We caught up with Matthew Schueller, one half of Michael & Matt. Their travel vlog has made a big impact on Youtube. They describe themselves as “two travel-obsessed husbands from Portland Oregon”. Both their blog and their Youtube channel are packed with interesting content for gay travellers – from reasons to visit Tokyo to hiking along the border of Myanmar.
When did your passion for travel begin?
My love for travel really began as I graduated high school in 2010, at which point I had yet to leave the country. I was very close with a Swedish exchange student at my school and wanted to spend the summer seeing Scandinavia. I taught myself Swedish during that last year of high school and flew over with him at the beginning of the summer. It was a crazy two months. I experienced terrible culture shock and absolutely hated my trip, but when I returned home I couldn’t stop thinking about my experiences there. I started studying communications and culture at my university and fell in love with the topic, learning how communities live and thrive in various places around the world.
How did you turn your passion into a career?
I started creating YouTube videos from my childhood bedroom when I was 15 years old with a webcam that could only record up to 30 seconds at a time. Bless jump-cuts! This was in 2007, and there were only a handful of people video-blogging at the time. The community was so small, it was easy to get connected. Despite that, YouTube and content creation remained a mostly-unpaid hobby for 10 years. I graduated college with a B.S. in Biology, worked as a barista, volunteered in Perú, and finally took the leap into becoming a full-time photographer in 2016.
While I maintained studying or working other jobs, I continued my work in photography and videography with every spare moment I could grant. I just kept creating videos and photos that I loved, and I had to believe that eventually the right people would take notice. I realized that there isn’t any one set path for a career in travel and art. I had to make my own path, and keep being as transparent as possible about my journey with my audience.
Have you faced any challenges travelling as a gay couple?
Nothing crazy has happened. For the most part, we’ve just run into awkward situations having to explain, “No, we’re not brothers…or friends,” over and over again, and re-iterating multiple times that we want the single bed, not two separate beds for a room.
The challenges are implicit. We don’t like that we have to be careful about where we hold hands, and know when to hold our tongues instead of explaining that we’re husbands. There’s just an extra layer of difficulty that’s added when we’re planning our travels. As a gay couple, not only are we planning accommodations and activities for the itinerary, but we have to ask ourselves — is this place/business going to be safe for us? Are they accepting of gay men?
Do you have a favourite destination?
Cuzco Perú has a special place in my heart. Perched at 14,000 feet in the Andes, it’s caught right between Western Perú’s dry arid environment and the lush Amazon of the east. It’s known as the gateway to the Amazon and acts as a hub for people heading to the jungle, Machu Picchu, or trekking through the mountains. What’s amazing about Cuzco is the richness and concentration of Peruvian culture that’s maintained in the city, despite the heavy tourism there. At night, the streets come alive with tons of food from street vendors, music, and plenty of visitors heading out. To me, it’s the perfect city to meet other travelers, unwind, and really experience Peruvian culture at its heart.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on your travels?
There’s so much that can go wrong, and looking back it can be hilarious and some of the best memories! During our honeymoon in Thailand, I booked a two-day jungle trek through the Mae Hong Son Province near the border of Myanmar. It was in the middle of the rainy season, and when they dropped my husband and I off out of the back of the pickup truck at the edge of the jungle, I realized that the next 8 hours flopping through flooded rice paddies was going to be a nice test to our very recent marriage. We were in the middle of a monsoon. I love intense hikes, but Michael is partial to walking where it’s dry. We ended up getting leaches and fighting many of them off while on the hike. We stayed in a small hut in a tiny village for the night and drank our host’s homemade moonshine. All in all, the entire experience felt absolutely crazy, but it was definitely the most memorable time of our honeymoon.
What’s the main life lesson you’ve learned from your travels?
Keep an extremely open mind, and keep reminding yourself of that! Traveling will push you to the brink. We get hungry, exhausted, irritated, lost, confused, rushed, battered, and even bitten by leaches and other distasteful bugs sometimes! But I find myself ready to step up to the challenge if I just accept the fact that things are not going to go as planned, and that we’re likely going to be very uncomfortable. I feel as though I learn more about myself while traveling than at any other time of life. I believe it’s because we are pushed way outside of our comfort zones and forced to adapt in very unfamiliar and uncertain circumstances. Part of what makes travel so fun is the unexpected spontaneity of it all. A lot of times we really just don’t know what’s going to happen next! My advice is to embrace it! Go with it! Talk to strangers and other travelers, leave some days open with no plans, and challenge yourself to do something crazy and completely out of your norm!
Michael proposed to you in 2017. Has married life lived up to your expectations?
Around the time that we got married, we moved to Portland, Oregon, and Michael graduated from dental school and started his new job as a full-time dentist. We both expected marriage to be a big change, and there was a lot of change… but mostly because of the move and the new job. Our relationship really just stayed the same! I work from home, and now, I really do feel like that suburban house-dad. We’d love to get a dog as soon as possible, and we continue to discuss starting a family soon. Married life is fun, but it really just feels like living life together — and we were already doing that before exchanging the rings!