This gay couple’s holiday was harpooned by coronavirus – so they had an ingenious trip to Athens from the comfort of their couch
When Richard Earley was asked by his partner, Gary Whiting, whether he was into “roleplay”, he really wasn’t sure what to expect.
With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to upend familiar rhythms of life – the economy padlocked, millions out of work and billions stuck at home – being bored has become our daily routine.
And in the absence of colour-coded calendars and pointing at casual pals and saying ‘we should grab coffee soon’ and never, ever following-up, people looking for ways to pass time have become increasingly creative.
Some flip open their laptop and have digital dance parties. Some re-watch Schitt’s Creek for the fourth time. And others, like Earley and Whiting, jet off to Athens, Greece.
Well, kinda. Living in the leafy Islington neighbourhood of London, England, Whiting printed off fake boarding passes, found stock footage of Athens, and decided to take his boyfriend on “holiday”.
The pair staged an elaborate fake flight to the ancient city and uploaded it all to Whiting’s Instagram stories last week, titled “COVID travel”, which is basically an oxymoron nowadays.
‘I wanted to do something for us that we would have been able to do before lockdown as we both love to travel.’
The 30-year-old event venue manager told PinkNews he’s living his “best furlough fantasy” while his partner, 33, works in Facebook’s health policy division.
Pre-lockdown, travel was a huge part of their lives. But with stay-at-home orders enforced and Earley working demanding hours, Whiting knew he had to do something to lift their dampened spirits.
“I wanted to do something for us that we would have been able to do before lockdown as we both love to travel,” Whiting said.
“I picked Athens because Richard is playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which is set in ancient Greece, and he has a real interest in history but had never been.
“From there, I then planned each stage of the trip and how could I make it interactive, that’s when I had to ask the question of: ‘So, are you into roleplay?'”
“Once he worryingly and suspiciously said yes I got to work and starting planning the trip.”
Gay guy recreates holiday to Athens for boyfriend complete with fake airport security and ‘Greek dinner’.
Whiting immediately got to work.
Jerry-rigging fake British Airways boarding passes complete with accurate flight number and pouring pints so the pair could pretend to share a drink at their airport bar before sprinting, half-drunk, to their gate.
“A travel friend had a video of him taking off from Heathrow and flying over Athens,” Earley added, “so it was great I was able to use it in the slide.”
They sat on chairs with a flatscreen TV to the right, sipped G&Ts and watched comedian Pam Ann to re-enact their inflight entertainment.
“I had actually put in an interactive slide about joining the mile-high club and had even stuck the occupied toilet logo on his bathroom,” Whiting recounted, “but Richard thought it was crass so it didn’t make the final cut.”
“The places we visited I was able to find the audio tour guides to play over the walking tours I found on YouTube.
“One of them went through a restaurant, so I thought I should make the same things for us of dinner, we were even able to find retsina Greek wine to have with it.”
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Whiting, of course, got rated five stars on Trip Boyfriend-Advisor.
The biggest takeaway two months into lockdown? ‘How can I feel normal?’
“The biggest highlight was looking over at Richard and knowing he was really enjoying himself,” Whiting reflected, “I had a lot of fun making it so it was great to have someone play along with my stupid.”
Above all, Whiting said, the lockdown has taught him that while these are not normal times, not in the slightest, it doesn’t mean that normality is gone for good.
“The biggest takeaway really,” he said, “is, ‘How can I feel normal?’
“Finding those little things that you can do can really help your sanity.”