Last updated on July 31, 2018
Travel as a purposeful act is the only way to create meaningful trips.
It’s only with deliberate choices that we create transformative travel experiences for ourselves and others. I am passionate about shaping a new generation of travelers inspired to take trips that truly impact their world-view. It’s only through finding meaningful connections that we open ourselves to those transformative travel experiences that change our story of the world.
In fact, creating these meaningful connections is so important that the folks at National Geographic named me Traveler of the Year for my work connecting travelers to grassroots travel experiences all over the world. It’s more than a passion, it’s the only way to empower the next generation with the compassion, connection, and respect they’ll need going forward.
With more than a decade of grassroots travel experience, my speeches use storytelling — combined with practical tips and real-world application — to I help students understand how they can create meaningful travel experiences.
We’ve spent years telling students travel is transformative — now let’s work together to pique their curiosity and inspire them to create impactful trips.
As a long-term traveler, I have a wealth of stories and perspectives to share with students. I’ve spoken everywhere from college campuses to high schools to industry conferences. I’m committed to helping organizations create impactful events that leave their audiences changed.
Get in touch!
Phone: +1-727-386-9415 or
What Others Are Saying!
Shannon is an engaging and inspiring speaker. I’ve asked Shannon to speak to several different groups over the past 8 years and she always exceeded expectations. She has wonderful stories and lessons from her travels and delivers them to others with a genuine perspective that relates well to all audiences. Her experiences give students guidance and inspiration to be better global citizens. It has been a pleasure to work with Shannon and I wouldn’t hesitate at all to ask her to speak again. — Troy Cockrum, Teacher
I liked all the connections we could make with Shannon comments and our class readings including her reference to the old part of the brain and the “flight or fight” response that we discussed in Carl Sagan’s “The Brain and the Chariot.” It was also meaningful that she mentioned storytelling and “One Amazing Thing.” — Professor Mary Stark, Pella College
Having Shannon speak to my students about the importance of world travel was not only inspiring to them, but it also opened their eyes to the possibilities that they could experience in life. After reading her blog and listening to her stories about the relationships she’s formed with people around the world, I’ve heard a number of my students talk about where they want to go and how they want to help in the places they visit someday. Shannon really connected to these young, spirited students. — Kate Gooding, teacher at Camas High School
The convocation made me want to travel more than I did before. She had a great experience traveling. I enjoyed her speech and learned a lot! — Student, Pella College
Shannon is quite the person. What she does is really cool and admirable. She seems like she’s bursting with stories, and you could talk to her for hours. When she told us about Laos, it makes me really excited and hopeful for future travels there. She makes me want to travel badly because of the interesting tales she has.” — Student, Camas High
Below are my most popular speech topics. I can also create custom speeches to dovetail exactly with your organization’s goals/mission. In the past this has included: weaving in themes from required classroom readings, emphasizing volunteer travel, focusing on specific regions/destinations.
Travel as Transformation
My signature talk. This talk examines the transformation narrative around travel and helps students understand how their attitude, goals, and travel plans impact every trip. Having left on a journey to seek transformation myself, this talk is highly personal and uses storytelling to show how I came to understand that travel is far more than simply leaving your home country. Creating meaningful connections is the root of all transformative trips. This talk shares stories that underscore the importance of curiosity, respect, and purposeful travel. It empowers students with practical tips, inspiration and advice they need to travel with purpose and passion.
Creating meaningful connections is the root of all transformative trips. This talk shares stories that underscore the importance of curiosity, respect, and purposeful travel.
One of my favorite topics, this talk covers what it means to be a part of the larger global community, and how I learned the meaning of global citizenship throughout my travels. The speech is told through a narrative/storytelling format with anecdotes and fun moments that taught larger lessons. This talk weaves in themes of culture shock, differences between developed and developing world travel, service-minded travel, and how global citizenship fits into the future workplace. It has an aspirational tone perfect for young-adults and 20-something travelers.
I gave this talk at Shenandoah University’s International Convocation; this is a pre-speech interview with the school’s media team
Many travelers express the desire to volunteer or be of service on their international trips, but the volunteering industry has done a great job of making this a confusing, daunting prospect. I started her travels in 2008 with little first-hand knowledge of the volunteering industry. Now, I advocate for service-minded travels that work sympathetically with the communities, people, and places travelers visit. This talk is adaptable to the core message you’d like conveyed, but it generally weaves together personal stories and industry research. It will include, practical advice for navigating the often confusing volunteering landscape. An emphasis on current development and aid best practices. Illustrative stories and examples to inspire ethical travel situations. How social enterprises are changing the face of modern development work. Practical ideas for how travelers can be of service on their travels beyond traditional volunteering. I also offer a bulk discount rate on my critically acclaimed book, The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook, which is a perfect accompaniment to the speech.
In this digital media age, there are endless ways I can interact with your group, organization, or classroom. Each year, I Skype into several classrooms in the US to talk with students about a range of topics. I discuss current lesson plan themes with the teacher, as well as takeaways they’re emphasizing to their students, and can deliver a mixed-media speech and Q and A. (Past topics have included literature unit tie-ins with Into the Wild, living a life of long-term travel, designing work and projects based around a passion).
Ready to Talk?
If you’re looking for a perspective-shifting, empowering travel speech, I would love talk! Let’s dive right into how I can work with your organization or student group to arrange a talk that fits with your goals, mission, and budget. Though I am often on the road, I’m never far from the internet. Contact me: