What I Learned in 2016

Fuck 2016 (but also, let’s learn from it)

If the multiple memes floating around the internet are any indication, it means that most of the world is ready to say GTFO to 2016 and never look back.

I have chuckled at a lot of these memes or gifs or what have you (like at this one). It’s also human nature to want to move on.

But I think for me it could do a lot more good to look back on the year and see what I have learned or can learn from the last trip around the sun and take that into 2017.

And so I give you, what I learned (or perhaps re-learned in a new way) in 2016.

bagan myanmar

I started 2016 on a Ngapali Beach in Myanmar, far, far away from my “real” world and with the new intention of not spending another New Years at home in Vancouver. It’s a pleasant and exciting surprise that I’m now about to board a plane to go to Mexico, and continue this new tradition.

That’s the first thing I re-learned in 2016: Setting an intention is the most powerful thing someone can do. It is actual magic. I constantly surprise myself by sticking to things simply because I’ve written them down or spoken them out loud. It’s all about what I make a priority and why.

bagan myanmar photographer

As soon as I got home from Myanmar I went through a powerful bought of depression. Not exactly what I had in mind. I tried to push through, but ultimately there was something inside me that knew something wasn’t right.

In March of 2016, I quit my full time job. I didn’t have a plan but I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. My logical mind said, “You have a well paid job, you get to work from home and you can still do other projects on the side.”

My emotional mind said, “If you don’t quit now, everything you want in life will always be ‘on the side’ and you will continue to live in this state of never quite feeling right. Now is the time. You don’t need a plan. Just take action.”

So, I listened to my emotional side (a side we all have but often underutilize), which I believe is our true self and the one most aligned with happiness and true purpose.

Finding Peace in Narsaq

That’s the second thing I re-learned in 2016: Eventually, the heart wins. The more I realized this was inevitable for me, the easier it got to accept it and the less I had to suffer through the agony of over-thinking things.

When I told people I had quit my job (somewhat abruptly) they had one of two reactions; they would either ask, “So, what are you going to do?” or they would say, “Oh my God, I WISH I could do that.”

Most people I told had both of these reactions. And then when I told them I was just going to pursue my personal projects (that in reality, are my chosen career but they just don’t pay very well) they said, “Wow. Good for you. That’s amazing.”

Ziplining in Monteverde costa rica

This is the next thing I learned: Almost everyone is afraid. What are they afraid of? Apart from everything, of course: change. Myself included.

Fear drives a lot of action in this world (see: Trump). Most people are letting fear drive, or they’re kicking fear out of the car door. But fear has now become my most powerful tool, so instead of kicking it out, I let it sit in the passenger seat.

Every time fear tells me something is too crazy, too risky, too unknown, too outside of my comfort zone, it’s usually a no brainer: gotta do it. This is where I’ve seen the biggest reward in my life.

All those people who said they wish they could do what I do, well guess what? They could. And they still can. People wish for freedom but I’m not sure they really want it. Because freedom is just as scary as confinement.

tofino airplane crash hike british columbia canada

The two weeks after I left my job were in some ways worse than before I had left. I was still depressed and scared, but now it was because I didn’t know how I would pay rent or where I should be putting my focus.

My birthday came at the end of April, and it was a hard one for me. I turned 29, which took me by surprise. Not the turning 29 part (I knew how old I was) but how hard it was. I thought 30 was the tough one, but I guess the realization that my 20’s were almost over was quite a jab.

With this birthday, came Macca Sherifi! He flew in on my birthday and the next day, Brian, Macca and I took off for Portland, then spent some time in Vancouver and finally headed over to Vancouver Island to see Tofino (my favourite place in the world!) and to visit my family.

Pacific Coast Dreamin' in Tofino

That’s when I re-learned the power of people.

Showing Macca Tofino, I realized how special it was to me and how a breath of air there was like 100 anywhere else. Being with my family instantly made everything ok. None of the money worries or “what am I doing with my life” questions came into play.

Around this unknown time, I did have one big thing to look forward to: Greenland in June. The ABAAB team was finalizing plans with Visit Greenland and we were all incredibly excited.

greenland nuuk hiking

Greenland was a big one for us and we all instantly fell in love. You can watch the videos, but there’s an energy there that re-invigorated me and this, more than the natural beauty, made it life changing.

Ironically, as the three of us had the time of our lives in Copenhagen and Greenland, we were also struggling over what was missing from our blog and YouTube channel.

copenhagen louisiana museum of modern art

After a couple of years of doing A Brit and a Broad as a side project, there was suddenly a lot of pressure to be successful and fast. Macca had also left his job at the beginning of the year to travel in South America and didn’t plan on going back.

We saw so much promise in what we were doing, and yet weren’t seeing the results we wanted. We wanted to stay true to ourselves, and yet the people we saw who were wildly popular on YouTube were teenagers with GoPros.

