Troy Petenbrink loves documenting his travel adventures on social media as much as anyone. But that’s not what drives his lifelong passion to visit new destinations. He truly believes in the power of travel to change the world.
“If more of us traveled and saw the world, we’d be in a much better place,” says Petenbrink, a Washington, D.C.-based marketing executive who spends much of his free time traveling as a travel journalist and influencer under the handle @TheGayTraveler. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrowmindedness,” he adds, quoting a famous line by Mark Twain.
For the past 15 years, Petenbrink has written content, posted Instagram shots and offered his travel tips for local, national and international media including National Geographic, Fodors, the Miami Herald and the Travel Channel. He’s been to all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and 38 countries. Sometimes he travels with his partner, but other times he enlists a road-trip buddy instead.
In May 2022, Petenbrink and bestie Ed Holmstrom (posting under the hashtag #EdandTroy) embarked on an epic 8-day tour of Oregon — tasting, adventuring and cruising their way through several regions of the state to experience some of the top local food, drink and cultural attractions as well as natural wonders. Many of the destinations were queer-owned and queer-friendly businesses. Here are some of the highlights.
8 Days, 4 Regions, Lots of Pride
On the Oregon Coast, Petenbrink visited Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach and Newport, taking time to explore iconic sites like the Astoria Column, Columbia River Maritime Museum, Devils Punchbowl and the Oregon Coast Aquarium with plenty of stops for refueling at local coffee shops and seafood restaurants.
From Newport they headed east to Eugene (home of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 in July 2022), where they sampled some of TrackTown’s restaurants, wineries, distilleries and bars like Spectrum, a gathering place for the LGBTQIA+ community. From there they pointed towards Bend, where they visited many of the city’s many queer-friendly destinations, including a stay at the hip gay-owned Campfire Hotel.
The next leg went from Bend to Salem via Highway 20, taking them past the iconic Three Sisters mountains. Highlights in Salem included a tasting at Coria Estates and a self-guided tour of the Oregon State Capitol (Petenbrink loves to tour state capitols everywhere he visits).
From Salem they went northwest to McMinnville, home of many Willamette Valley wineries including Remy Wines, owned by lesbian winemaker Remy Drabkin, the newly elected mayor of McMinnville. Drabkin is also cofounder and president of Wine Country Pride, the organization that hosts the annual Pride Month events including what’s being billed as the world’s first Queer Wine Fest.
Diversity in People and Places
In both rural and urban areas, Petenbrink says they felt safe and welcomed. There’s a saying around inclusion, Petenbrink notes: “It’s one thing to be invited to the party; it’s another to be asked to dance. What I found in Oregon was a full dance card. Having traveled so often through so many places, you expect to see a rainbow flag flying in big cities, but Oregon’s smaller rural areas had many of them too and sent that message of being in safe spaces.”
They capped their tour with two full days in Portland, exploring everything from the gay-owned Shine Distillery & Grill on North Mississippi Avenue to the Portland Art Museum, restaurants like Burma Joy and a sampling of some of the Rose City’s top doughnuts with Pedal Bike Tours.
Petenbrink says he was impressed with the resilience and beauty of the people and places he encountered throughout the trip, and he hoped to convey those messages to his followers.
“I could’ve gone back and forth just seeing the Willamette National Forest,” he says. “You can’t believe how many times one of us would say ‘Stop here; stop here.’ From the random covered bridge and waterfalls to the beautiful skylines, the mountains in the Cascade Range including the areas recovering from recent forest fires. It was great to see how quickly things are recovering and how some of the trees survived — it’s evident how Mother Nature is a strong-ass woman. It’s almost metaphoric for our community — lots of stuff gets thrown at us, but we bounce back.”