The Genetics of Travelling

by Brenna Holeman
 Brenna and Linda Russia

Lake Baikal, Russia

There are very few people I like to travel with for extended periods of time. Sure, most people can get along for a few days or so, but when it comes to the big adventures, the long journeys, you want someone on your side whom you can trust, someone who understands you, someone who shares your values and your interests. Then who better to travel with than your mum?

My amazing friend and constant inspiration, Oneika the Traveller, posted a few months ago on why she’s grateful to have a mother who travels. That article really resonated with me, as I, too, often travel with my mum. It started in the mid-90s, with a trip to the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Lanai. Soon after, there was PEI in Canada. Then, to England and Scotland. It quickly became a tradition for us to travel together every year, and since 2005 we’ve been to Dominican Republic, Ireland, Spain (twice), Morocco (twice), Egypt, Iceland, Malta, Japan, Malaysian Borneo, Brunei, South Korea, China, Mongolia, Russia, Belize, and Guatemala together. Travel is a top priority for us both, and we relish in the two or three weeks we get together every year – as I haven’t lived in the same city as her since 2002, it’s often the only time we get together.

 Brenna and Linda Egypt

Cairo, Egypt

My mother grew up in the prairies of Canada – her parents rarely left home, and travelling was never discussed or considered an option. Her father came from Russia, but had no desire to go back or even to pass on his native culture to his children. Still, my mother dreamed of adventure, her outlet being the books she read and the stories she wrote. After marrying my father, they spent nearly two years living in a van in Europe in the 70s, the ultimate hippies. In order to survive, they took on a multitude of jobs: picking apples in Switzerland, milking cows in Israel, selling their own blood in Greece for a few bucks and a hot meal. These were the stories I heard growing up, my mother showing me old photos of them with their hair long and their smiles wide.

 Brenna and Linda Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

My mum made her dream of becoming a writer a reality – she’s since published 13 books, many of them related to the places she’s travelled. Her last book was set partially in Siberia, which she researched when we took the Trans-Siberian together in 2010. Growing up, everyone asked me, “So, are you going to be a writer like your mum?” I’d reply with a shrug, or an ambiguous “I don’t know.” Over the years, just as my footsteps have followed my mother in exploring the world, so too have my footsteps followed her passion for writing. It just took me a while to figure that out. Over the years, my gratitude and respect for her have grown exponentially; for inviting me on these incredible trips, yes, but also for instilling a sense of wanderlust and a knowledge that I would be forever supported in my choices, no matter how outlandish or whimsical they may first appear.

 Brenna and Linda Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

When I was 17, and applying to universities, there was never a doubt that I would be leaving my hometown of Winnipeg to try my hand in another city. It was not only encouraged, it was expected. After graduating from a school in Halifax, I had absolutely zero plans to start a career; I had worked throughout my degree, and saved up quite a bit. The only goal I had was to travel Europe on my own, and my mother wholeheartedly supported this idea. She even flew out to meet me in Ireland, and then we headed to Spain and Morocco together. When I realized that I wanted to keep going, that the only life I could see living was one that involved nearly full-time travelling, she was behind the decision 100%.

 Brenna and Linda Mongolia

Terelj National Park, Mongolia

“My mother would never let me do that.” “Doesn’t your mother worry about you?” “I’m sure your mother just wants you at home.” I hear these things all the time. My mother raised me to be curious, brave, and independent, and she has never once asked me to stay in Canada or to not travel as much. She understands that sometimes I have to be off the grid for a while, but she also trusts me – she knows I wouldn’t do anything to put myself in danger, and she knows that I’ll contact her as soon as I can. I believe that that’s what love is: trust, communication, and, just as importantly, freedom.

 Brenna and Linda Borneo

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

This is not to say that she doesn’t worry about me, or miss me – I’m sure she does all the time, just as I miss her. She often travels on her own, whether it is to Southeast Asia for a month or to Antarctica for a Christmas with the penguins. And, I can honestly say, it’s because of her wanderlust, her support, and her trust in me that I have become the avid traveller I am today, the woman I am today. Without her I might not have had the courage to leave everything behind and move to Asia, to book a one-way ticket to South America, or to begin a Master’s degree in London. She’s my greatest inspiration. Though her mother didn’t necessarily pass down the travelling bug to her, she’s definitely passed it down to me. And if I ever have a child, I’m really hoping that wanderlust is in our genetics for good.

 Brenna and Linda China

Near Beijing, China

Have you ever travelled with a parent or family member? Who is your biggest inspiration in travel or in life?

*Find me on Facebook and Twitter*


You may also like


Briana C. July 26, 2013 - 6:41 am

I love this! I recently went on a two week trip to Thailand and Cambodia with my mum. Other than her homesickness, it was a fantastic trip.
My parents have also been very supportive of my wanderlust, for the most part at least. They were a bit reluctant to let me run off to South East Asia by myself at 18, hence my mother coming with me. 🙂
We always joke that we are going to be that family that has a reunion in a different place every year! Lovely post as always, Brenna!

This Battered Suitcase July 26, 2013 - 7:22 pm

Thank you, Briana! It’s great that your parents are so supportive. The yearly reunion sounds amazing…

Colleen Brynn July 26, 2013 - 11:09 am

So so cute. You’ll have to whip this out again for mother’s day.

This Battered Suitcase July 26, 2013 - 7:19 pm

Thanks, Colleen!

Katie @ July 26, 2013 - 12:46 pm

Obviously you don’t need me to tell you this, but you are so incredibly lucky to have a mother like that.

This Battered Suitcase July 26, 2013 - 7:20 pm

No, you don’t need to tell me this – I think about how lucky I am every single day.

