I know, I know. It has BEEN A MINUTE since I hit y’all with some travel tales. Believe it or not, even though I took a hiatus from my blog, I’ve been writing more than ever. What, or rather WHO, motivated me to get my butt back into gear with posting is the boss BIPOC babe I’m featuring this week!
Brittany of BonVoyageBrittany reached out to me last month before I visited Germany to collaborate as a guest on her blog. (I actually have a list of people I want/need to reach out to and she was on it so it was the perfect exchange.) Though I’ve featured several awesome women here on Avagail Adventures, my post on Brittany’s blog was actually my first time guest posting. THANK YOU Brittany!
Following her journeys through Instagram, Brittany is #GOALS when it comes to outdoor fun and adventure. Not an outdoorsy person myself, she inspires even a non-hiker like me to wanna climb some mountains. *yeah, I know..* She’s down-to-earth, always has helpful tips about sustainable travel, and makes me laugh with her entertaining posts. Putting it out there Brittany – if our paths ever cross or come near each other, I totally wanna meet up in person!
With her stories today, she’s keepin’ it real & fun, imparting some great travel advice, and serving up all the travel inspo today, so get to reading!
I’m a full time digital nomad focused on helping others live a sustainable and ethical life while they travel. I’ve been to 29 states and 4 countries since starting my travel journey 5 years ago.
Fun fact about me: although most people don’t expect me to be able to use a chainsaw when they see me, I am a actually former disaster responder and federally certified wildland firefighter! It’s influenced a lot of my travel, and now most of my travel is focused on the outdoors and living adventurously.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve ever met on your travels?
So I am a slow traveler, and I often do seasonal work. That means that I move around every 6 months or so and occasionally work at short-term jobs. I have a hard time staying in one place.
About a year ago I decided I wanted to go to Utah. I heard it was gorgeous, so I got myself a job at a ski lodge, packed all my things into a few suitcases, and flew out. Keep in mind I had never skied before. I had never even seen a pair of skis, actually. I lived in a dorm in a room with no door on a mountain about 8,500 feet above sea level. It was great, actually.
My first week, I met this guy who was also working at the lodge. He was sitting at a table by himself folding up letters and hand signing them. He told me he was sending out 500 proposals for his hypnosis business. Intrigued, I sat down with him to help. I mean, who has their own hypnosis business, for one? He told me about how he grew up on a dairy farm, and how he moved to Maine to work at a summer camp high ropes course just to overcome his fear of heights, and how he once got stranded in Canada for days on end a van he had converted into a sleeper. We bonded over our love for hiking and he told me about how he dreamt of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
He ended up taking me skiing that week. I may or may not have cried on the ski chair lift because I’m terrified of heights because I’m smooth like that. Then I may or may not have had multiple small panic attacks thinking about getting back down the mountain. Have you ever thought “let’s fly down a mountain with boards strapped to my feet so I go faster!”? That’s what skiing is like for the first time.
This guy didn’t even bat an eye at me being so dramatic, and ended up talking me through my first ever ski run.
Well, long story short now I’m wildly in love with him and we’ve been traveling together ever since. Ladies and gents, if you dream about meeting your person on your next vacay, luckily, I’m here to tell you it’s possible.
What is one lesson you’ve learned while traveling?
Always have backup money and pay for stuff in advance! Oh boy.
My first ever trip abroad was to Iceland, which is a notoriously pricey place. I’m talking $22 burgers. The night before my plane was set to leave for a 3 week European Extravaganza my debit card broke. My first stop? Reykjavik.
I was meeting a friend in Germany who I could wire money to, but I had 4 days on my own. With only about $200 in cash to my name. In Iceland, that’s not much. Especially when you have a car rented and you’re planning on driving the Southern Ring Road. Budget Your Trip dot Com estimates you need a budget of $150 per day while on the island. Oops.
Luckily my hostel and car rental were paid for. I found some new friends at the hostel who wanted to split the cost of my rental so I recouped some money that way. But I was really still boppin’ along on a shoestring, so I had to make do.
I had the foresight to pack my carryon full of peanut butter packets I had at home. When I arrived I bought a couple of bagels and apples from the discount grocery store. I ate so much peanut butter those four days that I was radiating heat. There I was in November in Southern Iceland. Wearing a tank top and not wearing a coat. Because I was so hot from all the protein I thought I was going to frickin’ pass out. I would have sold my left leg for a real meal and not another Justins/apple combo. Seriously. If you’re ever cold folks eat nothing but protein, it’ll do the trick.
To this day, I can’t think of a better meal than the “splurge” meal I had sitting on the levee overlooking Faxaflói Bay – I bought myself some local bread and cheese and a beer with my last $40 and ate alone on the volcanic rocks they use as a water-stop, and watched the sunset. There were whales.
Worth it. Just in case though, make sure you have a backup plan, folks. Doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
What is the most entertaining story you have about getting lost?
So my boyfriend and I climb mountains because we’re crazy. Like, a lot of mountains. I’ve summited more than I can count, both with my boyfriend and on my own, just for background to this story.
