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That Time of Year – with lots of giveaways!

Christmas Giveaway 5

I write this sitting on my dad’s couch in Winnipeg, Canada. It’s snowing gently outside – those big, fluffy white flakes that make it look like we’re living in a snow globe – and the occasional person walks by on the sidewalk, all bundled up. I have a mug of hot chocolate beside me and, from the kitchen, I can hear Christmas music on the radio. I’m well aware just how fortunate I am to be in this warm house filled with love and laughter.

I love this time of year, I really do. It’s not just the food and the decorations and the smell of the pine tree, it’s the time spent with family. This year, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to see all of my loved ones on Christmas day; my dad and sister Zalie, who both live in Winnipeg, my mum, who lives in Toronto, and my brother, who lives in Vancouver. We’ve already shared tons of laughs (and drinks) together, and the festivities will continue until I fly back to London on the 29th.

But OK, I’ll admit, I love the presents, too. And while receiving presents is always nice (you know you’re an adult when you ask for only two things: new sheets and a bottle of whisky), I absolutely love giving people presents. I start looking for things months in advance, always trying to find that perfect gift that really speaks to that person and our relationship. I don’t just feel this way at Christmas – I love buying friends and family things throughout the year, and I’m constantly on the prowl for gifts I think someone will love. It’s why I’ve done a few giveaways on this blog, and why I love sending postcards to you guys. I like the idea that it might brighten someone’s day, and, personally, I think there’s always room for an extra smile in this world.

Christmas Giveaway 7

Christmas Giveaway 3

Which brings me to the point of this blog post – I’d like to send ten gifts out to say thank you for another wonderful year of your comments, emails, messages, likes, and general support. This blog is slowly growing in size, and while it is so amazing to see new readers come along for the ride, it’s even more mind-boggling to me that some of you have been reading for many months, if not years. I’m pretty sure a few of you have even been around since the old Livejournal days, going back to 2003.

While I was in Asia last month, I bought a few gifts to give away: prayer flags and a journal from Nepal, earrings and coin purses from Thailand, and postcards from Bhutan. I also have a journal I bought from a shop here in London; some of you may recognise it, as I actually gave away another one just like it earlier this year.

Christmas Giveaway 2

Christmas Giveaway 6

The gift combinations will go like this:

  1. Nepal journal + purse
  2. Journal + purse
  3. Earrings + purse
  4. Prayer flags + purse (x2)
  5. Bhutanese postcard + purse (x5)

For good measure, I’ll throw in some British and/or Canadian chocolate, depending on where you’re from (but I’ll send the packages anywhere in the world, as it’s open to everyone).

If you’d like to put your name forward for one of the gifts, all you have to do is comment here… but I’d like you to comment with a story of an act of kindness you saw this year, or an act of kindness you received, or maybe even an act of kindness you did for somebody else. This has been a tough year on the world. From Syria to Paris to Tunisia and beyond, sometimes it feels like all there is in this world is sadness and violence. I don’t write about these things on the blog very much – not because they don’t affect me deeply, or because I don’t have anything to say, but because I believe that sometimes we need an escape, and sometimes we need a reminder of all that is beautiful and good in this world. We are so inundated with negativity that I try to keep this blog a positive place, and one that shows just how much happiness, hope, and kindness there is on this planet.

Christmas Giveaway 1

So – from me to you, Happy Holidays, wherever and however you’ll be celebrating. As mentioned above, if you’d like to enter the giveaway, please comment here with your story of an act of kindness. I’ll leave this open until December 31st and send out the packages in the first week of January, after I’ve settled back into London life.

Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!


92 Responses to That Time of Year – with lots of giveaways!

  1. Meghan Larson December 23, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

    First off I’d just like to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and following your stories over the last few years. Your last post “The Danger of Someone Else’s Dream” really resonated with me as I’m currently exploring what it feels like to have a “home” and full time work back in Canada after a number of years working/travelling in other countries.

    My favourite act of kindness this year comes from a group of volunteers that have set up and now run a local library on the beach in a small surfing village in the Philippines. The library is open 3 days a week and children (and adults) can come and read books there or sign them out to take home. They run art activities on the weekends and the library has become a real hub for the community. I will be returning in February for a visit and my bags are already packed with more books and a list of arts and crafts ideas for activity days on the weekends.

    Merry Christmas! Hope you have a great visit with your family over the holidays.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

      That’s an awesome idea, and how cool to be involved! I’d like to send you one of the gifts so please get in touch via email or Facebook to send me your address!

      Oh, and thank you so much for all the kind words about my blog, I really appreciate it 🙂

  2. LC December 23, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    Hey Brenna, I’m not commenting to enter the competition – although I love a good journal I absolutely have everything I need and more! Just wanted to say I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog this year. Enjoy Canada!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

      Thank you so much! 🙂 I hope you had a great holiday season.

  3. Andrea Anastasiou December 23, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    What a wonderful gesture, Brenna. You’re right – there’s always room for an extra smile in the world. I’ve had one of the toughest years of my life, but I decided I wanted to end it on a positive note, so instead of thinking of all the negatives, I made a list of all the things I was grateful for in 2015. The list was long, but what topped it was the kindness and support people gave me through those dark months – the best friends who would message and call me every day to make sure I was okay, my dad who came round to see me with a box of chocolates on the day my partner and I ended our relationship, my brothers who rallied round with hugs and cooked meals, my mum who stayed up until 5am to chat with me on Skype. I could write endlessly on this point alone, and it made me realise that I’m extremely lucky to have a lot of love in my life.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your posts in 2015. I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now and I always look forward to your updates – they fuel my wanderlust!

    Have a great Christmas with your family 🙂


    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

      Thank you so much, Andrea! I think that’s a great thing – to actively be positive in life.

      I’d like to send you one of the gifts so please get in touch via email or Facebook to send me your address! 🙂

      • Andrea Anastasiou January 7, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

        Wow, that’s fantastic – thank you so much! I’ll send you my address via email now.

  4. Lauren December 23, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

    Hey Brenna, I’m one of those people who has been reading your blog for years. I love reading about your travels and just your everyday life. It was also thanks to your blog that I found your mom’s books! (I adore historical fiction.) So thanks for writing, and happy holidays!

    Here is an act of kindness that I witnessed just this morning. An anonymous person at my neighborhood Starbucks had paid for everyone’s coffee for the day. Everyone in line (including myself) got a huge smile on their face when they heard that someone had bought their coffee. It made me feel a sense of goodwill and holiday cheer, and I’m sure many of those people will pay it forward in some way.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

      That’s so awesome – I love that you read my mum’s books! I’d like to send you one of the gifts so please get in touch via email or Facebook to send me your address! 🙂

  5. Sarah Rosencrans December 23, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    Mine was probably at a fundraiser for a non profit that I used to work for. While the surprise, $50,000 raise-the-paddle gift certainly brought tears to my eyes, so did the little girl, all dressed up in a headband and holiday outfit, (who was adopted out of foster care through the nonprofit) – who had saved all year and proudly donated $34, with hopes of “saving even more next year”.

    Thanks for spreading love and happy feelings, and for all your wonderful articles!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

      Aw, that’s an amazing story! Thank you so much for reading my blog, Sarah.

  6. Leanne Hyland December 23, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Hi Brenna
    The act of kindness I witnessed this year was when getting a breast lump checked out. I couldn’t afford to go private but nhs wait was too long. I arranged to borrow money from my family so I could go private but when I got there the dr gave me the appointment for free. He could of happily taken my money as a specialist earning lots each year but he didn’t. That has stuck in my mind.

    The prayer flags would make my year 🙂 I’ve always wanted to go to Nepal.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

      Wow – what an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing, Leanne.

  7. Emma December 23, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    I’ve loved your blog since I stumbled upon it about two years ago, and it’s been so wonderful following you along your adventures and experiences. I can’t even begin to tell you how much you’ve inspired me to chase my traveling dreams and explore the world! Your posts always give me the biggest smile and the most itchy feet 🙂

    My favorite act of kindness this year was a small act but nonetheless gave me all the warm, fuzzy feelings you get when something like this happens: I was have a case of the Mondays, and just had a terrible day overall, and realized I had forgotten to change my wet clothes from the washing machine into the dryer. I live in an apartment building where we all share a few machines, and as I walked down to the laundry room I noticed my clothes sitting on top of the dryer, neatly folded and dried with a note, “noticed these weren’t changed into the dryer, so I dried and folded them for you because wet clothes are not fun. Consider this a random act of kindness and pass it along!” Unfortunately the note wasn’t signed so to this day I have no idea who this kind mystery person is, but such a small, simple act of kindness completely turned my day around and gave me the biggest smile on my face. And of course, I passed it on 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

      Ahhhh I love those kinds of things – they are so simple to do for one another and yet they bring such joy.

      Thank you very much for reading my blog, Emma! I’d like to send you one of the gifts so please get in touch via email or Facebook to send me your address! 🙂

  8. Paula Silva December 23, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

    Dear Brenna, Happy holidays!

    Last March, while doing a roadtrip around Western Australia, me and my boyfriend were caught by a cyclone, level 3. We haven’t seen the news for days and by the time we reached Shark Bay, it was a ghost city. All the shops were closed and people were getting prepared for the hard night inside their houses.
    No hotels or camp sites were open. We started to be very scared. We couldn’t survive the night inside a car!!!!
    Luckly, we have decided to stop by the tourist information shop to ask advice. The lady there sent us to the town’s Recreational Center, cyclone proof.
    During the day, other “lost” tourists/families arrived, as the weather conditions was getting worse outside.
    Hot food, showers and mattresses were given so we could be as confortable as possible.

    At the end, around 100 people spent the night in those premises, while hell was behing doors. We all survived, thanks to the kindness of that community.

