An interview with LEZ BACKPACK’s Melissa Langley


Melissa Langley is a self-identified femme and the creator of the popular lesbian travel and wellness blog LEZ BACKPACK. Born in Austin, Texas, Langley has also lived in Connecticut and South Korea, where she taught English for 3 years.

She has climbed the tallest mountain in Malaysia as a solo traveler, camped out on the Great Wall, and completed a half marathon through the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

Now back in Austin, she works as a social media manager, personal assistant, and “blogger babe.” Langley is currently collaborating with Autostraddle on GET OUT THERE, a miniseries encouraging local travel.

(Photo credit: Melissa Langley)

Langley recently opened up to 429 about the miniseries, mental health, and upcoming plans in an exclusive interview.

dot429: You just moved back from living in South Korea and traveling around SE Asia. What was that experience like and how has the transition been?

ML: I graduated [from university]in 2008, right when the economy was taking a nosedive. My career prospects were not great. I had always wanted to travel and see the world, and after visiting Seoul for two weeks I was hooked on the idea of teaching there.

I didn’t take the plunge until 2010. This time abroad really opened great opportunities for me, [and]yet, I dealt with moderate depression at the time. I felt that building my blog, LEZ BACKPACK, was a great outlet for my mental illness but because I wasn’t living in a country that recognized mental illness as a legitimate issue, I couldn’t get the help that I really needed.

(Photo credit: Melissa Langley)

My mental health struggles were only one layer of my experience in Korea and traveling in Southeast Asia. I also developed new skills in social media and marketing that I used to build a career for myself as a travel professional. And being an outwardly gay blogger has boosted my self-confidence as a queer woman. Many opportunities have been presented to me simply because I love women. I am so, so grateful for the network of amazing women I have met because of this.

dot429: What does a day in the life of Melissa Langley look like now?

ML: You can find me sitting in a coffee shop writing or scheduling tweets for clients, running around the city in my car and shooting footage for my YouTube channel, or attending conferences across the country to meet other travel media professionals.

dot429: What was the inspiration behind “GET OUT THERE”?

ML: LEZ BACKPACK created a blog series entitled Local Nomads that featured travel bloggers exploring their own hometowns. More and more women are interested in international travel, so naturally, they’re being marketed to to explore the world.

There isn’t anything wrong with this [per se], but if women don’t have the time, means, or method to actually get abroad then international travel becomes just another way to feel less than.

But we can travel, right in our hometowns. We can be the adventurous explorer cuties of our dreams by just stepping outside and making it a priority to experience the new in our surroundings. Not to mention that promoting local businesses helps to strengthen our communities and gives us a sense of purpose by connecting us to them.

(Photo credit: Melissa Langley)

Special thanks to Autostraddle for approaching me with the idea! It has really connected me with so many wonderful followers – and I’ve been exploring my city in news ways too. It’s a win-win!

dot429: LB focuses on travel and wellness for lesbians. We’ve seen quite a few travel blogs, but very few wellness ones. What encouraged you to combine the two?

ML: I have struggled with my mental health, especially abroad. I saw all these articles in the travel blogging-sphere that prompted women to drop everything and travel with the promise that with copious amounts of sun and a new city would magically heal all woes.

Sometimes getting away does help relieve the pressures of daily life – but I wondered, where is the other side of this story? What about the expats suffering with culture shock who can’t get proper help because they’re not in their home country? What happens when you’re experiencing depression on long-term travel because you’re lacking a routine schedule? What about students on study abroad who develop anxiety disorders and don’t know why?

All of these things are true accounts of travelers that I’ve spoken with. Their stories aren’t being told. And this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t travel or that travel is “bad.” I’m just interested in hearing experiences that have been similar to mine… and when I couldn’t find those, I created it for myself.

(Photo credit: Melissa Langley)

dot429: LB is currently going through some transitions. Can you share a few of your challenges, successes, and visions?

ML: When the blog was created in 2014, it was started as a couple’s blog with my previous partner Constance Taylor. We’ve since parted ways and it’s been hard to transition the blog to focus on me as a solo traveler! A part of that has been a little bit of self doubt – could I be as interesting without the support of my partner?

But the success has been in growing as a blogger and travel media professional. I’ve gained so much confidence just working on the blog on my own. I’m so thankful for all the work Constance put into the blog, but I’m even more thankful that she entrusts me to continue the legacy.

For the future, I intend to develop LB as a queer lady community for lovers of travel who want to make connections with other women. I’m partnering with some great brands such as Autostraddle, Visit Lauderdale, and Wanderful Travel Network.

dot429: Where to next?

ML: I’ll be heading off to California next March for the Women in Travel Summit in Irvine, CA. Then debauchery will ensue at [my first time at]the Dinah Shore in Palm Springs. Finally, I’m hoping to attend the IGLTA [Annual Global Convention] in Cape Town, South Africa next April. Words can’t express how excited I am!

Learn more at LEZ BACKPACK.

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