The favourite places of Jan Willem Plug

The favourite places of Jan Willem Plug

Jan Willem is an avid traveller and Instagrammer charting his passion for travel across the world, with a photo-led focus on cities, landscapes, architecture and sharing positive vibes with new friends. Having lived in six different countries, Jan now makes a career as an Instagram influencer while also holding down a high-flying managerial position and exploring the world as much as possible with his partner Filip.

Tell us about yourself

Hi. My name is Jan Willem. I live in the Netherlands, my native land, after moving quite a bit from a very young age. My parents are both Dutch but I was born in Germany and soon after we moved to the United States to live in El Paso, Texas. Although I was too young to remember, there must be thousands of photos of our travels in Texas, Arizona, Mexico and various US landmarks. As I grew up, my family and I hopped between Germany and the coastal town of Lombardsijde in Belgium, before settling in the Netherlands for some years. When I was old enough to leave home, I experienced life in the UK, moving once more back to the Netherlands for a second time before taking off once again – this time to Sweden, a lovely place I have been back to many, many times since. All in all, I have lived in six countries and have moved house a total of seventeen times, but I wouldn’t change anything! It has shaped me into the travel-loving person I am today.

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

I now work as Manager of the Learning and Development Department for Vodafone, where I am responsible for training and quality monitoring. My biggest passion, however, is to travel and explore the world. I travel as much as I can, together with my boyfriend, Filip, on long weekend city breaks, long vacations and outdoor adventures to many different countries and I document each trip on Instagram. My style of travelling combines my love of exploring nature with my enjoyment of relaxing in fine hotels! I work out at least four times a week, even when travelling if possible, and live a healthy lifestyle as a vegetarian. Instagram is a big inspiration to me when it comes to travelling and finding new destinations, as I am a naturally curious person. It has also enabled me to meet locals and connect with fellow Instagrammers from all over the world. In turn, I try to inspire others through my own Instagram posts and interactions.

Dubai | Photo: Nathan John

Dubai | Photo: Nathan John

Where did you go on your latest trip?

I just returned from Dubai a few days ago where I had an awesome time. Since I love architecture it was really amazing to be there. We went to the viewing point on Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and had lunch at the iconic Al Arab hotel before dinner in the awesome Atlantis with a view of the huge aquarium. We also drove to Abu Dhabi to visit the Great Mosque, Presidential Palace and Etihad Towers. The architecture is absolutely amazing everywhere you look but the most enjoyable aspect of the trip was meeting so many international people and visiting the historic old centre of Dubai and local market places together.

Where in the world have you felt happiest?

I feel at home very quickly in many places and value the people around me more than the place I’m at. I know that may sound corny but it’s true! One place that always makes me happy is seeing the Königssee in southern Germany right at the border to Austria. It’s one of the most beautiful untouched places in the Alps and I have fond childhood memories of it. It was also the first destination Filip and I travelled to together. The Königssee and Obernsee right next to it are very similar to the fjords in Norway, among the greatest sights I have ever seen!

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Schönau, Königssee | Photo: Waldemar Brandt

Schönau, Königssee | Photo: Waldemar Brandt

What destination has lived up to the hype?

Filip and I were in San Francisco for five days in 2017 and we totally loved the city, the vibe and the people there. We knew the city would be great to visit and explore as we had heard about the open-minded and tolerant attitude of the people there. It really exceeded our expectations and I really hope to go there again someday!

Photo: Eric Ward

Photo: Eric Ward

What destination hasn’t?

While we both love Italy; the cities, the landscapes, the mountains, we were disappointed by Pisa. Not only is it very small but it also seemed kind of boring too (apologies to the great people of Pisa). The only real attraction in the city, in my eyes, is the world-famous leaning tower and the cathedral opposite. We could not find anything else to see in the city!

Which is your favourite city and what makes it so special?

