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Curaco_beachBy Jeff Marsh 

My passport expired this past summer. It wasn’t my first passport since I initially went abroad in high school on one of those "If it’s Tuesday, this must be Brussels" whirlwind tours of Europe. However, my last passport recorded some of the most amazing trips in my adult life, including adventures in Australia, South America and Africa. Noticeably absent, however, were stamps from countries in the Caribbean.

I, like most gay and lesbian travelers, am well aware of the homophobic reputation of many of the islands in the Caribbean. While I don’t think it’s fair to proclaim any destination as "homophobic" based on a small but vocal group of people, the fact remains that as a gay man I am not welcome at several traditionally conservative Caribbean nations. The good news is that there are a handful of gay-friendly oases in the Caribbean, and I am glad that the first stamp in my new passport is from Curacao.

Curacao_coastline One of the first things you will hear on Curacao is "Bon Bini" which means "Welcome" in Papamiento, the local language — a fascinating fusion of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, and some Arawak Indian and African influences. (But don’t worry, the locals speak many languages, including English).

Highlights of this trip included an off-road Jeep tour through some of Curacao wild terrain, a visit to a bat cave that was the site of voodoo rituals by former slaves on the island, and, of course, swimming in the crystal clear waters, and putting my SPF 30 suntan lotion to good use under the sunny skies.

While it’s easy to find warm temps, sandy beaches and beautiful vistas elsewhere in the Caribbean, Curacao stands apart with its "live and let live" attitude.

For me personally, I don’t simply want to be "tolerated" when I travel, I want to be respected and truly welcomed. That’s why I can’t wait to get yet another stamp in my new passport on the island of Curacao. Curacao_cacti

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Jeff Marsh takes great pride in having created the first-ever TV ad with gay puppets and airing it on Bravo before the Runway was even built.

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