Though most of us can’t physically travel right now, there’s still a wonderful world out there for us to explore together. Traveling IQuarantine spotlights people and places through which we can escape our sequestered realities… and in the process expand our Traveling IQ.

Roxanne and Maartje of Once Upon A Journey celebrate Berlin Pride
Roxanne and Maartje (Once Upon A Journey) at Berlin Pride

Traveling In Quarantine: Once Upon A Journey in Berlin, Germany

Once Upon A Time… a Dutch, lesbian couple set out to explore the world, celebrating LGBTQ-friendly spots while not shying away from more complicated destinations.

Once Upon A Journey… and the insanely beautiful corresponding Instagram account, tells the story of Roxanne and Maartje’s adventures.

For three years they were fully nomadic, traveling all over the world and building a platform that informs and inspires us–especially lesbian travelers–to explore our own paths.

What started as a plan to tell folk- and fairytales from all over the world has turned into a hugely successful travel resource for queer women, the LGBTQ community, women travelers and literally anyone that enjoys the beauty of our world.

Once Upon A Journey is an impeccably executed travelogue as seen through the artistic lens of Roxanne and Maartje. They believe travel is for everyone and are determined to showcase beauty everywhere.

And they do. In every single shot.

Traveling IQuarantine interviews Once Upon A Journey and together we explore Berlin:

Two girls kissing at the Berlin Wall
Roxanne and Maartje at the Berlin Wall

IQ: Where are you from and where do you live now? 

Roxanne and Maartje: We are both from the Netherlands. Maartje is from a city in the northern part of the Netherlands, Heerhugowaard. And Roxanne is from Eemnes, a small town in the middle of the Netherlands. We were fully nomadic for three years, but since January we live in Amsterdam again. After not having a home base for a long time, we felt like we needed one. We also wanted to be in the Netherlands more, but we didn’t expect a pandemic to be the reason for that. Before traveling, we also lived in Amsterdam.

How did you meet? 

In 2013, we met in a cinema in Amsterdam. We were both studying in Amsterdam and had a job on the side at the cinema. So, we were making popcorn, selling tickets and cleaning the screening rooms and we became friends! And that friendship turned into a relationship. A relationship with a girl was new for both of us, but we are happy together since 2014. You can read our full love story on our blog!

How did you get involved in travel?

Dutch people love to travel! Roxanne did a gap year in between high school and university and traveled around Asia, Australia and New Zealand for 6 months. Maartje studied abroad in the States and traveled around the USA. When we met, we knew a world trip together was inevitable. We saved up as much as we could and worked long hours to make our dream come true.

We left the Netherlands and didn’t know when we would return. On the road we started our blog and Instagram. Our initial plan was to write folk- and fairytales from all around the world. But people wanted to hear our stories and see us! We especially got many questions about traveling the world as a lesbian couple. We never thought about telling our stories as a lesbian travel couple. Also, because we didn’t see anybody else doing it.

There were, and still aren’t, many online travel recourses for lesbians. And right now, we are so incredible grateful that we can help so many other lesbian travelers all over the world. Helping people is what makes us happy!

Your photos on Instagram are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen on social media! How do you come up with locations and styling? 

Thank you so much for that compliment! All credits for our pictures go to Maartje. She is the creative brain behind Once Upon A Journey and takes the pictures! A secret tip: go on Google Maps, turn on satellite mode and explore the area that you are planning on visiting.

Maartje loves being a ‘detective’ on Google Maps. And we often get inspired through Instagram to visit certain places. It’s very difficult to be unique while making pictures. Especially if you visit places like Bali. But we love trying to make it our own thing!

Styling wise – we don’t bring that many clothes while traveling. Especially when we traveled for such a long time, it’s just not doable to bring many clothes. But the perks of being in a same-sex relationship can be that you can wear each other clothes! And we sometimes bought new clothes and leave old clothes behind.

Movement works in pictures. So, we often try to wear something we can play with, like a skirt, dress or hat.

Two girls kiss in Mexico
Once Upon A Journey in Mexico

Do you have any easy tips for readers interested in upping their Instagram photography game?

If you really want to take the ‘perfect’ Instagram pictures, there’s definitely some planning involved. Always take your time, visit when there are less people (during sunrise for example), setup your tripod (never ask a stranger to take your picture) and think about that perfect shot. We often put our camera on a 2 second timer, so it takes many pictures. This way, there’s always a picture we are happy with. But sometimes it can take a couple tries. As for posing, our biggest tip is: be natural. Movement helps to feel and look natural: twirl, walk, dance; don’t just smile in the camera.