I cannot choose just one! We love going to London, Paris and Amsterdam again and again as it’s almost impossible to be bored in any of those cities and there’s so much to explore. I especially love the beauty of Prague – it’s a fairy-tale place for me with all its historic buildings and cosy alleys and streets. We love Madrid and Vienna too but I think Rome is one of the most amazing cities I have ever been to because of my love of history. The city is huge and every street, square and corner has new surprises as well as amazing architecture and history. We walked all over the city for days on end, visiting the Vatican, Forum Romanum, Colosseum and much more. I was stunned the whole time and could hardly process all of it. Rome is truly awesome!

Rome | Photo: Christopher Czermak

Rome | Photo: Christopher Czermak

Describe a childhood holiday memory

I can tell you about my very first holiday memory of all. This memory goes back to when I was just 2 years old and is of a trip to the south of France. We were on summer vacation and camping in our caravan. I remember the camping place was on top of a hill and our car not being powerful enough to drive up! The camping owner had to use his jeep to drag our caravan up. I vividly remember the first morning after arriving when I stepped out of the caravan onto the long green grass drenched with morning dew. I walked through the wet grass and was fascinated by the big brown snails all around. I also remember the beautiful smells there; of the sunflower fields, the fresh fruit and especially the fields of lavender!

Tell us about a great little place you know

There is a super nice village in Germany, not far away from our home in the Netherlands. We live right at the border to Germany and Belgium so it is easy for us to go abroad all the time. Historic Aachen is just half an hour from our city and south of it in the Eiffel mountains is the medieval village of Monschau where we always take our guests when we host them. The village is one big historical monument, where literally every building is protected by law. Beautiful picturesque houses, bridges and churches are everywhere and a mountain river runs through the whole town. Although it’s small, it’s an awesome place to go in any season.

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

What is the best hotel you’ve stayed at?

The best hotels were the Mandarin Oriental in Paris and the Mandarin Oriental in Dubai, where we stayed just a few days ago. Both times, it was thanks to the invitation of friends that we were able to go there and we truly loved it! The staff really make you feel at home and the rooms, services, and food are all totally excellent. Iberostar Selection Fuerteventura Palace was also amazing. I loved the swimming pools and food there – hotel breakfasts and dinners are the best!

I lost my heart in…

I guess this would be the Königssee and Obernsee in Berchtesgaden, Germany, again. There is this one spot at the Obernsee that you get to after a 2-hour hike from the Königssee and it is just perfect. The snow-covered Alps surround the lake and valley and the reflection in the water amid deafening silence is awe-inspiring. My parents took me there when I was about six years old and we took a boat trip on the lake. The area has been a national park since the early 1900s so there is no pollution whatsoever. The water is so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake several meters down. The beauty of the mountains, valleys and central peninsula all stunned me even as a kid and the magic never went away for me.

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Jan Willem & Filip | Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Photo: Jan Willem

Photo: Jan Willem Plug

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while travelling?

We have made so many interesting Instagram friends while travelling that I really wouldn’t be able to answer that question. With quite a few friends we have been able to meet up, again and again, to travel together which I really love doing.

Amsterdam | Photo: Adrien Olichon

Amsterdam | Photo: Adrien Olichon

What is your best-kept travel secret?

Filip is my best-kept travel secret. He is a total expert in finding the best places to visit with the best and cheapest flights and best hotels to stay without paying too much. Filip knows all the apps to use and is subscribed to ‘secret’ travellers groups that keep an eye on error fares and stuff like that. He always manages to find the very best deals for the very best locations and without his expertise, we could never travel the way we do.

Any recommendations for gay travellers?

Definitely our own capital of Amsterdam, of course, for its canal-side gay pride and freedom to be yourself among open-minded people. I also have to recommend San Francisco and its gay district as well as Madrid which really surprised me as a gay destination. I didn’t know how tolerant Madrid would be and I was very happy to see gay couples holding hands openly in public in this liberal, gay-friendly atmosphere. New York is great too as well as Bangkok and the whole of Thailand for that matter! We were there in February and really had a great time.

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