The North Coast 500, Scotland
Things have been quiet on this blog and its social media lately. I’ve been busily packing up my entire life, meticulously wrapping all of my belongings in bubble wrap, placing them in boxes and suitcases. They’re in storage somewhere in Bristol by now, awaiting my instruction. Despite having three international trips this month already – Antigua, Italy, and Spain – I’m once again packing up a suitcase. In fact, that suitcase and the things inside it are the only things left in front of me, the only things I’ll be relying on for the next indeterminate amount of time.
This past month as been one of the most stressful of my life, or so it has seemed: packing up everything I own, selling my furniture, ticking off the endless tasks and errands I have before travelling through East Africa for six weeks, travelling to three different countries on three separate trips, and still trying to manage a full-time work schedule and an email inbox that just won’t stop overflowing.
And no, none of those things are serious, or actually that stressful, and some of them are just downright part and parcel of life itself, and some of them are very wonderful problems to have, but in combination with one another I have incurred many sleepless nights, an eye twitch that won’t go away, and a penchant for bursting into tears (OK, OK, that only happened once. Maybe twice).
But this isn’t the first time I’ve gone through this process. I went through it at 18, when I moved to Wolfville, Nova Scotia. I did it at 19, when I decided to transfer universities, and moved to Halifax. And then backpacking around Europe at 22, followed by a move to Toronto. And then moving to Edinburgh at 23. And then moving to Japan at 24. And then moving everything from Japan back to Canada, and then being nomadic for a year through Asia and North America at 26. And then buying a house in Winnipeg. And then leaving that behind again to travel for nearly a year through Central and South America at 27. And then packing up once again to move to London at 28. And now again, packing up, whittling down, making sure I have all the right vaccinations, somehow having to buy another pair of hiking boots or can of bug spray or lightweight cotton button-up (I honestly don’t know how I’ve accrued so many and yet I can never find them in my closet when I really need them).
I keep doing it again, and again, and again, in different countries on different continents, though different backpacks and suitcases. And every single time I stress and I worry, I think I might not get all of it done in time, I say to myself, in the midst of those tears, “Am I doing the right thing?”
And time and time again, for the past 15 years, I know that I am.
Because, you see, I choose travel.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been doodling the same thing: choppy waves and a little sailboat atop them. In every single journal I’ve ever owned, I’ve drawn that same thing, always accompanied by the same quotation:
With stirrings of wanderlust, she watched ocean liners from her bedroom window.
I don’t know who wrote that quotation. When Googling it, the closest thing I can find shows up in this article, although I don’t know how I would have read that article in 1996 and remembered that line. Perhaps it’s all just a wonderful coincidence, I don’t know. But that thought stuck with me, again and again, as a kid growing up in the Canadian prairies.
“That’s me,” I always thought, even though the oceans around me were made of wheat, not water.
Those stirrings of wanderlust made me choose a university in a province far away from mine, a city where I’d wake up to the calls of seagulls and the smell of salt. I’d stare at the Atlantic Ocean and think to myself, “I want to go further.” Because even though I had great friends and a fun job and a pretty, cosy flat, I chose travel.
And then, after I fulfilled my wildest dream at the time, which was to backpack Europe on my own, I had settled in a basement flat in Toronto’s Annex area. My landlord, trying to spruce up the place, put a painted border up around the perimeter of the ceilings; I fell asleep surrounded by cartoonish blue sailboats, ones you might find in a child’s room. And even though I was happy, and had lovely friends, and my little basement flat felt like home, I decided to move to Edinburgh. I chose travel.
And even after living in Scotland for nine months with a man I wondered if I loved, right on the doorstep of the rest of Europe, I decided to try something completely different, take a leap of faith, and move to Asia. Again, I chose travel.
But even then, after over two years of living in Osaka, earning good money, loving my bright and airy flat, and dating a man I was sure I was in love with, it still wasn’t enough: I chose travel. And travel I did, for nearly two years continuously, through dozens of countries on six continents.
