The Family Behind '2 Dads With Baggage' on What It's Like Traveling the World As a Gay Couple With 2 Daughters

Jonathan Bailey, founder of LGBTQ travel blog 2 Dads With Baggage, gives us a peek inside his family travels.

A collage of family photos from Jon Bailey

Courtesy of Jon Bailey

For Travel + Leisure’s column Traveling As, we’re talking to travelers about what it’s like to explore the world through their unique perspectives. We chatted with Jonathan Bailey, founder of LGBTQ family travel blog 2 Dads with Baggage about his global adventures with partner Triton Klugh and daughters Sophia and Ava Bailey-Klugh. Here's his story...

Both Triton and I grew up in families that didn't travel a lot, so we had this sense of wanderlust. Before we had kids, we traveled together, and it was life changing. Travel opens your mind to different points of view and ways of life. 

In 2000, after we'd been together a few years, we decided it was time [to have kids] and hired an attorney to help us connect with a birth mother who was pregnant. At the time, my mom had terminal cancer, and we were all about connecting with family. We wanted to do an open adoption because we felt like there were so many children in the world that needed love and a good home. My mom passed away, and Sophia was born two weeks later, in 2002. We welcomed Ava two years later. 

Sisters having ice cream

Courtesy of Jon Bailey

The first trip we took with Sophia was to Hawaii when she was eight months old. We were still feeding her from a bottle and had to ship all the food there, so it was a low-key adventure. Ava, meanwhile, was three months old [on her first trip], and when he went to Boston, she had to sleep in a drawer because there were no bassinets or cribs available at the hotel.

For my 40th birthday and Sophia's first — our birthdays are three days apart — Triton arranged for us and some friends to go to Cabo San Lucas. We rented a big house, and it was a wonderful time. The adoption wasn't final, but we had all the paperwork, including her birth certificate that lists us as her parents. On the way back, we got on the airplane and sat on the tarmac for a while. Then, the doors opened and federales boarded — armed — and removed us and another same-sex couple and their baby. They had already offloaded our luggage, which was sitting on the tarmac, and the plane closed up and left without us. The pilot apologized to the people still on the plane for the delay and told them there were some people trying to smuggle babies out of the country.

This was almost 22 years ago, so they hadn't seen families like ours before and didn't know how to behave. Our daughters are Hispanic, so there are two white guys with a Mexican baby and they leapt to the wrong conclusions. We were detained at the airport. It was scary because I wasn't sure whether they were going to separate us from our baby. You're in a foreign country and they take all your papers. My Spanish isn't great. It took a while and a lot of phone calls to get it rectified, but they realized they had made a mistake.

Family photo, two daughters and two dads

Courtesy of Jon Bailey

Traveling as a family when the kids were little, we would schlep all the baby stuff, so it was more obvious we were a same-sex couple. We would get side glances or comments like, “Oh, it’s so great to have a dad’s night out so mom can relax,” and questions like, “Where’s Mom?” I’d be like, “You’re looking at her, I’m right here.”

If we were going to a foreign country, we'd have to think about it with more intention. I do research to make sure where we're going at least acknowledges same-sex couples. We went to Ireland when the kids were pretty young — about six and eight — and I didn’t know what to expect because it’s a Catholic country. All my research showed it was welcoming, and it truly was.

The most uncomfortable I've ever been is when we went to Turkey. Our gay friends said we had to go for the most amazing experience. So, when the girls were about 10 and 12, we went with two other same-sex families and one traditional one. 

We got there and didn't realize we had timed our trip to coincide with Ramadan, a religious celebration that's very important [to Muslims]. We had chosen a hotel in Istanbul's old city. A religious holiday coupled with a stay in the most traditional part of town added up to the more conservative people of that area all being in the same place at the same time. 

We got a lot of dirty looks. One of the same-sex couples we were with were women, and cabs would not stop for them; a guy had to flag one down for them.

While we were there, we went on a tour we had arranged with a private tour guide. We all piled onto the bus and he asked how we knew each other, so we went around and told him how we were connected. He was a great guide. The next day, we had a new tour guide. We didn't get any strange vibes from him, but he must have decided it was not for him or something he could support.

After that, we went to Greece for a week — to Super Paradise Beach on Mykonos. It was the other side of the equation, where anything goes, so that was a trip of extremes. 

Family in Vietnam

Courtesy of Jon Bailey

Overall, no one ever has been outright rude or disrespectful. We get just as many wonderful, positive, loving, accepting, and welcoming remarks. We’ve even had people specifically come up to us to say "thank you" or to recognize what we’re doing is important and that they support us. Ireland was one of those places, as was Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, Spain, and Italy. 

They look at us because we might look different to them. Our girls are Latina, so we don't look the same, but then they see our love for the kids and the kids’ love in return, and they genuinely warm to the circumstance. You can see them tilt their heads, watch for a bit, and then think OK, that’s pretty awesome. We didn't set out to be ambassadors for same-sex families, but it kind of turned out that way. 

As our kids got older, they started to realize what was happening. They didn't sign up to be spokespeople for this, so I think it embarrassed them. But when Barack Obama was up for reelection, same-sex marriage cases were being heard at the Supreme Court. For the president of the United States to say he was in favor of same-sex marriage was a big deal, so Sophia wrote him a letter saying thank you for recognizing my dads and I love my family. She also said that kids at school are sometimes mean to [her] about it and it hurts [her] heart, asking him what he would do. 

Obama wrote back a personal letter, answering her question beautifully and eloquently. That level of support for her, for us, for people like us, really resonated around the world at a time when same-sex marriage was at a flashpoint. That was a big deal in our family and a lot of other families.

Bailey family bike ride

Courtesy of Jon Bailey

I'll tell you, we didn't go to back to Mexico for many years after that incident of being detained, but things are so different now. The world has changed. We've now taken the girls to Mexico dozens of times with no issues. Mixed-race families and all varieties of parents, couples, and single parents have become commonplace. It just doesn't bring the shock value it did when we first began. 

Empathy is a huge thing for us and for teaching our kids. Just understanding that we all don't live exactly [one way]. When we were in Cambodia, we went for a 10-mile bike ride through the jungle by these lotus fields to a Buddhist monastery. Along the way, we passed through little villages of five to 10 houses. They had maybe one wall and a roof, and the rest was open. As we biked by, little kids came running out, hardly clothed and the happiest they could be — laughing, waving, and smiling with pure joy.

When we got to the monastery, I could see the wheels turning in my kids' heads. They both said, so those kids back there were so poor, with no walls in their houses, but they were so happy. It really struck them. One of them wrote an essay at school about it. It was just one of those pivotal moments where I could see their little minds click into that position of empathy. That was a proud moment for us. We didn't plan it. It wasn't meant to be a lesson. It just happened. And I think travel gives you those perspectives, new experiences that add to who you are as a human being.

Related Articles