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Taking a Break From the Thing You Love

Zanzibar sunset. Photo by Helen

It has been exactly 56 days since I last posted on this blog. 56 days! The longest I have ever gone without posting on This Battered Suitcase. In fact, June 2017 will be the only month in the seven-year archives that I didn’t post anything at all.

I 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 May:

“This past month as been one of the most stressful of my life, or so it has seemed: packing up everything I own [in London], 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 then, on June 1st, I flew to Dubai, therefore kicking off that six-week adventure I mentioned. From Dubai, I flew to Nairobi; from Kenya I travelled to Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania, ending in Zanzibar.

It was pretty amazing, to say the least

From Zanzibar I flew to London, where I had three days before a friend flew to hang out for the weekend. Three days after he left, I flew to Canada.

And somehow, with all of that flying and travelling, and all of those exciting things going on, I just didn’t have time to write on this blog (none of those travels were sponsored, so I didn’t “owe” anyone anything). When I had any down time – of which there was little – I had to use any precious wifi available to keep up with all of my paid work (turns out staying at Giraffe Manor – seen above – isn’t cheap). And after that, I simply had to sit with those I love the most in this world and watch the sunset with a couple of cold drinks. Priorities, you know?

So yes, I wish I had a justifiable reason for why I haven’t posted for two months (and ignored Instagram for the past month as well) but my real reason is not that deep: I just needed a break.

Hanging out with my guides in the Maasai Mara

I didn’t set out to take a long pause from blogging – I didn’t purposefully take a break from the thing I love most, hoping to reach some sort of epiphany about where this blog is headed – but between twelve-hour safaris, hanging out with my family, days and days without a wifi connection, and making my job the top priority whenever I did have that connection, it just kind of happened. And then, weirdly enough, I realised the epiphany happened anyway, all on its own.

It’s incredibly easy to get disgruntled in the blogging business. Between the legions of Instagram accounts using all sorts of inauthentic methods (how is it that I’m followed by 20-40 people a day and yet my follower number doesn’t change?! Goddamn those follow/unfollow people, seriously), inflated stats, gossip, and all sorts of trickery across the board, it’s easy to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. Not only that, it’s even easier to find people who are working hard, kicking serious ass, and scoring amazing opportunities and projects. You could drive yourself crazy comparing yourself to others, no matter what industry you’re in. And when you’re in an industry where your peers are landing assignments to the Maldives and signing contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars? Well. That can be a total mind-trip.

Thankfully I’ve never compared myself to others very much (and I’m damn proud of my blogger friends for what they’re achieving) but I have definitely felt pressure to write more, take better photos, and grow my social media followings. Once in a while I feel pretty bad about my blog, though usually it’s self-imposed.

And let’s face it: I’m a millennial who has spent half of her life writing about herself on the internet, there’s going to be some naval-gazing introspection going on, amirite?!*

Zanzibar rooftops

So maybe I needed to take this break after all; maybe, subconsciously, I was separating myself from the blog and its social media to see if that’s what defines me and if that’s what drives me. Maybe I took this break to see if, after 14 years of writing hundreds of thousands of words online, it’s where I still want to be.

And the answer? It is. I missed blogging so much in these past 56 days. I missed writing personal blog posts about things I’m truly fired up about (though I was still writing for work). I missed interacting with everyone through comments and messages. Sometimes I think about this crazy industry, and think about how it’s always changing, and think about how, in an instant, it could all be gone. Sometimes I wonder if it’s silly to get so passionate about a blog or about a Facebook page. And breaks like the past couple of months show me I’d be OK without it, that it doesn’t totally define me; there are lots of other things that define me, too.

But the epiphany I reached is that it does, in fact, drive me. I thought about this blog dozens of times a day, every day, just like I have for the past seven years. Despite barely spending time online since the end of May, I was constantly planning posts in my head, thinking about a new design, and wondering how and when I can take this blog even further. The epiphany I reached is that I’m happier and more fulfilled when I’m blogging, that I miss being productive and being creative.

Don’t get me wrong; I needed the break. I needed to just focus on that amazing adventure around East Africa and on being as present as possible when I was with my family. But now, sitting on my wooden patio in the backyard, the trees so laden with green leaves that I can reach up and touch them, I’m more motivated than ever to get back to work. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder; maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but either way, I’m more ready than ever to give this my all.

This photo is supposed to represent a) I was having too much fun to worry about wifi in Tanzania b) I’m really excited to start blogging again and c) holy shit I miss Zanzibar

*That was supposed to be a joke, but oh dear God, I think it’s true (cue even more faux-existential weeping)

Have you ever taken a break from something you really love, be it a hobby or a passion? Did you find it gave you a renewed sense of purpose?

