Bree Woolard has a passion for empowering individuals to transform their lives in positive ways. After starting a fitness account on Instagram in 2017, Bree now inspires thousands of young adults with her lifestyle-focused content which includes travel, fitness, relationships, and mindset. She recently quit her corporate job and embarked on a journey of fulfilment and self-discovery that included her first solo trip: two months in Thailand. She continues to share the inspiration and lessons from that epic experience, and her adventures since that trip, on social media with her growing audience who continue this non-stop journey of personal growth with her.
We recently interviewed Bree to learn more about her story.
Have you always enjoyed traveling? Had you traveled solo prior to your trip to Thailand?
Growing up, I was so fortunate to have traveled a lot with my family, so it has always been a big part of my life. As I got older, and the Disney trips were becoming a distant memory, I started planning some of my own adventures with friends–and it’s safe to say the travel bug definitely set in even after a few domestic flights!
Thailand was my first major solo trip. I realized as a young adult that it can be very hard to get all your friends on board with the same destination and itinerary, not to mention orchestrating time off work. So I simply booked the ticket on my own and didn’t look back!
How did family and friends react when you told them that you had left your job and were going to go on a solo trip for two months to the other side of the world?
Saying there was a lot of push back would be a major understatement! To answer this question, I want to hit on both pieces here: the career and the travel.
When I admitted that I was quitting my job at one of the Big Four accounting firms with no plan afterwards, my friends were definitely supportive. As we’ve seen, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a lot of Millennials/Gen Z’s (heck, everyone, really!) questioning whether they actually enjoyed their jobs. So, my friends understood what I was feeling and why I made the choices I did.
My family, however, had somewhat different views. I believe it came from generational differences, or some other parental trait that I don’t yet understand. They have always wanted the best for me, but this probably seemed like a radical choice in their eyes, so they had a few reservations.
When it came to the travel aspect, I noticed a very similar pattern–my friends cheering me on but my family pushing back. My parents and relatives asked me questions like, “Have you thought through scenarios x, y, and z?” or “What if you get caught in a tsunami?” Of course, these were already things I had on my mind, so the extra interrogation didn’t help. In these moments, I would answer very matter-of-factly, “Yes, I have considered that, and I have a safety plan in place if it does come up.” It’s all about doing your research in advance and being proactive.
When it comes to solo travel, people will always have something to say about your decisions. It is probably coming from a place of genuine love for you and care for your safety, so I would encourage anyone thinking of traveling solo to first acknowledge and appreciate that. The second step is to walk confidently in the direction you want to go and honor the decisions that you believe are best for your happiness, regardless of what anyone thinks.
What prompted you to choose Thailand for your first solo trip?
Thailand was actually a result of a spontaneous change in plans. Originally, I had planned to tour all of Europe, starting in Amsterdam and flying out of Madrid. But with COVID cases spreading viciously across Europe in January, I had to quickly adapt and jump on several calls with airlines.
I then opened Google Maps and thought to myself, “the first place I see that captures my interest is where I’m going.” After doing the necessary COVID research to find out what the situation was like at the time, Thailand turned out to be a much better option after all.
I was keen to experience a new culture, get out of the cold, and really challenge myself. Southeast Asia also has a great solo backpacker community, so I really couldn’t see why not!
What was one important lesson you took away from this travel experience?
This is such a difficult question. I could seriously write a book on how much you learn from traveling solo. When I was reflecting during my 30-hour flight home, there was one lesson that stood out to me in particular, and that is:
“You learn a lot about who you have become through the eyes of new friends.”
When you immerse yourself in a whole different country with brand new people who are meeting you for the first time, it’s like looking in a mirror, but instead of seeing your physical traits you can see your personality. With each new friend I made, I would learn a little bit more about 2022 Bree Woolard based on their reactions. For example, I heard things like:
“You say sorry too much.”
“You’re too hard on yourself.”
“You spread so much positive energy.”
Then one day it hit me. I thought, these people didn’t know me in high school, university, or even last year. They know me as I am today. And if this is how they are describing me, then this is a great picture of who I have become.
My mind was blown.
I chose to fully and unapologetically accept these truths and I brought this self-awareness with me back to Canada. It gave me a crystal-clear picture of where I can improve and what I should embrace about who I am.
How did your career aspirations change, and what are you doing now?
During my time in the corporate world, I learned very quickly I wanted a more entrepreneurial lifestyle. This hasn’t changed, however Thailand definitely further convinced me that this goal is possible and closer within reach than I thought.
On my travels, I met so many digital nomads, CEOs, creatives, and influencers who were living a lifestyle I had always dreamed of. I asked them so many questions and learned more from them than I could have ever imagined.
You always hear of the stories of the American investment banker who built a new life in Bali by following her passion for photography. But I can’t describe how truly inspiring it was to actually spend time with several people who have taken a similar path and to hear their stories firsthand. You really can do anything you set your mind to!
What’s next on your travel agenda?
Next, I definitely want to revisit my Europe plans. However, Southeast Asia did capture my heart, so I would love to further explore Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam one day. New Zealand, Iceland, and Guatemala are also near the top of the list.
Above all, in the latter half of my 20’s, I plan to travel to one new country each year. Wish me luck!