Brianna and I have known each other for a few years now! I always knew Brianna was adventurous, but I had no idea the depth of her shenanigans! It just goes to show that everyone has a story to tell! It’s a great reminder to take time and ask about it.
What city do you call home?
I grew up in Goderich, Ontario: Small town life on the lake. Now I live in the KW area since going to University in Waterloo.
What was a defining moment/situation that made you decide to travel?
I’ve been traveling since before I can remember. My parents started in campgrounds which I can confirm from photographs but not memory. They moved on to trailer parks for most of my childhood, then upgraded to fancy high rise timeshares in my teens to adulthood, when sharing a bunk bed with my brother no longer seemed like the coolest thing in the world. Any long weekend, every March break and what felt like all summer, my family was always on a road trip. We never flew or headed north; therefore, we were always road tripping around the states; a lot of my childhood memories take place in a car. We went all over, from frequent trips to Ohio to ride the roller coasters at Cedar Point all the way down to Arizona, an excruciating four-day car ride to arrive in the sweltering heat just to spend a day looking at what I described in my unappreciative preteens as a boring hole in the ground that looks the same no matter how much we walk around it (aka the grand canyon.)
The first time I made a conscious decision to travel on my own, not just being told by my parents that my bags were packed and to get in the car, was in Grade 11 French class when we were offered the opportunity to participate in an exchange to France. It seemed like a crazy idea at the time, but I said, why not? It was too good a chance to pass up on and I didn’t want to miss out, so I said yes and made it happen. And making traveling decisions has been as simple as that ever since! You just have to say yes and make it happen. That year I went to France, Washington, Hawaii, New York City twice and on a Caribbean cruise. (lucky much?) I felt like the queen of travel and I was ambitious to keep travel a constant for the rest of my life.
Where have you been/lived?
Okay, brace yourself. This is a pretty thorough and exhaustive list so take a washroom break now if you need to. Here goes:
Like I said, I’ve road tripped all over the states. I’ve been in every state down the east coast on the way to Florida a million times. I’ve made it east to Boston, Washing DC and Atlantic City. We made the four day drive down to Arizona, stopped for a night in New Mexico where all the cars at the motel had flat tires and my mom told us not to sit on the carpet in the room, then we ventured back up through Utah. We stayed in trailers in the mountains in Colorado, fancy hotels in Vegas with a day trip to the California coast, tubing down the river in Georgia, getting history lessons in New Orleans and appreciating Elvis in Memphis.
Like I mentioned, my first time leaving the continent was to France where I stayed with a host family just outside of Paris and went on day trips with my class for two weeks, stopping in in Lucern, Switzerland before heading home. Lucern was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been still to this day.
I went to Hawaii in the same year with my cousin Erica and crashed on her brothers couch in his cramped hotel room. We sauntered over to the beach every day, hiked through the jungle, climbed a volcano and spent every night watching the buskers on the street.
On the Caribbean cruise we lived the life of luxury on the boat while travelling to the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Honduras and Belize for cave tubing, snorkelling and a Wedding. (Shelley and Peter’s wedding, my best friend Brooke’s mom and stepdad.)
Right after finishing high school I went out to Trois Pistoles, Quebec for a month to study French. I lived in a host house with 9 other students. It was a crash course University dorm: meeting new roommates, waiting for your turn to use the bathroom and making fast friends while getting up to no good. (I went back again a few years later and met a whole new gaggle of trouble makers.)
In the summer after my first year of university, I signed up with Global Youth Network and spent a month in Burkina Faso (a Western African country just in case you’ve never heard of it.) It was an incredible bonding experience for the group of 10 Laurier students that I travelled with as we mandated ourselves to take turns sharing our life stories and travellers diarrhea experiences. We were introduced to a whole new world where we learned first hand about a cultural struggle for clean water, medical care and education. A trip like this is always a bitter sweet experience: I go home with life changing memories, leaving gracious hosts with nothing but a thank you.
My next big trip was to Europe with Brooke to visit our friend Ali. We flew into Amsterdam where Ali was on exchange. We immediately took a bus to Berlin and I fell in love with the artsy vibe and was blown away by the history lesson. Next stop was Prague where we met back up with Ali. We all ventured back to Amsterdam for a raucous and orange Queen’s Day (think Canada day in Ottawa, but orange and drinking in public is legal.) After recovering from that, Brooke and I made a quick stop in Belgium to have some mussels in Brussels before we headed to Budapest where we met up with two of our friends from Laurier who were also finishing up their semester abroad. Budapest was cheap, a party city and had lots of cultural activities, including another devastating history lesson at the Museum of Torture.
