon. Plus, I’ve been meaning to visit the Portuguese Costa Vicentina, which is known for its rugged and (relatively) quiet beaches. So who knows!
Where is “paradise” for you?
This is going to be a total cliché, but it would have to be a tropical island somewhere. My husband and I just came back from Vietnam and spent part of that trip on Côn Đảo, an archipelago just a short flight from Ho Chi Minh City. Eighty percent of Côn Đảo is designated a national park. Its shores are breeding grounds for turtles, and well-preserved coral reefs make the snorkeling extraordinary. Granted, it has a grim past, but these days it is pretty close to paradise.
Photo: Mr Hudson Explores, gestalten 2019
We met Bastaan Ellen at the Berlin Travel Festival in March 2019, where he brought his world travels to our stage. The new book Mr Hudson Explores, has just been released by gestalten. Pick up the book and check out the Mr Hudson Facebook, Instagram, and website for wanderlust inducing adventures (and adventurers!).