Every month we interview another traveller. This month we spoke with Maartje and Roxanne who share their journey on their blog Once Upon A Journey and on their Instagram account. In this interview we talk about their journey of a lifetime, as they are currently travelling and have already been on the road for six months! We also talk about the challenges they face because they are travelling as a gay couple and how they deal with these challenges. In addition, they also give advice to other couples and share lots of stories and more from their travel lifestyle. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and have a read!
Thank you for your time. Can you please give our readers a short introduction about yourself?
Thanks for interviewing us! We’re Roxanne and Maartje, two tall blonde Dutchies travelling the world together. Three years ago we started dating, moved in together, separated for half a year for Maartje’s study abroad and we discovered travelling together. Small trips, big trips, together and apart but we knew a world travel was inevitable. We finished our bachelors (physical therapy and media & culture), worked our ass off in the cinema and as a nanny and barista, sold all of our stuff and started our big adventure in March 2017. With the plan to travel as long as possible!
Awesome and thank you for the introduction! How did you meet?
We met at our job on the side, at the cinema, four years ago! Funny thing: we did not like each other at the beginning. Maartje had been working there longer and saw Roxanne as a competitor; she was that funnier tall blonde girl. During a trip to a theme park during Halloween with colleagues we finally bonded; thanks for Maartje not being a hero and Roxanne being a great person to hide behind in a horror villa. We finally became friends and fell in love!
You travel a lot, where are you located now? And how long have you been on the road?
Currently we are on Penang, Malaysia. We’re house- and pet sitting for five weeks. The dog is the cutest and the house is pretty big. Now we have time to work on our blog a bit more and edit some videos. We have been on the road for six months now; a little time ‘off’ travelling is not so bad!
What are some of the challenges you face because you are travelling as a gay couple?
Travelling as a lesbian couple comes with some worries for sure. And if we don’t, our parents always worry too. Imagine their faces when we told them we were starting our travels in Russia! We decided travelling is for everyone and we will not let our love limit our choice of countries.
That does mean we travel very conscious. We respect the cultures we travel to, so we have accepted that we cannot be an obvious couple everywhere. We also do not want to rub it in people’s faces, just like people don’t always like Jehovah witnesses at their door: we do not need to convince people of our beliefs. So we decided to travel closeted most of the time and tell people we’re ‘just friends’. That does come with some challenges though…
How do you deal with such challenges?
The biggest challenge is that being ‘just friends’ creates distance between us, and we cannot share the intimate moments together. Those moments that you sometimes really need when travelling! Other challenges are when you feel like you get to know people (for example couchsurfing hosts) and the topic ‘relationship’ hasn’t come up. Or when it does come up – after three days – and you do feel comfortable enough to tell, it might be awkward that we did not tell sooner! But the people who knew already or found out all responded really well and encouraged us to travel more openly. Only one time we directly lied to someone, as he told us he was not okay with gay guys, but lesbians were different. We felt offended and did not feel comfortable sharing our relationship.
Have you ever visited a country with harsh anti-gay laws?
Well, as mentioned before we started in Russia. Being gay is not illegal (anymore), but promoting LGBT-lifestyle is. No clue what counts as promotion, but let’s not try it! In other countries it did not really matter, for example Mongolia and Japan. In Mongolia there simply is no open LGBT community and Japan has serious (hetero) sexuality problems already to worry about first. Currently we are in Malaysia and there are many Muslims here, so in order to be respectful, we have to watch our behaviour. We also really want to travel to India later on, so that will be a big challenge for sure!
Do you have any useful advice for other couples that would like to travel the world together? In particular, those that are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
As a couple it is really, really important to be able to work as a team. You’re together 24/7, you really need to be able to handle that. We discovered (again) how important it is to talk about everything, as we always think – but not always are – on the same level. It is also important to take time ‘off’ sometimes, or take space. And it is important to be there for each other. Even when Maartje is being hangry, or Roxanne is being stressed out about missing trains/planes.
For LGBTQ+ travellers it is important to talk things through about presentation. If you are into adventure and more challenging places, how will we deal with it? Always good to check beforehand: the gay and lesbian travellers page of your destination on lonelyplanet.com. Just to make sure you’re aware of the cultural ideas and opinions.
What are some of the downsides of travelling as a couple?
