When I first started blogging five years ago, I ran a series called If I had a Superpower where I interviewed people I met on my travels, asking a revealing set of questions that always included, ‘If you had a superpower, what would it be?’. Interviewees ranged from people I met in Rio’s favelas to Tony Wheeler, the founder of the Lonely Planet. Time meant that I stopped doing the interviews so often, but I loved it and I miss it, so I’ve decided to revive it. You can have a look at some of the archives here, including a round-up of some of my favourite interview answers. But for the first in the revived series, I’ve interviewed Brenna Holeman of This Battered Suitcase, who started as one of my favourite bloggers and then became a friend. I’m a big fan of her writing, especially her personal stories, such as the brilliant ‘The last time I saw you‘ series. I included Brenna in my list of the best female bloggers who write well and my favourite Instagrammers. She has a particularly great skill for bringing a lot of personality into her writing, which you’ll be able to tell from the interview. Enjoy!
If you could have a superpower what would it be?
Does being able to sleep on airplanes count? I guess it would be cool to fly or be invisible, but I’d also like the ability to speak any language and/or play any instrument. So maybe my superpower is that I’m just really, really, really smart? Is that a thing?
All I know is you couldn’t pay me money to be able to read people’s minds. How horrifying.
If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Dorothy Parker, Katharine Hepburn, and Eartha Kitt. Throw in some Manhattans and we’ve got a party.
When and where were you happiest?
I always think about this one moment in my life that just epitomises my happiest self. I was travelling around Southeast Asia without a care in the world; I wore piles of jewellery, my hair nearly touched my waist, and I had just fallen in love with someone. Him and I spent a week riding around Cambodia on motorbikes, getting lost and drinking cheap whiskey and taking silly photos. This one evening, after spending the day exploring and eating delicious food, we rode down a quiet dirt road. We were soon joined by a few monks on motorbikes, and we all rode slowly together, enjoying the incredible sunset as we smiled and pointed at the pink sky. That memory always makes me smile.
What’s the love of your life?
The loves of my life are my mother Linda, my father Jon, my sister Zalie, and my brother Kitt.
Describe your perfect day.
I’m definitely on a tropical island or beach, I can tell you that!
I wake up in a big bed with white sheets; my room opens up right onto the beach, and it’s a sunny day. I’m with the people I love most – my family – and we have a huge breakfast on the porch complete with strong coffee. We spend the day swimming, scuba diving, reading, napping in the shade, riding bikes, drinking from coconuts, going to a craft market, and walking in the sand, then hit up a little local seafood place for an amazing dinner. We end the day with a lot of cocktails and a dance party on the beach, and then fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves.
Oh, and if there can be a really hot dude somewhere in there, that’d be nice, too.
What’s your earliest memory?
I have a lot of fleeting memories from when I was a kid, but perhaps my most vivid early memories are: my parents telling me I was going to have a baby brother or sister, my mum’s water breaking as I was eating popcorn, and going to the hospital to meet my baby brother (I was five). I distinctly remember being angry for having to wear my sister’s hand-me-down snowsuit to the hospital because my mum hadn’t fixed the zipper on my new snowsuit, because, you know, she was having a baby. The nerve!!
What’s your greatest fear?
I actually don’t want to type it here for fear it comes true. Also, there’s a super creepy attic in my house that I assume I’ll soon hear a ghost child crying from. Or laughing. Either way… NOPE.
What’s your worst habit?
I am highly ambitious but incredibly lazy. I procrastinate with just about everything (except binge-watching shows on Netflix, I can strangely always find time for that) and can always find an excuse why I shouldn’t do my work and watch a movie/go for a walk/read a book/call a friend/drink some wine instead.
What trait do you most like in yourself and others?
I like my confidence and my independence. I appreciate the same in others, though I’d also add a crude sense of humour. I can’t be good friends with you unless you’re a bit crude.
What trait do you most dislike in yourself and others?
In myself, I’d say I don’t like how lazy I am. In others, I can’t stand flakiness. In relationships, I loathe when people leave you hanging on the blue ticks. Like, are we hanging out this Friday or not?! It doesn’t take two days to answer, MATTHEW.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Be present. Be here, right now.
Where’s your favourite place you’ve travelled?
This is even harder than the superhero question! I’m a huge fan of Italy – I try to go a few times a year – and I’d also have to mention Colombia, Japan, Kenya, Thailand, Bhutan, Rwanda, Canada… OK, I’m going to stop right there because now we’re getting into bragging territory. Basically, there are a whole lot of places I love for a whole lot of different reasons, but Italy tops the list because a) pasta b) wine c) beautiful villages d) a beautiful language and e) really beautiful men.
What’s your greatest achievement?
That I’m living my best life. I wrote a list of things I wanted to do in my life when I was a kid and I’ve actually done them. That feels pretty good.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I’d like to be remembered for being a loving person, for making people laugh, and for being a good writer. I’d say “great writer”, but c’mon, let’s get real.
What’s the closest you’ve come to death?
Off the top of my head, I can think of a few close calls: nearly drowning in Sri Lanka, getting into a bus accident in Nepal, and, OH YEAH, crashing my bicycle on Death Road in Bolivia.
If you could travel in time where would you go?
Considering it sucks to be a woman in pretty much any single era in history, even if you’re royalty, I don’t think I’d really like to travel back in time unless as I could travel as a really wealthy man. I’d love to be able to see how beautiful our planet used to be, long before industrialisation and overpopulation took over. I’d love to see the Serengeti before poaching, or the Brazilian rainforests before deforestation.
I have no desire to see the future because technology already scares me enough as it is, and I’m worried there won’t be a planet left to see.
What’s your biggest regret?
I have a lot of little regrets (see: my entire wardrobe from 1995 to 2008) but so far no major regrets, thankfully. Off the top of my head, I can really only think of one, which is that someone I loved didn’t love me back, but obviously that should be HIS regret… ahem.
What do you have for breakfast?
My routine is usually to have a coffee in the morning while I check social media and emails, and then make a big brunch around 11am. I go all out as it’s usually my only meal until dinner, so I’ll eat grilled salmon, scrambled eggs, half an avocado, some tomatoes, and steamed mushrooms and spinach.
Have you ever seen something you can’t explain?
I have seen both the movies Piranha 3D as well as Sharknado THREE TIMES EACH, so yes. More puzzling to me is why I’ve watched these movies in the first place… THREE TIMES.
On a more serious note, I had an experience in the Ugandan jungle with about 60 chimpanzees that I will never, ever be able to explain accurately, as it was one of the most exciting, adrenaline-filled moments of my life. Basically, I was standing there when all of these chimps started running on the ground around me, swinging through the trees, hooting and hollering to one another… everywhere you looked, there was a chimpanzee. I was with three other tourists and a ranger and we all just stood there in shock and awe. I still get goosebumps thinking about it today.
I’m not sure if this question is meant more in a supernatural way, but as I’ve never seen anything I’d classify as supernatural, my inability to articulate an experience about chimpanzees it is.
All photos on this page are from This Battered Suitcase. And I’d like to say a huge thank you to Brenna for taking the time to do this interview and helping me through my maternity leave!