Maartje and I met years ago at a bar in NYC with some other travel “Instagrammers.” We had been following each other’s accounts on Instagram since around 2016. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and I’ve admired how Maartje has come out with an amazing book: the Pride Atlas.

In this interview, learn all about Maartje’s (surprising) first experiences with travel, as well as the story of how the book came to be, and what their future plans are (read on!).

Hope you enjoy all of Maartje’s cool travel photos, including the throwback ones, and that you pick up a copy of the Pride Atlas after reading this interview.

Tell us about your travel journey. When were your first travel experiences?

As a kid, I traveled with my family in the Netherlands (my home country) and went camping in different areas during the summers.

My first significant travel experience was when I was nine years old, and I traveled with my family to Ethiopia to bring my adopted brother home! My parents encouraged my sisters and me to document our experiences in a diary, and that’s something I’ve never let go of!

After that, I traveled in my teenage years with a friend and her family in Europe, without my family. Since I traveled without my family, I wanted to document everything I saw and I wanted to take hundreds of photos to show them when I returned.

When I was 19, I studied abroad for a semester in the USA. Just before I left for the States, I entered into a relationship with an avid traveler, and we went on a trip to Rome (Italy) together. She also visited me in the USA, and we took a few more trips the following year.

A world trip was inevitable, and in early 2017, we left the Netherlands behind! We were nomadic for three years, settling in the Netherlands just before the world shut down. Our journeys separated, and I’ve been enjoying solo traveling again since early 2023!

Were there any travel experiences that shaped who you are?

That first big trip to Ethiopia made me see a whole different world.

I think what shapes me every time I travel is seeing how different things can be done and how “normal” in one place is not “normal” elsewhere. I find that incredibly freeing.

The more I travel, the more I see how we’re all connected. I often connect on a profound level with people worldwide, sometimes even more deeply than I would with a next-door neighbor back home.

Travel truly expands one’s horizons if you’re open to it. It is a lot of (un)learning!

What were you doing before traveling and writing as a professional?

Before “this life,” I was an (unpaid) traveler, student, babysitter, barista, and cinema worker — all to save up enough to travel! I’ve never had a “normal” job in my life. I briefly interned at a film festival and a film magazine (as a film critic), but that’s it. I’m not cut out for that life.

When did you have the idea for the Pride Atlas?

The idea of The Pride Atlas came to me in 2021.

A year prior, a Dutch publisher asked if I ever wanted to write a travel book. I was like, “Eh… maybe?”

I didn’t know what kind of travel book to buy — so many are out there! What “new” could I add?

Funnily enough, I already had a QUEER travel blog, so I don’t know why it took me a year to figure out that it was going to be a queer travel book.

But in 2021, it suddenly hit me, and I got so much clarity on what the book needed to be: inclusive and diverse, from various destinations/things to do, to diversity in the writers — because I can only share from my experience, as a white queer AFAB (”Assigned Female at Birth”) person.

I wanted everyone in our beautifully diverse LGBTQ+ community to be able to relate to the book’s entries and/or writers. So, I completed the pitch (including a marketing plan) and presented it to the publisher.

They weren’t as excited as I’d hoped, and I thought, okay, I guess I won’t write a book then. The universe had other plans.

A month later, a British publisher (who partners with an American publisher) emails me, and they pitch the same idea TO ME! They are looking for a writer to write the book I already wanted. To this day, I still cannot explain how this happened.

What were the goals for the book?

The book’s goal was to create an inclusive travel resource for LGBTQ+ people, to show them what beauty the world has to offer.

Because for queer people, the world can be so scary, violent, and threatening. And not just for queer people, but also for other people. I want to show the great variety of our community; I want to encourage people to support queer-owned businesses, to visit LGBTQ+ monuments, to showcase that being and traveling queer isn’t only about Pride and gay bars.

There is so much more.

What kind of feedback have you had for the Pride Atlas, and how has it felt?

It’s been heartwarming to hear how people have found so much inspiration in the book.

It’s a great honor to be in people’s homes in a certain way. It has also felt a little scary because I’ve sent my ‘baby’ out into the world, which means people can also have opinions about it.

I got some feedback that the USA section is very coast-focused and could’ve used more entries in other places in the country. Also, someone pointed out how the people of Hawaii are begging tourists to stay away because of the disrespect for the environment and the locals and cultural appropriation. And these are very valid points.

As travelers and travel writers, we must be mindful about how and why we travel. Traveling is inherently a political act.

Since publishing the book, is there anywhere else you would add?

Always! Legislation and social attitudes are constantly changing. More countries are becoming increasingly queer-friendly, while others are sadly taking steps back and enacting more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

Which travels and which destinations helped shape your personality and creativity?

I’m going to go with the USA and Mexico. I’ve always been intrigued by the United States, because this country influences the world a lot. In addition, a lot of radical queer history has taken place there, and it’s the country of origin of Pride!

And Mexico is a country where I continue to learn so much more about myself. The energies of the people, food, and culture are something else. I can’t describe it in words; it’s more of a feeling!

What are your future plans for content creation — anything big on the horizon?

I’m in a weird in-between space now that my life has changed so much.

I am looking to base myself out of Amsterdam and Mexico City and find more stability; I’m also on a journey to becoming a parent. So, hopefully, I’ll have a little one travel with me in the near future!

I’m also exploring different relationship styles, and embracing more fluidity in my sexuality, gender and relationship orientation. It’s always my goal to be “real,” both on- and offline, but I’m also a bit more private than before.

I’ve been doing a lot of inner work, and I think I’ve used social media quite a bit to get external validation. Thankfully, I’m getting better at validating myself. It’s been a real time of growth for me and my mental health. I’m not completely clear what the future will look like, but I’m excited to be surprised.

Learn more about Maartje and the Pride Atlas

To follow Maartje and get a copy of the Pride Atlas, find all their links here.