Linn Haglund

Linn Haglund Interview

In today’s Why We Travel, I interview Linn Haglund, the brains behind Brainy Backpackers, a site aimed to help others travel more responsibly through information and responsible travel tips.

Describe your first transformative travel experience.

You can say it came in two waves for me. First the moving abroad and then the addictive travel bug. 

The first wave came back in 2003 when I did a semester of Uni in Seville in Spain. It made me understand that I needed to get out in the world and explore. It was so exciting to experience a new culture and language and I just couldn’t get enough of it. I didn’t want to live in Norway anymore and quickly looked up ways to do my final year abroad too. I made it to England but didn’t like it so much. So, I traveled back to Spain again after ended studies. 

The addictive travel bug came just before England. I traveled to Madagascar in my 3 months summer holiday to stay with my uncle that ran a diving and whale watching center in Ile Sainte Marie. It was a tough 3 months full of ups and downs, culture shocks, learning how to scuba dive, seeing humpback whales daily, being a minority, learning French, meeting amazing people, and seeing the back side of paradise. 

I grew a lot as a person. I realized how different life is for people. I realized that what used to scare me didn’t anymore. I pushed my boundaries and became a better person in so many ways. I had more understanding for others and saw things from a different angle. 

The material necessity from Europe wasn’t there anymore. I was content with running barefoot around and not spending money. Spending time with families living in straw huts with dirt floor happily sharing their dinner with me; a large pot of white rice in coconut milk mixed with 10 beans. I realized that these people had nothing. They still shared with me expecting nothing but my company and we interchanged the few Malagasy words I had learned together with laughter and sign language.

This was so much more rewarding than sitting in a nice flat in Norway surrounded with the newest gadgets from the material world. This really filled me with a purpose of living and the urge to explore more and go further.

Why is travel important to you personally? 

For me, travel is the only thing that truly makes me happy. And my dog, Ayla, of course. But she travels with me whenever she can and loves it too. She has actually been to 10 countries without flying a single time. 

As much as I love traveling to far away cultures, I look at living abroad as a kind of slow travel. During my years in Spain I have had the time to explore the southern part of the country in-depth, and I hope I get the opportunity to explore other countries this way in the future.

I think it is incredibly important to push my boundaries as I become bolder as well as I find it important to remind myself that not everyone has the luxuries that I have at home. Traveling gives me new perspectives which again helps me become a better person. 

My aim is to make a difference when I travel and with my travelblog I want to help others traveling more responsibly as well. This gives me even more motivation to learn when I am on my travels. 

If I look at my journey from the first trips I did until today, I have learned so much about the impact of our actions when we travel. Now, I work hard to observe the destinations I go to and listen to the locals so that I can understand how tourists can make a positive impact instead of a negative. The more I learn, the more I see how many mistakes I have done in the past. But that is ok, we all make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them, and hopefully I can help others so they don’t have to make the same mistakes and regret anything later.

How do you prefer to travel?

I used to be a budget backpacker. Now, I’m still a backpacker, but my budget has probably gone up a wee bit even though it is not high. I don’t like to book accommodation in advance as I like the freedom to decide when I get there how many nights I want to stay. I am not a big fan of cities unless they have beautiful, old buildings and have a charm (ex. New York vs. Rome). 

What I do like, though, is nature and the outdoors. Any kind of outdoors adventure is always welcome, and if I can choose between tropical and cold destinations the tropical win big time! There’s nothing like a lush green rainforest with ancient pyramids scattered around. And even better, if it’s off the beaten track and no other tourists around. If you ask me if I prefer beaches or mountains, I have to say thanks to both. Right now, I live in the perfect spot, I have the beach in front of my house and the mountains just behind.

When I have the time, I prefer traveling slow without rushing through a bucket list. However, with limited holidays it often become more stressful than I’d like it to be.

In the past, I couldn’t even imagine traveling solo. Today I actually enjoy it a lot, maybe even more than traveling with friends (even though that is awesome too!). Traveling solo means I can do whatever I want whenever I want and it makes me more present. I connect easier with locals and observe more of my surroundings. Now, with my blog, I find it important to be able to do that because it gives me a much better foundation for giving responsible travel tips to my readers. 

What tips do you have for travelers to make their experiences more meaningful? 

Take your time to connect with the locals. If you know the language or not, it is all about being curious about their culture and who they are. You will be surprised how many unique experiences you will get from this. 

Connecting with the locals will also make you travel more responsibly naturally. As you get to know people you feel like you are a visitor, and a visitor will always be respectful, right? I am sure you will look at your destination with a whole new perspective after connecting with locals and the world will become a much less scary place.

Also, before you travel, take your time to learn about customs and culture in the country you are going to so you dress respectfully and behave in a way that is not offensive. It is always a good idea to learn a few basic words or phrases before you go to a country with a different language. You will be surprised how positive people become once you can say a couple of things in their language. You can also ask once you are there how you say things in their language to show your interest. The locals tend to like this.

What are your favorite travel-related books, movies, paintings, poems, songs, etc.?

I know this is cliché, but I really loved the movie Eat Pray Love. It gave me inspiration to slow travel and spend more time at my destination to learn more about the culture. But also, to experience that inner journey we all go through when spending time in a new place and letting it heal us from inside. We all go through that when we travel, but we won’t give it time to heal us if we rush through our bucket list in the speed of a lightning.

Another book that inspired me a lot to go to India is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It is actually all about the criminal side of Mumbai. It wasn’t that that inspired me, I swear! The book talks a lot about how it is to live in the slum and showed a lot of Indian culture from sides you usually don’t get to see as a tourist. I guess those are the sides of a country I like to experience and what slow travel gives you the opportunity to experience by getting to know the locals. When you have the time, you get to see places you would never know existed and you will meet people that will teach you things you never thought you would learn. It gives you the chance to live the destination from a local’s perspective and I think that is what I really loved about this book.

Why travel? 

As I have talked a lot about already, I think it is incredibly important to use travel as a tool to learn about the destination and to realize the differences. When we observe different cultures, learn different languages and talk to different people you get an understanding of how much in common humans really have, even though we are so different. I believe that all this will make us much more respectful as persons. 

I also think it is important to realize the importance of responsible travel and the impact that our actions have on the locals, the nature and the wildlife in our destinations. When we travel and learn, we can talk about it to friends and family, which means that we not only learn on our trip, but we also teach the ones around us. If we all do a little, if it is spreading information to friends or if it is to collect clothes from home to bring to a local organization distributing to the poor in our destination, we manage to make a difference. I think that the more we travel, the more we will understand each other.

Get in touch with Linn Haglund

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