    I’ll never forget that day, and I’ll have a story to tell my grandkids!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

      That’s a really great story – I love when communities come together like that. I’d like to send you one of the gifts so please get in touch via email or Facebook to send me your address! 🙂

      • Paula January 15, 2016 at 1:41 am #

        Thank you so much Brenna! Happy New Year:) I’ll be in touch!

  9. Julia December 23, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    Hi Brenna,

    After returning from travelling for a while and a couple of months of job-hunting, one of my friends kindly allowed me to stay at her house while I got settled again. We hadn’t been in touch as much as usual, as I had disappointed her before we left and our friendship hadn’t been as strong as before. Despite this, she helped me find a new job, let me stay at her house for a while (3 months!) and helped me get to work. I am very grateful for this more than kind act and it made this year so much easier. On another positive note, we’re getting closer to our old friendship which is the best part of it all!

    I hope you have Happy Holidays!



    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

      That’s a wonderful story! I’m so glad your friendship has grown even stronger. I hope you had a great holiday season!

  10. Camille December 23, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

    What a wonderful and thoughtful idea to hold this contest! I think this counts as an act of kindness! Of course it’s only one act out of millions. As a single mom of an adopted daughter from a poorer area of the world, we try to give back where we can. This year when we gave a little bit of money and some small trinkets to other kids of single parents in less fortunate countries my daughter was brought to tears seeing that the families had used our small gift to buy food. No toys, books ( which are my daughters favourite things) or treats. This really brought our good fortune in living in Canada into perspective for my child and she wanted me to drive her to the bank immediately to empty her small life savings and send it overseas to help further. I was so touched by her kindness that we came up with a compromise where she sent some money and agreed to find ways to be more supportive including writing more often and volunteering in our community. This giving spirit is not something I’ve taught her (although I wish I could take the credit), it is just who she is and is so genuine that it inspires everyone around her. I am truly blessed.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

      That is really sweet, Camille! I’d like to send you/your daughter one of the gifts so please get in touch via email or Facebook to send me your address! 🙂

  11. Retha December 23, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    In November I visited India for the first time. While in the small city of Bundi I was walking through a farmers market with a friend. There was a woman, who invited us over to look at what she was selling. My friend picked up, what looked like a radish, but definitely wasn’t a radish and asked what it was. Seeing our puzzled faces and without skipping a beat, she took the vegetable from his hands, snapped it in 2 and handed it back to us motioning with her hands for us to taste it. We both did and it was delicious! She was insisted that we take the vegetable, but when we went to give her money, she refused. More likely than not, she had very little to give, as many farmers in that region do, and yet she insisted on us taking the vegetable without paying. We were so touch and didn’t want to insult her, so we did. To return her kindness, we gave it to a small boy down the street who needed the food more than we did.

    To me, this is what traveling is all about, making connections with others.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

      Aw, that’s a great story! I agree – that’s what travelling is all about. Thanks for your comment, Retha!

  12. Tori Lubbers December 23, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    I love this idea…Share the kindness stories, they are valued infinitely more than complaining or negativity. Mine is a simple one, a group of young adults and I were out for lunch this past sunday at a local restaurant and our waitress came by to tell us that the man who was at the table across from us had paid for all of our food!! All of it!! There was at least 10 of us, and a lot of boys with big empty stomachs. She said that he told her he knew us from our church. Only one of us in the group recognized him, which we felt badly about. Sometimes as a younger person you assume that you’re an annoyance so you don’t put forth any effort to get to know the older generations. Lesson learned..we were all so touched. Baking him and his wife cookies tonight. Merry Christmas Brenna + everyone!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

      That’s a great story! Thank you so much for sharing, Tori.

  13. George December 23, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    My favourite acts of kindness are when my husband comes home and just nonchalantly comments that he bought a homeless guy lunch, or he helped someone with their luggage at the station. He doesn’t tell me for recognition, he just knows I love helping people out and seeing others do the same. He never tells anyone else about this. Coupled with the fact that he was as willing as me to jump into being foster carers (despite the long and arduous year long process), he’s a perfect example to me of what random acts of kindness should be.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

      He does indeed sound like a perfect example of kindness! Thank you for sharing, George.

  14. Sarah December 23, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    Brenna, I also feel so lucky to have a warm safe and happy home sitting at a table right now working on a puzzle with a mug of tea (albeit with no snow in Vancouver) 🙂 I see so many acts of kindness all the time, but recently was touched by a friend who threw a 3 course dinner in her home for $100 a person where all the proceeds went towards Syrian refugees joining our community. Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

      That’s a great thing to do! Thanks a lot for sharing, Sarah, I hope you had a great holiday season.

  15. Nicole Miyahara December 23, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

    Hi Brenna!