Describe your featured destination–Berlin:

Berlin is a welcoming, open-minded and hipster city filled with history, culture and artistic expression. The vibes in Berlin are just amazing. Especially during summer, the city feels so relaxed and free. Everybody enjoys a beer on the street or in the park. And Berlin has arguably the best parties in Europe.

But besides partying and drinking beers on the street, there’s so much to learn about the history of Berlin. Berlin will leave a strong impression on you! It’s not the most beautiful city in the world, but it has sooo much to offer.

What makes Berlin a place for LGBTQ travelers?

People from all over the world visit Berlin, as it’s such a welcoming, open-minded and free city. The gay scene is Berlin is huge and there are many bars and clubs you can visit. And there are also many events in Berlin. Some call Berlin a gay mecca for LGBT+ travelers. We definitely feel at home in Berlin and can truly be ourselves in the city.

Roxanne and Maartje at Tempelhof Airport
Once Upon A Journey in Tempelhof Airport

What are some spots that you love in Berlin and why?

  • Tempelhof Airport is an abandoned airport that you can visit. Nowadays it’s a park and it’s super cool to visit Tempelhof. You can walk on the airstrip and people play sports here or go for a picnic. If you want to visit the inside of the airport you need to book a tour.
  • The Eastside Gallery is the largest open-air gallery in the world. Something that makes this gallery special: the art is displayed on the Berlin Wall. Make sure to see the Bruderkuss, one of the most famous artworks on the wall. The artwork is based on a photo of a socialist brotherly kiss by Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker.

What are three LGBTQ highlights in Berlin?

The neighborhood Schöneberg is the gay neighborhood of the city, historically. Here you can find many LGBTQ+ places to go to. You can find LGBTQ+ places all around the city but Schöneberg is the heart of the LGBTQ+ community. In the 1920s Schöneberg became the first gay village in the world! Other neighborhoods to visit are Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain.

One of our favorite places to go to is the club SchwuZ. Karl from Couple of Men brought us here and we absolutely loved it. Schwuz is a popular LGBTQ+ club, so be prepared to wait outside before you can enter.

Three years ago, we got the opportunity to visit Berlin during Berlin Pride, also called CSD Berlin. Berlin Pride normally happens in July and is one of the biggest gay prides in Europe. The pride parade is a walking parade, which everyone can join! That’s something we think is very special. During most prides, like Amsterdam Pride, you cannot easily participate yourself, but you watch from the side. Three years ago, Berlin Pride organized a boat parade for the first time. We joined on a float, it was amazing!

If Coronavirus is magically cured overnight and quarantine ends abruptly, where will you choose to celebrate?

Where we are right now, in Amsterdam! We just moved to Amsterdam just before the Coronavirus got bad, and we didn’t have time to do everything we wanted. We had planned a housewarming, our legal wedding and many more things. Sadly, we don’t know when these things can happen again.

But once the virus is gone we will make up for all the things we had to cancel. And hopefully our friends from all over the world can make our way to Amsterdam, so they can stay in our house and we are able to show our beautiful city.

Roxanne and Maartje riding bike in Amsterdam
Roxanne and Maartje in Amsterdam

If you could choose anywhere in the world to Quarantine, where would it be and why? 

To be honest, we are very happy to have our own apartment in Amsterdam during these difficult times. The feeling that you are close to your friends and family feels good. We are super grateful to quarantine together in our own homey place.

And we also started a new project, something we already wanted to do for a very long time but simply couldn’t make it happen while traveling: a food blog! We both love cooking and now that we have a kitchen we are spending lots of time in it. The food blog is for all kinds of vegetarian and vegan recipes. We mainly focus on recipes in Dutch, but we do translate them to English. And we also create traditional Dutch recipes, like a Dutch apple pie!

If we didn’t have our own place in Amsterdam, then it would be either Mexico or Thailand. We absolutely love both countries and we wouldn’t mind being close to the beach, mountains, forest or big cities. We can be happy everywhere. Though a good internet connection and some shops nearby would be great!

What are three destinations you’d like to visit but haven’t had an opportunity yet? 

Early 2020, we made a list with a few destinations we wanted to visit this year. We travel a lot for projects but Iceland and Turkey (Istanbul and Cappadocia) we wanted to visit on our own terms. And we were planning a honeymoon! Not sure if we can make it happen this year but otherwise we are looking forward to the time we are able to travel again!

To check out other adventures from Once Upon A Journey

And start planning your own adventures in Berlin on the websites of Visit Berlin and the German National Tourist Board.

Photo: VisitBerlin/ Dagmar Schwelle

Follow the Traveling IQ (In Quarantine) series, highlighting people and places through which we can escape our sequestered realities.

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