Holy &$@% 2019, Are You For Real?

by Brenna Holeman

There are a lot of internal links in this post… they will all open in a new window, so if one of the links interests you, don’t worry… it won’t take you away from this article!

It seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote this post, which has nearly the exact same title as this one and explained where I was travelling in 2017. It’s hard to believe that that was only two years ago; so much has happened since then, and in many ways I feel like a different person. I did indeed go on most of the travels listed in that post, notably Antigua and Barbuda, UAE, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania. But I didn’t stop there… I also went to Italy, San Marino, Austria, and Germany on three separate trips, and then finished off the year with a press trip to Japan.

It should have been one of the most amazing years of my life. But as I’ve discussed on this blog before, when I wasn’t on the road (and even sometimes when I was)… I felt miserable. I was suffering from anxiety and depression, but constantly trying to tell myself to snap out of it, because seriously? I get to travel the world and this is how I feel?! Boo goddamn hoo, you know?

But as any of us who have struggled with mental health know – hell, as ANY of us know – we don’t get to control our lives and our emotions 24/7. The truth was, despite all of the amazing travels I experienced, 2017 was a year fraught with sadness and frustration. I was burnt out from too much travel, stressed out from moving across an ocean, and constantly suffering from extreme loneliness.

what to wear in canada in winter

2018 initially geared up to be a lot better. I had moved home to Canada, and started the year with a fantastic road trip across Western Canada followed by a trip to Arizona and Nevada. I then flew to London, where I expected to stay for three weeks before travelling solo around the Balkans.

Within two weeks of being in the UK, I booked a ticket and flew home. For once in my life, I was listening to my body and my mind, realizing that travelling was the last thing I should be doing. I needed to settle for a while, to find routine, and to not jump immediately back into the hectic schedule 2017 had proven disastrous for me.

2018 still ended up being a terrific year, probably more so because I did take that step back and focused on slowing down. I gardened, cooked, built a deck, and focused on work. I still managed to go on a museum tour of Mississippi, a trip to the Caribbean with my mum (Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada), an absolutely mind-blowing adventure around Namibia, and quick visits to Texas and Arizona. I also travelled around my home province of Manitoba a lot more, and got to see just how fun living in Winnipeg is. Plus, I adopted the love of my life, Dottie.

And if you’ve been reading this blog recently, you know that I’ve started an entirely different kind of adventure in my life: I’ve decided to totally change my view of healthy living, going from an extremely sedentary and inactive lifestyle to one where I go to the gym every day and take care of myself through healthy eating. And wouldn’t you know, it’s freaking working… I feel physically better than ever, and I’m able to manage my mental health issues a lot better, too.

But you didn’t think I would be content just to sit at home all year, would you?

It turns out 2019 is going to be just as crazy with travelling as ever, but the best part? I feel ready and excited for it. In the past I’ve felt pressure to travel as often as possible; sometimes because of this industry that I’m in, sometimes just because of the pressure I’m putting on myself. This year? This year I’m travelling for the pure joy and love of it, for the reasons I first started travelling all those years ago: to see places with my own eyes, to experience, to learn.

Oh, and to eat.

Because do you know where I’m going first?

ONLY MY FAVOURITE COUNTRY IN THE WORLD! We meet again, Italia!

And do you know what I’m doing when I get there?!

TOURING THE AMALFI COAST!! All caps and crazy exclamation points because this has been my dream for at least a decade. Although this will be my 13th time in Italy, I was always saving the Amalfi Coast. For what? I don’t know. But when Club Adventures got in touch about a collaboration, I knew it was fate; I had even said in my 2019 Travel Goals post that I would love this year to be the one that would include the Amalfi Coast.