    I really love your blog and I do really thank you for not focusing on the negative in this world. There’s just too much of it and your blog ins a breath of fresh air for me to dream and find inspiration for my own travel goals and personal growth. It’s because of you I decided to go to Colombia with my mom in May of this year and we had a beautiful time! It was our first mother-daughter trip. I recently was moved to write a letter to an Amnesty International group working in Peru to free a woman who is being wrongly imprisoned. She had a complication while in labor and ended up delivering the baby still born but was charged with murder (again all the negative things happening in this world). It was one step from just reading about this injustice to taking a step to possibly influencing her release. It’s a small thing but I hope it makes a difference. Happy holidays!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

      I’m so glad that you got to go to Colombia, how amazing! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. And that’s awesome that you are getting involved the way you are, I think that more of us should! Lots of small things add up to big things. 🙂

  16. Paige December 23, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

    Such beautiful things!

    I attended AWP (a GIANT writing conference) in Minneapolis this April with a small group from my MFA program. In the late afternoon of day one, my friend and I closed up our book fair booth and started to head back to the hotel via the “Skyway” (a raised walkway system that connects many of the downtown buildings) to avoid a rain storm. We were exhausted and hungry, and it was rush hour, meaning the Skyway was filled with pedestrians and others from the conference all headed in different directions. We kept getting so turned around that we had to keep stopping to check the map our hotel had given us that morning, but literally every time we stopped, a local walked up to us and asked if they could help us with directions. We chatted with at least three or four separate people that evening, all of whom were in business clothes and most likely on the first leg of their commute home. I think a lot of times we associate cities with being cold and callous, but in Minneapolis that was not the case. My friend and I still joke that if it hadn’t been for the kindness of strangers, we’d probably still be up there in the Skyway, lost between the parking garages and hotels!

    Wishing you the happiest holiday season, Brenna! : ) Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

      I love when people take the time to help one another! Thank you so much for sharing this story, Paige. 🙂

  17. Leigh Anne December 23, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    How lovely!

    When I was in Swaziland this year my team and I spent a morning painting a classroom at a preschool, and then I was sitting outside taking a break, my hands completely coated in dry paint. A little girl – couldn’t have been more than five – came over, sat next to me, and started picking the paint off my hands, little by little. Before I knew it, I had close to a dozen preschoolers cleaning my hands for me and I could have cried, it was the sweetest thing! So lovely to have these little ones, language barrier and all, demonstrating such simple kindness.

    Happy holidays Brenna!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

      Aw, that is a really sweet story, thank you for sharing it here Leigh Anne!

  18. Sara December 23, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

    I’m a teacher and the large majority of students at my school live well below the poverty line. This week, many of them received brand new winter coats that were donated to the school. Yay! But that’s not the best part of my story. One of my students received a coat and then asked the people in charge of distributing coats if there might be an extra larger one that wasn’t going to any kids so she could give it to her mom. There was, in fact, an extra adult sized coat so they gave it to her today. I was floored by a nine-year-old taking the initiative to do something special for her mom and SO appreciative of the people distributing the coats for taking her request seriously. I think it meant more to her to GIVE her mom a brand new coat than to receive one for herself.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

      Wow – that is truly amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this story, Sara!

  19. Terra December 23, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    I am new to reading your blog, but what I have read, I have really enjoyed. I especially like the idea of asking people about acts of kindness that they have seen. And reading all of the comments people have left shows that the world really is filled with kindness. I have been blessed with many acts of kindness this year, but the biggest one came after a night of partying with friends. I had gone out with a group of coworkers to a beer garden followed by karaoke. The next morning I woke up to find I had left my wallet with all of my credit cards, my Japanese ID, and my Japanese ATM. I started to worry, because I don’t really speak Japanese, so how would I go about finding my wallet. I texted my Japanese teaching partner to see if maybe she could help me. And then my phone rang. My phone never rings, I answered it, and after a few minutes I realized that this person must have my wallet, they kept saying my name and my address. A little while later a very nice police man showed up at my door with my wallet, and everything in it. Nothing had been taken, and obviously whoever found it took it to the police. I was so thankful when he gave me my wallet I wanted to hug him, but knew that wouldn’t do, so I bowed many times and said arigato gozaimasu.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

      I’m glad you’ve started reading the blog, Terra! I really appreciate it. And that’s a great story – people in Japan are very helpful, I believe!

  20. Sophie_C December 23, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    In August 2014, at the age of 20 my younger brother was involved in an accident leaving him critically ill. It was a huge strain on us as a family, but he survived and came through it. After his release from hospital I had him living with me for a short while, I gave him my room and I was sleeping on the futon in the spare. I had just started a new job and I needed to tell them that for a few weeks I had this going on, someone I was responsible for. My new manager (who I barely knew) seemed a little overwhelmed when I divulged everything I was going through and had been for the past month. I wondered if I had spoken to the right person or not. The next day he brought in a week’s supply of home made frozen meals. He said he had told his wife and she had set to making them that night. I couldn’t believe it. That week those meals lifted some strain and helped me look after my brother. The kindness of strangers is something we can’t ever under estimate and this made me realise that I also want to be that kind stranger to many people in the future, we all can be and should be. Because even strangers can make a difference, and to remain a stranger and still offer kindness…well, I believe this is one of the most selfless and wonderful acts anyone can do.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

      Yes – I totally agree with you! Even strangers can make a difference. Thank you so much for sharing your story here, Sophie. 🙂

  21. Emily December 23, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    I’ve been reading your blog for maybe two years now – I’m still enjoying it as much as ever.

