World travelers, overlanding nomads, husband and wife, photographer and writer, citizens of the world… This is us: Bruno and Brittany.
How We Met
Bruno had been in Vilanculos, Mozambique for quite some time now. It had turned cold and grey, and he felt it was time to go. So that fateful morning, he packed up his Toyota and did a few last-minute repairs before hitting the road.
And suddenly – as though destiny was rooting for us – the weather changed. The wind dropped and the sun peaked out from behind the clouds.
“Hmm… Maybe I’ll stay one more day,” Bruno thought. He was in no rush, you see.
Little did he know that his future bride was driving toward Vilanculos that very day, and would arrive before nightfall.
Bruno and Brittany met in a tiny campsite on the beach, he with his petit-prince-painted Toyota, she with a borrowed tent and truck. There was an electric flash – there is simply no other way to explain it. Within 24 hours, Brittany had changed her plans (a Master’s Degree and internship? Psssh, who needs that?) and opted to join Bruno on the road instead. For how long, neither of them knew, but they knew they wanted to try.
Three years later, they’re still on the road together, and they plan to be nomadic for the foreseeable future. After formalizing their love for one another in Kampala, Uganda, they are ready for an extended – or shall we say, very, veryextended – honeymoon trip around the world!
To read a longer version of our love story, click here.
About the Writer – Brittany
Years on the Road: over a decade (check the blog archives)
Favorite Country: Nepal
Favorite Cuisine: Asian, generally (Indian, Nepali, Thai, Japanese)
Travl Style: Before Bruno, expatriate-style; Now, full-time tourist
Countries on the Wish List: Mali, Iceland, Japan, Argentina, New Zealand
Experiences on the Bucket List: Swim with dolphins, learn to sail, kayak down the Colorado River, hang-glide, see the Northern lights, learn Spanish, do a long-distance cycling trip… the list goes on… and on…
When I was growing up, most of our family vacations consisted of trips to our hometown in East Coast New Brunswick or to my aunt’s condo in Florida. Relaxation was the name of the name – not exploring the world.
Once, we spent a week at a resort in Mexico. Most of the holiday was spent swimming in the ocean and eating mediocre buffet food. One afternoon, though, our family ventured out of the resort, to visit a nearby Mexican village. Now I know that what we walked through the afternoon was not the “real Mexico” – it was a tourist village with wall-to-wall shops, chock-full with kitsch tourist mementos of every color. But my 15-year old self was mesmerized with the sound of Spanish everywhere, the sombreros and multicolored blankets for sale, the dirt roads and ram-shackled shacks, the salespeople sharing plates of meat and beans. It was by far my best day of the trip, and I was confused by that. We had come here for the beach, not Mexico.
Skip forward five years. Mexico is – so I think – out of my mind. Until one afternoon, when a college friend of mine, who has just returned from studying abroad in Senegal, describes the Dakar market. Suddenly, I’m in sunny Mexico again, walking past the shacks and speaking Spanish with the locals, donning my own wide-brim sombrero.
And the idea dawns on me: I think I’ll study abroad, too. In Senegal. I mean, they speak French there, so why not?”
When I call my mom to announce this spur-of-the-moment decision, she groans. “Why don’t you study in Paris, instead? It’s beautiful there. And, it’s so much less dangerous.” What she means is that it’s less unknown, and therefore less scary for her. What she doesn’t understand is that that is the exact thing that makes me want to go to Senegal instead of Paris.
My mom knows she’s lost the battle even before she opens her mouth.
So, a few months later, I disembark off a plane reeking of body odor into a small, run-down airport. I see a sea of black faces and hear funny French, and an even funnier strange language, all around me. I am immediately enchanted by the sheer otherness of the place.
The months pass in a blur. Somewhere along the line, I fall in love with Senegal, with Africa. I am in love with the sing-song languages, the colors and styles of the clothing, the dust in the air and on the roads, the music and the dancing. I am in love with the pace of life, the disorder and chaos of the markets, the perfect marriage of Islam and Christianity, the food. Before I even touch ground in North America a few months later, I am already planning my next trip abroad.
Armed now with a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy received at a Liberal Arts school, the decision is easy to make – either get a crap job or travel. A no-brainer, really.
So I set off to Asia, to a new continent, and to a few years of volunteering in Nepal and teaching English in Thailand. I strive to become as “local” as possible, speaking the language, cooking their food, shopping in the local markets, being friends with locals. I travel the surrounding region whenever I can, and when I can’t, I discover secret spots in my chosen cities of residence.
For some reason, I believe that these years in Asia are enough, that they have cured my travel bug. I believe that now it must be time to go home and grow up. So I try. But it doesn’t work. The sense of otherness I feel in Canada is not nearly as charming as it had been in Senegal, perhaps because Canada is my country and I’m not supposed to feel that here.
And so, I head off again, to work as a private tutor on a farm in Zimbabwe. I’m filled with mixed emotions – excited, as always, for a new adventure, ecstatic to return to Africa after almost 6 years, yet confused and distraught as to why I can’t seem to make it work in Canada, why I can’t seem to accept a normal life.
After a year in Zimbabwe, I have managed to convince myself once again that I need to return to the West, go back to school and get a real job and a real life.
It is before leaving, while on an innocuous trip to Mozambique, that all the seemingly disconnected pieces of my life suddenly come into place. All my past decisions, which I once believed were muddled and confused, suddenly make sense. They have led me to this place, to Bruno.
