2016: A Year in Review

by Brenna Holeman


I almost never do these kinds of review posts – I’m always so impressed with bloggers who manage to do monthly round-ups. I often think how great it would be to do the same, and that it would keep me motivated and probably make me post more, but then I remember how lazy I am and laugh. It seems like every blogger has already done a review of their 2016, and I don’t even know who reads these kinds of things, but hey, I just had a fantastic breakfast at Falafel House (fellow Winnipeggers, you know what I’m talking about… I always get the corned beef hash and a glass of chocolate milk), two cups of coffee, and nobody else is home, so I thought I’d use these couple of hours to do something semi-productive. Usually I’d just be binge-watching Forensic Files, so I’m going to count this as a win.

I originally thought about organising this post by the trips I’ve taken this year, but my life is more than just my travels, and this blog is slowly encompassing more than travelling, so I’ve decided to organise it month by month. Oh, and let me just preface this by saying I do not mention all of the horrible, rotten things that happened around the world this year, because a) it makes me sad/angry/frustrated to think about it and b) this is my personal blog’s round-up, not a round-up of world events (though many of them affected blog posts, as you’ll see below).

If you’d ever like to follow along in real-time, I tend to put up my best photography on Instagram and update my Facebook page almost daily.


Tips for teenagers who want to travel the world 4


I don’t really remember very much about January, and since I wasn’t writing much and barely took any photos, I’m just going to assume I spent a lot of time at work and on my couch watching Netflix. What I do know is that I handed in my passport in order to apply for the Graduate Entrepreneur Tier 1 visa in the UK, which I’ll be explaining how to do on this blog soon (I didn’t even know about that visa scheme until I’d lived in London for nearly two years). Oh yeah, and I officially graduated from City University London, so I got to pay £70 to rent a cap and gown, walk across a stage, shake someone’s hand, and get a piece of paper granting me my master’s degree. I’m downplaying that slightly, but it was actually really amazing.

Blog Posts:

Going Back to Copenhagen – a narrative story about first love, this was one of my favourite pieces I wrote on the blog this year.

What to Wear in Bhutan – this has since become one of the more popular posts on this blog.

The Best Way to Celebrate Loi Krathong – all about Thailand’s famous lantern festival, and my experience of it in 2015.

My 2016 UK Travel Goals 5


Again, I don’t have much to say about February – I was just working a lot and trying to fight the winter doldrums in London. As I was still passport-less, I decided to travel in the UK; I took a train up to Manchester to meet my good friend Helen, and then we went on an AMAZING road trip of the Lake District. Beautiful scenery, pub food, a few  oh-my-god-is-this-hill-too-steep moments, and one phone call to the police later (that story for another time)… we ended up having a blast. Even with the icy weather, the Lake District quickly became one of my favourite regions in England.

My 2016 UK Travel Goals 4

Blog Posts:

Tips for Teenagers Who Want to Travel the World – a blog post for younger people who want to take the necessary steps to prepare for long-term or frequent travelling.

My 2016 UK Travel Goals – a blog post where I list all of the places in the United Kingdom that I was apparently going to travel to in 2016. Pretty much all of it fell through. WHOOPS.

On Being Dumped, or Why I’m Glad That Guy Dumped Me – pretty explanatory, this was a chipper little blog post for Valentine’s Day…

How Much Does It Really Cost to Visit Bhutan? – an informative post about visiting Bhutan (spoiler, it’s not as expensive as you may have first thought).

The Little Town of Lovere – in 2015, I visited Bergamo and the surrounding villages, including Lovere, and, like almost everything Italian (wine, food, men) I fell in love instantly.

My Most Hated Travel Quote – this is one of my favourite posts I wrote this year, and one I still stand by with passion.



I got my passport back, and was granted a visa to live in the UK for another year! It’s amazing how much better I felt just knowing that it was in my drawer.

The first international trip I took in 2016, then, was to Israel. I went on a press trip to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, and, while the places I visited were beautiful and SO interesting, I was really soured by one aspect of the trip, which is why I haven’t written about it very much on this blog. In short, myself and five journalists were at the mercy of one tour guide for the five days we were there, and he was so condescending toward my work as a blogger that I was left feeling angry and confused. Much worse than that, his views on Palestine made me incredibly uncomfortable. I’m very thankful that I’ve been to Israel before and that I can call on those happier memories. Again – the places I visited were amazing, but this trip taught me that I will no longer accept a press trip unless there is a PR representative in attendance.