    This year I started teaching English at a school in northern Germany. The town is small, but there are a couple hundred refugees, mostly from Kurdish-speaking areas in Syria and Iraq, including a few school children. One of the most moving things I’ve seen at school is how willing the kids are to help their refugee classmates. In particular the kids who can speak Kurdish have really risen to the occasion, mostly by translating for the refugees, including them in play during the breaks, and helping them keep up with schoolwork. One particular event that comes to mind is when one of the refugee students got really upset and cried during class because he couldn’t understand a task. Immediately four or five boys jumped out of their seats to comfort him and help him out. There was something so sweet about it, I ended up getting a bit emotional myself.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

      I love seeing that in people, especially kids – it bodes well for our future! I’d like to send you one of the gifts so please get in touch via email or Facebook to send me your address! 🙂

  22. Sarah December 23, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    A favorite of mine was probably when a friend and I were walking in the North End of Halifax. At the crosswalk near Gus’ Pub, a young guy probably in his mid-20s and in a wheelchair asked us if we would mind going to the convenience store across the street for him to grab him a 1 litre carton of chocolate milk. He struggled to speak, having to focus immensely to get his words out. He lifted his hand slowly and I took his handful of change and ran across to the store on the opposite corner. When I came back with his change and drink, he and my pal were laughing hysterically. He asked us if we would push him back to his assisted living residence. We walked him the ten or so minutes back to his place, talking and laughing the entire way. We wheeled him all the way into his building and onto the elevator and said goodbye! He thanked us for making his day and not being in such a rush that we couldn’t talk to him. It was nice.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

      That is indeed nice – I think we should never forget to help each other out and take some time to chat. Thanks a lot for sharing, Sarah!

  23. Adam Lucas December 24, 2015 at 2:40 am #

    My girlfriend really likes your blog and I have read a few of your blog posts in the past that she has sent me. And it’s an awesome blog you have here.

    One major act of kindness I saw recently has a little bit of a backstory. I am apprentice electrician and a fellow apprentice was going through a rough patch in his life. He had just moved in with his grandmother to be her caretaker, she passed away just days later. Shortly after her passing a tree fell on her house. He had to go into the hospital for some health issues he was dealing with. His sister also going through a similarly rough time given the family situation committed sucicide one night when we were in class together. I can’t imagine how tragic and terrifying that must be. He was out of class and off work for a lot of time and he couldn’t even afford to buy himself lunch when he got back to work.

    At the Christmas union meeting they passed the hat collecting donations for him. And in about 10 minutes about a 100 people or so donated over $1200 to help him out.

    I think that’s great and amazing that so many people were able to pull together and help another person out in a time of need.

    Well I hope this little story finds anyone who reads this well. If I happen to win anything It would be greatly appreciated and maybe I could even pass it on.


    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

      That’s such a great story of people coming together to help another in need – thank you very much for sharing it, Adam. I hope you’ll read more of the blog, thank you very much for your kind words!

  24. Jennifer December 24, 2015 at 6:19 am #

    I have just stumbled across your blog at the beginning of year but you have quickly moved to the top of my admiration list. I adore your writing and fierce style.

    The act of kindness that touched me this year happened back in March and still brings tears to my eyes. I was just starting a new job (after looking for something for almost six months) and stepping in to take over for a lady who I was told was retiring. It turns out that the lady, who I came to consider a wonderful mentor and friend, was recently diagnosed with ALS and could no longer handle a full workload. She was losing the ability to walk, and could no longer drive, yet she was the funniest, kindest woman I had ever met. Her diagnoses didn’t dampen her soul. At the end of my first week, our boss came in and told her that while her personal vacation time was running out, her colleagues and friends at our work had donated over 130 hours of their vacation time to her. I remember all of us standing there, tears in our eyes, offering her hugs and I thought “I want to be a part of a place like this.” I am happy to report that she is still going strong, and having her in my life has only made it better.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

      That’s a wonderful story – my grandmother died of ALS and I know how horrible it can be, so it’s great to hear how everyone came together to help.

      Thank you for your kind words… I’d like to send you one of the gifts so please get in touch via email or Facebook to send me your address! 🙂

  25. Tempesst December 24, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    merry christmas, brenna! i love your blog so so much. my act of kindness happened this summer in cairo. it was at the end of a 3 month trip, so my funds were dangerously low. i think my tour guide picked up on this and he surprised me by buying me a delicious lunch! i was so very appreciative

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

      Aw, that’s great! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. 🙂

  26. Veronica December 24, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    I love this time of year, but the landscape in San Diego is much different that your sbowglobe dreamland 🙂

    This year I was able to donate to quite a few good causes: disaster relief, refugee support, and in general to local organization supporting the homeless and mentally ill.

