When I Grow Up

by Brenna Holeman
Irkutsk, Russia


Listvyanka, Russia


Near Yekaterinburg, Russia


Near Yekaterinburg, Russia


Yekaterinburg, Russia


St. Petersburg, Russia


St. Petersburg, Russia


St. Petersburg, Russia


Ulan Ude, Russia
All photos taken while I was travelling through Russia on the Trans-Siberian 
I was never the kind of little girl who knew what she wanted to do when she grew up. Sure, I entertained the idea of being a zoologist or an interior decorator, but I soon realised that I didn’t want to spend my high school and university years studying science or drawing blueprints. People always assumed I was going to be a writer like my mum, and although I love writing, I’ve never been sure that that was it, that that was the career I would have for the rest of my life. I did study literature in university, but mostly because I love books, not because I imagined a career in it.
In my approximately twelve years of working I have had an assortment of jobs, mostly ones I enjoyed and mostly ones that taught me something. I’ve worked at a confectionery, at a zoo, at a publishing house, I’ve worked in Russia, in Canada, in Japan. I’ve pierced ears and prepared spreadsheets, taught kids how to paint and designed Powerpoint presentations. And now, closer to thirty than twenty, I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.
When I was in my hometown last month, I discovered a box of journals spanning from age eleven to present day, pages and pages of my thoughts and dreams, pages full of aspirations and bucket lists and crushes and worries and doodles. The journal I kept when I was eleven was one of my favourites; in it I write about my love of olives and frogs, of how I made cookies for my parents but forgot to add sugar, of reminders to tape Death Becomes Her and my crush on Zack Morris. It also talks about fearing that my parents would divorce (they eventually did, but ten years later) and of things I promised myself I would and wouldn’t do; I broke most of those promises, but one I did keep to myself was that I would travel the world.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve pored over maps, atlases, and guidebooks. I’ve dreamed of countries far away, across oceans and continents. I’ve imagined safaris, camel rides traversing deserts, long trains rides over rocky terrain. I’ve fantasized about castles and churches, about different cultures, about beaded necklaces and spicy food. I’ve written lists of countries and places I wanted to visit, places that sounded so exotic: Kathmandu, Zanzibar, Sofia, Bora Bora, Istanbul, Casablanca, Valletta, Caracas, Varanasi, Timbuktu, Lhasa, Yekaterinburg. I’m the kind of person who will travel somewhere based solely on a name.
  It’s incredible to realize that I’ve accomplished a lot of those dreams I had: to live in Europe and Asia, to teach in Japan, to para-glide over the Himalayas, to take the Trans-Siberian, to visit India and Nepal, to see the Pyramids, to walk along the Great Wall of China, to take cooking classes in Thailand, to visit 50 countries before I turn 30, to see an elephant in the wild. I’ve done safaris and ridden camels through deserts and taken those long train rides, I’ve even visited some of those exotic places I once fathomed nearly impossible to get to.
I don’t know if I will ever have a traditional career, or if I will ever truly know what I want to do when I “grow up”. I’ve thought of owning my own guesthouse, of being a travel writer, of teaching, of doing any one of a number of things that might allow me to keep travelling the world. And perhaps that’s the only certainty I have in my future, that I will keep travelling for as long as I can, in body and in spirit. “I want to travel the world,” I wrote when I was eleven. Nothing has changed, nothing will change.

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kay*(from india.with love) September 13, 2011 - 6:25 am

brenna i love love love this post.

maybe we can open a guesthouse together one day 🙂 since i too still don’t know what i want to be when i grow up (and i just turned 30!)


gypsydreamer September 13, 2011 - 6:27 am

You are my hero. You are such an inspiration to stop wishing and dreaming of travel – and to just get out there!

Angge September 13, 2011 - 6:31 am

From someone who also has not yet figured out what it is that she wants to do when she ‘grows up’, but knows deep in her soul and heart that she wants to travel more and that traveling will always be a part of her life…thank you! 🙂 For such a heartfelt post and for putting into words what I’m feeling right now.

Cheers to more travels! 🙂

This Battered Suitcase September 13, 2011 - 7:19 pm

K – That would be amazing! I think we would have the best guesthouse around. Now the hard part: which country should we choose?? xx

Gypsy Dreamer – Thank you so much! That’s what I always say to people who tell me they could never travel: just go out there and do it. Actually deciding to break out of your comfort zone and actually go is the hardest part.

Angge – Thank you for your nice comment! It’s reassuring to know that there are others who feel the same way as me. Enjoy your travels, wherever they may take you!

Aileen September 14, 2011 - 12:43 am

i super love this entry! it rings a faint bell. i too have kept a journal since i was 9, and i too pored over maps and atlases even before i learned to read. my first literature was newsweek and time, which fed my fantasies about faraway places. it’s funny how we end up breaking most of our childhood promises, but the fantasies are always there. 🙂

This Battered Suitcase September 14, 2011 - 7:58 pm

Thank you for your comment Aileen! I believe that wanderlust is something you are born with; it seems we both prove that theory…

kls September 15, 2011 - 12:57 am

i don’t know either, muffin mix.

This Battered Suitcase September 16, 2011 - 1:45 am

That’s part of why you’re my best friend, Kerrilyn. We can be wanderers together forever. xx

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures September 16, 2011 - 1:43 pm

If you follow your heart, which it sounds like you are, then you have nothing to worry about! Gorgeous post and pics!!!

This Battered Suitcase September 17, 2011 - 7:31 am

I totally agree, Andi! Thanks for your comment…

Sukirti June 4, 2014 - 4:54 am

Wow!!! That’s one amazing post! So clear and so adventurous.


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