Blog Posts:

14 Amazing Women (who also happen to be travel bloggers) – I have some pretty incredible friends in the travel blogging industry, and I wanted to share some of their work.

People Are Good – I wrote this after the attack in Brussels. I still stand by it, as difficult as that can be sometimes.

What to Wear in Thailand – another fashion post, this time in one of my favourite countries!

Causeway Coast 13


April was an incredibly busy month for me, starting with a long weekend in Northern Ireland with my friend Kasha. I went on behalf of the Causeway Coast and Glens tourism board, and had a fantastic road trip around the region. I had been to a few of the spots before, but having ample time to explore the gorgeous coastline, visit local pubs, and meet lots of the people from the region made the trip incredibly special.


The following weekend I took the train from London to Cardiff for Traverse, a blogging conference. As always, it was terrific to see so many bloggers and really fun to sit in on many of the sessions. I was asked to sit on the closing panel, which was great experience (why anyone gives me a microphone, I’ll never understand).

Cinque Terre on a budget 16

The weekend after that (I told you I was busy), I ended up flying to Pisa to begin a challenge with Money Supermarket; I had to arrive with no luggage and figure out how to purchase everything I’d need for a hiking trip to Cinque Terre. The challenge itself was totally fine, but what really stands out about that trip was my introduction to Cinque Terre. It is an absolutely beautiful part of the world, now one of my favourites, and I feel so lucky to have spent time there. It really fuelled the fire toward my obsession with Italy.

In the last week of April, my dad and his wife Wendy came to visit me in London, and we spent approximately 45 minutes looking at the sights and the rest of the time in restaurants, bars, and pubs. It was the perfect trip, in my opinion.

Blog Posts:

Visiting Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust Memorial – a very important place.

Six Years of This Battered Suitcase: What Next? – I wrote this in a hostel in Pisa… and I’m finally starting to implement some of the things I discussed in that post.

On Being Addicted to Travelling – because… yep, I am.

Why I Love the Causeway Coast – as mentioned, SUCH a gorgeous part of the world.



May was another busy month, and a pretty great one. Despite having just returned from Italy, I decided to go back for my 32nd birthday, and spent the first week of May in Bologna (which I still haven’t written about, whoops). I experienced my first Tinder date abroad, which turned out to be one of my best first dates ever, and I now highly recommend using Tinder when you travel. I also ate some of the best food I’ve ever eaten… it was so great, in fact, that I’m considering going back just to try a few new restaurants. I mean, screw sightseeing, just give me that tagliatelle bolognese, am I right?! *cough* On that trip, I also returned to Venice, which was just as beautiful as I remember it being (and, in early May, not so crowded that you couldn’t have some space to yourself).


At the end of the month, my mum came to visit me in London, which is always a highlight. May was also important because it signified my ten-year anniversary of travelling solo, which is absolutely bonkers. More on that coming soon.


Blog Posts:

Travelling Without Luggage (A Challenge) – what happened on that trip to Pisa and Cinque Terre when I didn’t have any luggage.

Cinque Terre on a Budget – because the region doesn’t have to be as expensive as you’d think.

Book Review: Mother Tongue

For All the Places I Once Lived – a narrative piece, this is perhaps my favourite thing I’ve written all year.



June was another great month. It started with a trip to Mallorca with my mum; I was set up with a villa through Travelopo, and I bought the flights for us both. It sounds kind of silly, but being able to take my mum on a trip when she’s taken me on so many in my life felt more rewarding than anything else this year. The week ended up being absolutely perfect, with crystalline waters, cobblestoned towns, and all the Spanish cava and tapas we could consume. I would love to return to Mallorca one day.


Something very special that happened in June was my first ever reader meet-up. Around 25 people showed up at a little wine bar in East London, and it was THE BEST.

