‘Where Next Heidi’ taking readers from Jamaica to the world
Circa November, travel blogger Heidi Hanna’s hearty laughs fill up a snowy, white wonderland of Lapland, Finland, where she’s experiencing a sledge ride with huskies. The moment, documented in an online video post, not only marked her first international trip since the COVID-19 pandemic, but captures the infectious bliss and freedom she feels when travelling.
Though she migrated to Canada as a teenager and travelled to the United States, Hanna’s affixation with seeing the world was first ignited during her honeymoon with her husband Jonas in 2007. The pair went on a 20-day Mediterranean cruise which whet their appetite for experiencing different cultures.
“You’re going from a Rome which is very traditional, European and has a lot of history, then you’re going to a Greece, and you can just think about the beauty,” Hanna, 47, told The Sunday Gleaner. “We actually went to the place where the first Olympics were held, and we got to run on the track and experience the food. We were also in Turkey, and the culture there is vastly different from a Rome, so I think at that point, we were seeing so much, and we were amazed that there’s so much that the world has to offer, that we were like if this is what we’re seeing by visiting this handful of countries, what else is out there?”
They made a travel commitment to take at least two weeks each year to go somewhere new together, something they have maintained even with two children, except for two years when Hanna contracted Chik-V (2014) and in 2020 when the pandemic hit. Having travelled to at least 35 countries, Heidi said she and Jonas would often share their ventures on social media which engendered a dedicated following. Their common question, “Where next Heidi?” would become the name of her blog, which was launched in March 2020, days before the world was plunged into lockdown.
With disrupted plans of travelling that year, she had to pivot.
“I think that COVID and the situation actually helped me because it allowed me to grow my brand in Jamaica as we weren’t travelling internationally,” she said. “It allowed me to further explore Jamaica which we’ve been doing with our kids since they were babies, but this allowed me to have a platform to share Jamaica and show people what Jamaica has to offer, which is much more than the Reach Falls, YS Falls and the Dunn’s River. There really is a lot more to do, with your kids too.”
She showed this through her In Mi BackYAAD series and travel posts which mirror a 101 guide on the need-to-knows for each selected destination. Hanna said the latter is determined by her family’s schedule and how much time they can allocate to the trip, as well as relentless research. For the couple, it’s important to take their pre-teens along to teach them life lessons, build their character and inform their cultural identity.
“It’s teaching them to adapt in different environments and just survival skills,” she shared. “My son is learning how to use a pocketknife, put up a tent, how to cook, and even as a man, I think it’s important for him to learn these skills. My daughter can build a fire. She knows how to put up a tent and how to survive and what you need to be in those environments, so I think taking them out of their comfort zone stretches them as children, and hopefully, they’ll take that into their adulthood.”
The couple is currently planning an Easter trip to a country in Central America which will see the kids joining their world ventures for the first time. Hanna, a lover of Spanish-speaking countries, is targeting a country whose first language isn’t English to challenge and broaden their children’s way of communicating. The adventure element is still intact.
As for her trips with her husband, the couple takes yearly turns at choosing where to go, and this year it’s Hanna’s turn. She was eyeing a delayed trip to Portugal and said there are additional considerations for international travels. They reduce costs by seeking good flight deals, using airline miles where feasible, staying at boutique hotels, eating street food, and travelling in low seasons. They may splurge on a trip if the expense boosts their experience in the country. For instance, they spent several nights in a pricey glass igloo while in Finland, some of which was covered by airline miles.
While she values the uniqueness of each country, there are a few that resonate most. She recalled the magic of Peru’s Machu Picchu and Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán, likewise their food, people and culture, comments she extended to Thailand.
“Iceland was also incredible. We rented a car and drove around for 12 days … . That kind of freedom and ability to just drive, explore, walk and discover puts Iceland high up there.”
Balancing her hats as a wife, mother, and full-time job as a human resource consultant, Hanna sees Where Next Heidi becoming a go-to platform for those seeking an adventure and inspiration while attracting brand-growing partnerships.
Her 2022 series, Journey Around Jamaica, will focus on parishes often excluded from the traditional conversations about go-to destinations, but make for good travel experiences.