Antigua and Barbuda
This time, leaving my London flat – the longest I’ve ever lived somewhere in my adult life – the decision came slowly, yet the past month has gone by in a blur. This is the very last post I will write from this beloved flat, and I am devastated to leave it. A number of factors influenced this choice (the lack of a rolling contract on the lease, the very real possibility that my UK visa is expiring soon, the financial weight of keeping an expensive flat in one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in London while I travelled for months at a time) but in the end, I made the decision to take that leap again. To see what will come of not knowing. To see what will come of not being sure of the future, not being sure if my career will continue to grow, not being sure if I’ll regret it. Once again, I’ve chosen travel. All my life, I’ve chosen travel over being settled, over jobs, over relationships, over a sense of security. I’ve chosen travel over everything.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever tire of travelling. Those stirrings of wanderlust can be exhausting sometimes, a curse just as much as a blessing. And don’t get me wrong – I am forever grateful for the fortune and the privilege and the crazy course of life that has led me to be able to experience this way of living. To chase your dream and actually be within reach of it, and then to actually accomplish it, is the greatest privilege of all, and I do not take that lightly.
But sometimes I wonder why I’m never totally satisfied with one place to live, with one city. I’ve had to embrace that perhaps I’ll never fully lose these itchy feet, that I’ll always be researching new places to travel, or wondering what it would be like to live in a new country. This is my life, this is who I am. If I haven’t changed my mindset in these 33 years yet, I don’t know if I ever will. It’s why I choose a career that I could take with me on the road, working from a laptop. It’s why I choose to remain single. It’s why I choose not to have children. I love the freedom that these choices have afforded me; I am completely on my own in many regards, and all because I’ve chosen to make my passion my number one priority in all aspects of my life. It can be a lonely road sometimes, but I feel incredibly grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to take that road in the first place.
So what’s next? Well, there’s UAE, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Qatar, UK, Canada, Italy, and San Marino in the next four months (you can follow along on Instagram, where I try to post daily videos via Instagram stories). I’ll be back in the UK for a while, at least until my visa expires, although I don’t know where I’ll live. Ultimately, my dream is to live in Canada for half the year, close to my family, and then spend the other half of the year on the road. It’s the best of both worlds, if you ask me; a place to hang my proverbial hat, but the ability to keep doing what I love. To keep doing what drives me, day after day, month after month, year after year. To keep going after what I always dreamed of doing, ever since I was little girl, writing down all the places I’d visit, spurred on by that hastily-drawn sailboat, a symbol of where my life would take me.
Two months ago, in a tattoo parlour just round the corner from this London flat, I got those choppy waves and that little sailboat permanently inked on my ribs. A reminder, perhaps, that this wanderlust will always be in my blood.
That – for ever and always, for better and for worse – I choose travel.
North Coast 500, Scotland
So whatever your sailboat is – travelling, or writing, or dancing, or nursing, or kickboxing, or running your own business – I urge you to see what happens if you go after it. I urge you to see what happens if, with it beating in your heart so loud and so clear, you decide to choose it.
What will you choose?
Have wonderful travels Brenna – this is another beautiful post from you, brought a tear to my eye!! So glad I got to meet you before you left London! Enjoy yourself, it all sounds great!
Thank you so much, Bethen! Hope to see you in London again sometime 🙂
Omg, this was beautiful it made me cry, Brenna! I feel the exact same way about traveling, and I am pretty sure it is what I’ll do for the rest of my life. Good for you for getting out there, starting a new chapter, even if you are scared. Go get em girl!
Thank you so much, Cate! I wish you all the best of adventures 😀
Love it! As always such an inspiration. Also, I feel like packing stuff up is just emotionally awful, period. I’m on my third apartment in four years and pretty sure I cried every time I moved/during the moving process. So excited to follow along on this next journey.
Thank you so much, Paige! And yes, moving is almost always the worst, ha ha.
Admire your passion for travel and the wonderful adventures you have and will have. Cheers to a life of travel ?
Thank you, Teena! Cheers to you 😀
Best of luck with your new adventure! I feel your pain on leaving a flat you love. I still miss mine in Manchester city centre and hope whoever is in it is looking after it and enjoying it like I did! Looking forward to hearing about your upcoming travels.
Thank you so much, Caroline! Yes, it can be difficult to leave a home, but there are many adventures ahead. 😀
I am so proud of you Brenna.