Cinque Terre on a budget 12

Then, in the last week of the month, I flew back to Italy (yes, for my third time in 2016) in order to visit Cinque Terre again. On this trip, I stayed with someone I’d met in April, so it was a holiday filled with lots of local experiences and delicious home-cooked meals. Think fireworks by the water, boat rides along the Ligurian Coast, cold white wine, the scent of lavender, and Vespa rides. Yep, it was perfect. I’m unfortunately no longer in touch with the friends I made there – not by my choice – but I cherish those memories.

Blog Posts:

Nine Mistakes to Make as a Traveller – because sometimes it’s good to make a few mistakes.

On Bicycles and Brothers – a narrative piece about my hometown, Bolivia’s Death Road, and my little brother Kitt.



July was very busy with work, but I still managed to travel internationally twice: to Stockholm and to Prague. The first trip, to Stockholm, was to attend TBEX, a travel blogging conference. In all honesty, I didn’t feel that I got that much out of this conference this time around, which may be because it was my fifth time attending. I did, however, love seeing a lot of bloggers I only get to see once or twice a year. Stockholm itself was very nice, but I didn’t connect with it. My memories of my first visit there, in 2006, are quite vague, so I know I’ll have to return to Sweden again soon in order to see more and have more free time (and, hopefully, more money, because DAMN that place is expensive).


My second trip, to Prague, was really exciting, mostly because I didn’t actually know that I was going to Prague until I got to the airport. Arranged through Surprise Trips, it ended up being a really fun long weekend with my friend Jen, one that included a lot of beer and a lot of walking.

Blog Posts:

The Perfect Holiday: A Villa in Mallorca – about the time I spent with my mum.

The Last Time I Saw You (Part Five) – always the most popular posts on this site. I have to have more travel romances in order to write them… it’s a tough job, but if I have to do it to keep everyone happy, FINE, I will.

Why We Need Travel More Than Ever – I wrote this after the attack in Nice, and I totally agree with it nearly six months later.



August flew by – I was really busy with both my full-time job and my freelance work. I hung around London a lot, taking advantage of the sunny days and all that the city has to offer: the markets, the beer gardens, the long, lazy hours hanging out in the park with a bottle of Prosecco. I had a visit from Kerri (my South America travel buddy), and then ended the month in Paris, where I attended the Rock en Seine Festival with Vicky. Paris was ridiculously hot and I got food poisoning, but it still ended up being an awesome trip. Getting to see Iggy Pop, Massive Attack, and Sigur Ros live was a dream come true.


Blog Posts:

Visiting Bhutan’s Tiger’s Nest Monastery – a post about one of my favourite days ever.

An Ode to the Aperol Spritz – because I fell in love with a drink this year. Yeah.

On Ghosting (and what to do if it happens to you) – oh, the perils of modern dating. This may or may not relate to something I said earlier in this post about not being in touch with some people anymore.

On Dreaming, and On Staying Ambitious – because I believe being a dreamer and being ambitious go hand in hand.

Best of London: London’s Rooftop Cinemas – a great night out in London.

The Travel Mistake I Keep Making – about getting sick in Paris. I had a lot of fun writing this post.



I’m not going to lie, September was a tough month for me. This year, starting in late July, I began to really doubt what I was doing with my life, if I should stay in London, and so on. You know, all that existential naval-gazing us millennials are so good at. I spent a lot of time talking to my family and trying to figure it all out, but I see now that I was under a lot of stress from keeping up a full-time job and all of the freelance work I was doing to satisfy the requirements for my Graduate Entrepreneur visa. Quite frankly, I was really fucking tired. I took a week off to go to Winnipeg, Canada, my hometown, and pretty much stayed offline the entire time. It was great.

Blog Posts:

Best of London: Ride the Slide – a giant slide in London that’s SO MUCH FUN.

Where to Find the Sinking House of Paris – a quick one, but a fun one.

What to Wear in Cuba – another fashion post, this time from Cuba.



By October I was starting to feel better, mainly because I finally figured out what I had to do: I had to go down to part-time at my job in order to maintain the work required for my visa, have more time to work on this blog, and get some sleep. I couldn’t do it right away, but even knowing that I’d have more time (though considerably less money) to grow my own business/blog, write more, and have some more time to travel made me feel a lot more on track. Right around this time, I was invited by Hilton Dalaman to check out their new hotel in Turkey, and it was so beautiful: relaxing, luxurious, and the absolute perfect place to unwind.

