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People Are Good

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time. I remember thinking I should write it after the Paris attacks, and then again after the Ankara and Istanbul attacks. I thought about it after Tunisia and Kenya and Yemen and Cote d’Ivoire and Indonesia and Mali and Somalia and Lebanon and California and so many other places, not to mention what’s happening in Syria, Afghanistan, and other war zones. I meant to write it after certain politicians in various countries continued (continue) to incite hatred and racism. And then, yesterday, after the horrible events in Brussels, I felt like I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“What is this world coming to?” I’ve seen people write on Facebook.

“The world is so dangerous right now,” others say.

“Why are people so awful to each other?” we may think.

I very rarely write about politics, or even about the negative realities that come with travel. Perhaps that’s a fault on my part, but I’ve always thought that there is so much negativity out there – we’re constantly surrounded by newspapers and TV shows and social media that tell us how terrible this world is, to the point that it’s easy to believe it – that I always wanted to keep this blog  a positive place, for your sake and for mine.

And so, this post is not going to be negative. It’s going to be positive. It’s going to serve as a reminder – if only to me personally – that people are good. Despite what we see and hear in the news, the majority of people on this planet are just like you and me – we want to be healthy and happy, and we seek peace. We want to learn from each other and laugh with one another. We want to live our lives ruled by love, not hate.

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Brenna in Peru


Brenna and Kerri in Turkey


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I have travelled to nearly ninety countries: Christian countries, Muslim countries, Buddhist countries. Countries where English isn’t spoken, countries where I stick out with my white skin and blonde hair. But in each country I’ve been to I have met countless local people who have welcomed me and shared their lives with me. I have been housed and fed, invited to special occasions, enthusiastically shown a different way of life. Through meeting these people – people who talk differently, look differently, pray differently – my life has become richer and happier. It has become better. And despite the beauty I’ve witnessed while travelling, the beaches and mountains and cities, it is always the interactions with the people I remember most, the kindness and openness I’ve been offered time and time again.

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Brenna in Indonesia


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And so I refuse to believe that this world is a bad place. I refuse to judge based on skin colour, country of origin, or religion. I refuse to be scared, even living in a city that has been the target of terrorism before. I refuse to let fear dictate my actions, or to stop me from travelling (my current travel schedule includes a trip to Northern Ireland and a possible trip to Italy in April, a trip to France and Belgium in May, a trip to Spain in June, a trip to Sweden in July, and a trip to Kenya in September, with more to come). Staying at home isn’t the answer. As I always say, I could die of a brain aneurysm sitting on my couch, so I may as well continue to have adventures and live my life the way I want to, i.e. exploring the world.

Of course horrible things happen sometimes – natural disasters and acts of terror included – but horrible things happen in every country, including the so-called “safe” ones. As a woman who often travels on her own, at the moment there are certain places I will not go and certain risks I will not take, but it’s about being safe and smart, not about boycotting travel all together or believing that anyone who doesn’t look the same as me is the enemy.

Osaka Graduation


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What happened yesterday in Brussels was a tragedy perpetrated by evil cowards. And while we mourn for the victims, and for all of the victims of these kinds of attacks, I hope we can all remember that the actions of a few do not represent the actions of the many, and do not define who we are as a whole.

Because I truly believe that, as a whole, we are good. Life will go on even in the wake of tragedy, so let’s choose to live our lives with happiness and with hope instead of with fear of one another. Let’s continue to laugh with each other and love one another, and let’s continue to learn from each other, too. Through travel and cross-cultural interactions, let’s remember how wonderful this planet really is. Let’s remember that people are good.

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Edit: For more on this topic, please check out Jodi’s piece Don’t Stop Travelling Because of Fear, an important read by one of the best writers out there. 

Do the recent attacks make you think differently about the world? Will you continue to travel?

74 Responses to People Are Good

  1. Katie March 23, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

    Well said! We can’t let terror take away our freedom to travel, and I completely agree that the people you meet travelling are usually good (locals have helped me out so much!)


    • Brenna Holeman March 23, 2016 at 11:09 pm #

      Thank you, Katie! So many people have helped me in my travels.

  2. Ally March 23, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

    Thanks for posting this now, I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do, to focus on the good. I just shared it on Twitter: the more people read it the better.

    • Brenna Holeman March 23, 2016 at 11:10 pm #

      Thank you so much, Ally!