Thank you very much for inspiring me as always. All the best with your trips.
Aw, thank you so much, Lara!
Ahh Brenna, you’re such a tonic to read – poetic but not in the slightest bit affected. There isn’t one single part of your posts that I skip through, or find hard to digest. All the best for the next few months!
Oh wow, what a great comment to receive! Thank you so much, Sara. 🙂
I am looking forward to reading about your upcoming adventures! I have the same need for travel as you – it has kept me moving for 13 years now, it was the cause of the breakdown of my 9 year relationship, and it is both a blessing and a curse. I’m currently living in my fifth country although we don’t have a base – we just bought a van and plan to convert it into a mini camper to give us even more freedom to travel around the US and beyond. My ideal is very similar to yours – to have a base for half the year and to travel for the rest. We are dreaming of land in the mountains of Colorado where we can build a tiny home, plus a couple of months back in my home country of New Zealand and at least 3 months of International travel per year. But life is already amazing how it is now too 🙂
Thank you so much, Katie! And wow, your new adventure sounds so cool, I’d love to try living on the road like that at some point. I wish you all the best with your exploring! 🙂
This is going to be amazing!!!
Thank you, Emma! I hope so 😀
Whatever you choose, wherever you go, may you keep wandering off to the next adventure! I admire you tremendously and wish you the very best of travels! Keep us posted and have lots of fun!!!☺️
Aw, thank you so much, Isabel!
This post really speaks to me. It came at a perfect time and this is not the first time this happens with your posts! I’ve found myself drawn to your IG stories lately. I didn’t know this was coming. I look forward to them. I am going through a big change myself. I am moving to Moscow and it is not an easy decision for some of my family and friends to accept. I feel like I am making people sad. I feel scared. I feel excited. I feel like its unconventional and hard for some people to understand. But I, like you, choose travel.
Thank you so much, Beatrice! I’m sure you’ll love Moscow. 🙂
I love this! After finding the guy I want to marry, I worried that travel would take a backseat. But now we are traveling all over our home state of Alaska and are about to head off for our first big Europe trip together for an unknown amount of time. You’re right, jumping into the abyss and scary and wonderful every time.
Aw, that’s so amazing! Happy adventuring 😀
Maybe its the fact that I am a Cancer, but as much as I love travel, I equally love coming home. I love the feeling I get when the plane lands on Canadian soil and I feel proud to call this my home.
p.s. did you go to Dalhousie?
I’m very proud to be Canadian, too. And yes, I graduated with a BAH from Dal in 2006!
Inspiring as always, Brenna! You love your life because you choose it, whether that be living in a city you love for a time or traveling and living nomadically. Living a life you CHOSE instead of the live expected of you… That’s a powerful thing.
I am so excited to see and read about your travels in Africa (and to see your IG stories about it!). It is a place that doea not getuch attention from travel bloggers and I’m really looming forward to seeing what you discover.
I totally agree – that is a very powerful thing. 🙂 Thank you so much, Melissa!
Not even gonna lie, I’m crying like a baby right now. (I also cried when I saw your Instagram stories tonight, and I just wanted to reach through the phone and squeeze you.) I was so curious when you said you’d gotten a tattoo and hoped you’d show us, and now finding out what it is, as you’re about to embark on this new adventure….yeah, crying. This is beautiful and inspiring, and I’m looking forward to reading about your adventures and seeing pictures and living vicariously through you until I have the courage (and the money, heh) to embark on my own travels. Wishing you much happiness and safe travels, Brenna.
Aw, thank you so much for all of your support, Marie!!
I just love your style of writing. 🙂 Save travels, and I’m really looking forward to reading about your adventures.
Aw, thanks, Julia! 🙂
Good luck Brenna! Thanks for sharing your story and being a brave travelling warrior – inspiriting stuff 🙂
Thank you so much, Melissa!
Good Luck Brenna! This all sounds so exciting!
I’m sad that we didn’t get to meet up again in London – my fault I was slacking on the organising! When you’re back in London please do let me know I’d love to swap stories and hear all about your adventures. Also if you need a sofa bed to crash on for a night or two we have one waiting in Canada Water!
