A Little Update … Speaking Dates and a National Geographic Honor

Taking time for friends and making Florida fun with a fellow nomad who passes through St. Pete, Stephanie from Wandering for Good.

It’s been a wacky ride these last few months. In late June, I returned home from traveling through Panama with my dad and my niece and I entered a transition period … or I extended the transition I talked about earlier this year. I hunkered down here in Florida  to refocus on projects I have had in the wings for a very long time. When I actively travel, I often don’t look into the future and work on my long-term goals. This is a trade-off of long-term travel, but one I have never bemoaned because I am so grateful for these years on the road. But it is a limitation inherent in constantly switching homes, cities, and countries for months on end over the past nearly five years.

I focused on two goals: speaking to students about global citizenship and officially launching Grassroots Volunteering. Within a few weeks of preparing my fall to include both these goals, I found out big news: National Geographic was naming me one of their Travelers of the Year! Two weeks later, Shenandoah University and the University of Central Florida invited me to speak about travel and entrepreneurship to their students.

A happy dance ensued, and on the heels of elation was panic. Life started moving faster than I had anticipated when I set in motion these plans, and it overwhelmed me. I’ve caught up, though, and I moved back into the happy dance mode as these positive events allow me to further spread my twin goals of encouraging travel and service.

I’d love to share with you a bit more about the NatGeo honor, upcoming speaking dates, and my travel plans.

National Geographic Traveler of the Year

natgeo-travelers-of-the-yearNatGeo honored me as a 2013 Traveler of the Year. They interviewed me here, and there will also be a photo spread and piece in the November issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

The backbone of the Traveler of the Year program is to honor those who have traveled with passion and purpose. They selected the winners from the 1,500+ nominations, and they chose me to highlight my work these past two years in the social enterprise and volunteering front; namely my book, The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook, and Grassroots Volunteering, which I’ll detail in a post later this week outlining the backstory and motivations for building the site and community.
Each winner (there are ten of us) has shared travel in a unique way. As I look through the other winners it humbles me to be among them; my friend Benny, from Fluent in 3 Months, is recognized for his work encouraging travelers to learn local languages as they travel. One winner runs a Nomad Clinic every year to the remotest areas of the Himalaya, and another is illustrating the transformative power of travel regardless of physical ability. I am in inspiring company and I encourage you to read through the profiles of the others too! :)


I also have to give thanks to Steve Martine, the NatGeo photographer they sent to St. Petersburg to photograph me for the online and print issue. He was fun, funny, and we had a blast running through the banyan trees and beaches of downtown St. Pete.

Upcoming Speaking

I have often written about my intention to work with students and youth as a way to encourage an expanded worldview and motivate them to dream big and travel young. Though I have Skyped in with middle school classrooms, and spoken at industry events, this year I am honing in on the students and youth I believe are ripe for a conversation about the power of travel. This fall I have two events lined up so far:

downtown winchester

Downtown Winchester, Virginia

  • On November 13th I will speak at Shenandoah University, a private University in Winchester, VA. This year, they asked me to speak at International Convocation, om which is when the 60 lucky students and faculty find out where in the world they’re traveling on spring break (they apply to the school’s Global Citizenship Project without knowing the destinations and winners could end up traveling anywhere!).
  • Throughout the fall I am working with my alma mater, the University of Central Florida, and their startup LaunchPad to help students with social enterprise development. Last week, I spoke about growth of this site, my consulting business, and the Grassroots site. I’ll be back in Orlando many times over the coming months at various events, so check my Facebook page if your keen for an Orlando meetup.

A Bit of Housekeeping:

Travel Plans and Moving Forward

marathon trainingNovember 4th is my five-year travel-anniversary. This was a light year of travel for me, with just Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama throughout the spring and summer. Going forward, I more evenly divide my travels between the US and the road, a change from the pattern over the past five years. This will allow me to continue working with youth and students—through speaking, workshops, and still through the classrooms that invite me in to Skype with them. I always thought one day I might become a teacher, but this is a happy medium for me to combine my years on the road with a my affinity for working with youth. I am also working on a new book, a travel memoir now in the book proposal stage (and thus, telling you that I’m working on it is a terrifying form of accountability).

Going forward, I am not married into any travel plans, though Africa is the big dream and it’s looking like February as my next big trip (Mexico may happen before then). These next months will include speaking, working, and enjoying my friends. It’s a nice balance and I like being home long enough to make plans months in the future (in January my best friend Niki and I are running the Disney Marathon in Orlando—it’ll be my first one and I am half-way through the training program!).

Next up on the blog is a big post talking about my other site, then back to travel stories! :)

As ever, I thank you for the support. If you can make it out to anything I have going on in the next few months, I would love to meet up!

