Sole Sister Spotlight: Wanderer Brenna Holeman

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Even before Sole Sisters became Sole Sisters, we had been stalking a lot of other women travelers online that we hoped to learn from and emulate. A traveler that stood out was Brenna Holeman of This Battered Suitcase. We loved her frequent flyer lifestyle, colorful travel photography and down to earth personality. She's also one of the most traveled person I know. (She's visited nearly 70 countries and counting!) 

I am so excited to tell you that Brenna will be one of our regular contributors on the blog. We are on our way to building Sole Sisters as a community of like minded travelers. I asked her to introduce herself by answering these questions:

How long have you been traveling? 

In a sense, I've been travelling my whole life; my parents routinely took me on long journeys across North America and Europe growing up. I took my first solo trip over six years ago, and have been travelling and living abroad ever since.

Brenna Holeman in Pokhara, Nepal
Pokhara, Nepal
What are the best lessons you've learned from and your travels? 

There are far too many to count, but I would say the best lessons I've learned are these: Trust your intuition. Keep an open mind and an open heart (and once in a while, an open wallet). Never take a moment of life for granted. Try to learn something every single day; the opportunities to learn while travelling are endless. Never compare a place with another; appreciate each country, city, and culture for what it is. Take lots and lots (and lots) of photos. Always wear sunscreen. Never judge a fellow traveller by where they're from, where they've been, or how many kilograms their backpack weighs. Smile, even if it's raining and you're hungry and you have no idea how to get back to your hostel - smile, because you chose this life for yourself and, in the end, the good days far outweigh the bad.

What made you decide to travel instead of getting further education?

The original plan for my life was to finish my BAH, travel around Europe for a summer, then head straight into a Master's degree. The plan almost worked...until mid-way through my summer in Europe, I realized that travelling was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I absolutely do not regret deciding to travel and not immediately go back to school after my first degree; travelling has enriched my life in so many ways and I have been living my dream life for years now. I do intend to get a Master's degree (hopefully beginning next year), but for now, I'm totally content with all of the decisions I've made.

Brenna Holeman in Havana, Cuba
Havana, Cuba
Any advice on how women can stay safe while traveling? 

My advice for women on the road is the same advice I would give women at home, and the same advice I'd give men: stay smart, stay aware, and stay confident. Research where you are going ahead of time, and talk to other travellers for advice. Try not to go out at night on your own, but if you must, take a registered taxi. Hold your head high; people will be much less likely to mess with you if you appear to know what you're doing and where you're going.

Have you ever fallen in love while traveling? 

Absolutely, and I highly recommend it. Falling in love while travelling is pure bliss; the best, the craziest, and the most romantic memories I have with men almost all occurred while on the road.

Brenna Holeman in Osaka, Japan
Osaka, Japan
What's your favorite travel outfit? 

I always feel really great wearing local clothes and local jewellery; I try to scour markets for a pretty dress whenever I feel like my backpacker wardrobe could use a little oomph. I wore some of my favourite outfits last year in India...more about that on my next post on Sole Sisters soon!

How do you always manage to look great in photos even when traveling? 

Um, I avoid close-ups? Seriously, though, I dress fairly similarly when I'm on the road as I do at home; I love fashion and I love dressing up, so that's not going to change just because I'm travelling. I wear a ton of colour, which instantly makes me feel great, and I always put a bit of makeup on in the morning (usually some bronzer, eyeliner, and mascara). If it makes you feel better and you like the photos of yourself better, why not? Wear what you want to wear (as long as you're still dressing appropriately for the country you're visiting).

Brenna Holeman in Listvyanka, Russia
Listvyanka, Russia
What's your favorite travel moment? 

A truly impossible question to answer, although I'll narrow it down to a few: hearing the prayers from the surrounding mosques while I sat on a rooftop in Istanbul, swimming alongside huge schools of fish while diving in Honduras, riding on the back of a motorbike through Cambodia while children ran alongside to say hello, sitting on the ghats of Varanasi at night, walking into Red Square in Moscow for the first time, and, well, today, just wandering through Parque Central in Granada, Nicaragua, because, without sounding ridiculously trite, 

I feel as though I'm the luckiest person in the world and every moment I travel is my favourite. I'm living my dream.

