Name: Nicola Brown
Home base: Toronto, Canada
No. of countries visited: 19
What I do when I’m not travelling (aka occupation): I write about travelling! I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Anew Traveller and I also run a communication consulting business called Think Forward Communication. I write for a number of different publications ranging from FIX.com to enRoute to the Toronto Star.
My next stop: I’ll be headed to Cornwall in the UK in June and I may be exploring Colombia later in the year. It’s just now opening up again to tourists after a turbulent history—I’d love to visit Cartagena, Bogotá and take part in a coffee harvest.
My wildest and craziest adventure was: Arriving in Greece without a plan and spending a month hopping islands. I spent one night rolled in a straw mat shivering in the sand on a surprisingly cold, remote beach mid-August on the island of Melos, because my travel buddy lost our ATV keys in the sea. We ended up staying with a Mexican friend we made on Naxos back in Athens who took us up to his rooftop with an unrivalled view of the city. He treated us to tales of drug-skirting escapades in Mexico, smattered with elements of magical realism. It was an unforgettable trip.
Weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten or drank: I usually enjoy everything I eat. It’s incredibly rare for me to find something I don’t like, so when I do I remember it. When I ordered offal in Greece I wasn’t phased by the knowledge that I would soon be putting organs and entrails into my mouth, but I was not prepared for how awful (awful-offal…coincidence?) it actually was. I’m still surprised that I could find something so repulsive, but I certainly won’t be ordering offal again any time soon.
I’ll never forget that time: I spent my last cent on a beer in Barcelona and had to sing the Canadian national anthem sitting on the street at 4 a.m. to earn enough money to get myself home again. One guy actually handed me a 5 euro note, either out of kindness or to get me to shut up, I will never know. I ended up with enough for a taxi ride home and even made a tiny profit!
Most memorable meal: After weeks of bread, tomatoes and water to save money backpacking through Italy I sat down to a Florentine steak just steps from the iconic Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. A Florentine steak is essentially just seared on the outside so the centre is still rare. It was the juiciest, most flavourful first bite of anything I’ve ever eaten. It floored me. It was so good I literally cried.
One thing on my bucket list is: Believe it or not I have yet to visit Southeast Asia. I’m really interested in the psychology of mindfulness so I’d love to explore it’s Buddhist roots in places like Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma. Not to mention my slight obsession with Thai and Southeast Asian cuisine. I could probably eat green curries and pad thais every day forever.
Three things I always pack: 1: Travel pack sized cleansing cloths to freshen up after long days where you won’t necessarily have access to a shower. 2: A book. A real paper and ink book. Long live books! 3: An open mind. Seriously! The reality is that travel can often be tiring and sometimes stressful, but we don’t often talk about that part. I really think arming yourself with an open mind and a positive attitude makes all the difference.
My travel advice: Go with a plan, but be flexible. Allow for moments of spontaneity and don’t be afraid to push yourself beyond your comfort level. Immerse yourself as fully as possible in the culture you’re visiting: eat local foods, buy local products and engage with the people you meet. If you have the opportunity to travel somewhere you are lucky. Be grateful, and make the most of it!