After finishing my undergrad, I was invited to join the Wagner clan to relax poolside in Cuba. Couldn’t think of anyone better than my boyfriend and his family to sip Piña Coladas with!
Next, I headed to Montañita, Ecuador for Spanish classes, surf lessons, whale watching and way more European culture than I expected, but of course all the other students staying in the cabañas were from Western Europe and Scandinavia.
My last big hurrah was a biggie. After teacher’s college, for the final part of the program, I seized another exchange opportunity and headed back to France where I stayed with my gracious host family for a month while helping out in an elementary school, helping the 10 year olds put on their class play, too cute. From there, I scooted over to Valencia, Spain to meet up with all of my best buds to drink Tetra packs of Sangria in the ocean. Next stop was London, where Brooke and Ali were calling home. I’m still in disbelief that 7 of my best friends were able to orchestrate this incredible Euro-trip together. I still feel so lucky that we pulled that off! Then, I said good-bye to my friends and headed off on the last leg of the journey by myself to Croatia. I can’t say how much my expectations were blown out of the water! I toured the filming sites of Game of Thrones, day tripped to Montenegro and Bosnia and met more incredible people from all over the world.
Oh and one more. I got to travel with my band of buds again to visit two of the gang in their home away from home in Newfoundland, a chilly and fun filled adventure.
My travels have been in hiatus since buying a house with my boyfriend last year, but the itch is resurfacing so it’s almost time to put renos on the back burner and get back out in the world.
Can you share a memorable travel story?
Every moment! You just had to be there (or be here to see my hand gestures and hear my exaggerated voice while I enthusiastically retell it like you were there.)
Share a story when something did not work out as planned while traveling.
My flight from London to Dubrovnik, Croatia comes to mind. I don’t have the best track record while flying, specifically in the tossing my cookies department. I would like to blame it completely on motion sickness, but I’ll admit that my condition has on occasion been augmented by a little too much fun the night before. And at least once I legitimately had food poisoning!
Back to my flight to Croatia. This is one of the occasions where motion sickness was legitimately the sole culprit, and I assure you that the motion was sickening. I’ve never experienced worse turbulence. The situation was tense after the plane dropped for a moment and everyone shared a collective gasp. I may have been overreacting, but I was convinced that this was going to be it for me. The only thing that I could think was what my dad would say to me, ‘I told you so. I told you travelling on your own was dangerous. You didn’t even make it to Croatia.’ So, maybe that’s not what he would say to me, but I’m sure that somewhere deep down he’d be thinking it.
Spoilers: I didn’t die, but the pilot came on the speakers announcing that we would not be able to land in Dubrovnik as planned. We landed in a completely different city up the coast! Confused but relieved to be on land, a group of disoriented travellers meandered around a foreign airport trying to get some idea of how we were finally going to arrive at our intended destination. It all worked out eventually as everyone was transplanted on a bus, thankful not to be getting back on a plane. It was a full day’s ride to Dubrovnik, but it seemed to be fortuitous for my tired body since I slept the entire way. I opened my eyes for long enough to see us pass the intended destination of Dubrovnik as the bus continued past the city to the airport just out of town where I had to purchase a bus ticket to get back to the city core, the trek continues.
So a whole day was lost, but some rest was found. Luckily that leg of my journey was set up to be fast and loose as I had only booked 2 nights of my week stay in Croatia, not sure which city I would want to hang out in. I booked a few more nights at the hostel in Dubrovnik to make up for lost time and went on to enjoy every last second of my time there!
What has traveling taught you about the world or your life/ or changed your perspective on something?
People all over the world are worth meeting! When you travel, you meet like-minded people from all over the world. Whether I was travelling with my family as a kid, with a couple of friends in Europe, or by myself, I’ve never failed to meet people and become fast friends. Whether it’s a friendly chat in the hot tub or an impromptu day trip with a stranger, that’s what travelling is all about! Getting new perspectives and laughing with new friends who aren’t so different than you after all.
What advice do you have to encourage people who want to travel?
Say yes and make it happen.
You won’t regret it. Check out the ‘g adventures’ website. The trips are expensive, but I check it out to dream and then book cheaper trips based on their awesome itineraries. Also, do your research. The Government of Canada website is a great resource for knowing what countries are safe to travel to, tips on how to be safe while you’re there and what documents and shots you need to get in.
Oh, and always climb stuff: buildings, church towers, mountains, stairs. You might be sweaty, but the view will be worth it!