    It made me feel so good to be able to donate, as well as volunteer my time serving meals to families for thanksgiving, and also volunteering at a school for homeless children and hosting food, toys, and a clothing drive at the office building I manage. I plan to continue my efforts to help those in need in 2016. It is so rewarding to help the less fortunate and the smiles you receive as payment is priceless.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

      That’s so awesome of you, Veronica! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  27. Valerie December 24, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    I was traveling with a friend on a small island off of Taiwan earlier this year. It was off season and we were in a small village. Ended up totally lost and wandering around looking for any place to eat. We were starving and it was mid-day. Many of the locals didn’t speak English & we couldn’t speak Chinese. Someone heard us speaking English and asked if we were lost. We explained our situation and she walked us to a restaurant and ordered for us. It really made us thankful for the kindness of stranger!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

      Yes – I love when things like that happen! Thanks for sharing, Valerie.

  28. Liz December 24, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

    I work at a children’s hospital and today “Santa” (one of the doctors) visited and delivered gifts to all of the kids. One patient was receiving an ultrasound at the time of the visit, so she missed him. She was hysterical when she returned– so the doctor decided to re-suit up to visit her. She was so thankful when he arrived that she gave him a card thanking him for visiting the “hopital” and included a drawing of the globe, so he doesn’t “get lost” on his travels tonight. Kindness is all around 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

      Kindness is indeed all around! Thanks for sharing, Liz. 🙂

  29. Tania T December 25, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Really enjoy your blog. Thanks for doing this!

    My random act of kindness happened to me yesterday.
    I had to move out of my previous apartment to a new place and only had the 23rd of December available to do so. Very stressful time of year to do move!
    I needed a couch desperately as I have major back problems and couldnt sleep in my bed. I found the couch of my dreams in the classified ads. The ad said it was pick up only but being Xmas week, I tried & tried and could not find anyone to help me. I told the seller I wouldn’t take the couch after all. He then surprised me by going out of his way to deliver it to me. With a smile as well! A Xmas miracle! ????

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

      Aw, that’s great! What a nice gesture. Thanks for sharing, Tania!

  30. Raquel Serrano (@lovingphilomath) December 25, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

    So I’m a restaurant server at a big-time restaurant here in Chicago and yesterday, Christmas Eve, a table of 14 came in for lunch – 6 adults, 6 kids and a baby. My favorite part of being a server is being able to take the load of stressed and weary parents, like the mom who puts in the order for the table. “Two baskets of fries, two orders of garlic bread and pink lemonade – PLEASE be quick, the kids are starving!” Instead of growing offended or hurt or bothered by her form of request, I remembered how it must feel for her and the other adults, as well as for many other parents and guardians who enter public places with their children. They’re with their kids all day, every day – wouldn’t it be nice to be able to offer them a form of respite, even for just an hour or two? I ran to bring out all of their food in timely manner in order to feed the hungry, hyper, cranky little ones, as well as some nice drinks for the moms and dads. It was a pleasure to have been able to serve this family on this very busy Christmas Eve. Their satisfaction and the look of relief and gratitude in their now-relaxed eyes makes it all worth it.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

      Wow – you have a lot of patience!! Thanks for sharing your story, Raquel 🙂

  31. Ashley December 26, 2015 at 11:58 am #

    Watching a video of Syrian refugees arrive in Germany to crowds of locals cheering, clapping, handing out food, water, clothing, etc., stands out in my mind as one of the most kind and moving gestures I (virtually) witnessed this year.

    Thank you for causing me to reflect on the acts of kindness I received or observed in 2015, and thank you for the stories, tips, photos, and musings you share on this blog, which I always look forward to reading 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

      Thank you so much, Ashley! That was a very moving experience for me to witness, too.

  32. Mary December 26, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    Last weekend my family went to NYC to see the Rockettes and Rockefeller Center- these silly girls were taking selfies and tripped over a homeless woman who was shaking on the ground. They just sort of stared at her and shuffled away. My sister went and talked to her and gave her her leather gloves. Then I gave my sister my gloves to use since she had forgotten her scarf.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

      Oh no, that’s not very nice! I’m glad you were there. 🙂

  33. Megan S December 27, 2015 at 3:25 am #

    One of the departments in my company had been working extra hard this year and I made sure to email their bosses every few months to say what a great job they were doing. I also left them some homemade cookies thanking them for their hard work, but signed as Santa… 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

      Aw, that’s very nice of you!