Christine July 26, 2013 - 1:49 pm

You looks like sisters! I can’t travel with my Mom. I did it for 1 week and I thought I would go crazy! We travel separately and it’s better that way 😉

This Battered Suitcase July 26, 2013 - 7:20 pm

It’s not for everyone – the key is to understand with whom you can travel! For me, that’s my mum.

Christine Amorose July 26, 2013 - 2:08 pm

Love this! My mom isn’t exactly a big traveler, but she certainly loves France and she definitely instilled in me a love for the culture and the language. We’ve spent many a week together in Paris and Nice, and she sent me over to stay with family friends in Provence at 16 and to study in Paris at 18–and was hugely supportive when I wanted to move to Nice and pretty much any time I mention going back for a week or a month! Cheers to having fabulous, inspirational mums 🙂

This Battered Suitcase July 26, 2013 - 7:21 pm

Yes! Cheers to that. It’s so much fun to spend time in another country with family, I’m glad that you’ve been able to share some of your travels with your mum!

A Country Girls World July 26, 2013 - 3:16 pm

That is so neat! Though my Mom is a routine person, she has always encouraged me to travel whenever possible. It is awesome that you and your Mom travel together.

This Battered Suitcase July 26, 2013 - 7:20 pm

It’s great that your mum encourages you!

Oneika the Traveller July 26, 2013 - 8:43 pm

What a beautiful beautiful post! Your mom is gorgeous, too — not difficult to see where you get your good looks from… 🙂 Seriously though, your mother rocks. 13 books published!? Mother-daughter trips to far flung places like Mongolia? Just wow. You are very very lucky!

This Battered Suitcase July 27, 2013 - 6:04 pm

Aw, thank you Oneika! I feel very blessed to have a mother like her.

Alyssa James July 26, 2013 - 8:53 pm

You are a lucky lady, and your mom seems like an amazing woman!

This Battered Suitcase July 27, 2013 - 6:04 pm

Thanks, Alyssa! She’ll be visiting London a lot so we’ll have to all get together…

Tom July 29, 2013 - 1:07 am

Aww Brenna, I love this post! Hmm wanderlust genetics – interesting! My father has never once left the UK, and simply has no desire to. Being a farmer, going on holiday has never been an option for him – he works 365 days a year. The few trips he’s taken have largely been in the same county, or neighbouring ones. My mother, on the other hand? She loves to travel. Growing up, I’d hear stories of how she worked in Berlin, travelled in Austria, and went to school in both Singapore and Malaysia (my Grandad Joe was in the RAF). Those stories have stuck with me, and made me want to travel, too.

My mum trusts my judgement as well, and I reassure her that I have no interest in travelling anywhere where I think I’d be at a real risk of getting into trouble or getting attacked just walking down a street. Still, I know she does like it when I come home, and she’s looking forward to having me back in the UK for the next few months!

This Battered Suitcase July 29, 2013 - 4:42 am

Thanks, Tom! My grandparents were similar to your dad; they had absolutely no desire to leave Winnipeg. My grandpa in particular couldn’t understand why people would even want to travel if you had all of the amenities at home.

Your mum’s life sounds fascinating! I always loved hearing stories of my mother’s travels growing up and it sounds like they really had a great effect on you, too. It sounds like we have some pretty amazing women in our lives, and it’s so wonderful that they trust us.

And for the record, I’m also looking forward to you in the UK in the next few months!

vegetatingearth July 29, 2013 - 6:08 pm

This strikes such a chord with me. My mom and I have gone on a lot of solo trips together as well, to Beijing, Prague and Vienna. We always have a good time because we have similar traveling styles (wandering around with only vague ideas about what we want to do/see). She’s definitely instilled her wanderlust in me! Your mom seems like such an adventurer!

This Battered Suitcase July 29, 2013 - 6:20 pm

Aw, that’s great! I’m so happy to hear about other adventuring parents and families who travel together. It’s such a lovely sharing experience. Having similar travelling styles is so important!

Audie M. August 27, 2013 - 6:28 pm

I love your blog, especially this post! Aren’t moms the best? I do not travel much with my mother but after reading what you have to say I am convinced that I will have to take a trip with my mom in the near future. I am pretty similar to my mom and proud of it! I noticed you mentioned that you are originally from Winnipeg, I am from Regina, Sk. and will be moving to London at the end of September. Small world! Best of luck in the U.K.

Brenna August 28, 2013 - 11:25 pm

Thank you so much, travelling with mums is the best! And it’s always nice to meet another Canadian, especially one from the prairies. Best of luck in London.

Stefania - the Italian Backpacker September 13, 2013 - 4:15 pm

You are so lucky. My parents don’t travel, and my mother is scared of even taking a train to the next town alone.

I used to travel with a friend, but now that I can travel she’s broke. When she could travel, I was busy with work. For the moment I am travelling alone, because it’s true what you say: with certain friends you could never travel with.

Brenna September 13, 2013 - 9:01 pm

Aw, I’m sorry to hear that you don’t have a travel partner at the moment. Travelling solo can be great, too, though!

Flora Baker March 30, 2014 - 10:18 pm

This is such a lovely post – you’re really lucky to have had so many incredible travel experiences with your mum! My mum was a massive traveller in her day too – I like to think I got the bug from her 🙂 I always wanted to do the Trans-Siberian with her as well.. Hopefully I’ll do it with someone equally important in my life.

Brenna Holeman March 31, 2014 - 12:27 pm

I think that wanderlust is definitely genetic. I hope you get to do the Trans-Siberian one day, too! Thanks so much for your comment, Flora.

When I Don't Feel Like Being a Solo Traveller - This Battered Suitcase November 28, 2014 - 1:32 pm

[…] memories have taken place while travelling with someone, especially my best friend Kerri or my mum. I love that I can ring them up and chat for hours about our past travels, be it that time we slept […]


Leave a Comment

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