The biggest downside for us is that we cannot always be seen as a couple. Being aware of every small thing can be exhausting. Other than that, we have some ‘normal’ couples issues like having enough of one another sometimes. Back home, we both had our own lives, so being dependent of each other 24/7 can be tough. We get to know each other better and sometimes find out we think totally different about something! Travelling as a couple opposed to travelling alone sometimes means we stay in our comfort zone a bit more maybe. When travelling alone everything is just a bit more of a challenge, but maybe a bit more rewarding?
What are some of the best parts of travelling as a couple?
A fight isn’t awesome, but sharing great moments together is! Getting to know each other better, always having someone to talk to, seeing all those amazing things together; it’s all worth it! Travelling together really strengthens the bond; you really learn to be good together. To having a constant factor is maybe the best part when travelling long term; everything is different all of the time, but that special person is always there with you. Everyone knows it’s just different to tell about your experiences or to experience it together!
What is your favourite thing about travel?
Eating all different kinds of food! Food is definitely the most important thing to us when travelling. It is not just giving your body fuel, eating it tasting, chewing and absorbing culture. And just like eating, meeting new people is equally dear to us. When you think about it: everyone sees the highlights of a city like we do, people can make the same pictures and even eat the same food. The people you meet really make your travel unique; no one will ever meet the same people in the same place as you! We love to meet up with locals, or meet other travellers! We do couchsurfing to dive into the culture, or stay at hostels to meet like-minded people.
Where are you headed next?
In the end of September we will go to the Borneo-side of Malaysia – or rather the Malaysian part of Borneo. Roxanne’s sister will visit with her boyfriend and after that we will explore Brunei, meet up with friends in Singapore, meet up with family in Thailand and we are thinking of teaching English in Vietnam afterwards!
Give us your top five destinations and tell us why they are in your top 5
Tough question! There is so much to like in the world. But if we have to choose, our top 5 is:
- Berlin: Berlin is our absolute favourite city, the vibe is just amazing! We went there summer 2015 and everyone was just chilling outside with beers and barbecue, what is not to like?
- Rome: Rome is not our top destination because the city was so stunning (which is also the case), but because it was our very first trip together and we were super in love. Probably very annoying for everyone else, since we did not care about homophobia or anything: we were in looove.
- Atlanta: Atlanta is the city where Maartje studied abroad for five months, and Roxanne came for a visit halfway through the semester. The day of Maartje’s birthday we visited as much as possible in the city, the weather was amazing and we were so happy to be reunited!
- Seoul: Seoul is our newest favourite destination: Korean food is AMAZING. We spent two whole weeks in the city and ate so much Korean BBQ and kimchi.
- Osaka: Osaka was also a great destination during our travels, we stayed with a lovely elderly couple and there are so many things to see in and around Osaka!
Where do you still want to go?
Everywhere! That quote ‘I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list’ is SO cheesy, yet so true. After we have covered Asia (Myanmar! India! Sri Lanka! Philippines!) we want to work in New Zealand for a while and then who knows, maybe we’ll continue our travels in South America!
Do you think travel can change someone’s life?
YES. When seeing all the beauty out there we cannot believe that someone can be totally the same afterwards. You experience other cultures, customs, and languages. It makes you think about your own world, maybe you will change some little things because you see it can be done different!
What are the scariest and funniest things that happened during your travels?
The scariest – and maybe also funniest – thing during our world travel was being on a train in Russia with an invalid ticket. During ticket control, already something was wrong and the conductor took our tickets. When we drove away, in the middle of the night, the head conductor entered our coupé and started yelling Russian to us. Our coupé-mate, a very strict looking big Russian guy who we later learned is called Andrey, talked with the conductor and we could tell it was a heated conversation. Andrey asked us why our ticket was invalid in broken English. We had no clue. Apparently the railway company refunded our money and our ticket was not valid. Normally they will throw you out of the train, so we pissed our pants a little. Then Andrey turned out to be our hero and convinced the conductor to let us stay on the train. It worked and then Andrey decided to be our ‘papa’ and bought us tea and surprised us with croissants the next morning!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Time is strange, time goes by different when you are travelling or if you are living in one place. Nowadays we are very much living in the moment, which is the best while travelling. We have no limits and we can go wherever, whenever. So five years is a long time.
More and more we find out anything can happen while travelling. Nothing is conventional and we meet people with the most incredible lives. Who knows, maybe we’ll stay on the road for a long time. Maybe we settle somewhere, maybe in the Netherlands or maybe we find our home along the way. Perhaps we’re happily settled with a baby in five years haha!
Thank you for your time and this amazing interview! Happy travels!
Do you have an interesting travel story to tell? Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us a bit about yourself!