Blog Posts:

Book Review: A Year in the UK and Ireland – a great book by my friend Emma.

The Ultimate Surprise Holiday with Surprise Trips – all about my surprise trip to Prague.

The Fire Opal: A Story from Brazil – a narrative story about someone I met while in South America.



November was a crazy month for me, with so much going on. First, there was WTM, a huge travel trade show held in London every year. Tons of friends were in town, which meant lots of parties, get-togethers, and networking. It was pretty good for making new contacts, so we’ll see how those pan out in 2017. Next, my mum came back to visit, and we did lots of fun things in London (some of which I’ll be writing about soon). We then took the train to the Netherlands, where we spent four days in Utrecht and Amsterdam. Though it rained a lot, we had a great time, mostly because we were together.


Blog Posts:

On Being Busy – because I was, indeed, way too busy.

How We Can Help (If We’re Not American) – my reaction to the American election this year.

Sailing Around the Gocek Islands of Turkey –  a beautiful part of the world.

My 2017 Travel Goals – let’s see how many of them I actually accomplish!



I started the month with a week in Paris, Lyon, and Barcelona with Rail Europe, and it was my favourite time I’ve ever been to Paris. I have a lot more to say about this trip, but I’m going to save it for a separate blog post or two! I then had a very fun office party followed by a very hungover flight back to Canada, which is where I’ve been for the last two weeks. I’ve barely been online – I’ve been spending nearly every waking moment with my family and friends, and it has been absolutely glorious. I’ve visited all my favourite restaurants, been spoiled with generosity, and am, quite frankly, really sad to be leaving this evening, even though I miss my flat and my friends in London.


But, as mentioned, I’m now going to have a very different work trajectory over the next year, and I’m excited to give so much more of my time and energy to writing and blogging. I’ll spend January setting up a lot of this, and, because I love London too much to leave just yet, applying for an extension on my Graduate Entrepreneur visa.


Blog Posts:

Best of London: Silent Disco at the Shard – such a fun night out in London.

Um, Did I Just Quit My Job to Travel?! – pretty explanatory…….



So, that was my year. It has its ups and downs, like any year, but mostly ups. Overall it was a year of travel, discovery, and figuring out what I really want to do going forward (and figuring out how much work that’s going to mean). In terms of this blog, the stats grew more than ever before, and it got more than half a million hits in 2016. That really blows my mind, because – as always – this just feels like a personal account that I know my sister and my mum read (and, in my mind, a handful of others). I can’t thank you enough for your support of This Battered Suitcase in 2016, and in every year before it; your views, your comments, your likes, I appreciate it all so much, and it’s because of you that I get to pursue this career of travelling and writing.

Wherever you’re starting off your year (I’ll be in my local pub in London to ring in 2017), I hope you have a fantastic evening! May 2017 bring you much happiness and success.


How was your 2016? 

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Paige December 29, 2016 - 8:35 pm

So many wonderful posts this year! Again congrats on the work balance decisions. I’m so excited to read along in 2017! My 2016 was actually pretty great despite horrifying world events and heartbreaking celebrity passings…this was my first year not being a full time student; I got a job in administration at a really great university; I moved to Boston; I did my first big solo trip and visited England, Scotland, and Ireland; I turned 25; I went on some ultimately lackluster but not entirely terrible dates; and I’m trying my best to explore and take advantage of all my new home and the surrounding area has to offer while planning more bigger trips, including one summer semi-solo Eurotrip already on the books for 2017!

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:19 pm

Sounds like such an amazing year for you, Paige! Thank you so much for following along on the blog and I hope that our paths cross one day. 😀

Brittany December 30, 2016 - 12:36 am

I’m glad you decided to do a year in review post 🙂 I’ve been following your blog for a while now and it was fun to look back and remember the posts you’ve published over the past year. As always, I love your writing – I’m excited to continue following your journey!

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:25 pm

Thank you so much, Brittany! You are too kind. 😀 I hope you have a fantastic 2017!

Christine December 30, 2016 - 12:39 am

Happy New Year Brenna! All the best for 2017! Can’t wait to read more posts from you next year!


Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:19 pm

Thank you so much, Christine! Happy New Year to you, too. 😀

LC December 30, 2016 - 1:36 am

That’s a pretty darn good year, as busy as it was. It was nice to meet/see you at the conferences too! Congrats re the blog growth – yours is so refreshingly different from most other blogs out there, so it’s well deserved. I look forward to reading your stories in 2017.

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:24 pm

Thank you so much!! It was so great to meet you, too, I hope to see you again soon 😀

Danny December 30, 2016 - 3:24 am

So happy to hear you feel more comfortable with your new work-life-balance slash trajectory, Brenna. I look forward to reading more of your stores in 2017!

On a side note: Oh my gosh, is that GROM ice cream I see there?! Gahhhh, that stuff is amazing!

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:20 pm

Yes, it’s GROM! Amazing stuff 🙂

And thank you so much, Danny! Happy New Year…

Neni December 30, 2016 - 8:36 am

You had a killer year! Congratulations for the success with your blog, you deserve it. It´s always fun to read your articles 🙂

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:20 pm

Aw, thank you so much, Neni! 😀

Ashley December 30, 2016 - 10:01 am

I always love reading yearly round-ups, so I’m glad you decided to write one! Also, in terms of travel and working full-time, I don’t know how you do it! I’ve been trying to explore at least one new destination per month while living in Edinburgh, but I think I need to up my game 😉 Congrats on all your successes this year – as always, looking forward to following along on your adventures in 2017!

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:24 pm

Thank you so much, Ashley! I’ll admit, I’m often pretty tired, but that’s why I decided to go down to part-time. Now let’s see if my bank account can keep up….. Anyway, Happy New Year! 😀

Ruth December 30, 2016 - 12:34 pm

I do love a good year round up post! It’s nice to look back over what you’ve done over the year I think – sometimes the end of the year comes round and it feels like the days have flown by, but really looking at everything you’ve done throughout the year is a reminder of how much you’ve crammed in!

Glad you decided to stick around in London. Let’s go out for drinks again soon – and if you’re planning any exploring, in the city (or outside it) and fancy a companion I would definitely be up for that! 🙂

Happy New Year!

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:23 pm

Thank you so much, Ruth! Yes, 2016 definitely felt like it flew by, as does every year. Let’s definitely grab drinks, I’m around a lot in the next couple of months as I wait for my new visa! 😀

Cindy December 30, 2016 - 5:06 pm

I love reading yearly round ups and I’m glad you wrote one for 2016. It’s great to see all the posts you wrote and it made me realize I read your blog quite a bit since I recognized basically all the posts. As for me I took a lot of L’s in 2016 and I’m hoping and working towards a better 2017. Half a million hits is a huge success and I’m excited for what 2017 will bring since you’re going to start blogging full time. 🙂

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:22 pm

Aw, thank you so much, Cindy! That’s so awesome to hear and I really appreciate all of your support. I hope that 2017 brings you much happiness 😀

Sarah December 30, 2016 - 9:22 pm

Congratulations on your coming life changes and all the best for 2017 – Happy New Year!

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:20 pm

Thank you so much, Sarah!

Amy January 1, 2017 - 11:14 am

What a varied and exciting 2016! Here’s to an even better 2017, I look forward to seeing where it takes you. Happy New Year!

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:21 pm

Thank you so much, Amy! Happy New Year to you, too 😀

Helen January 2, 2017 - 12:28 am

Aw, our Lakes road trip! Let’s do another soon!!! xx

Brenna Holeman January 2, 2017 - 5:21 pm

Yes!! I’m free in February again… 😀 xx

Kate January 3, 2017 - 2:26 pm

What a fantastic and inspiring year – wishing you more of the same in 2017!

Brenna Holeman January 3, 2017 - 3:41 pm

Thank you very much, Kate! Happy New Year 😀

Zalie January 11, 2017 - 4:42 am

Even though I remember all of these trips and events, I can’t believe they ALL happened in 2016!!! Such a busy year filled with such great( and sometimes not so great) memories. I can’t wait to see where 2017 takes you sister! xoxo

Mo January 21, 2017 - 5:19 am

Brenna!!! I stumbled upon your blog about halfway through the year, and because my year was similarly big, missed a lot of these posts. Guess I have to go back and read them now!


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