Here before me is a man who has created his own destiny. Not caring about what others think, Bruno follows his heart rather than the status quo. He exudes pride and confidence in his life choices, and has a wisdom that is usually only present in sages. Pure happiness radiates out from him.
I want that, too. And I know that it’s not in North America that I will find it. It’s not by trying to fit into a box that is too small for me. And it’s certainly not by chopping off my limbs, one after the other, in order to fit inside the box I no longer think I want.
It’s by living like Bruno. By following my heart rather than the mind that keeps trying to convince me that I want a normal life. By being brave enough to do what makes me happy, no matter what other people say or think. And by refusing to view myself with that self-critical Western lens that defines success so narrowly.
“There’s an empty seat in the Toyota, if you want it,” teases Bruno.
And without a second thought, I jump in. The seat fits perfectly.
About the Photographer – Bruno
Years on the Road: 24 in all, the past 17 without stopping
Favorite Countries/Regions: Patagonia, Alaska, Sahara Desert, Namibia
Favorite Cuisine: Brittany’s home cooking
Travel Style: Self-proclaimed “professional tourist”; Slow and simple, nature and animal-based
Countries on the Wish List: Japan, Bhutan
Experiences on the Bucket List: See the Aurora Borealis, dive with whale sharks, spot animals from the Great White North (polar bear, lynx, snow leopard)
I’m not going to pretend Bruno is the one writing this entry by using the first person. You won’t catch Bruno writing on this blog any more than you will catch him writing in English. He just takes the photos. And finds the campsites. And drives. And bodyguards. And does the mechanics. And the logistics. That’s it.
Let me give you Bruno’s background travel blurb from my perspective.
I wasn’t around when Bruno was a school kid, watching Daktari on television and dreaming of being a vet in Africa. I wasn’t there when, during his teen years, he believed his dream of travel so untenable that he drowned himself instead in typical teenage things. I wasn’t there when, as a young adult, he tried joining the Navy in a half-assed attempt to see the world.
All my information of these days is second-hand. But according to my [very reliable] source, the Navy didn’t really provide the sort of travel opportunities Bruno had hoped for, and it didn’t work out.
Thankfully, Bruno had been raised by an industrious father and came by his own resourcefulness honestly. With his father’s support, he took out a bank loan and began investing in property. A dilapidated lot on the Mediterranean and a business in a touristy beach town made a good start. He could see the dream becoming clearer, more tangible.
“15 years,” he promised himself. “I will work for 15 years. And then, I’m gone.”
So during those 15 years, he worked hard, toward the sole goal of paying off his properties. To keep his dream – and his sanity – alive, he travelled during the off-season, 6 months at a time. Motorcycling across Africa, road-tripping through the old Asian hippie routes, sailing across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and backpacking throughout the southern hemisphere, he began to build up his travel experience and wisdom and develop a unique travel style. The dream was being well-fuelled.
The fifteenth year fast-approached. Bruno wasn’t as financially secure as he’d hoped – he hadn’t yet been able to entirely pay off the bank. His serious girlfriend had gotten cold feet and didn’t want to leave France.
“Don’t go,” said the financial advisor.
“Don’t go,” said the girlfriend.
But he had to go. He knew it deep down inside. There was no way around it. He knew he could always come home, but this was a leap he had to make.
And so, alone and without the financial security he had planned for, Bruno bought a 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser and drove down to his beloved African continent. To cross the Sahara (again). To visit the Mursi tribe of Ethiopia and live with the pygmies. To be one of the first to venture into the recently-opened borders of Angola, and spend a legendary solar eclipse photographing animal reactions in Mana Pool, Zimbabwe. To spend countless months in national parks, habituating chimpanzees and protecting the gorillas.
By this time, the trip was no longer a trip. It had become a lifestyle. France was not home – the world was.
Spurred on by the infinite excitement and curiosity of a child, Bruno spent the next decade exploring continent after continent, country after country. His path was meandering and circuitous, his progress slow; his ultimate direction, ever onwards.
Without really trying to, Bruno found himself back in Africa, having looped the big loop – and completed the esteemed round-the-world trip he’d inadvertently accomplished. He didn’t mean to visit over 100 countries or drive 450,000km. He was just having too much fun to stop.
Had Bruno been thinking of finding a mate to share this journey with? Not really. He wasn’t opposed to the idea, but he believed it an impossibly utopian dream. Every woman he’d ever been with ended up eventually choosing a normal, secure life over the nomadic-yet-unsure existence he could offer. He didn’t believe he’d meet a woman who would take the leap.
His fortuitous meeting with me proved otherwise.
That day in Mozambique, when Bruno offered his second seat to me, he didn’t dare hope I’d say yes. And when I did, he didn’t dare hope I’d stay long. But I have, and I am, and I will (we got married in Uganda in 2013). Inadvertently or not, Bruno has gotten himself a passenger for his second trip around the world. And that passenger is spilling the beans about that voyage.
To read more about Bruno and his travels, check out this insightful interview, My Car is My Home, the Planet is My Backyard he gave for Chris Guillebeau, the famous travel-hacker.
And to learn more about our lifestyle as full-time overland travelers, check out our This Overlanding Life mini blog-post series. You’ll learn more about how we pay for our travels, how we deal with health and safety, what our day-to-day life looks like, and much more!