Brenna Holeman is the woman behind the fantastic travel blog, This Battered Suitcase. Originally from Canada, Brenna has lived in countries such as Denmark, Scotland, and Japan and has travelled to almost 90 other countries. She is now living in London and realizing her dream of being a writer after having completed a Master's Degree in Creative Non-Fiction writing.
She usually blogs about her experiences at different places, integrating interesting stories and brilliant photographs from her global adventures, hoping to inspire others to travel. In Brenna's own words, her blog "focuses not only on the where and the how of travel, but the who and the why!" Several famous websites such Expedia, MSN, and Yahoo have published her works.
How would you describe your travelling style?
I think my travel style varies considerably - sometimes I travel on a tight budget, sometimes I like to travel with a bit more luxury. I take very long trips and very short trips, and everything in between. While I often travel solo, I also travel with family and friends sometimes. Usually it comes down to the destination I'm visiting, how much time I have, and how much money I have, but one thing's for certain: I make travel a top priority in my life, so I'm always planning the next trip, whether or not someone can come with me. While I do like a bit of adventure, the trips I plan are almost always to places where I can interact with other people and catch a glimpse of the local life there; my favourite thing to do while away is to visit a local market and do some people-watching and/or chat to vendors, so you probably won't find me on a solitary hiking trip anytime soon (though I wouldn't write that off, either!).
After years of non-stop travelling, you are "now more or less settled in London". How have you dealt with this change?
It has been difficult at times, but London is such a fantastic and diverse city that I find my wanderlust is often satiated. Don't get me wrong, I still have very itchy feet, but I've focused on exploring different neighbourhoods in London and trying to take full advantage of my time here. I know I won't live in London forever, but for now it's a great place for me to be settled and grow my career in the travel industry. Besides that, London is such an incredible travel hub, so I can cheaply fly to numerous destinations around the world. Even though I'm settled in London, I still travel once or twice a month.
What all challenges one has to face while travelling solo?
Well, putting sun cream on your back is certainly challenging when you travel alone. Besides that, I can understand why some people see solo travel as a challenge - it can be scary to set out not knowing if you'll meet anyone else, especially if you're venturing to a country where you don't speak the language. Personally, however, I relish that challenge; solo travel has made me a much more confident, independent, self-reliant, and strong individual. Because of the last ten years of travelling on my own, there are very few things I'm frightened of anymore. I've also met tons of amazing people in those travels, proving that it is very much possible to meet others when you're on your own (I'd even argue you meet MORE people, as you don't have a travel partner to rely on for company).
Along with the bracelet from Varanasi given to you by a girl there, which others souvenirs you are close to and why?
I'm a very sentimental person, so I collect a lot of souvenirs. My flat in London is full of them, and I have even more stored in boxes in Canada. My most memorable souvenirs are usually either art or jewellery, as I've often met the artists or jewellery-makers I'm buying the pieces from. Both can be very affordable, and I love that they can tell a story. I wear quite a few bracelets from around the world every day, and they serve as a constant reminder of great times abroad. Besides those, I have some trinkets from Bhutan, Zambia, and Russia that I'm very fond of.
You spent several weeks in India. What all places did you visit and which ones left you most impressed?
I'm certainly not an expert on India but it did leave a very strong impression on me, as it's such a vibrant and colourful country. My favourite places were Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Varanasi, and Amritsar. As I only travelled in the north, I'm dying to get back and see much more of the country.
You have had some exciting adventurous (read: scary) during your travels, such as diving with sharks! What is the one thing you would never want to experience again?
Diving with sharks in the Galapagos was actually very peaceful; I find scuba diving very calming, and the sharks were not threatening at all. The scariest thing that ever happened to me was getting into an accident while biking on Death Road in Bolivia; I slipped on some rocks and ended up spraining my arm, tearing my MCL, and fracturing my jaw. The funny thing is, I'd still bike Death Road again... there are very few things I can imagine saying I'd never want to do again! I'd obviously do without the injuries next time, though.
You've lived in many places, how different is visiting a foreign place than living in one?
It's very different. You get much more of a sense of how things work on a day-to-day basis; you scratch below the surface to reveal the deeper workings of a place. I do believe that you can have an authentic and genuine experience even if you're only able to visit a place for a few days, but obviously if you live somewhere for a while you get a stronger idea of the location's rhythms and norms. Not only that, you are able to make many more friends, which is fantastic.
What is the one piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring solo travellers?
Don't worry about not meeting other people, or about feeling lonely; while there may be times that you'll be on your own, you'll inevitably encounter dozens of other travellers like you, and you'll be surrounded by lots of people who will want to welcome you to their country. I very strongly believe that the people of the world are good and want to help each other, and you'll find this when travelling. If you're nervous about spending lots of time on your own, build up to a trip abroad; start off with smaller trips near your hometown, for example, or try going to movies or meals on your own. Once you enjoy your own company, solo travel will be just as fun as travelling with someone else (or even better!).
Tell us about your upcoming travel plans.
I have a lot of upcoming travel plans... planning trips and dreaming about places to go is my favourite pastime! I'm off to Northern Ireland, Italy, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands in the next two months, and then have a week of relaxation in Mallorca. After that, I'm attending a conference in Sweden and a festival in France, and then I have two weeks in Kenya which I'm really looking forward to, as it will be my first time in the country. I also fly back to my home country of Canada every year, which is always a highlight!
This interview with Brenna Holeman is a part of Travel Trolley's ongoing 'Best of the Travel Bloggers' series. We are interviewing popular travel bloggers who encourage and inspire people to travel. Check out all the bloggers we have interviewed and learn about their interesting experiences, adventures, travel stories as well as useful holiday tips.