I remember doing a reader survey in 2015, and someone anonymously said, “I wish Brenna didn’t live in London, I wish she was still out travelling.” At the time, I laughed that off. Two years later, however, and I can feel that familiar hum in the back of my mind, the one that’s calling out for a big adventure. It’s the same feeling I got in 2006, when I backpacked around Europe. Or 2008, when I moved to Japan. Or 2011, when I backpacked through Asia for a year. Or 2012, when I travelled through Central and South America for a year. It’s back.
If you follow any major travel websites, blogs, or Pinterest boards, chances are you’ve heard something along the lines of “experiences, not possessions” or maybe you’ve read about people who never buy souvenirs, preferring to travel light or to save their money.
And while I appreciate all of those arguments – I’d much rather have plane tickets than a designer purse, for example – I am one of those people who ALWAYS buys souvenirs. In fact, I’ve bought souvenirs (sometimes multiple souvenirs) in every country I’ve been to, even if it’s something as small as a thimble or a postcard. I have lugged bags full of knick knacks all over the world, sent boxes full of treasures home, and budgeted souvenir shopping into every trip I’ve taken. Some may call that materialistic, but I just call it sentimental.
Because the fact is, I LOVE looking at the souvenirs I’ve brought home from around the world. I love walking around my flat and picking them up. I love remembering where I was when I bought it, or who I bought it with, or who I bought it from. I love surrounding myself with little memories of my travels. Of course, I have photos and journals, too, but there’s something about having a little piece of a place to yourself.
Travelling through Europe by train – it’s how it all started for me. The feeling of freedom, the joy of independence, the ability to see the world out the window, just there, right there. I was 22 when I took my first solo adventure, a summer backpacking trip that would forever alter the course of my life. That summer made me grow into the person I am today, ten years later. And when I think of that trip, I think of trains.
From May until August of 2006, I took trains across Europe. I remember the face of the man who validated my train pass that would last me for the entire summer, a flimsy ticket that, if I lost, could not be replaced. I still have it; it’s stamped May 14th, starting in Amsterdam.
I went to South America because of my sister. She went to South America because of a bottle of mezcal.
Wait. Let me back up. At 22 years old, I took my first long-term solo trip around Europe. That led to years of solo travel and living abroad, including a year travelling through Asia. In that year, I’d met another backpacker who became my boyfriend. When we broke up, I felt totally lost; we had made all of these grand plans together, and suddenly I was stuck in a Winnipeg winter trying to save my pennies as a bartender. I had no idea what to do next.
“You should go to South America, you’d love it,” my big sister Zalie said to me the night I got dumped, as if it was the natural next step. And just like that, a seed was planted, a fire lit. Within five months of that conversation, she was dropping me off at the airport to fly to Belize, where I’d start a nine-month journey through Central and South America.
People often ask me where I got the confidence, the bravery, or the idea to travel the world on my own.
“Easy,” I say to them. “I simply followed in my sister’s footsteps.”
I am all about writing lists. I love making lists of things to do, places to go, books to read, blog posts to write. Whether or not I actually accomplish everything on those lists is another matter all together, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right? Actually, don’t answer that.
Anyway, last year I wrote a list of my 2016 travel goals. I knew, when writing it, that there was no way I would actually be able to visit every single place on that list, because, as I said then, I’m not a millionaire, and I’m also not a full-time traveller. Although I have spent quite a bit of time on the road, even spending a couple of years travelling continuously, at the moment I am happily based in London and I travel abroad once or twice a month. I did actually accomplish some of the travel goals I had from last year… and so, without further ado, here are my 2017 travel goals.
The cobalt sea stretched out ahead of me. In every direction, islands of the archipelago jutted up from the calm Mediterranean waters, some covered in the pale brown of a rock face, others overflowing with swathes of green forest. The sun shone bright in the blue sky above. Our big white boat carried us across the water with ease, the smooth journey bringing us just the right amount of warm wind, a sweet smell in the air blowing in from the pine-forested island shores. I realised I hadn’t even heard of this place until the day before – blasphemy, it seemed, as I experienced this paradise unfolding before me.
This was the beautiful, the quiet, the utopian region of the Göcek Islands of Turkey.