  3. Kristen Sarra March 23, 2016 at 6:36 pm #

    Eloquently said Brenna. I couldn’t agree more. My travels have all been defined by the kindness of strangers and their goodness has outweighed all the bad. Therefore I will continue with my plans to head to the Middle East in a few weeks and then onto London from there. Like you, I truly believe that the world is inherently good.

    • Brenna Holeman March 23, 2016 at 11:10 pm #

      Thank you very much for your comment, Kristen. I hope you have a fantastic trip!

  4. Lina March 23, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    I agree with you that we shouldn’t stop living our lives because of these awful attacks. As morbid as it may sound, I figure I might as well get injured in my home town as abroad, so I see no reason to stop travelling. I have also met countless kind people in other countries who have gone out of their way to help me during my travels, and I do believe that good will always conquer evil. Nicely written post!

    By the way, if you happen to stop by Gothenburg on your trip to Sweden I’d be happy to show you around 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman March 23, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

      Yes – I believe the statistics show we’re much more likely to encounter danger at home than abroad (i.e. car accidents, etc). I’m glad you liked the post!

      And at this point I’m only in Stockholm, but that may change! Thank you for the offer 🙂

  5. Paige March 23, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    Beautiful post, and so important after such a heartbreaking act. I agree completely with what you’ve said. Personally, these kinds of horrifying things don’t deter me from wanting to travel, because if I felt fear of places or people, and changed my actions because of fear, then the attackers would “win”–for lack of a better term. I don’t fear for myself as a white, middle class American; if I feel any fear it’s for people who are going to encounter more prejudice, especially with *certain* U.S. political candidates inspiring so much hatred right now. I’m so glad you wrote this, Brenna!

    • Brenna Holeman March 23, 2016 at 11:14 pm #

      Yes – I’ve thought that, too – that I don’t want terrorists to “win”. Thank you very much for your comment, Paige, I’m so glad you liked the post!

  6. Sarah March 23, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

    This post rings so true for me! I loved every word of it. I refuse to let terrorism or any sort of evil stop me from travel. That’s exactly what the bad guys want. Plus, it’s just not fun. My husband and I are living in Turkey and have added quite a few countries to our list of “Places Been,” but still have a LOT on our “Places to Go” list. We won’t be holding back or stopping any time soon and I hope other people feel the same way as we do!


    • Brenna Holeman March 23, 2016 at 11:15 pm #

      Thank you so much for letting me know, Sarah… it’s awesome that you are doing what you love!

  7. Emy March 23, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    Ah thank you Brenna.
    I always battle this feeling. As a vegan, as a feminist, working with migrants who are 15 to 18 and had to leave everything including their family… I see sadness and pain daily (even though i am incredibly privileged and see very very little of it compared to many). and sometimes it’s overwhelming, and yes sometimes i end up thinking people are … bad. I recently made a video about the migrant/refugee crisis and I got so many racist and xenophobic comments… that was truly upsetting, but unfortunately not very surprising, as I have started getting them frequently ever since the attacks in Paris. Some people were apparently very unsatisfied with the fact that I don’t hate muslims and arabs.
    But you’re right people are good, and I choose to believe that and act accordingly.
    Thank you for your post!

    • Brenna Holeman March 23, 2016 at 11:13 pm #

      I’m so sorry to hear that you’re getting online hate, Emy… that is just awful. It saddens me so much to know that racism still exists, but it’s a terrible reality. I’m glad that you are voicing your opinions loud and clear, though!

      Thanks for your comment as always…

    • Jill March 24, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

      I don’t understand nasty comments like you’re getting. Why can’t people see that the migrant/refugees just want to have a life just like everyone else. Some give up so much just to be able to survive! Deep down we all want the same things. To love, be loved and have a happy life. I’ll never understand the hate….

  8. Rachelle March 23, 2016 at 7:14 pm #

    Beautifully written!

    • Brenna Holeman March 23, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

      Thank you!

  9. Mark March 23, 2016 at 11:46 pm #

    Very well said, couldn’t agree more. I’ve been trying to write a similar post since Paris happened, but can’t quite put it together. This is the attitude that more people should have when these horrific things happen. People get scared and angry, understandably, but these emotions cloud peoples judgements and views of the world as a whole. Instead of focusing on the few terrible people, we need to focus on the remaining majority that are wonderful and amazing.

    • Brenna Holeman March 24, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

      I agree – we need to focus on the positive. Thanks for the comment, Mark!

