Meet the Travel Bloggers: Brendan van Son, blogger, vlogger and more

This week, Meet the Travel Bloggers interivews travel blogger, vlogger and web-magazine publisher Brendan van Son of Brendan’s Adventures and Vagabundo Magazine.

When, why and how did you start your travel blog?
Well, the truth is I used to run a more casual travel blog when I backpacked Central America about 8 years ago. However, Brendan’s Adventures came about over three years ago when I decided that I wanted to get into travel writing and wanted somewhere that people could “discover” my writing.  Looking back at the first couple articles, I can’t believe how it has evolved. For me, my blog started out as a place to showcase my work, I never knew that it could ever grow into something that could earn an income. Now I run a vlog called, It’s My Life 365 and also a travel magazine, Vagabundo Magazine. It’s amazing how things have progressed!

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Banana Islands of Sierra Leone photo/Brendan van Son

How did you get the name “Brendan’s Adventures?
The reason I chose Brendan’s Adventures was because I had always dreamed of starting a travel company. I used to run tours both in Canada and South America when I was starting out and I used to dream of starting my own company. I used that name, because I thought that I could call my travel company “Brendan’s Adventures”. In hindsight, it’s a pretty stupid name for a travel company, but it’s a great name for a blog.

What is the thing that keeps you the most jazzed about blogging?
For me what keeps me jazzed about blogging has nothing to do with readerships, followings, press trips, or any of that stuff. For me, it’s always been about creating a form of documentation of my life, even if for no one but myself. Even if I didn’t have a single reader, I would continue documenting my life; there’s something really special to having that recording. That being said, the fact that certain people draw inspiration from my life is absolutely incredible to me. The comments, tweets, and emails I get from readers always push me to keep going.

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One of my favourite sights in the modern world, the Parliament Buildings in London. photo/Brandan van Son

You’re currently living a nomadic lifestyle. What’s the best and worst thing about it?
The best thing about it is that I can really be where I want to be and do what I want to do. I don’t have to make any compromises. If I want to take a Monday off and watch old Will Ferrell movies, there’s no one to stop me. If I have am not feeling the location where I am, I can leave it. There’s such beauty to independence.

Easily the most difficult part about it is being away from family and friends so often. I’m lucky; my friends and family are amazing and the rare occasions I’m home we always pick up right where we left off. But, my sister just had twins, and I’d be lying if I didn’t feel some serious regret about not being around more often. Also, I haven’t had a steady girlfriend in a couple years… and that can’t be healthy, haha.

How long have you been on the road?
Well, I guess I’m probably approaching 3 ½ years now, in reality closer to 4. After graduating university I set off on a tour guide job for a bit in Canada before taking a bigger job in South America. I’ve been independently travelling for about 2 ½ – 3 years.

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Easter Sunday in Rome photo/Brandan van Son

What catalyzed your decision to travel full-time?
Happiness. When I graduated university I was sat at a desk looking at my options. I literally had a stack of grad school applications, a stack of law school applications, and then a bunch of job offers including a number in the diplomatic field. I thought: 1) I could go to grad school in Europe so I could travel on weekends, 2) If I do law I’ll be earning enough money to travel soon, 3) If I take a job as a diplomat I’ll travel with work. Then I realized, if all I care about is travel, then I need to build my career around that. I strongly believe you need to figure out what makes you happy, and then try to earn a living doing that. Of course, figuring out what makes you happy is always the tricky part.

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Portugal is one of my favourite places to photograph in the world. Porto, Portugal. Photo/Brendan van Son

What excites you most about travel?
Discovering amazing places that the world has yet seen.  I love seeing a sight that few other tourists have.  That feeling that I’m an old fashioned explorer (minus the killing and pillaging of course) is an amazing feeling.

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Curious penguin in Antarctica. Photo/Brendan van Son

On the road, do you seek out some experiences more than others?
Yeah, I definitely seek out wildlife experiences as much as I can. I love animals, in particular big animals and primates. If there’s a national park or wildlife sanctuary nearby you can bet that I’ll be making time to visit it.

Is being in your comfort zone important to you?
Absolutely not. In fact, what’s important to me is being OUT of my comfort zone. I look at it like muscle building. When you work out you’ve got to push your muscles past their capacity. It tears them at first, but it makes them grow. For me, if you’re not growing from your travels you’re just on vacation. There has never been a case where I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and regretted it. Usually for me, the comfort zone is one of social aspects. Standing up in the middle of a rural village in Cote d’Ivoire recently and dancing for them was certainly one of those moments. {Editor’s note: Watch the video from that day below.}


What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever?
I’m not really sure if I have a most memorable, I’ve had so many great experiences that picking one feels like I’m choosing a favourite child. I’ll never forget being 8 years old and walking down into the Grand Canyon with my father; that was amazing. I’ll also never forget setting foot in Japan as a 12 year old heading over on a school exchange. My first backpacking trip in Central America, too, was full of amazing memories, as was visiting Antarctica, seeing Machu Picchu for the first time, and walking under the Eiffel Tower. As you can see, there are too many experiences to pick from.

What’s your favorite place on earth?
Well, again, it’s a bit hard for me to pick. I would have to say that the West Coast of Canada is easily up on that list. I love Vancouver Island and could easily see myself hanging out there when I’m old and grey.

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Majestic lion photo/Brendan van Son

Where are you off to next?
Right now I’m in West Africa. I’m about to set off on what I’m calling the African Scooter Rally.  I’ve bought an $800 scooter here in Bamako, Mali, and I’m going to try to drive the thing all the way to Cape Town, South Africa. I’ll be passing through about 15 countries along the way and I’m sure the challenges will be both great and rewarding.

What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket list?
Not really sure I have a proper bucket list.  I’ve really kind of just do everything. Of course, getting down to the big game of Southern and Eastern Africa is high on my priority list. I think Western China would probably be the next big thing I’d like to have a look at.

Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has been travelling for over 3 years and his work has been featured by the likes of BBC, Nationalgeographic.com, Britannica, etc.  His blog Brendan’s Adventures has taken him to corners of the world such as Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Haiti, and many more. You can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

 

2 Responses to “Meet the Travel Bloggers: Brendan van Son, blogger, vlogger and more”

  1. Jenna
    January 23, 2019 at 1:46 pm #

    I love Brendan. His photographs are probably my favorites of all the travel bloggers. I have been following his work and travels for about 3 years and am amazed by everything he has done and accomplished in such a short time. I also find his enthusiasm and sense of humor refreshing. Thanks for this interview-it was nice to know a bit more about him!
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