The kicker? I leave THIS WEEK. That’s right, in a matter of days, I will be in Rome eating cacio e pepe and drinking red wine like it’s water. Long-time readers will know that I very rarely accept any collaborations or partnerships anymore, but this experience with Club Adventures seemed too good to be true: something I’ve always wanted to do, of course, but also something that I know a lot of people have asked me about. I’m so excited to share what travelling on a small, local tour of Italy is like; although I often travel solo, I don’t ALWAYS want to travel solo, and this is exactly the kind of tour I’m always looking for online and hope to be able to recommend to readers.

Over ten days, I will be touring Naples (you best believe I’m finding the best pizza in that city, I don’t care how long it takes), Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Positano, and so many more incredible places. Think olive groves, limoncello tastings, and views of the sea for days. Needless to say, I can’t wait.

When the tour is over, however, I’m not flying home. I’m doing something that I have been saying I was going to do on this blog for the past four years. No, seriously, I’ve said it in my travel goals posts for 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016.

That’s right… I’m travelling around the Balkans for three weeks!

From Rome, I fly to Tirana, where I’ll meet my mum. From there we have a whirlwind trip through Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina (my 100th country!), Serbia, Macedonia, and Kosovo. I have had the BEST time researching this trip for the past three months, and I can’t wait to finally see it all and share it with you.

Please make sure to follow along on Instagram for Italy and the Balkans updates; I’ll be posting daily on stories and will surely take tons of photos (I even bought a new camera lens for the occasion). I’ll also be posting as much as possible on Facebook!

Finally, we fly back to Rome where we’ll meet my mum’s partner Marty; with two days in the city, we’re going to have an early 35th birthday celebration for me (my birthday is May 5th). They’ve said we can do whatever I want to do, so naturally I said I want to sit in a square all day and alternate between drinking Lambrusco and espresso.

It goes without saying that I am feeling incredibly grateful and incredibly overwhelmed (in the very best way). The only things I’m feeling stressed about are a) Dottie and b) my lifestyle changes. In terms of Dottie, I have hired an amazing sitter who will live in my house while I’m gone; she already spent a week with Dottie in February, and Dottie loves her very much. I’m confident Dottie will be super happy and loved while I’m away, but I’m freaking out at how much I’ll miss her. In terms of my lifestyle changes… yeah… I’m hoping the constant walking/sightseeing will offset me eating my body weight in pasta every day…?

I’m back in Winnipeg for May to October; I want to take advantage of the sunny months for lots of gardening, outdoor time with Dottie, and camping. I might squeak in a trip to Tennessee if I can, but that’s a distant dream at the moment.

But come October… I’ll be joining one of Helen’s Rock My Adventure trips again! I had the BEST time with her in Namibia last year, and I can’t wait to see another part of the African continent with her this time around. I’ll be joining her South Africa, eSwatini, and Mozambique tour; I’ve been to South Africa, but only to Cape Town, so I’m incredibly excited to go on safari in Kruger. I’m also dying to see the turquoise waters of Mozambique’s coast. More on this trip in the coming months!

All in all, this is shaping up to be an amazing year. As I mentioned above, I’m feeling so happy and so relaxed about these travels, more so than I have in years. 2017 was rough, 2018 was the year I found my footing, and 2019 is the year I put it all into practice. In fact, this is EXACTLY the kind of lifestyle I want; instead of lots of shorter trips, I love the idea of two longer adventures throughout the year.

It took me a long time to get here, but I feel happier and more secure than I have in years, than I have perhaps ever in my life. It’s funny; I always thought I needed to be constantly travelling, that I needed to live in a place like Osaka or London, that I needed to be forever moving, moving, moving in order to be happy. My wanderlust was what defined me, I thought, even if it was sometimes bringing me down.

Beautiful sunset on Delta Beach

Now I see that I’m just as happy when I have my hands in the mud, weeding my garden. When I’m snuggled up on the couch with my beautiful dog, eating a home-cooked meal. When I’m laughing with friends over a beer, friends that I don’t have to constantly say goodbye to. And yes, when I’m on an airplane, so excited to step into a new-to-me land, to remember why I got on an airplane as a wide-eyed kid all those years ago.

