Pike and Diaz met on Tinder in 2017 after Pike had moved to the States from Australia. At the time, Diaz was working at an ad agency in New York City. “We both swiped right and after one date, we U-Hauled it,” says Diaz. “And here we are six years later,” chuckles Pike.
Pike and Diaz’s love of travel has always been at the forefront of their relationship. “The first conversation we had was talking about our shared passion for travel,” says Pike. “That was one of the first things that brought us together because we could talk about it for hours on end.”
Prior to starting On Airplane Mode, Pike and Diaz spent two years traveling together, including a ten-month trip to Southeast Asia. But they had no idea that their trips would turn into a travel platform and brand with more than 130,000 Instagram followers and nearly half a million followers on TikTok.
“In 2019, Kirstie managed to convince me to quit my job and travel the world,” says Diaz. “And social media wasn’t really the premise of why we started.” After traveling to places like Myanmar, Laos, and Bali and posting photos of themselves online (some of which went viral), Pike and Diaz began to get DMs with questions about how to travel safely as queer people and decided to start On Airplane Mode.
“We wanted to create a safe platform where people can come and ask their questions and we could give genuine feedback based on our personal perspective and experiences,” says Pike. “It was more so [about] starting a safe community, and it kind of snowballed into what it is now.”
Over the last several years, Pike and Diaz have traveled to more than 35 countries across four continents, shared breathtaking and informative content on Instagram, TikTok, and their website, and have received emails and DMs from places as far as Russia, Tanzania, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2023, Pike and Diaz embarked on a self-proclaimed Pride tour, which included stops in Sydney, West Hollywood, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, New York City, and London. “It was really cool to see all the different cities showing up and all the people coming together in unity,” says Pike. “There’s something so beautiful about it. I think that’s why we loved this Pride tour.”
This year, Pike and Diaz also set out to travel to destinations that challenged them, including Jordan, which concerned some of their friends and families given that Jordan is not known for being particularly LGBTQ+-friendly. Though Pike and Diaz weren’t necessarily openly gay in most situations in Jordan, they felt safe enough to come out with certain people. As a result, they discovered that there was a large underground lesbian community in the capital city of Amman.
“Every country we travel to, there’s a queer community everywhere we go. Even if it’s illegal, there are queer people who live there,” says Pike. “That’s kind of the beautiful part about it is we’re everywhere and just finding that everywhere we go.”
When Pike and Diaz started On Airplane Mode, queer representation in the travel industry was rare. “When we started traveling, we didn’t find that representation at all,” says Diaz. “We didn’t find blogs that shared how to travel through Singapore as a lesbian couple.”
Though there is slightly more representation now than when they started, Pike and Diaz both agree that there needs to be more. That’s part of why they’ve also expanded On Airplane Mode to offer content creation and production services to global brands, destinations, properties, and travel agencies that want to make their marketing campaigns more LGBTQ+-inclusive.
In 2022, Diaz and Pike modeled in the Michael Kors Pride campaign and have since collaborated with other brands. Over the last few years, they have also participated in panels, workshops, and presentations, including one at Berlin ITB, which is the biggest travel show and convention in the world.
“Speaking opportunities like the one in Berlin have given us a platform to speak about LGBTQ travelers and influencers,” says Diaz. “It gives us a chance to pitch ourselves and prove our value and [show] that influencers in general are a small business in and of itself.”
Later this year, Diaz and Pike will release a podcast, where they talk about their relationship and the behind the scenes of their travels. “It’s going to be a great way for people to learn about us on a deeper level, and it’s also a great way for us to step into the speaker work,” says Pike.
The podcast will be called She Comes With Baggage, in part because Diaz and Pike wanted the podcast to relate to their travel brand. “But it’s not only going to be about travel,” says Pike. “It’s going to be about emotional baggage, physical baggage, your past traumas, and things like that who make us who we are.”
“There’s a connotation that baggage is always negative, but the truth is every single person has baggage,” adds Diaz.
As Diaz and Pike embark on the next chapter of their careers, they are extremely proud of everything they have accomplished, especially the online community they have fostered.
“Being able to create a community where everyone can come and bring those questions, it only allows us to share experiences and people to learn from one another and not be afraid to be truly who they are, especially when they travel,” says Pike.
“Ultimately, what we want with our platform is to uplift our community and bring positivity and inspire people to see the world through our lens,” says Diaz. Pike wants people to know that LGBTQ+ people are here, especially during a time she says so many are attempting to silence us. “We’re never going anywhere,” she says.