It forced me to ask myself, “How do I define success?” and to be honest, I haven’t quite figured this one out yet.

greenland boating

So, this is the next lesson I hope to learn and here’s what I have learned for now: Success looks different for everyone, even though society will tell you different.

Success may mean lots of money, or no money, or making a change in the world or having more time to spend with your family. Or something entirely different.

That was all happening in June, and all of a sudden, the summer was gone and I still didn’t have a “real job”. I’m not even sure how I was getting by, but I was still alive and fed and sheltered, even if it meant not buying the fancy water at Whole Foods.

greenland nuuk hiking

This is the next thing I learned: everything is fine. Even when it’s not.

I could spend hours, days worrying about money, about what would come of the blog or if I was drinking enough (tap) water, but ultimately, worrying doesn’t change anything.

Whenever I heard the little voice in my head say, “You don’t have a real income – you should be worried.” I would take a moment to notice it and then I would release it, knowing that the worry would always be there, but once you’re on the path of purpose, the rest will take care of itself.

I was getting by, month by month. I didn’t have a lot of money, but things would happen just as I needed them to. Little jobs, or projects, and little by little it became the fall and I was still standing.

london uk camden street art

For the third Halloween in a row, I wasn’t at home. This time, I was on a plane to London, where I would be attending World Travel Market with Macca and mapping out a rough plan for 2017.

It was great to finally spend some time in and just outside of London, to see a glimpse into Macca’s life. It’s something I’ve never done before, yet Macca’s been to Vancouver a few times before to film with Brian and me.

It was also very strange to be plopped down in the middle of what felt like a different world. Here I was, attending one of the biggest tourism events in the world, representing a travel blog and feeling like a complete outsider.

Don’t get me wrong: every single person I met was lovely and interesting, with beautiful stories to tell, but it really made me see how different my life is.

The Great Hall, Harry Potter Studios

That’s when I learned one of my biggest lessons of the year: I’m not really a travel blogger and honestly, I never have been. I am a writer who blogs about travel sometimes. I’m also an actor who hosts a travel series sometimes.

I love where I live and I love what I do, but my life style is not the typical travel blogger one. I need to have a home, a place to rest my head after a week, a month, or a year of travel. I have a lot of creative goals, and some of them have nothing to do with travel.

Travel is a vehicle for me to get connected to the earth, to my own heart and to practice the art of patience; something that will constantly evolve.

Higher Power in San Cristóbal

And so now I look back to a very old post to find this is something I’m certainly re-learning again: “[It is], and I’m sure will continue to be, a combination of many things in my life that make it work.”

This is my perspective. It’s important to understand that. People will always view the world from their own perspective so they might not understand why I choose to do things the way I do. And they don’t need to. The same goes for every single human being.

All the struggle, growth and uncertainty of this year has been essential. I’ll be turning 30 in 2017. As well when I do, it will mark one year of not having a proper job and working only on projects of my choosing. I can hardly believe it and yet, it makes total sense.

Visiting Little Igaliku and Tiny Nunataaq

I’m not sure how this year has come and gone but I feel extremely grateful that it did. I’m not shutting the door and saying “peace out” to 2016. I’m looking back over one shoulder for now, to say thanks.

I said something similar in that old post, “Travel was always the way; I just took a different route.”

It all boils down to one big re-lesson that I’m leaving 2016 with: the timing will never seem right but it is in fact, perfect.

So here’s to not knowing where we’re going, but going there anyway.

And I’ll leave you with this.

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  • Therie

    Thanks for sharing this Brianna! Every single one of your reflections is lovely and very inspiring, but the last one resonated me with me the most – the timing will never seem right but it is in fact, perfect.

    http://www.davestravelcorner.com

  • Loved this post! I find myself in the same position as you were in last year… continuing on my current “career path” doesn’t make sense on any kind of internal level. Changing it up. Redefining what success means to me. (apparently it means being poor for a while haha) Gulp! Hope 2017 is a great one for you 🙂

    • Thank you, Mariko! I think it’s the most important thing you can do for yourself, and really, in this life! I just keep telling myself money comes and goes and things are really aligning. Slowly. But it’s happening 😉 2017 will be amazing – go get it, lady!! <3

      • Thanks for that <3 That's the key, isn't it? having the patience to wait for things to align.. I guess that way you and the universe know it's right. 🙂

  • Brianna, I could not have put it better myself! The meme (gif) that you linked to summarises the year for many, but it is that, that will help us blossom and enjoy 2017.

    Change is certainly the one thing many are afraid of but 2017 is the year is breaking out of that comfort zone and experiencing a new you.

    Cannot wait to see what 2017 has install for you guys.

    Hope you had a great Christmas.

    • Thanks so much for this! I’m happy to hear you agree 🙂

      2017 is looking good so far. Happy New Year to you!