At the start of quarantine we were taking a two week road trip. Long story short we were living in our truck because of COVID19, and we were moving around looking for outdoor spaces to stay while still being active.
Around the start of week two in the truck we decided to head to northwestern Arizona. Beautiful place. The Virgin River area was just stunning. So naturally, we decided to stay a night and go on a few hikes.
We had a hard time finding trails in the area, but we did find one that looked doable for us. So we set out hiking up this mountain one morning, but when we reached a false peak we just…lost the trail. It was this flat, treeless area full of sage brush and we could see the peak so we just decided, “Why not? Let’s head that way!”
Bad idea. Bad, bad idea. We made it to the peak. It was breathtaking! Although it was a bit of a scramble to the top. So, like literally and figuratively breathtaking.
At the top I decided that I didn’t want to go down the way we came, because it was too difficult to get up (going down is always worse, folks. Always). So we decided to go down this canyon, since it had to lead back to the valley. Keep in mind we were almost out of food and water at this point because it should be the end of our hike.
We get halfway down this canyon – about 1,500 feet and several miles down, actually – and discover we’d cliffed ourselves out. In laymen’s terms: there was a 50 foot sheer fall as the only way down. So we could either rappel down (ha, that’s a joke, that wasn’t an option), or we could go back up and around. To our left: a canyon wall straight up. To our right: a canyon wall straight up. To our front: a 50 foot drop. Behind us? A slow, 1,500 foot trudge up a mountain.
We started going back up and at this point I’m exhausted, out of water, everything hurts, and I’m actually thinking I AM GOING TO DIE HERE. I sat down on a boulder and just cried.
Luckily I mustered up the will to walk back up (thanks in part to my boyfriend, the hypnotist). We decided to just go down the way we came up, which wasn’t easy. My heart was in my throat the whole time, and several times I had to climb down backwards to keep my footing. But we made it back down safe and sound.
All told, according to my iPhone, we walked 12 miles that day. When I saw our shiny red truck (we call him “Babe”), I actually kissed it. I cried taking off my shoes.
Moral of the story? Stay on the damn trail folks, or bring your topography maps. Don’t get cocky, and always bring more water than you think you need.
What’s the best accommodation you’ve ever stayed at?
My time in The City of Light, for sure.
I didn’t stay at a 5-star hotel or anything. Actually, my friend and I slept on a futon in the living room of this strangers apartment in le quatrième arrondissement, the Hôtel-de-Ville, or the 4th District of Paris.
My friend found him on the Couchsurfing app, and when making plans said to me “Ok Britt, how adventurous do you want to be? This gay man said he’d host us for free.”
I thought “Why not?” It wasn’t our first time couch surfing together, actually, so away we went.
This man had a beautiful little apartment decorated in all of these travel tchotchkes from around the world. He left us coffee every morning, and his shower was decorated with some pretty provocative penis pictures. He was a blast to stay with, honestly. (Um, I’d totally stay with him too! -Ava)
That man’s generosity was probably the only reason I was able to afford a visit to Paris. That man is the reason I got to eat fresh figs under the Eiffel Tower, visit a Parisian creamery, and see Notre Dame before it burned. He cut my budget in half and in return he just wanted a bit of company, which we were glad to give. He had some great travel stories.
What’s something you’ve experienced about travel that is not so glamorous?
There’s actually a big dark side to the travel industry. Something like 11% of people globally are employed in the travel and tourism industry, but most of them aren’t making a living wage.
Some parts of travel actively destroy the planet, indenture people and whole cultures, and stifle local economies. Overtourism is a real and terrifying reality for a lot of places. Phuket, Thailand is a terrible example of overtourism. We see these pictures on Instagram or TikTok and we think there are these pristine, wild places. In reality, thousands of people flock to these popular places daily and trample them. Maya Bay, an Instafamous spot near the previously mentioned Phuket, had to close for months to tourists because of this exact problem. (In 2018, the same thing happened to Boracay in The Philippines. -Ava)
Sustainable travel needs to be the future (the only option) for the travel industry, but a lot of people are hesitant to get on it because they think it’s a buzzword. It’s not. If we want to continue to appreciate the world and her people we actually have to ensure they stick around for future generations to appreciate.
What one piece of advice would you offer to someone who’s never traveled?
Just go. Seriously. Whatever you’re waiting for that’s holding you back isn’t as insurmountable as you think. If you’re on a budget, there are ways to make traveling cheaper. If you’re not, what’s stopping you? Fear? Do it anyway, you won’t regret it. Hell, I once spent 6 months in a wheelchair and the first thing I did when I could walk? I traveled. As soon as I was cleared by my surgeon I hopped on a plane to a ski lodge and it was the best decision I ever made.
Get the authentic experience, take risks, and splurge on occasion.
Travel alone. Travel with your best friend. Travel with your frickin’ dog if you want.
I promise you, it is worth it. The memories you make are worth the money you lose. It’s worth convincing your boss you need a vacation.
It’s worth it.
Don’t forget to check out Brittany’s blog and follow her on social media!