Brenna Holeman in Grand Canyon, USA
Grand Canyon, USA
What's your holyshitI'mgonnadie moment? 

I don't know if I've actively had one of those moments, although I've definitely had them retroactively. After swimming with sharks in Indonesia (an unplanned event, they just showed up when I was diving), I thought, "Oh shit. Those were SHARKS. BIG ONES," but it didn't really occur to me at the time. I don't really get nervous in the moment; it's usually afterwards when I'm relaying a story to someone that I realise just how dangerous the situation was. By the way, did I ever tell you that story of the time my bus nearly rolled off a cliff in the Himalayas?

Brenna Holeman in Beijing, China
Beijing China
What are your secret glampacker expenditures? 

While this doesn't really apply on my current trip through Central and South America, last year I went CRAZY with the various spa treatments around Asia, especially massages. In Thailand I was averaging two massages a week; not only were they incredibly cheap, but they were some of the best massages I've ever had! I also spend far too much money on local jewellery.

Brenna Holeman in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Your favorite travel souvenir?

Though I've bought some absolutely beautiful souvenirs over the past six years (my Indian tapestries instantly spring to mind), my favourite travel souvenir has got to be my jewellery collection (a collection counts as one thing, right?). As I said above, I spend a lot of money on jewelry when I travel but I regularly wear all of the pieces, or display them on my wall when I'm not wearing them. I especially love the jewellery I bought in India, Nepal, Laos, and Morocco.

Brenna Holeman in Paris, France
Paris, France
Brenna Holeman has been on the road since April of 2006, travelling through all of the continents but Antarctica. She is currently based in Central America, with plans to write and to study Spanish. She is eternally single, unemployed, and homeless, but happy and loving her life. Follow her gypsy life via facebook and twitter.

Check out the previous Sole Sister Spotlight:

Glampacker Anna Zalazar
Surfista Elaine Abonal

Do you know of any female traveler who conquers the world one country at a time? Sole Sisters are fearless women travelers who find ways to travel within their means and have a lot of fun along the way! I would love to interview them for Sole Sister Spotlight. Please send me an email at solesisters (dot) weare(at)gmail(dot)com. I look forward to your suggestions!

Seeking other itchy soled sisters,
Sole Sister Lois

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11 sole trails

  1. ohh holy! I adore her free spirited attitude! I love it when she stated " appreciate each country, place culture" because some traveller tend to compare places.. but then again, to each its own.
    Why do I just knew about her today? :/ Shes epic!

  2. An inspiration indeed! Reading stories of itchy feet sisters like I am made me want to believe more in my dreams. Though I've just started travelling for less than a year with a 2-week or weekend monthly outdoor trip, it is my goal that someday I could really be on the road for a year or more straight.. Exploring the world like you guys do. Keep on rockin and inspiring gals! :)

  3. Glad you've been introduced to another awesome Sole Sister Shugah! And she will be writing on the blog more in the coming weeks. Can't wait to read her stuff too!

  4. Once you try long term travel, you're hooked for life. I don't always like my vagabonding/ travel addicted lifestyle because it can be uncomfortable and scary at times. But Brenna's right, the good days far outweigh the bad. Cheers to more traveling women!

  5. OMG I love Brenna! I'm so glad she's here now!

  6. Thanks for the enthusiasm Nicole! Crazy about working with her!

  7. a wonderful post on my wonderful friend brenna^^ we have traveled many a mile together, and we are still traveling now! i love her "shitimgonnadie" moment after swimming with the sharks.
    come visit my blog to see photos of us in nicaragua too!

  8. Really nice..been following Brenna as well as few months back! :-)

  9. very inspirational interview and needlessly to mention as it is apparent, she is a rare beauty and a fashionable lady. 

  10. brenna is awesome sauce!



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