I’m very glad to be vicariously living through your travels again! Maybe the whimsical post from your early years will make a come back on the blog? Those posts take me back to my draughty basement classroom in Korea where I read all your exploits around Asia and was inspired to follow in your footsteps somewhat! Who knows, maybe future posts will do that same! 🙂
Thank you so much, Ruth! And no worries, I’ll be back in autumn for a few months for sure. I am definitely going to try to write more on the blog but things have just been so crazy lately. I can’t wait to be able to spend more time on it! 🙂
So bittersweet! I flipped through Instagram stories for the first time in ages today, and yours brought tears to my eyes. I’ve moved a bit myself, but I haven’t felt so strongly about a place that I cried when I left since my parents moved us from Minnesota to Nebraska in the 7th grade. I’m not convinced you’re done with London yet — you’re just done with London for right now. And such exciting times ahead!
Thank you so much, Katie! And yes, I plan to always have London as a second home, no matter what. 🙂
I love reading your blog. I love your writing style. I often find I feel better about feeling “lost” and not knowing what I’m doing with my life after reading your blog. So, thanks!
Thank you so much, Jodi! 🙂
This is so incredibly beautiful, Brenna. Good luck with your upcoming adventures, and enjoy these last few weeks in London! I can’t wait to see where your sailboat takes you, and what stories you have to share.
Thank you so much, Katie! 😀
After traveling for 4 months now, I also respect people who are content with a steady job, house and kids. But travel, especially long term travel, is definetly one of the best and most corageous decisions one can take in my opinion. There’s no saying how it will change you and where it will bring you. What’s sure is that it’ll make you rich in experiences and friends, the best kind of rich there is!!!
Enjoy your trip, enjoy the new and the unknown and let us know how it went ?
Thank you so much, Mili! Have an amazing time on your adventures. 😀
Love this, Brenna! Excited to see all the places that you’ll go.
Aw, thank you so much, Christine! x
What a beautifully written piece! It takes so much courage to make tough decisions and follow the life you truly desire, and people will always judge you along the way. But, the reward is SO great it’s worth it 1000%. You’re an inspiration!!
Thank you so much, Kyla! What a wonderful comment to receive, I really appreciate it. 😀
This is a beautiful post. Even though I’ve chosen marriage and kids, those things also spurred me to choose travel. Well, adventure, at least. I moved from the US to Mexico one month ago today, so I feel your pain on packing up or selling/donating a lot of our stuff. I’m still shuddering over that process!
Thank you so much, Natalie! And yes, that pain, ha ha…
This post made me tear up, since I’m 21 and am in Warsaw on my first long (2.5 months) solo trip around eastern Europe (although I do have one more year of school left!). In the months before my trip I would get SO nervous to the point where I almost backed out so many times. To calm myself I would just go on your blog and read posts at random until I became excited again. Watching how you always choose travel made me less afraid to choose to do the same.
I hope you have fun on your trip and I can’t wait to hear all the updates!
That is so amazing, Victoria, I’m so glad that you are out there exploring! Thank you so much for your comment. 😀
One of the best posts I’ve ever read. EVER!
Aw, thank you so much. 😀
I feel this way completely only I hope someone, one day, will be down to come along for the adventures
I hope so, too, Monique! 🙂
A wonderful piece of writing, Brenna. Thank-you for choosing travel and inspiring so many of us to do the same, or at least to do what we’re passionate about, whatever it may be. You and your blog have been a lovely beacon for me during my year of travel, which is quickly (too quickly) coming to an end; granted, not forever me thinks. I’m already sussing holiday time to plan my next adventure. Here’s to your amazing upcoming adventures and I look forward to living vicariously through your writing and pictures once I’ve landed back in Canada. Cheers!