  10. Linda March 24, 2016 at 1:56 am #

    Beautifully said, with beautiful photos that are heart-warming and real, Brenna. I’m so glad that you – and the rest of us who share your feelings – will continue to embrace the world and its people. The world will stay open to love by people who refuse to be frightened by hate. Thanks for bringing this home in your post…

    • Brenna Holeman March 24, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

      Thank you so much! There were so many nice photos of people I’ve met in my travels that I didn’t even know which ones to share. And I agree – the world will stay open to love, as long as we keep giving it. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment, mama xo

  11. Terra March 24, 2016 at 6:02 am #

    Thank you for breathing a positive note into the world right now. A great read and an uplifting perspective about the world. I agree with you that these isolated incidents all over the world should not prohibit travel. Also, wonderful photos!

    • Brenna Holeman March 24, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

      Thank you so much, Terra!

  12. veena March 24, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    Absolutely agree. When things like this happen, it makes me think that travel and cross-cultural experiences are even more important, so that we can remember exactly this. Thank you for stating it so much more eloquently than I ever could.

    • Brenna Holeman March 24, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

      Thank you very much, Veena! Yes, I agree, we need to keep travelling and keep meeting people from all backgrounds.

  13. S. March 24, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    Great post – thanks for sharing! I won’t stop traveling. I don’t think traveling is inherently any more dangerous than being at home.

    Whenever people comment on the “danger” of traveling, I like to remind them that I’ve had zero safety issues during my many trips abroad (knocking on wood as I type), and yet got evacuated by the FBI from my “safe” little U.S. street a few years ago — apparently the Boston Marathon bombers had been my neighbors for five years. You never know!

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

      Yes – isn’t that interesting?? I haven’t had many unpleasant encounters with local people while travelling, but have had some really sketchy things happen with other travellers (from countries like US, Australia, etc). People are quick to blame the “other”, but you really never know.

  14. Rachel @ Meandering Mermaid March 24, 2016 at 10:40 am #

    Preach!! It hurts my heart to see people I love and care about say “Close all the borders to the US” in response to this crisis. I saw an article where a man tweeted that he “confronted a Muslim woman” and said “Explain Brussels.” He was actually arrested for attempting to incite racial tension or something like that. A lot of time, I believe that I am too trusting of the world, but I also believe that it’s because I want to see the good in people. I know there is good in people and I trust that they will share it with me. I have a good head on my shoulders (I’m not just running around holding hands with every stranger I meet), but I like to choose to believe that the good outnumbers the bad.

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

      I saw that on Twitter, too… and thankfully he was arrested, as he should be! I think it’s important to be trusting… you don’t want to be completely naive, but I would hate to live life in a paranoid state. Thanks for your comment, Rachel, I really appreciate it!

  15. Jessie March 24, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    Hi Brenna,

    Thanks for the great post 🙂
    I’ve taken to not watching the news anymore because they fail to say anything positive, so it’s nice to have your blog post lighting up in my inbox instead! I am still going to travel, because living in fear of what might happen will only mean I’ll get old and regret not doing all the things I want to do – and who knows whether the situation is going to get better or worse? I think we just have to be mindful of where we choose to travel and be aware of current situations.
    I think the hardest part is the unknowing, especially for family members. I’ve just moved to the UK to do more travelling, and my mum is freaking out about the attacks in Paris and now Brussels, I feel bad for stressing her out but I’m not putting my life on hold!

    Thank you again for the nice reminder that people are good and we should still go out and see the world 🙂

    Jess x

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

      Thank you so much, Jess, I’m glad you enjoyed the post (and the blog)! You’re right, who knows what’s going to happen in the future, so better to live your life the way you want to live it.

  16. Jill March 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    I completely agree! I will never let fear stop me from traveling. Yes there are places I wouldn’t go as a single female. But I could get gunned down in my hometown just as easily. Life is too short and there is too much to do and see.

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

      Life is too short, indeed! Thanks for the comment, Jill.

  17. Peta Kaplan March 24, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    For me the very best part about travel is meeting locals, interacting with them, sharing, laughing and enjoying our similarities and differences. Nothing makes me happier. I have always felt that people are inherently good, the world over. Actually, living in Chicago as I currently do when not on the road traveling, I am more likely to encounter hatred and violence than anywhere else We travel to. The more we travel and all open our hearts to others, the better. This is the highlight of travel. Good post!

