Up this week is Shannon Oâ€™Donnell, a 28-years-old American and a veteran of 40 countries with a round the world trip under her belt.
Where did you go and how old were you when you lost your backpacking virginity?
I studied abroad in Italy when I was 21, but my real travels started when I was 24 and left on a one- year round the world trip. I flew from my then-home of Los Angeles straight to Australia, and then slowly made my way back home, traveling through Asia, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe over the course of 11 months.
Do you prefer to travel solo or with a friend?
They both have their merits, but I find solo travel is ideal unless I really know my travel style/personality is a good match for my traveling companion. Itâ€™s tough to navigate relationships (friendships or other) on the road, and Iâ€™ve had some unpleasant experiences trying to make traveling with a friend work when it just wasnâ€™t a good fit. And solo travel? Well, I am pretty content with my own company and though loneliness inevitably hits at times, I love the ability to focus on meeting other people and watching my surroundings — something I do a lot less of when a friend is present!
What’s the best tour you’ve ever done?
Though I donâ€™t tend to seek out tours, I was really glad to have a guide when I trekked in the Annapurna rage in Nepal. I have a love-hate relationship with hiking (love the idea of it and once Iâ€™m done, but hate it while Iâ€™m doing it). With a guide, he kept me motivated throughout the trek, sang silly Nepali songs, and really was a great person to show us the experience!
Scuba or Sky Diving?
Iâ€™ll take scuba diving in a heartbeat! I got my open water divers license in the months before I left, as a way to quell the itch to leave immediately. Then, the Great Barrier Reef was one of my priorities in Australia. Being under the water, a part of that quiet, blue world is unlike any other experience on earth.
Even on a budget we all have a luxury vice, whatâ€™s yours?
I guess my guilty secret is that I splurge on the single room at hostels; I love the community at hostels, the open kitchen, instant friends. But I also love a good nightâ€™s sleep and that little extra slice of privacy that is so welcome after a long day buses, trains, and walking.
What camera do you take travelling with you and why?
My Panasonic Lumix micro four thirds camera was one of the best purchases I made. Basically, itâ€™s much more powerful than a point-and-shoot camera, has wonderful depth of field focus, and is very nearly a DSLR…but only a quarter the size and weight. I wish I had this camera from day one of my travels and I regret traveling to so many places with my ailing point-and-shoot before I upgraded!
Have you had any brushes with border patrol/police/security/government officials?
Oh man, I could let go of a pretty powerful rant against the UK immigration officials who interrogated me for 25 minutes about how I could afford to travel for so long considering I am an American before they stamped me into the country. But instead Iâ€™ll note one incident on a bus in Sarajevo, Bosnia. My couchsurfing host told me to just hop on the bus without a ticket since I was just going a few stops. As I sat down the (with all of my stuff/backpacks in hand) the police came on board, tried to force me to hand over my passport (I refused), yelled at me, told me they were bringing in reinforcements to make me go down to the police station, and generally did all they could to intimidate me until I finally just ploughed through them and jumped off of the bus at the next stop. I was terrified I was really in trouble, so I quickly grabbed a cab to the train station instead!
Shannon shares travel stories at A Little Adrift, and grassroots community projects from around the world at Grass Roots Volunteering.