STRANGERS ON THE ROAD series
(because everyone has a story to tell)
Once in awhile you find yourself on a secluded island with nearly no electricity (except the running generators) and take jumping shots with new found friends in Panama. Then a few weeks later you find yourself in the middle of a Medellin, Colombian dance floor attempting to dance salsa with one of your new found friends from Panama. Of course this friend is a white girl who has no salsa moves but it’s all good because neither do you. We met Shannon while backpacking through Central America and found it odd that a solo American female would be backpacking as this is clearly not the norm for Americans. Meet Shannon from Shannon in Wanderland.
Can you give us a short summary of your trip?
About a year ago I opened my work email inbox at 4:45pm and found nearly a hundred new emails after being unattended for only a few hours. I took a deep breath and started digging into them. After the initial skim and the deletion of the unnecessary emails, I gazed out the window to see the sun setting and another beautiful day passing me by while I sat around conference tables or fried my eyes hunched over my laptop screen. I still had several hours of work ahead of me before I could leave. I was terrified to realize that at some point along my career I had transformed from an active do-er and settled into a passive complainer.
This was not the life that I wanted to live; I was bored and restless with my day to day. So I decided it was time to stop talking about it, and instead to do something about it. But easier said than done! After some soul searching that led me through a roller coaster of emotions, I concluded that it was time to pursue a pie-in-the sky dream of mine: travel. I didn’t have a travel buddy, and I couldn’t expect my friends to just up and leave their comfortable life. After more anxious soul searching that basically caused my stomach to implode within itself, I finally accepted that I’m an independent and confident woman, so why not go it alone? And because if not now, when? So I FINALLY found the guts, and at the end of March I quit my job (almost vomited with anxiety), booked a one way ticket to Nicaragua, and had two months to backpack as far as I could before friend and family commitments required me to be back in the States. I made it to Nicaragua (duh), Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia.
What was the highlight of your trip?
It’s impossible to pick just one highlight. There’s a wonderful quote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky that says, “and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” These infinite moments are always my favorite. They aren’t always the most obvious and are rarely captured on camera. But they are the moments where I’m smiling, taking a deep breath, and thinking, “THIS is why I’m here. This it the life I want to live.”
There are more tangible highlights, too. I hiked to the top of a volcano in Nicaragua. I conquered my fear of heights and went zip lining through the jungles of Costa Rica. I was taught Bachata (a dance) by a local on the beaches of Panama. I swam in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and snorkeled in coral reefs and shipwrecks. I learned how to surf like an uncoordinated child. I discovered that there is a fruit called guanabana and then repeated this word over and over. I danced (my best attempt) at a reggae club on the Caribbean until 4am. I got lost. A lot. I smacked my glasses on the window of a bus from leaning in to see the mesmerizing view. This may or may not have happened more than once. I hiked to waterfalls and swam in the pool at the bottom of them. I watched a pig burrow into the sand like a bed. I booked and paid for a flight, then skipped it to go somewhere else instead. I watched a giant, fat pig saunter around a hostel for three days while knowing that it will be food in a week. I plucked two huge starfish from the sea and held them over my swimsuit like a modern day Ariel. I made friends with people from all over the world. On many occasions I watched actual chickens cross actual roads and still haven’t come up with a clever punchline to the “why did the chicken cross the road?” joke. I saw a sloth just living his sloth lyfe. I was woken up on an isolated island by the blast of a conch shell. I negotiated in Spanish for food, goods, cabs, and places to sleep. But most importantly, I’m proud that I took the plunge and actually went on this trip. That it was a crazy and insane idea that became a fantastic reality. I DID IT. I pursued a dream that was scary, and it absolutely paid off.
Why do you travel?
Because I enjoy it. I like to push myself out of my comfort zone, see new things, get lost, experience new cultures. We have so much to learn that can’t be found on the Internet! New and different perspectives are fascinating to me, and I enjoy talking to new people and absorbing their points of view of the world. We are all so different and yet all so the same. I hope that I never end my constant pursuit of those infinite moments.
Also I’m a Millennial and the master of my own destiny, so I’m gonna do what I want.
Hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, Shannon’s travel bug bit at age fourteen when her parents moved their family to The Netherlands for two years. Ever since, she has been finding excuses to explore the world. Her professional resume touts media agency experience, and you can also find her performing on comedy stages throughout Chicago, singing and dancing in inappropriate places, posing in front of fountains, sampling beer, or trying whatever weird new thing strikes her fancy. Read more on her blog Shannon In Wanderland.