Mary Ann Thomas: Brown Queer Travel Writer

About

In 2014, I quit my job and left home to bike across the United States and Canada. I didn’t have a route, but had a few destinations in mind: San Diego, Vancouver, and Montreal. Maybe I’d hit up some national parks along the way; maybe I’d spend time in cities and figure out which one I liked best. I hoped to ride safely, avoid wildfires, tornados, and bears, and spend more time smiling than not.

I rode over 6600 miles. Most of the time, I biked alone. A brown girl in bike shorts with an army belt on my hips, I rode on country roads through thirteen unfamiliar states and provinces. I camped along the way, but I also spent time with friends, strangers, extended families, and Warmshowers hosts.

When I returned to my home city, New York, I found it had changed. I had changed. Biking had led me to remote roads through forests and farms and New York City is anything but remote. I suddenly saw that there were people everywhere. Not only is there an onslaught of humans, smells, noise, lights, and traffic, but there’s social interaction required at every turn. There are people to politely smile for at work, strangers to butt up against on the subway, catcalls to be sidestepped, and racist, homophobic questions to be avoided. The city, while it gives me so much, also requires so much from me.

So, I moved to Alaska.

For the first time, I moved away from the East Coast, recognizing my job as a traveling healthcare worker could truly take me anywhere.

A few years later, I broke up with my boyfriend of nine years and bicycled across India with my dear friend, Daniel. We pedaled from the high mountains in the Himalayas to the tip of the subcontinent, to where my family is from. In bicycling across India, I was able to get lost. I was a brown face in a brown land, I was no longer other. I grew in stretched in ways I couldn’t have imagined. As I mourned the end of a major relationship, I was able to own my full, complicated, queer desire in ways I’d never let myself. When I danced sober with strangers in my homeland, I was able to feel a version of my life I’d never let myself know: not numbing myself from my desire, my home, or the land reflected in my blood, my gestures, and my unquenchable thirst.

Throughout the trip, I wrote. I connected with other immigrants’ kids on the internet and found that so many of us live in a state of want. We want home, we want a desire that is our own, we want to be normal in a way that we might never access on this foreign land. I wanted to share my story of building a relationship with my homeland that was my own, different than when I visit family. So, I co-authored Asking for Elephants and went on the Fuck Impossible Road Trip.

I’m a writer, a healthcare worker, a Scorpio, a biker, a nonbinary femme. I’m currently working on a full-length travel memoir about my journey across India, for which I’m seeking representation. On the writing tab, you can find essays I’ve written over the last few years. I’ve advised multiple organizations on how to not-fuck-over qtpoc communities. If you’re interested in my writing work, would like an interview, to host me for an event or panel, or a consultation, please reach out at maryatho@gmail.com.