2019 is about that balance. As always, I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

-Brenna

 

You may also like

45 comments

Veronika Primm March 25, 2019 - 3:10 am

Wow, what a plan for 2019! It’s inspiring to see how you’re making it work, even with Dottie. I’ve just followed you on Insta (from @travelgeekery). Enjoy Italy and Balkans!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:39 am

Aw, thank you so much, Veronika! I’m very excited πŸ˜€

Reply
Danielle March 25, 2019 - 8:35 am

Ahhh so exciting! I’m going to Italy for my first time (leaving this weekend!) and my first stop is the Amalfi coast so I’m especially excited to follow along on your journey. Happy early birthday!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:42 am

Oh wow! That is indeed so exciting! I hope you have an amazing time πŸ˜€

Reply
Jenn March 25, 2019 - 10:22 am

Sounds like a fantastic year and a good blend of relaxing and travel!! I hope to do one of Helen’s tours at some point! The Namibia trip looks incredible πŸ™‚

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:42 am

The Namibia trip was SO GOOD. I mean, she’s my great friend and all, but I’m not biased… her tours really are amazing. Thanks for the comment, Jenn πŸ™‚

Reply
veena March 25, 2019 - 10:38 am

All of this sounds great but also TENNESSEE!!!!!! πŸ™‚

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:39 am

Ha ha I really want to go!!

Reply
Cecilia Bahr March 25, 2019 - 11:01 am

I admire you for moving back home to Canada! I miss home so much at times but after 20 years in Europe I find .. Europe is home πŸ™‚ If you love ‘cacio e pepe’ the best place in Rome, as any Roman will tell you, is in Plazza Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. Do try it! πŸ™‚

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:43 am

Thank you so much for the recommendation… that sounds like a good birthday celebration restaurant! πŸ˜‰

Reply
Ruth March 25, 2019 - 12:10 pm

So happy to read this Brenna, I was always amazed at how many trips you seemed to take and just kept on going. I definitely need a rest between them all!

So funny that you mention the Balkans, I am currently in Tirana. It’s such a lovely city! I am here for work, so haven’t got much time to explore but I will definitely be back. This is such a great area of the world, and so fascinating!

I hope you will also visit Prizen in Kosovo? Will you be writing about these travels on the blog? Would love to read all about your adventures!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:44 am

Oh yay! We’re headed to Tirana first, and I’m really excited to see it. And yes, we are heading to Prizren, I’ve heard it’s really charming. I will definitely try to write about everything on the blog, but I’m also the worst at writing those kinds of blog posts, so… no promises, ha ha! I will definitely post a lot to Instagram, though πŸ˜€

Reply
Alyssa March 25, 2019 - 12:42 pm

I visited the Amalfi Coast last September… and OH MY GOD it was PHENOMENAL! I’m sure you will just love it, have a great time!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:41 am

Gahhhhh I can’t wait!! πŸ˜€

Reply
Marlee March 25, 2019 - 12:50 pm

Sounds like a wonderful year ahead! Looking forward to seeing pictures and hearing more about your life insights and travel adventures!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:41 am

Aw, thank you so much, Marlee! πŸ˜€

Reply
Louise March 25, 2019 - 1:39 pm

Love reading about your adventures, which always seem to touch on something familiar to me. This time it was the anxiety which I’ve experienced after a fall down a flight of stairs but when I read your blogs, it makes me feel β€˜normal’ again! Enjoy your adventures, I will be following your writing with much interest and enjoyment.