 

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47 Responses to Taking a Break From the Thing You Love

  1. Cate July 27, 2017 at 12:32 am #

    Welcome back, Brenna! We sure did miss you! I am so glad you took a break though- traveling is about being present and embracing yourself fully without any strings attached. And now you have so much inspiration, I can’t wait to hear what you say next!

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:33 pm #

      Thank you so much, Cate! I have a lot of stories from East Africa to tell 🙂

  2. Gillian July 27, 2017 at 1:03 am #

    I’m so glad to read this, I absolutely love your blog and find your writing hugely inspirational! Was hoping you’d be back soon! 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:32 pm #

      Aw, thank you so much, Gillian!

  3. Paige July 27, 2017 at 1:06 am #

    Love this–I’m glad you were able to take a break but so happy you’re back, I missed you! Haha. I just got back from an amazing two and a half week mostly solo Europe trip which was a break I really needed from my job/life in Boston but it made me realize how much I actually love my current life (and want to do some shorter, weeklong trips in the future, or at least move slower as I am sooo tired.) Anyways. Welcome back!

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:37 pm #

      Yeah, I totally get that! Sometimes we need to experiment with different ways of travelling to figure out what we like. 🙂 Thanks a lot, Paige!

  4. Marie Landry July 27, 2017 at 2:39 am #

    Welcome back, Brenna! Not gonna lie, I really missed you! I figured you were likely taking a much-deserved break, and I’m glad that was the case. I’m even more glad you’re still as passionate as ever about blogging, because you know how much I love your posts. <3 Everyone needs a break sometimes, and this was the perfect opportunity with so much going on. I'll be happy to see you around more and will look forward to new posts from you. 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

      Aw, thank you so much, Marie! You’re great 🙂

  5. Jolene July 27, 2017 at 3:15 am #

    Welcome back! Seeing my gmail light up with a post was oddly exciting! I’m so glad to be reading such positivity and energy!
    Can’t wait to read more!

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

      Thank you so much, Jolene! 🙂

  6. Melissa July 27, 2017 at 4:59 am #

    Great post! I’m really glad your back, but even happier that you got the break you need 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

      Thank you so much, Melissa!

  7. LC July 27, 2017 at 6:13 am #

    Nice to have you back! Looking forward to hearing about your holiday.

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

      Thank you so much!!

  8. Dee July 27, 2017 at 6:22 am #

    Welcome back !!!

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

      Thank you, Dee!

  9. Andrea Anastasiou July 27, 2017 at 6:55 am #

    I’ve missed reading your blog! I, too, have taken a bit of a step back from the blogging world. I’m a bit disillusioned by the way the industry is heading, too, but I’m so happy that blogs like yours exist! You give me hope.

    Like you, I don’t want to give up my blog, but I do want to breathe new life into it, so to speak. Just trying to figure out which direction I want to take it in! 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:22 am #

      Thank you so much, Andrea – what a wonderful comment to receive! Sometimes it’s really good to take a step back and have a break 😀

  10. sheloveslondon July 27, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    Your travels look so good. It’s nice to have a bit of time off away from everything online, I took a bit of time away from my blog and came back refreshed after struggling to write for a bit. Anyway – good to have you back. Yours is one of the rare blogs that you don’t feel like you’re being sold to or parroted a brand message every time you read.

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:23 am #

      Thank you so much – that’s such a nice comment 🙂 And yes, digital detoxes are the best!

  11. Caroline July 27, 2017 at 11:12 am #

    Welcome back. I was so happy to see a post from you in my inbox! Was wondering where you’d got to. Glad you’ve had a much-needed break and looking forward to hearing about your latest adventures.

    I had to smile at the bit about planning blogs in your head even when you’re not online. I do this all the time, usually when lying in bed at night. And then forget them by morning 🙁

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:23 am #

      Thank you so much, Caroline! And OH GOD… why don’t I write them down at night?!? I always forget them, too!

  12. Sanna July 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    Glad you’re back! 🙂 And I can relate to the renewed sense of purpose.

    I recently took a break from, well, pretty much everything by joining a ten-day silent meditation retreat. The fun type where you’re not allowed any distractions, not even books or writing material. It’s really fascinating how clear your priorities get when you have some distance from what you usually do (or procrastinate doing). Surprisingly I did not miss being able to do the mindless scrolling on social media, but I really, really missed writing and found myself constantly creating in my head. So, yey for taking breaks! 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:25 am #

      Oh wow… I’ve always wanted to try that! I’m glad to hear that you had a good experience. 🙂

  13. Tash July 27, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

    We’ve missed you!!

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:22 am #

      Aw, thanks Tash!

  14. Jessica Barton July 27, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    Glad you got the time you needed but so happy you’re back!! Some of us need your posts to get through the work week 😉 Can’t wait to read your Africa posts!

