Today I feature not only a travel blogger but someone with a very unique, inspiring story of battling against personal demons; oh and dressing up as an alarm clock too! Please meet Bryony Holland.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
I am a full-time, long-term backpacker. I left my job running an adventure travel company in Brighton a year ago in order to go nomad once and for all. I’m coming up to my first travelversary – and I’ll be celebrating in Vietnam! I haven’t looked back once.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
I’m incredibly lucky. During my professional life, I picked up a handful of skills that travel really well. I used to be a digital marketing manager for the travel industry and now I freelance on the road. The majority of my work is copywriting, but I also create infographics, manage Adwords accounts and build the odd website from scratch.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
When I was five, we moved to Florida for a year. Instead of flying, we sailed from Southampton to New York and I remember waving goodbye to my Gran from the railings of the ship. I also remember playing Bingo with a 90-year-old lady called Bunny and dressing up as an alarm clock – obviously.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Morocco. I was regaled with 101 horror stories about getting hassled, getting sick and getting swindled just before I left for Morocco. However, for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I loved everything about the country. The landscape is incredible, the food is ridiculously tasty and the people were some of the warmest, friendliest locals I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. It was a wonderful trip.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
I had a very dodgy moment on an Indian train when one of the train attendants tried to force himself upon me. I ended up beating him with my flip-flops to send him on his way!
Do you have any funny travel stories?
Crikey. So many. I got my hand stuck in an ATM in the US and a shop assistant called Beyonce had to lather it with Vaseline to get it free. I fell off a bar that I was dancing on and dented the speaker system with my head. I hurtled down a water slide in Italy and when I stood up at the end, my bikini bottoms had completely disappeared. Too many cringes to mention.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
A bus stop just outside Gokarna in Karnataka, India. I was turfed off the bus from Hampi at 3am, all alone, and told to wait for another one. There was nobody around except one pacing man and a pack of growling dogs. The next bus didn’t turn up for an hour, by which time I was a nervous wreck. It was my all-time travelling low.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Tough one. Probably the Nepalese Himalayas. I really believe I was at my happiest when I was trekking in Nepal. The guides called me the ‘Always Smiling English Girl’. And I was.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
What’s NOT on it? That’s the problem. And it won’t stop growing! I would like to be fluent in another language, to write a book, to become a mental health ambassador, to see the Great Migration in Kenya or Tanzania, to live on a fjord for a summer, to walk the entire Camino de Santiago and trek the Great Wall. Most of all, I would like to find my happy place, somewhere that I can eventually settle in simplicity and peace. Not quite yet though…
Can you imagine life without travel?
Amazingly, no. Twelve years ago, my anxiety was so severe that I couldn’t leave my house. Back then, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to travel anywhere at all. Now, the very opposite is true.
Today, I live my life on the road. For me, it’s a proper miracle and I’m grateful everyday.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
I would probably still be living in Brighton, which I’m 100% convinced is the best place to live in the UK. I would either be working back in the adventure travel industry or in the mental health sector. And I would probably be looking for ways to run away and join the circus!
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
Find A Happy Place: http://www.findahappyplace.co.uk
When did you begin your website?
I began my website in May 2014, at the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. This year, the theme was anxiety. I desperately want to inspire open conversation about mental health and bring hope to anxiety sufferers out there, so the timing was perfect.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I write to prove that recovery from anxiety is possible. Not easy – hell no – but possible. I hope to inspire people battling against their own anxieties by writing honestly about my own personal journey. I also hope to raise awareness about mental health issues and stamp out the stigma attached to these invisible illnesses.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
I’m not very good at blowing my own tiny trumpet, but I guess I would say that I’m different because I still struggle daily with my anxiety as I travel. My adventures are still punctuated with panic attacks and I write openly about each one. Despite that, I choose to maintain a positive mindset and send an uplifting message. People should read it to realise that you can fight your demons and follow your dreams at the very same time. Look at me, I’m living proof!
Do you have any products or services to offer?
I’m a digital marketing and copywriting freelancer, so I can do a whole menu of handy things from the road. I can build websites, put together infographics and write pretty much anything that people need. Most of my work is commissioned by small travel companies that can’t afford a content creator on a full-time basis. Sometimes I work in exchange for accommodation instead of money, which is great because it feels mutually beneficial.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
My personal posts about anxiety and its attendant demons always get a big response, especially the ones about the ticking of my biological clock and my relationship with anxiety and alcohol. My most popular post is my story – the tale of my turnaround from totally housebound to full-time traveller. It’s been a long, twisty journey… and one that’s still going today.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
I’ve been commissioned to write some brilliant posts recently, from the top rooftop bars in Asia to the best places to bungee jump across the world. A few months ago, I put together an infographic about my first six months as a digital nomad, which I enjoyed in a hugely geeky kind of way. I also wrote a post called ‘Six reasons why India is good for the soul’, which bagged me Wanderlust Magazine blog of the week.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
I love boats. Both of my parents worked on cruise ships, so I think I’ve inherited strong sea legs. I can’t get enough of being out on the water.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
There’s no right way to travel. Do whatever makes you happy – whether that’s staying in a luxury hotel or a hostel dorm. Open up to people. If you open up to them, they’ll open up right back.
Oh, and try not to wear sunglasses when you meet people. Firstly, they hide your beautiful eyes and secondly, they place a huge barrier between you and the person you’re trying to meet!
What has travel taught you?
That 99.99999% of people across the entire planet have kind hearts and good intentions.
What are your top packing tips?
I travel light. Whether I’m off for a 6 days or 6 months, I travel with hand-luggage only. It’s so liberating and it makes life so much easier. For toiletries, I wait until I’m through to the departures lounge and then stock up on anything that’s tricky to get overseas before I board. I never pack a travel towel – it’s like trying to dry myself with cling film.
How do you manage your anxiety?
Before I became nomadic, I went through a bout of counselling about my anxiety and started to study mindfulness. These have both really helped. I take medication every day and I’m a true believer in a mixture of medication and mindful therapy. I think I will always experience panic attacks, but they’ve reduced from an hourly to a monthly rate. That’s good enough for me right now. More than anything, I try to be kind of myself.
What do you do when you have a panic attack on the road?
Firstly, and probably most importantly, I tell people that I’m having a panic attack. Attaching any shame to the panic makes the whole thing worse, so I try to get that out of the way quickly. I allow it come, and then allow it go. I try not to dwell on it, because that can make it bigger. For the next few days or hours, I do exactly what I feel like doing. I give myself a break and a treat while I regain some equilibrium.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Qatar
Favourite country? Nepal
Favourite city? Brighton, UK
Favourite beach? Long Beach, Ko Lanta, Thailand.
Favourite food? Raisins. Or, to push the boat out, chocolate covered raisins.
Favourite language? Italian. Sigh. So romantic.
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://www.findahappyplace.co.uk
Twitter handle? @WanderWorryWork
Facebook page? http://www.facebook.com/findahappyplaceuk
Google+ profile/page? google.com/+FindahappyplaceCoUk