  34. Dorothy December 28, 2015 at 10:21 am #

    Hello Brenna, Happy holidays!
    Thank you for making this blog and doing the giveaway
    For our Christmas gift, we wanted another pet bearded dragon
    So we rescued him from people who were very neglectful.
    His name is Happy:

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

      That’s a great name! I’m sure he lives up to it. 🙂

  35. Brittany Herriot December 28, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Lovely 🙂

    When I was in Rome, a distressed American family was trying to get in the front of the very long line to customer service to get their tickets validated as their train left in mere minutes. They scooted in line and went to the counter with the next person but the ticket lady told them to get in the back of the line. I handed them my ticket and said to take my spot as I was in no rush. They got their tickets validated and everything sorted and hugged me warmly. It was such a lovely moment, as I had been there many a times myself!
    In Thailand a few days ago on Christmas eve, a young gent was short 200baht for his visa extension, not taking into account the photos he needed taken for his application. My friend handed him the 200 baht without hesitation and he got everything sorted. Kindness prevails!

    xoxox and happiest holidays from a fellow Canadian abroad!


    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

      That’s so nice of you – I really believe in karma! Kindness does indeed prevail. I hope you had a great holiday season 🙂

  36. Morgan December 28, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    Merry Christmas Brenna. I hope you’ve had a wonderful time with your family in Canada.

    There have been a number of wonderful acts of kindness in what has been at times a dark and difficult year for many over the world. This year a close friend of mine and his wife lost their unborn child. They took their grief and transformed it into something positive by raising over £1200 for Great Ormand Street Hospital to buy gifts for children with terminal conditions. They are keen adventures so the travel journal would be perfect for them.

    I love reading your blog, and truly appreciate the constant reminders of the beautiful and bright in the world. I can’t wait to hear all about your adventures in 2016

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:18 pm #

      Hi Morgan, thank you very much for sharing their story. I’d like to send them the travel journal so if you can send me your address via Facebook or email, I’d appreciate if you could get it to them!

  37. Caitlin Dreger December 28, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

    Love this idea! The other day as I ran across the street to catch the bus, a stranger flagged down the bus and told the driver i was coming. I so appreciated it as it was cold and rainy out. HTe next bus wasn’t for 20 minutes thus it would have made me late to work. I then passed on the favor the next day when I noticed someone with crutches trying to hurry to the approaching bus stop. I flagged down the bus and made them wait. It’s those little things that make our lives more enjoyable. Us, Human Beings can make the world better for one another.

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog and enjoy your holiday!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

      That’s so great – I love when people help each other like that! And thanks for the kind words about my blog. 🙂

  38. Nicole P. December 29, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

    Happy holidays, Brenna (all the way from the Philippines)! That’s very thoughtful of you to give some love in the season of giving. Maybe my greatest act of kindness I have ever given is to myself — allowing myself to just be. I’ve been weighed down all my life by others expectations of me, of what they want me to be and I’ve always lived my life walking the path carved my someone else’s hands. I always felt trapped and helpless all this time. But this year, I allowed myself to break free. I let go of my body image issues and let loose — eating whatever I want and only dressing nicely whenever I want. I also started to read, watch and learn about the different amazing things the world has to offer even how unorthodox it seems; even if I knew those people around me wont appreciate it. This was the first time that I allowed myself to dream, to dream for myself and to brainstorm really hard on how could I ever achieve it. I gave myself the gift of kindness and for me that is the greatest present you could ever give because I believe that you can never give genuine kindness if you would never learn to love your own self. For the next year, I will try my best to continue loving myself even more especially in 2016. I just started working as I am a fresh graduate and I’m planning to start travelling even just exploring the capital city of my homeland where I currently reside.

    I hope I could meet you someday and introduce you to a different side of the Philippines (apart from what you experienced in Boracay and Palawan) and I hope you could still appreciate it. I am grateful to stumble upon your blog (where I read from the first page to the 80th). Thank you for igniting a spark of my lifelong dream to travel and to write!

    Heads up: I will write you a very long email one of these days. 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

      That’s a great sentiment – thank you for sharing, Nicole! And thank you for all the kind words about my blog, I hope to get back to the Philippines one day. I’d like to send you one of the gifts so please get in touch via email or Facebook to send me your address! 🙂

  39. Carrie December 30, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

    I like all the “pay it forward” that I have been reading about on various blogs, and even among people that I know. It is something that I like to do when I am in line for coffee, because that is where I was the first time someone paid for me! when people start caring about each other, and are not afraid to show it, it sends a powerful dose of good Karma through the air, and everyone benefits. I love your travel blog, I am learning (late in life) how to be independent and confident. It is not easy, but I am practicing all the time.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

      I think we should all keep practicing all the time! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story, Carrie.

  40. Bethany Wilson December 30, 2015 at 11:58 pm #

    Thanks for running such a great blog, Brenna!

    An act of kindness I witnessed this year that is one of my favorites was shared between two of my Girl Scout Daisies Grace and Eva. Graces father was recently deployed and she was having a rough time with the transition. Eva hearing the news immediately ran over to her father and asked if he would be Graces temporary father while her dad is in Iraq. This act of kindness has led to the two becoming very close and even building the pinewood derby cars together with their shared dad.


    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

      Aw, that’s an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing, Bethany!

