Since I could remember, I had always dreamed about working abroad. And over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to get out there and make that dream come true – much to the disappointment of my savings (which have been non-existent for a significant period of time now…)

I’ve travelled to many far-flung corners of the globe – from Iran to Ecuador and everywhere in between. And the one thing I have come to really appreciate is: acceptance.

I’ve never had to hide who I am in my home country. But if I’m completely honest, in some of the countries I have travelled to – I’ve been fearful.

Over time, I’ve learnt you can either let this fear stop you or you can let it teach you – and now I don’t let it turn me away from travelling to particular places. If anything, travelling to these places showed me how important it is to be surrounded by acceptance. And how truly free you feel when you are.

Before working for Topdeck, I travelled around Europe and experienced a lot of what the continent has to offer. But that was nothing compared to what being a Trip Leader has taught me. It’s opened my eyes to how amazingly open-minded some parts of Europe are!

I grew up in Perth, Australia and same-sex PDA’s were not common to see compared to the bigger and ‘prouder’ cities of Melbourne and Sydney.

But in cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid and many others – I witnessed same-sex couples walking hand-in-hand without fear or gawking eyes from strangers. And on the odd occasion where eyes did stare, not a single f*ck seemed to be given. This was my heaven.

Life on the road in Europe exposed me to LGBTIQ+ communities everywhere, and that this way of life is widely accepted as ‘normal’: an extremely welcomed realisation for me.

What I loved even more was, as a Topdeck Trip Leader – I was able to introduce this open-mindedness to passengers from all over the world and explain the shock that some people might experience at being surrounded by so much acceptance.

Seeing Topdeckers exposed to these environments for the first time was amazing – especially when you could see the real impact it had on them.

Sometimes you can see people’s perspective change in one single moment. They question the way they understood things. And they come to a conclusion that this new form of openness they were seeing was better than what they previously knew.

One of the most amazing things I’ve experienced on the road, has been getting to know people younger than me having wildly more open values than myself at that age. It’s showed me that people and societies are changing – they are becoming more open and more accepting.

Those moments where people challenge their understanding of the world – when they begin to accept what’s different or unfamiliar and change their definition of ‘normal’. That is what drove me to travel in the first place. And will continue to do so in the future.

So, if you take anything from my story – let be an understanding that travel changes you. Be open to it and embrace what it means.

Ben Johnson
Geography freak and food junkie! 2020 plans turned upside down and forced me to wait out the pandemic Down Under. But as soon as I can get on a plane – I am out of here and back to exploring the world!