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:12 am #

      Thank you so much, Jessica! Lots of East Africa blog posts to come 😀

  15. Jennifer July 27, 2017 at 5:19 pm #

    Welcome back! I even messaged you on Instagram because I thought maybe something was wrong with my computer when trying to find a new blog post. Good for you for taking a break, and realizing just how much you love the interactions (as much as we do). Looking forward to your stories. Thank you!

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:11 am #

      Thank you so much, Jennifer… and very sweet of you to be concerned! 🙂

  16. chelsea July 27, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

    I hear you. I’ve taken loooooong breaks from my blog (~2 years!) and even after not blogging for ages I still walk around crafting content in my head. That’s gotta mean something.

    I hope your break makes blogging more productive, fulfilling, rewarding, and all the other good things. Looks like I’m not alone in being happy you’re back!

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:10 am #

      Thank you so much, Chelsea! And yeah… I’m always writing in my head. Must mean something!! 😀

  17. Linda July 27, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

    Welcome to your “next” new life in Winnipeg, Brenna. So good to know you’re feeling ready to tackle this exciting phase of life, and can’t wait to see what creativity bubbles out. Loved the post – so honest and inspiring, as always.

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:10 am #

      Thank you so much… so much to write about!! 😉 xo

  18. Robyn Petrik July 28, 2017 at 5:00 am #

    Sounds like a wonderful break and exactly what you needed! It’s amazing how time away can give us such perspective and motivation. Can’t wait for your next few blog posts!

    • Brenna Holeman August 11, 2017 at 6:09 am #

      Thank you so much, Robyn 😀

  19. Rachel July 30, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

    Welcome back! Glad you enjoyed your break – sounds like you were super busy having lots of fun. I cant wait to hear more about your adventures in East Africa 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

      Thank you so much, Rachel! 🙂

  20. Lara August 2, 2017 at 11:01 pm #

    Welcome back.

    I recently took a travel break, even if it was just for one month. I needed it, I was on the verge of burning out, coupled with the stress from work.

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

      Yeah, I totally get that! Thanks, Lara 🙂

  21. veena August 3, 2017 at 2:56 am #

    Welcome back! I just finished a crazy two months of work, and although I had regular access to wi-fi, I was too exhausted at the end of my 15-hour work days to then sit down and write a blog post, and I missed it terribly. I, too, wrote the beginning of countless posts in my head, and I have random scribbles on Post-It notes and loose paper for post ideas, and I cannot wait to flesh them out and get them out into the world. That break is so important sometimes, and I for one am thrilled it made you realize that you want to continue writing, because your words have meant so much to me these past few years. I say it in nearly every comment, but so many times it feels as though your posts are directed at something that is happening at that time in my life, and your words of wisdom and humor always help me sort through my thoughts. I cannot wait to hear about your next adventure, and I wish you the best of luck! xx

    • Brenna Holeman August 7, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

      Thank you so much, Veena! Sometimes we just need a break… but glad to know you’re also always scribbling down thoughts 🙂

  22. Rebecca August 13, 2017 at 12:17 am #

    You DID have a justifiable reason – you were having the most amazing, animal-, beach-, cocktail-filled adventure slash break!! Loved seeing all your Insta Stories and reminding me that I need to get to Africa again – and SOON. Welcome back!

    • Brenna Holeman August 13, 2017 at 3:03 am #

      Aw, thank you so much, Rebecca! I’m already planning my next trip back. 🙂

  23. Katie August 14, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    You came back just as *I* was beginning my online break. So happy to see you’re back and not letting the pressures of business blogging sway your voice and your drive. You offer a unique style in a flooded industry, Brenna! That’s why people come here. But it’s also good to remember that you don’t owe anyone anything — you’re doing us a service by writing, and in case we don’t tell you enough, we (or at least I) very much appreciate it. 🙂

  24. Mo August 29, 2017 at 3:26 am #

    For many years, theater was my life. It was my passion, hobby, degree, and what I was trying to make my career in. But after many years of dealing with the frustration of having no money and constantly hustling, I decided that I needed to take a step back and not make it my life anymore. Trying to make money through my creativity was in turn draining my creativity, and creativity is simply something I cannot live without. Two years later, I’m still on the break from theater. I’m open to the possibility that I may return someday, but luckily choosing to step back opened me up to other possibilities in my life, which is how I’m living abroad now. I don’t like the thought that everything happens for a reason, but sometimes things just fall into place and work out, even when we don’t expect them to!

  25. Katerina September 6, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    took a break from belly dancing – which I have been doing for 7+ years – and am now about to come back with a fresher view! Also was feeling so much pressure to look a certain way, and needed space to figure out how I ACTUALLY want to look like, what my personality is like outside of the dance world. Definitely can relate to your post, the breaks are very refreshing and needed! If something you are taking a break from is Truly yours – it is not going to disappear anywhere, it will still be waiting for you once you are ready to jump right back in. 🙂

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