Thank you so much, Marlee, what a lovely comment to receive! I wish you many wonderful adventures ahead 🙂
My wanderlust grows with every adventure I take, although I am very much a home body and very happy to have my house waiting for me at the end of a trip. When we were kids, my parents didn’t have any extra money for vacations so they took us camping which allowed us to have some great adventures. I am 56 years old, struggling with the fact that it was the very last birthday my mother ever celebrated before she died. I am keenly aware of how young she really was (and how terribly much I miss her), and I think often about her travel dream. She wanted to buy a camper and travel throughout the US. For years she and my father would go from one camper show to another, picking out just the right vehicle (and home on wheels). My father was due to retire early from teaching and they finally bought the camper, but the only trip she ever took in it was to my house in PA to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday with all of my family. She died three months later due to a recurrence of her breast cancer. With my mother’s memory close at heart, my husband and I realized we could no longer wait until retirement to follow our own travel dreams. We put money in the bank every month for travel, the same as we do for retirement savings. When we have enough money built up, we head out. We just returned from a week in Rome with our daughter and her boyfriend and I’m going to Ireland with my college roommate in September. A few years ago, I developed a serious infection in my knee replacement and was seriously ill, requiring multiple surgeries. My brother lives in NY and felt helpless, but suggested we plan a trip to give me something to look forward to. I chose Ireland (our grandmother was born in Northern Ireland), although my husband was reluctant (not about the idea of the trip, hut he didn’t think I was going to live and he didn’t want to be the one to call the airline to cancel). Planning that trip gave me something to focus on besides my knee and all the misery I was going through. It gave me hope and a reason to hang on. I encourage everyone who wants to travel to figure out a way to make it happen, even if you can only save a little each month. There are so many trips you can take on a tight budget. And while my knee makes certain things challenging (and in some cases, like climbing the stairs all the way up to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle impossible), I go anyway. Thanks for sharing your adventures here. I tripped (no pun intended) over your blog while searching for Schweppes Limone drink on the internet.
‘Love this post! And yes, you’re doing the right thing!
I’m also one of those souls of which travel lust never goes away. I’ve lived in 5 countries, and I usually spend years at a time before leaving, but it was in Berlin that I finally found my “new home.” It just felt so comfortable, and I’ve been living here as a British expat for more than 15 years!
I have a German husband and a bilingual, bi-cultural son, and I still travel. My husband is very understanding. I travel with the family 50% of the time, with our son only 25% of the time, and solo 25% of the time. Now that our son is 15, I’ve been travelling with him even more, such that at 12 years old, he told all and sundry that he’ll be doing his GAP year abroad. First stop – Chiang Mai. And I absolutely agree!
I have a corporate job, but I’ve already travelled to 5 countries spending weeks at a time. p.s. I’m the boss so I usually plan days off with public holidays, so that I accumulate more time to travel. I once took a month off to go to India, but on paper, it was 12 days!!
I am so proud of you for always following your dream sister! xoxo
Thank you so much, sister xoxo
Love this! Hope you have an amazing adventure in Africa (and that the lovely Helen has given you the best tips). Can’t wait to see the pics.
Thank you so much, Jo! 🙂
In a flood of so very many travel bloggers and writers, your voice always rings true and sincere. This was beautiful, poetic, moving. I nearly cried because I too feel the tug toward the edges of my world. Constantly. Travel is in my blood for a different reason than yours, I think– I grew up moving all over, so I never quite learned how to settle down. But regardless of what spurs us on, I love the way you’ve worded this. Thanks for writing it.
Oh wow, thank you so much, Leandra! That is such a wonderful comment to receive.
This post spoke to me so loudly. I recently decided to start traveling, realizing that I have based all of my life choices on having the freedom to do so. And yet, I haven’t started. Thanks for the inspiration and timely reminder!
Aw, that’s great! Thanks for letting me know 🙂
Brenna, you are so brave! best of your travels! 🙂 I myself is undergoing a change in my life. This sounds so me..
Aw, thank you so much! And good luck to you, too 😀
I love the way you write, Brenna! You’re an inspiration! Good luck with your travels!
Thank you so much, Jade! 🙂
[…] write this post from Winnipeg, Canada, my hometown. In the last post I wrote, Because In the End, I Choose Travel, I said this about […]
So excited to see where you go and especially for the people you’ll meet! They’ll be so fortunate to have met you.
Aw, you’re too kind. I’m so glad that travelling meant that we got to meet! x
Great article and inspiration! 🙂 I also live the picture of Antigua and Barbuda – stunning! We went to St. Lucia this year but will definitely add Antigua and Barbuda to my list as well 🙂