July 4, 2013

Travel Interview with Shannon from A Little Adrift

A Little Adrift started as a travel stories about Shannon O’Donnell’s experiences from her year-long trip around the world. Four years later, her blog is an inspiration for all kind of travelers. She shares amazing photos, tips and stories and she’s not thinking about stop traveling! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to interview you!

Travel Interview with Shannon from A Little Adrift

1. When and why did you decide to left everything and travel the around the world?

Summer 2008 I was living in Los Angeles and I hatched a plan to take my online consulting job with me on a one-year round the world trip. After I bought my one-way ticket to Sydney, I promptly had a panic attack. I had been feeling like I needed a way to disrupt my life, to change its course, and then I stumbled over a couple long-term travel sites. It was a new idea for me -- something I had never considered I could do with my own life. So, when I realized I had the means (online work) to travel, I paired that with my desire to serve others and slowly traveled and volunteered my way around the world these past four and a half years. 

2. When, why and how did you start your travel blog?

I started my travel blog in 2008 just before I was leaving on my one-year round the world trip. In the months leading up to my trip I had scoured the internet for other solo female travelers who could impart any wisdom, and there wasn't a single one blogging (hard to believe since there are hundreds now, just four years later!). As I planned and plotted in those months, I wanted to share my story and the things I learned so other travelers could follow in my footsteps with practical travel advice and tips on their own round the world trip. I think we are woefully under-traveled in the US and my goal is for A Little Adrift to serve as inspiration for more Americans to take a gap-year, or even just a couple months off before or after college to see some of the world.

3. What is the best thing of travelling?

The people I have met over the past more than four years have stood out the most on my travels. I love that traveling constantly challenges my perceptions and assumptions at every stage, and makes me a better person -- more grateful, generous, and compassionate. By and large the world, and the people in it, have shown me overwhelming kindness, and having that realization every time I hit the road is one of my favorite parts of traveling. 

4. What thing you always put in your luggage and you never forget?

My Kindle. I love it and unlike my computer (which I have to have for my online work) it's a completely frivolous piece of technology that I refuse to travel without. I am an avid reader, and I also like to read several books at once (I'm in the middle of six books right now) that all work for different moods I'm in -- this habit was nearly impossible to maintain when I had to lug around six books in my backpack, but now I carry thousands in my little e-reader. (I'll stop gushing now, but I do really love it). 

5. What kind of traveler are you?

One who cares enough to try and leave each place and person a little better off than I started. Travel gives me so much, I feel like the world teaches me so many lessons, that I strive to find meaningful ways to create something positive -- even if that is merely spending my tourism money on sustainable social enterprises. 

6. What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever and why?

I loved my travels in 2011-2012 homeschooling my 11-year-old niece throughout Southeast Asia. That was such an unexpected addition to my trip and now that she is back home in school I often think back and smile on those months we had together.

7. And the worst?

I nearly died of dysentery in Laos. That rates as one of the lowest moments in my travels.

8. Is there any destination you would never want to go?

I break down in cold weather (think tears, whining, and possibly a tantrum) because I am a Florida girl born and raised, so you'd have a hard time convincing me that Siberia in the winter is a good idea. That being said, I dream of visiting both the Arctic circle and Antarctica, so no place is off limits.

9. Please, tell me three things you always have in mind when you are planning a trip.

1) The weather (I chase summer around the world).
2) Price of the plane ticket compared to the amount of time I can spend there (if I head to Asia from the US I want at least two months before I have a commitment to return home).
3) Festivals or cultural events in the region. I love these so much. :)

10. Do you prefer relax or adventure? Why?

A combination of both please! There is a time for both and I vary my travels between active hiking, trekking, etc, and then time at the beaches with quiet sunsets and a beer. 

11. Do you know Spain? If yes, what do you think of the places you visited?

I do! Though not very well. Last fall I was flown into Spain to speak at a conference and I fell in love. I only had a week though split between Girona and Barcelona, so tops on my European bucketlist is a trip back to Spain to explore some of the smaller towns and various cultures spread throughout the country.

12. Is there any culture that changed your thinking?

That's such an intriguing question. On my site I've talked a lot about how travel--in the broader sense--changed my perspectives on life, but never in the light on one single culture. If I narrow down some of my attitudes toward respect, I would say that Asia (and the extensive time spent in Thailand), likely had a strong impact in shifting the way I see, show, and create respect in my own life. The hierarchical systems are so different than my life growing up, and I have loved seeing the little ways that cultural difference impacts Thai society and the interpersonal interactions people have with one another.

13. Have you ever tried couchsurfing? If yes, where and how was your experience?

During my first year of travels I couchsurfed several times, and I even hosted couchsurfers at my home in Los Angeles, California before I set out on my travels. I've experienced hospitality in Melbourne, Australia; Sarajevo, Bosnia; and Ljubljana, Slovenia and thought it was a wonderful way to get a local perspective on each of those cities/cultures.

14. Would you recommend traveling solo?

I do, I really recommend solo travel as a way to learn more about yourself, and to learn to trust yourself more too. Though I know many traveling couples who have had amazing trips, for those who go solo, I think there is a steeper initial growth curve on the road, and ultimately a transformation though for all long-term travelers, even those who travel in groups or couples. Really I just support traveling now, traveling young, traveling however you can -- and if that means traveling solo then do it. And if you're a solo woman and scared, I addressed those issues a bit on my blog with the concerns and ways to stay safe on the road as a solo female.

15. What is your advice for people who just started their travel blogs?

Focus on your community and finding ways you can provide value and inspiration to them. The people who read your site are often not other bloggers, so it's easy to get caught up in the blogging world and forget that many of the people you aim to inspire are reading your site looking for information, insight, and to know they are a part of your community. You may only have a few ears listening in the early days, but in valuing them you set a precedence to grow.

16. Where are you off to next?

That's a tough question and it's down to either returning in the fall to Mexico, where I spent some time living earlier this year, or I would love to take six to eight months and backpack and volunteer on a project in Africa. I haven't decided which one will mesh best with some of the business plans I have in the works.

Follow Shannon in: 

Website: http://alittleadrift.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alittleadrift
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/Spinnerod
Twitter: https://twitter.com/shannonrtw