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:45 am

Aw, thank you so much, Louise! I so appreciate your support. I hope you’re feeling better soon πŸ™‚

Reply
Wendy March 25, 2019 - 4:37 pm

Way to go, Brenna! It takes wisdom and discipline to know when to step back and regroup. But it pays off in regeneration. Well done and I can’t wait to hear about your continued adventures and personal evolution!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:40 am

Thank you so much, Wendy! I really appreciate your support πŸ˜€

Reply
Sienna Mae Heath March 25, 2019 - 4:37 pm

Brenna, I’m thrilled to have found your blog! Balancing mental health with wanderlust is such a challenge. My first major travels were around the time you started your journey. In 2010, I got stranded in Athens during the Icelandic volcano no one could pronounce. But now I’ve learned what I can handle and especially what I need out of travel. Your stories help fellow travelers remember why they do it, and the answer can be different for everyone. I’d also love to see photos of your garden as it comes along. Feel free to check out my blog, Garden Mindfully. The most recent post was about being able to garden in the Yucatan. Wishing you an amazing adventure this year!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:46 am

Thank you so much, Sienna! Your comment really means a lot to me. Wishing you lots of amazing adventures this year as well πŸ˜€

Reply
Lindsay March 25, 2019 - 6:28 pm

I feel the same way. Love to adventure, but love to come home. Love reading your posts!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:39 am

Aw, thank you so much, Lindsay! πŸ™‚

Reply
Dani March 25, 2019 - 6:56 pm

Please please don’t miss out on Berat in Albania!!! Do a wine tour and food tasting with Kantina Alpeta (not paid by them I just love them lmao), you will not regret it.

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:40 am

We are definitely looking into wine tours in the Balkans! Thank you for the tip πŸ˜€

Reply
Paige March 25, 2019 - 8:19 pm

I’m so happy for you!! (I keep meaning to comment on the lifestyle posts but I’ve been reading them at the office before being pulled back to email, haha.) I’m also so excited for the Balkans content! I leave for Europe Thursday night on what will be my sixth solo trip abroad–seems like just yesterday I was reading your blog when I was a graduate student and wondering if I would ever work up the courage to start going to the places I desperately wanted to… πŸ™‚ Happy (early) Birthday!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:47 am

Oh wow, that’s amazing! I hope you have an incredible time πŸ˜€ And that is so awesome that you’re now a full-fledged solo traveller… you should be giving ME advice πŸ˜‰

Reply
Elina March 25, 2019 - 8:32 pm

Sounds amazing, happy that you finally get to go to the balkans! The food there can be super heavy but Albania has a lot of great vegetarian food to make up for it. Eat the stuffed eggplants!

Btw, I swear reading your blog is like looking into my own future. I think one day I want that kind of stability too but even though this whole nomadic thing can be kinda crap, it’s something I can’t give up yet. So I guess basically I am following in your footsteps haha

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:48 am

Aw, I’m happy to be your crystal ball, ha ha! I definitely had a good run with being nomadic/living abroad, but after 12 years of it I grew to want stability (and a dog). Thanks for the comment, Elina!

Reply
Katie March 26, 2019 - 1:24 am

So exciting! I looooooove love love love the Amalfi coast — and you’re hitting it at such a great time of year when it (hopefully) won’t be completely overrun. I also love Sorrento — it’s a totally livable city to me. Wish you were hitting up northern Italy too! If you want to come back in July, I know someone looking for a dog/housesitter for 3-4 weeks. πŸ˜‰ (Not me — a friend in Ferrara.) I know you’ll miss Dottie, but she will be so happy to see you upon your return, it will feel like you never left. That’s the way of dogs. And also a big part of why we love them — their unconditional love for us. πŸ™‚

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 27, 2019 - 12:50 am

Thank you so much, Katie! I am SO EXCITED to finally see the Amalfi Coast, it’s been such a dream for such a long time. I’m also pumped to be going in April, that’s one of my favourite months to travel. I wish I was returning to Northern Italy, too… next time for sure! And yes… I’ll miss Dottie like crazy but I know she’ll have lots of fun with her dog sitter. Thanks for the comment as always πŸ™‚

Reply
Jennifer March 27, 2019 - 10:37 am

I’m so happy for you, Brenna. I’ve followed you for years and love hearing about/seeing your adventures. And sometimes the adventure is making sure you know what’s best for yourself. I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for you. I’m going to Italy twice this year, in September, and October and I’m so excited!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 28, 2019 - 10:55 am

