Travel Talk with Shannon O’Donnell
Shannon O’Donnell, chief of www.ALittleAdrift.com, has circumnavigated the globe a few times since her full-year traditional round the world trip in 2008. Once that year ended, Shannon decided to take her future travels at a much slower pace. Now, she stops in the places that interest her, seeking out new perspectives and finding intriguing new tid-bits of knowledge and culture.
1. Which country do you think more American women should visit?
That really comes down to where you’ve always dreamed about going – I could say “Go to Italy, I love Italy,” and that’s true, I do adore Italy. But I’ve also always had a thing for Italian food, language (and perhaps men). Whatever motivates you to travel is fine by me – if some location pulls at your imagination, or you’ve always dreamed of visiting a specific landmark, then go there – have that be your motivation to buy your ticket and leave the country!
2. Which country did you find to be most challenging as a woman traveler? Why?
India stands out as a country that will test and challenge any traveler – there are so many ups and downs, the experiences vary wildly as you travel throughout India. Then you pile on top of that being a solo woman, and you’re facing a unique set of challenges because the country on the whole is so fascinated by Westerners – the staring can get uncomfortable at times, but it’s actually quite safe and just takes an adjustment.
3. Tell us about one of your best experiences with foreign men.
There are so many; I meet amazing people on the road, men and woman, and the nature of traveling solo and without a fixed schedule means that I can find new groups of friends and travel with them for a period of time and really get to know new people. It’s rare to truly be alone or lonely on the road, and that’s thanks to the global network of backpackers and travelers and the foreigners you can connect with if you take a few extra moments.
4. Tell us about one of your worst experiences with foreign men.
I have been incredibly fortunate in that regard – throughout my travels these past few years it’s never been too difficult and there is not a single negative moment that stands out. The one slightly skeezy incident was during India’s Festival of Color celebrations…I had been warned to be cautious because the men start drinking and celebrating early in the morning and throughout the day. So yeah, when men would come up to “play holi,” ie. paint my face with color, there were a couple men you took the opportunity for a quick and inappropriate grab. I took to crossing my arms over my chest to solve the problem and I chose not to make a big deal about it!
5. Were you ever stereotyped abroad? What was that like?
Traveling through developing countries means you will automatically be stereotyped as wealthy – even if you perceive yourself on a budget, and you’ve sold everything and live cheaply, the people you’ll meet often interact with you from that opinion (because it’s mostly true, from a financial standpoint you likely have more).
It can be frustrating though, especially when the prices are subject to doubling or even quadrupling when you’re a Westerner, but it takes perspective – understanding where they’re coming from and really taking into consideration where you’re coming from. You likely do have enough money to pay more than the “local” rate for transport and souvenirs, and they know that and need to make a profit too! Bargaining is part and parcel of traveling in developing countries, but keep perspective!
6. Tell us about your greatest accomplishment during your travels.
Learning to take extra moments and relax into my environment. Long-term travel isn’t like a quick vacation, and it took time for me to train myself to be more present in every moment. It’s still so easy to get caught up in the ridiculous, but I feel like I’ve really been able to make huge strides toward getting lost in moments and experiences over the past several years! 🙂