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

      That’s the best part for me, too! I love what you’ve said here. Thanks for the comment, Peta!

  18. Ella March 24, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say in this post and is probably one of (if not the) ultimate reason why I encourage people to step out into the world. It’s true that there are horrible things happening in the world and they are disastrous, but those people that do these horrible acts are the minority not the majority. The media likes to have us believe that they’re the majority, probably so that we’d be terrified and feel helpless, therefore giving the media power over us by turning to it for more ‘information’. But if you step out into the world, you’d see for yourself that most people are basically good and don’t need to be feared. That doesn’t mean you should start leaving your common sense at home, but ‘outside of home’ is not inherently more dangerous than ‘home’. Thank you for writing this post, it’s so important to have this out there.

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, Ella, I totally agree with you!

  19. Dylan March 24, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    Hey Brenna. I read this post expecting to have it warm my heart a little, and it did. There are so many posts going up about this topic right now– which is good, and important, I think– and I’ve appreciated all of the ones that I’ve read for the different perspectives they offer. But this post has so much of the positive energy that’s infused in all of your writing (that I’ve read!) and I truly appreciate that you’ve created this lil safe space of a blog. This post feels like a hug. <3

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

      I’m glad you enjoyed it so much, Dylan! Thank you so much for letting me know.

  20. Jodi March 24, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

    Well said, and thank you for honouring me with an inclusion at the end!

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

      Thank you, Jodi… and thanks for your poignant article!

  21. Leah March 25, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    Very well said. A reminder of the inherent good in people and the joy and wonder of making connections is always well timed.

    A few friends have expressed concern for my safety, but I, too, refuse to let fear or hatred stop me from exploring. Of course, safety precautions are essential in every situation, in every location, but there is no way to stay 100% safe.

    I prefer to live each day with anticipation of what is around the next corner. I prefer to live in wonder. I prefer to celebrate the good in people.

    Thank you for the boost, encouraging us to keep these things top of mind.

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

      Thank you so much, Leah – I love what you’ve said here. Happy travels!

  22. Binary March 25, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    Thanks for the beautiful post

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:03 pm #


  23. Elina March 25, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

    This post was needed, I believe. I’m also a firm believer of “innocent until proven guilty” – which means I’m aware that any situation or trip could end badly, but I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Nowadays news are so readily available for everyone that we often forget that they choose to spew out the negative stuff because that’s what gets readers. However, nowadays people are healthier than ever, travel is safer (probably because there are backpackers/tourists pretty much everywhere and the methods of transportation have got better) and there are less civil victims in each war. People are good, life is good, why let a little fear spoil that 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:06 pm #

      Totally agree with your last line! Thanks for the comment, Elina, I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  24. Emma March 25, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

    Beautifully written post on a subject I think so many of us agree on, sadly those who do not are sometimes the ones who shout the loudest. Here’s hoping that those of us who know that the majority of people are good can keep reminding others that this is the case and that when we hear people blame a religion for these attacks that we remember to speak up.
    I love the pictures you chose for this post, some wonderful interactions with people around the world that show true smiles and happiness. x

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:06 pm #

      Thank you so much, Emma, I’m glad you liked the post! And yes, I agree that we need to keep reminding others that the majority of people are good.

  25. Ashley March 26, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this, Brenna! It’s so poignant, and so true – it’s a shame that fear (and the fear-mongering mainstream media) can sometimes cloud our judgement, and cause us to forget that people are inherently good.

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

      Thank you so much for your comment, Ashley – I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  26. Caitlyn March 27, 2016 at 6:53 am #

    This article really inspired me. I’m only in high school but I want to travel the world after I graduate, and things like this remind me that I can’t let fear stop me from doing what I want with my life. I haven’t been reading your blog for long but I honestly want to be like you. Your writing is beautiful and you are such an awesome role model!

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

      Thank you so much, Caitlyn… and good luck with all of your future adventures!

  27. Beth Meyer March 27, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    Love it! Beautiful piece Brenna! 🙂 x

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

      Thank you so much, Beth!

  28. Katie March 28, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    Oh, Brenna. I do wish you had been able to come to the Women in Travel Summit this year. This is such a struggle for me when I run into people who now say they wouldn’t travel because of these attacks — it makes me fear for the future of humans, that people refuse to even attempt to see the truth in humanity what you’ve written here.

    • Brenna Holeman March 28, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

      Oh, that’s a shame! And yes, I would have loved to attend, maybe another year I’ll be in the area.