Aw, thank you so much, Jennifer! I so appreciate your support for all these years πŸ™‚ That’s amazing that you’re going to Italy twice! I hope you have an incredible time…

Reply
Ali March 27, 2019 - 2:28 pm

I resonate so much with this post <3 I'm in the process of starting my travel blogging journey and you have been SUCH a huge inspiration for me. I love your honesty and hope to emulate that in my writing too. I've also definitely felt that pressure to travel now that I've branded myself as a "traveler".
It's really encouraging to hear that you're now finding a happy medium between travel and everything else you love. For real hope I can live this life in a few years! Sounds like you have such a fabulous year coming up and I can't wait to read about the adventures!!

Reply
Brenna Holeman March 28, 2019 - 10:56 am

That’s so awesome, Ali. Thank you so much for letting me know, and I hope you love travel blogging just as much as I do! It has certainly changed my life πŸ™‚ And yes, there comes a time (oh god, I sound so old) that finding that medium is key. In my 20s I wanted nothing more than to travel the world as much as possible, but I’m loving this balance now! Thanks again for this lovely comment, and best of luck with your new adventures!

Reply
Lina Gustafsson March 31, 2019 - 1:02 pm

So happy to read this, Brenna! I’m currently traveling around the Balkans (in Sarajevo right now) and it’s absolutely amazing here! I hope you’ll enjoy traveling around these beaitiful countries as much as I am, and that we can hopefully meet again somewhere in the world πŸ˜€

Reply
Leah W April 2, 2019 - 10:39 am

Hi Brenna! I’ve been following your blog for a few years, and it’s been awesome to read. πŸ™‚ I went to the Amalfi Coast in 2010 and 2012, and I dream of going back some day. You’re going at a great time of year because (as somebody mentioned above) in the depths of summer, it’s not really pleasant with all of us tourists there at the same time. And that was my experience years ago, so I’m curious what it’s like now. When I dream of going back I think of the gelato I ate – seriously, it’s one of those memories that is branded on my brain. It was Pasticceria Savoia. I’ve had a lot of gelatos before and since, and maybe it was just a combo of the Amalfi Coast and that time in my life, more so than that specific gelato, but it was pretty good if you get the chance. πŸ™‚

Reply
Kiye Sic April 10, 2019 - 12:00 am

Awesome article. Thanks for sharing..

Reply
Agness April 18, 2019 - 9:40 pm

Go for it, Brenna. I hope that 2019 will be filled with happiness and fulfillment for you. Don’t forget to slow down whenever you feel like life is passing by too quickly. Even people like us who are powered by wanderlust needs to stop and smell the flowers, even once in a while.

Reply
Sophie K Reed May 9, 2019 - 9:58 am

Hi! I was wondering what places your suggest shopping for long pants and skirts that you were wearing in your Nepal article. I will be going- not sure where to buy!

Reply
Shalendra June 5, 2019 - 8:12 pm

Though I haven’t been to Japan before but thinking of traveling in the upcoming months. I have listened about some Hanami Festival that is famous for some Cherry Blossom Festival. Can you please share some more details about these festivals? Want to attend this one.

Reply
Amber July 25, 2019 - 8:36 pm

Wow! I found your blog through another blog I was reading about moving to the UK. I’m a single, travelling Manitoba girl too! Just gonna spend the rest of the evening reading all your posts and being inspired ?

Reply
Alex Gomez December 29, 2019 - 5:35 am

So happy to read this, Brenna! Thank You…

Reply
Holy &$@% 2020, Are You For Real? - This Battered Suitcase July 8, 2020 - 12:58 am

[…] 2019, I wrote “Holy &$@% 2019, Are You For Real?” because I am a) lazy when it comes to originality, apparently and b) still believe this […]

Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.