Some time ago I was interviewed by Henrik Jeppesen, youngest Scandinavian to reach every country in the world!, a really nice guy who runs an impressive website at www.everycountryintheworld.com where he interviews what he defines as “big travellers”. The interview can be found here. I agreed with Henrik that the interview is also brought here. Read about my travel favourites that very much reflects my travel life so far.
Please introduce yourself
I am Jakob Linaa Jensen, Danish globetrotter and social media researcher. When I am not travelling, I am teaching at university (media studies) and researching how social media impact our lives and our world. When I do travel, I love visiting new as well as known countries. I focus on nature, historic places and not at least good food along the way. As a beer enthusiast, I always go for new breweries and beers. Although I like rainforests as well as deserts, countryside as well as big cities, my absolute fave travel activity is to ski in the French and Austrian Alps. I live with my girlfriend Mette Ehlers Mikkelsen, also a frequent traveller whom I met in the Danish Travellers Club. She is also interviewed here.
How many countries have you travelled?
I have currently been to 143 countries on all seven continents. I am among the 20 most travelled Danes according to Danish Travellers Club (De Berejstes Klub), where I am a long-standing member and vice chairman for six years. According to Nomad Mania, I am among the 400 most travelled people in the World.
How many days have you approximately travelled?
I have travelled for approximately 2,500 days. This includes student exchange in England (four months) and research stays in the USA, England, Australia and New Zealand and three months as a ski guide in France. For “pure” travelling it is about 1,700 days or five years of my life!
What are three of your favourite countries and why?
New Zealand. I came to New Zealand relatively late in my “travel career” so far and had heard people rave about it. They were right. I fell in love with the country at first instance. The nature, the culture, the people. Good food and wonderful beer and wine and astonishing nature. Travelling in a campervan is the right place to see this wonderful country. Like Australia, it has a wonderful mix of conservatism and hippie culture, but it is easier to travel as distances are shorter.
Vanuatu. My first country outside Europe more than 20 years ago and I was back last year. A wild, exotic country with “custom” traditions and originally more than 500 languages. Tanna is probably the wildest island in the world, with the most active volcano and locals celebrating John Frum, a fictive American “god”, a symbol of a so-called cargo cult that is still very active and hold parties with trances and dance. Wild!
Argentina. Like New Zealand a country that has it all. Wild remote deserts, glaciers, mountains, lush tropical rain forest and the enormous pampas. Route 40 along the Andes Mountains is among the greatest road trips in the World, memorized in Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia”. Further, the country has wonderful food and excellent wines. The best from Europa and South America combined.
Are there any countries you don’t enjoy travelling?
Although I have enjoyed most places I did not like the Comores in the Indian Ocean. Very poor, dirty with many aggressive young men. Combined the worst from Africa and the Middle East. I will never be a big fan of West and Central Africa either.
What are three of your favourite cities, and why?
I could say London, London and London. My absolute favourite place in the entire world. I visited the first time early in my life and I keep coming back, more than 30 times so far. London has it all: Queen Victoria’s old capital combined with probably the most multi-cultural city in the world. You can eat everything, experience everything, meet all kinds of people. You are never bored wandering around in London.
Brisbane is a very cool city as well. I was there three months on a research stay and keep coming back. Centred along a large river, the city develops rapidly with great architecture, sub-tropical surroundings and a happy-go-easy mode.
Rome. So much history, so fantastic food. Just love it.
What are three of your favourite hotels, hostels, guest houses or places you’ve stayed and why?
I normally prefer small cosy hostels of guest houses to big, established hotels but vary my accommodation a lot. I will mention three in different categories:
Hostel Lao, Mendoza, Argentina. I spent my first Christmas alone (and away from Denmark) here. Christobal was a fantastic manager catering for his guests. An amazing backpacker hostel with nice people and a great mood centred around a tiny pool in the garden. Christmas Day, they pulled out an astonishing Parilla (barbecue) and I stayed three days more than expected.
San Cataldo, Amalfi Coast, Italy. A refuge for Danish authors, researchers and artists where they can stay for two or four weeks. Overlooking the Amalfi Bay the old monastery has charm and history and a nice manager. Food is served three times a day, accompanied by their own wine. On the days you work on your projects, in the evening there are intelligent conversations.
Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort, Opulo, Samoa. Normally way beyond my budget but it was the only possible option close to the airport before a red-eye flight. We got the most out of it spending a whole day in their infinity pool with a bar in the water and enjoyed the lush surrounding. In the evening there was a barbecue buffet and a Polynesian fire and dance show. Nice and expensive.
What are the three worst places you’ve stayed?
Luckily, I don’t remember the names but a roach and bedbug-infested rathole in Papeete, Tahiti is to this day the worst. Nobody had cleaned for years and we got bitten all over. There were really nice people hanging around, though.
All the next spots go to hotels and hostels in London. The city is incredibly expensive and cheap options are often the worst s…. The second place goes to a place where somebody vomited in the sink and nobody took care or cleaned for days.
The third-place goes to a hostel where people smoked grass and fought in my room while I wanted to sleep. Only in the third attempt, I managed to get the manager to kick them out.
What are three of your favourite restaurants, and why?
There are so many as I very much travel with my stomach. I love fish and seafood. The best sushi ever was at the fish market Tsukiji in Tokyo.
I will also have to mention Carnivore, a food lovers paradise in Nairobi, Kenya.
And then Restaurant Geranium, a famed Danish Michelin restaurant. Way beyond my budget, but the seven-course innovative menu was sponsored by a business partner.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
Encounter with a humpback whale, Illulisat, Greenland. Sailing out to watch icebergs in the sunset we suddenly encountered a humpback family. They played and danced around our little boat for half an hour. My greatest travel moment ever.
Two times cruising through Neumaier Channel in Antarctica, probably the most beautiful place on this planet.
Watching Naghol, the traditional bungy jump in Pentecoast, Vanuatu, where young men jump from 30 meters tall bamboo towers with only vines around their legs. Scary and fascinating.
What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?
My big crash down “The Tunnel” slope in Alpe d’Huez, France. I lost both skies and fell 200 meters with my head in front, not remembering whether there was a fence at the end. There was. It set my skiing abilities back with five years in five minutes.
Every time I have to get up before 6 am to catch a plane.
Worst food poisoning ever at Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, a beautiful place where they know no hygiene.
What are three of your best travel tips?
Use momondo.com to find the best and most flexible plane tickets
Always book tours etc. with local providers rather than big travel agencies and tour companies. It is cheaper, better and you support local communities.
Taste and sense your way through the world. Be mindful and attentive. And enjoy the moment. It is unique.
Do you have any little-known travel tips?
When travelling across the Pacific, book multi-city trips with stopovers along the way. Cheaper than consecutive single tickets but few people realize it is possible.
At airport toilets, I always go for the stall farthest from the entrance. Normally the cleanest due to less use. True for restaurant toilets as well.