‘My name is Borja Matheu. I’m 26, from Barcelona, Spain. Last year, I decided to take a sabbatical to travel. I left my marketing job and started planning a trip around the world.
‘But I wanted to give the trip a bit more of a purpose. So, I developed my documentary series The Gay Explorer, to raise awareness of the issues faced by the LGBTI community around the world, and to empower viewers to feel proud of who they are.
‘I always wanted to do something for the LGBT community but didn’t know exactly what. I actually come from an LGBT family – I have two moms.
‘I thought: “What can I do? I’ll elaborate on my skills in digital marketing.” Plus, creating a brand from scratch, being more of an entrepreneur, with a side of filming. So that’s how the documentary came along.
‘I planned it for two months. I moved, in May 2017 to Barcelona, Spain and freelanced a bit and planned the logistics in my spare time, contacted people, tested equipment, networked. I’d never scripted either.
‘So then, in August. I headed out on the road. I traveled to maybe 30 cities in the end, but only filmed in seven because I didn’t know people in all of them, and some I only stayed three days.
‘I was traveling alone to the 30 cities’
‘But when looking for someone – a little bit of a casting, because it was for YouTube – I needed to find someone who was interesting, felt comfortable on camera, and who was young, because that was the YouTube demographic I was going for.
‘So I prepared the script, the itinerary, where I was going to go, and then I started filming. I did that until December. Then in December I came here to Barcelona. For six months I was working on creating the visual identity, the typography, editing the videos. I also developed a marketing campaign behind it. Then also the website, and here we are!
‘I was traveling alone to the 30 cities. It was a trip around the world. Literally North America down to South America, to Patagonia and Chile. Then to Sydney, Australia, up all the way to Tokyo, then India, the Middle East, and ended up in Cape Town, South Africa, which was perfect, because I got a proper tan as it was summer there!
‘It was through friends, or friends of friends, or Grindr’
‘Was I nervous traveling to all those countries on my own? Yes. Some more than others. I also had a few friends in several cities so that was good. But I remember the week before I left Barcelona, I was so scared. I was like “What am I doing?!” I met local and expat guys in each city who’d been living there for a certain while. It was through friends, or friends of friends, or Grindr. I created a profile stating what I was doing. Then I was also approaching people at bars.
‘I met some amazing people – and some not so amazing people as well. When you tell people you’re traveling alone, they feel you’re a bit more vulnerable. So, in some circumstances, they try and take more profit from you, or advantage. But then, I realized when people were trying to do that and was able to get away. I didn’t have any negative experiences – I got myself out of them before they happened.
‘Pedro just spent the last three days with me and my family here in Spain’
‘I did meet many nice guys, and I’m in touch with some of them still. From the seven guys I filmed videos with, two of them have already came to visit me. The video I launched recently, which takes place in Lima, Peru, the guy I filmed with, Pedro, just spent the last three days with me and my family here in Spain, because we got along so well. I like relationships and communication. Every Sunday I dedicate two hours to emailing friends and answering messages.
‘I met Kevin from Toronto, Canada, and we discussed coming out in the 80s, during the height of HIV. In Seattle, Washington with Jay, we angled it on going on a Grindr date with someone you’ve just met online.
‘In San Francisco, California with William, we discuss online dating apps. In Lima, Peru with Pedro we discuss the oxymoron of being gay and Latino, because if you’re Latino [some people expect you to be] very macho, dominant and the power of the family. Nobody has to be those things.
‘In Santiago, Chile, with Victor, we discuss how it is being gay there, and how you can still get killed in some of the rural areas. In Sydney Australia with Cameron – this was amazing – we filmed during the referendum, so there were a lot of flags in the street. Lastly, I filmed in Singapore with Hirzi, where homosexual acts are still illegal.
‘What was the most romantic moment of the trip? I think it would be with the guy in Lima. I was next going to Buenos Aires, and the day I was leaving, he asked me if I wanted him to join me. I said “Yes, definitely.” He jumped on the same plane I did and we went together. It was literally like a scene from a movie.
‘People in India started reaching out’
‘I did have a strange experience in Mexico. We were in a restaurant, and 10 armed men came in to grab a woman and we couldn’t move. The Mexican girl at the next table was like “Just look at your plate, don’t look up.” I was like: “Oh my god, the last thing I’m going to see is spaghetti! It’s not even healthy!”
‘I went to India for three weeks but didn’t film there. After releasing the episodes and stuff, some people in India started reaching out. I’d like to film there. Then I would love to do a kinky one – Berlin for instance. Berlin or London. And I’m hoping to do a small trip in August again, to the West Coast of the US.
‘Did I meet any guys in Dubai? Yes, I met a Lebanese guy, who said his family didn’t know about his personal life and that so far he’s not planning to open up. But in Dubai, even for a straight couple to kiss on the road, they would go to jail.
‘The Dubais of the world are very closed-minded, but I feel it in smaller towns in Spain too’
‘I feel that traveling helps unite both sides of the story. When you go to a country, respecting the local regulations, you create an awareness and a normalization of your lifestyle. Hopefully, with time, people will start respecting that. Obviously, the Dubais of the world are very closed-minded, but I feel it in smaller towns in Spain too. Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, of course, it’s super open. Smaller town, it’s not because they haven’t been exposed to it as much.
’I’ve been to 40 countries in total. The US is one of my favorites. It’s so varied. it’s comparable to Europe. Australia, South Africa, Spain, Chile and Peru are all also amazing.
‘What’s next? I’m trying to get the project out there, have it reach as many people as possible. After, I’ll be focusing on trying to get another corporate job, in order to travel and fund a second season.
‘Do I have a boyfriend at the moment? No… But I kind of have seven boyfriends around the world!’
1 Toronto, Canada with Kevin
2 Seattle, Washington with Jay
3 San Francisco, California with William
4 Lima, Peru with Pedro
5 Santiago, Chile with Victor
6 Sydney, Australia with Cameron
7 Singapore with Hirzi