Cheers and thanks,


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28 Responses to A Little Update … Speaking Dates and a National Geographic Honor

  1. Jaryd Krause March 29, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

    Wow congratulations, that is such a great achievement, you should be extremely proud of all the hard work you have put in to accomplish that. I take my hat off to you and hope someday soon I am able to start talking and inspiring more people as do you, cheers and well done once more

    • Shannon O'Donnell March 31, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

      Thank you so much Jaryd, I really appreciate the congrats and the support, I was blown away when I found out they had chosen me. :)

  2. Ed November 24, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    You need to learn to frame your photo subject, weather person or a bowl, many of your pictures are edged cropped…missing top of head or edges of your subject. Those are the pictures I hit the delete on my camera.

  3. Susan November 21, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Yay, Shannon! Congrats again on the NatGeo honor — that is wonderful! I love how you’re getting to travel AND work with kids. I also thought about becoming a teacher, so it’s cool to see that you’re managing to combine your passions. It’s inspirational, and I hope I can do the same someday. GOOD LUCK on the marathon! I’m running my first one in March (Napa Valley), so I can’t wait to hear how yours goes!

    • Shannon O'Donnell November 25, 2013 at 1:28 am #

      Thank you so much Susan for the support! And if you ever need an encouraging cheer on the marathon just let me know. It gets really hard to maintain the motivation to run the big miles and we can chat sometime about working with kids, running, anything if I can help in any way :)

  4. Dave and Deb November 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Congratulations on all your success Shannon, may 2014 be filled with just as many adventures! I’m so excited for you.

    • Shannon O'Donnell November 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

      Thanks for the support, it means a lot to me. It’s been great to see how far our niche industry has come in the past few years, full of so many great opportunities! :)

  5. Tim October 25, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Very cool, Shannon! Congratulations! Sounds like you’re doing great stuff so it’s good you received some recognition for it. Good luck on the marathon too. :)

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 25, 2013 at 11:57 am #

      Thank you! Really appreciate the support and I’ll take your wishes of luck on the marathon, I am still in training and whew, it’s hard! :)

  6. Dani October 12, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Congratulations to the Nat Geo recognition! You rock! Well deserved. So proud of you!! Also happy to hear about the speaking gigs – I am sure many others will follow. Hope your Africa plans will work out and wish we could join you there! Maybe you should wait another six months with those plans and we could travel Africa together ;-)

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 13, 2013 at 9:58 am #

      Thanks Dani! I had no idea you guys were looking at Africa after that — we need to Skype and discuss because that is a tempting offer!! :)

  7. Oliver October 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Congratulations! Saw the Nat G via Guy Kawasaki on G+, hope it helps more folks find your excellent blog. Good luck on your new project.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      Thanks for popping in and saying hello (and very cool that Guy K mentioned it!). Cheers :)

  8. Dan Rogers October 8, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Every morning, I look for beauty in the world. It may be a dew drop on a blade of grass, or the nascent color change in the leaves as Autumn approaches. But that slice of beauty helps improve my outlook, especially since I am living in a place where I don’t want to be. And your posts provide a similar outlet for my dream to return to the life of travel that I once lived, a life that was a balm to my soul. Thank you for sharing, for having such a positive outlook, and for providing a glimpse into your beautiful life.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 9, 2013 at 12:26 am #

      That was a lovely note to see in my mailbox this morning Dan, I really appreciate you sharing your perspective. Thank you for the support and please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email if there is ever anything I can do to help you. :)

  9. Corinne Vail October 8, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Congratulations! How exciting to be recognized for all of your work! Wow!

  10. Andi Perullo de Ledesma October 8, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    CONGRATS!!!!! I can only imagine how proud you must be of yourself?

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 9, 2013 at 12:26 am #

      Thank you Andi! I couldn’t stop grinning for days. It doesn’t change the work I did, but it is really rewarding to see that others find it valuable. Thanks for the support! :)

  11. Beth October 8, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Congratulations on the National Geographic spread! That’s an amazing accomplishment. I look forward to reading it in November!

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 9, 2013 at 12:25 am #

      Thank you Beth, I’m excited to see what they have in it too! I appreciate the support and hope you are well! :)

  12. Erin October 8, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    Woohoo! Huge congratulations Shannon. The award is really well deserved, and the most exciting thing is that it’ll help you achieve your goals. It’s always good to have a little push in the right direction :) Good luck with it and I’m sure you’ll be an amazing, inspiring speaker.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 9, 2013 at 12:24 am #

      Thank you Erin! It’s been a wild ride these past couple months. Thanks for the support and hope you guys are well :)

  13. Will Liu October 7, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Wow, what a great news! Big congrats on a well deserved recognition Shannon. Most travelers, despite picking up wisdom along the way, few get involved like you do, and that makes all the difference. Like all changes of significance, they happen not from being told, but inspired, and I think you are doing just fine :)

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 7, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

      Thank you Will, these past few years of really trying to take in a new place and learn from it has changed my life for positive, and I really enjoy spreading that message with others. Cheers and hope your travels are going well, your photos from Asia are gorgeous! :)

  14. The Wondernuts October 7, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Very cool!!! Congratulations on the award =)

  15. Nicole Breitfeller Oman October 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Don’t forget, you are also training to do your first marathon!

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      That’s right, it’s happening for sure! I have to get my but in gear in a couple hours and do a run :)

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