Men have a way of masking their emotions. It oftentimes takes a drunk night out just to share a heart to heart with a close friend.

Surely there must be a better way? In a society where being masc is hot and being vulnerable is a turnoff, one Instagram blogger has found a way to get people to discuss their lives and emotions. Meet the Travelin’ Bum.

The account is run by Jeffrey Perla, a 26-year-old gay man living in New York City, who started the blog three years ago. The premise is simple: people from around the globe take off their clothes and tell a story about their lives, kind of like Humans of New York meets Magic Mike.

There’s something in the mix of the most magical places in the world and nudity that makes people lose those inhibitions and talk honestly about their experiences. LGBTQ coming out stories are special. They may not always have a happy ending, but they prove to be pivotal moments that help shape our perception of sexuality.  Some of the stories are heart-wrenching, others funny. How does Jeffrey do it?

Let’s find out!

What is it about traveling and getting naked that makes people open up so much?

So I view it as a way of just freeing yourself from your story. I think that when you travel you are open to new experiences and things you have never done before. I also think being naked in front of someone creates a greater bond immediately that makes you more open to that person.

When I see someone post a picture of themselves on Instagram – or even specifically for me on my page – I respect them a lot because they are putting themselves out there to tell a story about what made them into the person they are today.

Are people ever nervous about stripping down?

It definitely depends on the setting. I mean, I have done it in Times Square in front of hundreds of people and I was nervous cringing waiting for it to be over. I think people are more nervous about the reaction of others and people around them than stripping in front of me if no one was around.

TB highlights the representation of all kinds, but it’s occasionally met with detractors. How do you go about showcasing diversity when you know it might not please all of the audience?

This is probably the most difficult thing I deal with day to day. Everyone has a story or a photo and wants me to post it, but above all else, the photo quality needs to be good. After all, this is Instagram. It should be a quality photo. It’s difficult for me to reject people or not post people because they equate me saying, “Hey, I need high quality or better photo’ as ‘Oh, it’s because I’m fat or oh I am not muscular, white etc.” and that isn’t the case at all.

In regards to the photos that do get posted that may not be your stereotypical gay male body, in the beginning, the comments were awful and I would try and go through and delete all the bad ones, but now I think people understand the concept. Last year when I posted the first plus-size man, I remember telling him don’t let the comments bring you down. I think I lost 1,000 followers. It was weird. Now, when I post someone plus size or diverse, people comment and are super supportive, which I love watching.

As someone that has grown a popular following, how do you maintain a healthy headspace with the constant pressures of social media in 2019?

I think it is super difficult but one helpful thing I have learned to do is have two phones. One of my phones doesn’t even have social media on it just so I can avoid the whole thing. I love it and it’s truly amazing to watch something I care so much about growing. However, sometimes you just need a break and you want to see your friends or go on a date, and, in those times, I just leave that phone home, so I can’t even look at it. I sometimes find myself waking up at 630 AM and I don’t leave my bed ’till 830 because all I did was go through my messages and get lost in my phone.

What is the best advice for someone who can’t be free and open where they live?

For anyone who feels stuck – whether that is from family or their culture – I would say you need to leave and experience the world. I have learned more about myself and acceptance from experience other cultures and meeting new people from around the world.

I think people need to experience what life would be like to feel ‘normal’ without being scared to be who they are in their hometowns. Often times people think it’s hard to imagine, but once you take a step out of your comfort zone you won’t look back.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from talking to all these people?

The most important lesson I have learned is that everyone is different and that no one lives a ‘perfect life’. I think when you get to know someone and ask, ‘what is a story that has molded you into who you are today?’ something comes to your mind right away.

You can be gay, straight, bi, trans everyone has something significant that has impacted them. Whether it be a coming out story, a death, a move, a relationship etc.

So my advice for everyone would be to just listen. I think there is something you can take away from every person you meet.

Part of what makes The Travelin’ Bum so special is that it’s intertwined with your own story. How does your family feel about your social media initiative?

I mean my mom has legit taken a butt picture for me before so haha … but my parents are not on social media. Everyone else in our family and their friend group is. Although you would think they must not see what I am doing, a family member or one of their friends screenshots it and sends it to them so they are always in the loop. It has been fun to watch my parents grow as well though from this because I think, at first, it’s a lot for any father or mother to see their son taking a butt picture on social media. But they have been super supportive throughout the whole concept and my coming out, which has been great to watch.

You’ve expanded your platform with an accompanying website, merch, and a podcast. Where would you like to see TB go from here?

Hahaha you will just have to wait and see!

If someone reading this wants to be featured where can they reach you?

I like to think I am fairly quick answering DM’s. So if you have a photo and a story please DM me. Also you can email me at thetravelinbum@gmail.com.

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