  29. Yana March 31, 2016 at 7:22 am #

    I read this post with heart eyes. I also refuse to see the world as being full of bad people, even though I live in a country that is doing inhumane things to asylum seekers and refugees because it gets votes. I strive to see the goodness in others and travelling has helped with that. Every place I have been I have found kind and generous people who care for strangers. (Just jump on a train ride and you will see it!) I recently visited a country who the majority of people seeking asylum that I work with are from and it proved my belief in the good of everyday people who are just trying to get by when governments are inciting hatred.

    • Brenna Holeman April 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

      Thank you so much for your comment, Yana! I’m so glad to hear you’ve had such great experiences around the world.

  30. Erika March 31, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

    This is such a beautifully written post. With all the negative news coverage that has been pouring out of the media, it is refreshing to read an opinion of someone who sees the world the same way I do. Keep traveling, writing and sharing the beauty of the world and its people. We need more voices like yours to combat the rhetoric of hate that has been becoming so widespread.

    • Brenna Holeman April 4, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

      Thank you so much, Erika! I’m so glad you liked the post.

  31. Amy April 3, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

    I second these thoughts and I think all your photos in this post illustrate the point beautifully. Yes, there are bad things going on in the world, but I like to think all of that is outweighed by the good stuff.

    • Brenna Holeman April 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

      Thank you so much, Amy!

  32. Audrey April 3, 2016 at 11:51 pm #

    I relate so much with what you write in this article. I think the exact same thing as you, that people are genuinely good. I will be more careful when I travel, but I won’t make any other change.

    • Brenna Holeman April 4, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

      Thank you, Audrey! I’m so glad to hear you’re still travelling.

  33. Csaba & Bea April 6, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    Thanks for this great article, the world really needs this kind of voice! We won’t stop travelling (ever) as travel – beyond all the wonderful memories and adventures – opens our eyes and gives back our faith in the world. We believe that the experience you are writing about that people are good comes from travelling and seeing the world in the first place. Fear leads to nothing good. So we should keep on travelling, responsibly and with an open heart.

  34. Zalie April 16, 2016 at 3:27 am #

    Thank you for capturing the love that is in the world with your post and these beautiful and heart-warming pictures!

  35. Anita P R May 18, 2016 at 10:49 am #

    As a moslem and Indonesian – thank you so much! Having been traveling to many countries – east and west – I can very much attest to your testimony. I don’t look, feel, aspire etc that much different from your very own neighbour. When I’m in Indonesia, I’m fine. And yet when I travel/live abroad and tell people that I’m Indonesian, they’re very surprised as they didn’t realise that a moslem Indonesian can just be very similar to them! That I dress very relaxed/open, I am extremely open-minded, and welcoming to most people of different backgrounds, cultures and religions (although must admit, I’m quite a social introvert but that’s for another discussion). I have close friends and relatives who are hijabi and they are NOT oppressed and or forced to wear what their wear. Actually, one of them was my boss at the company I used to work at, who is now my closest “sister”.

    Many people in the west don’t even know that Indonesia had a female president, or that we have many female higher government officials. Can you say the same about the US / UK for example?

    My husband is also moslem and he is actually the kindest, warm-hearted, respectful I know – a testament that everyone who knows him would agree on a split second. From the day that our baby was born, he was the first person who had to bath, change and care for our bub as I was bedridden for several days after C-Section. Even up until today, he is proud to do so whenever myself/our nanny is occupied. I suffer from PPD & general anxiety disorder. At the times – and this is unfortunately, quite often – I can not “function” properly, my husband would care for our bub even at the latest hour of the night, and in the earliest hour in the morning.
    Having spoken to many so-called western moms, I realise that I am much luckier if compared, to even most of them.

    So where is the patriarchal, archaic, oppressor, abusive, cold, heartless monsters that the western media like to portray of moslem men? They do exist in some society (just like in ANY society) but certainly, not in mine.

    We all attain to be healthy & happy. There are some bad seeds exist everywhere.
    And yet the media want us to fear and hate each other.

    I guess at the end of the day, war is profiting for the higher politicians and their media cronies – peace however, isn’t.

  36. travel enjoy live January 31, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    Thank you! This is one of the greatest and most beautiful articles I have read lately. I agree 1000%.

    • Brenna Holeman January 31, 2017 at 2:07 pm #

      Thank you so much. 🙂


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