  41. Bella KL December 31, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    Great idea!
    A few months ago, I was coming home from a week away in the country with friends, and we were all at the train station, waiting for the (very infrequent) train that would take us back home. All my friends brought their tickets no problem, but when I went to buy mine, the machine swallowed my money and wouldn’t give it back. The train was approaching fast, and my friends hopped on not realising I was still having troubles at the other end of the platform with the ticket machine.
    So there I was, no money left to get home, and no phone reception, when the loveliest lady came up to me and offered to buy my train ticket back home-I could’ve hugged her.
    It made my day, and I still smile when thinking about it.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

      What a nice person – that’s some great karma there! Thanks for sharing your story, Bella. 🙂

  42. Rachel January 1, 2016 at 12:25 am #

    Hi Brenna,

    I’ve just discovered your blog about a week ago. I’m love traveling and am looking into possibly starting my own travel blog.

    A random act of kindness I saw this year was not quite so random, but it was the way the USA/Bahamas banned together to help the victims of Hurricane Joaquin in Long Island, The Bahamas. The Bahamas was my home for the last year and a half, and although many people do not realize that it is a developing nation, there are a lot of poor people in the Family Islands. Businesses were providing services for free, people were sending food/clothes, and lots of love and help to these islands. Such a great thing to be a part of!

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

      That is indeed a great thing to be a part of! Thanks for your story, Rachel, and I hope you’ll keep reading the blog! 🙂

  43. Meryl January 2, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

    Ack, I’m a bit late for this!

    When I was traveling from Nong Khai, Thailand to Vientiane, Laos, I had to do an overland border crossing. It was quick and easy getting stamped out of Thailand, then I paid for a two minute bus ride to cross to the Laos side. When I got there, I realized that the Lao immigration lacked clear instructions on the whole stamping in process. I didn’t need a visa but I also didn’t have an arrival card and I couldn’t figure out where to get one. The security and other personnel I asked either dismissed me or didn’t understand me. I stood there dumbfounded and a little panicked, watching other tourists get stamped in.

    That was when a kind lady approached me and asked me if it was my first time crossing the Thai-Lao border. I meekly said yes and she said, “No problem, I’ll help you.” She went out of the immigration line, got me an arrival card and proceeded to explain the Lao immigration process. Turns out you have to buy a “pass” which you will use at the exit’s turnstiles. She could’ve easily left after explaining the process, but she actually waited for me at the exit. She also offered to take me to my guesthouse on her motorcycle, despite the fact that that would weigh her down and would take some of her time. I kindly turned down her offer and she instead insisted on helping me find the public bus stop instead, even offering to pay for the bus ride with her own money. She was so worried that I was traveling on my own that she wanted the assurance that I’ll get through Laos safely.

    It still warms my heart whenever I remember that moment and I wish I could’ve taken her out to lunch just to say thank you. I’ve gotten a little jaded and doubtful of people’s true intentions but this woman reminded me that there’s still a lot of kindness left in this world.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

      I love how helpful some people are – it’s always so great when something like that happens when you’re travelling! I agree, it really reminds one that there’s still a lot of kindness in this world.

      Thanks for sharing, Meryl!

  44. Emily January 5, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

    Hi Brenna!

    I absolutely adore your blog and so appreciate the way you communicate with your fans 🙂

    The most significant act of kindness I experienced this year involved travel, actually!

    I was on my way to a tiny island in Micronesia for my Spring Break (I’m a college student and I was going to work at a conservation NGO) when what was supposed to be an overnight layover in Hawaii turned into an indefinite layover, as my flight to Micronesia had been cancelled due to a typhoon (not delayed – cancelled!). I discovered this at 2am and completely panicked – I had never travelled solo before, this was only my second trip out of the country, and I was only 18, so I felt utterly lost. I frantically emailed one of my professors who had grown up in Hawaii, not expecting to hear back from him for hours, since it was 5am his time. Well, 5 minutes later, I received a reply from him. He assured me that he would contact all the alums from my school who currently live in Honolulu, and told me that if none of them were willing to take me in while I waited to book a new flight, he would somehow get me keys so I could stay in his parents’ summer home. Fast forward to 6am Hawaii time and I’m in the airport alone because I have no where else to go. I start receiving and onslaught of text messages and phone calls from alums who live in Hawaii – people I’ve never met who are enthusiastically offering me a bed to stay in and food to eat while I sort my travel plans out.

    I ended up staying with the first person who contacted me – a man who had graduated from my school in the 80s and was now a successful Honolulu business man. His beautiful family welcomed me – a complete stranger – into their home, fed me, toured me around the city, helped me book a new flight to Micronesia (not an easy feat!), and drove me to the airport the next morning. The whole experience taught me a lot about the kindness of humanity and how important it is to trust it when traveling solo.

    • Brenna Holeman January 7, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

      Wow – what an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing it here, Emily. I’m glad it all worked out for you!

      And thanks very much for all of your kind words about my blog, too… 🙂

  45. Zalie January 22, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

    I loved reading other people’s acts of kindness, such a wonderful idea for a giveaway! The gifts are lovely 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman January 22, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

      I know, I loved reading them, too!!

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