Shalee Wanders Q&A - Answering Reader Questions
February 21, 2020
Last week I asked my Facebook followers to submit any questions they had about travel. Here are my answers:
If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give yourself about traveling?
PACK LIGHT. And don’t overplan.
Seriously, that’s it. I can’t stress those two enough.
What is your top spot for solo travel?
Solo travel, especially for females, was once considered an extreme taboo. Thankfully, today solo travel is widely accepted and encouraged by many. There are entire Facebook groups, like The Solo Female Traveler Network, that have over 356,000 members who are traveling solo consistently. If you ever need tips, tricks, or inspiration on solo travel, I’d recommend joining some of these communities.
The best spots for solo travel depend on what kind of person you are. For example, I love to travel alone in remote locations where I can road-trip, turn up the jams, and take in the sights with solitude. Traveling alone to cities is not something I’m particularly fond of. Because of this, I’ll break my recommendations down into two categories:
Introverted solo travelers: New Zealand, Arizona, New England (specifically Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine), Norway, Scotland, and Patagonia.
Extroverted solo travelers: Bali, Hawaii, Italy, New York City, San Francisco, Ibiza, Sydney, Thailand, and Chicago.
Most serendipitous experience you’ve ever had on a trip?
Oh, this one is tough! I think because we often travel without much of a plan, many times the entire trip becomes one fond ongoing memory. However, there are a couple of moments that stick out in my mind, a lot of them stemming from interactions with Couchsurfing hosts. I think a lot of times people still get freaked out by the term ‘Couchsurfing,’ but it leads to a lot of small serendipitous moments that are completely unique.
While living in the van, we encountered a severe cold streak arriving in Utah. We spent a night sleeping in sub-zero temperatures and decided to see if we could find a local Couchsurfing host the next night to take pity on us. We ended up crashing at someone’s house in Salt Lake City, who was also hosting another couchsurfer at the time. It turns out, he was a paragliding instructor and offered to take us up the next day on a ride. We got up early the following morning and spent the day hanging out and floating alongside the rocky mountains. It's those little moments that stick out.
What is your preferred travel app?
For flight deals, I use Dollar Flight Club. I have the premium membership, which allows me to set my home airport and get local deals sent directly to my phone. Just last week, I received a notification of a deal from my airport to Madrid for $320 round trip.
My second favorite is The Outbound, which is an app that shows local adventures wherever you are. It’s a great way to find trails and scenic spots that aren’t typical touristy-stops. When you click on an adventure, the app gives you all the information you need, including exact parking coordinates, pictures, mileage, elevation gain, and even a detailed packing list/overview of what to expect.
If you're a camper, Hipcamp is a must. It's like Airbnb for camping and unique accommodation. Many of listings are simple campsite plots of host properties, but there are also a wide-range of other accommodations. We've used it several times, staying in yurts, on organic tea farms, and yoga retreats. You can also use the code SHALEEWANDERS when signing up to receive $10 back on your first stay!
What is your go-to travel music playlist?
My playlist is usually all over the place. I can easily hop from dance to bluegrass to rock in less than five minutes. Here are a few of my go-to listens:
How do you handle communication when you don’t speak the language?
I would love to pretend I’m a language-whiz who picks up local phrases quickly and orders a bagel my second day in the native language…but the reality looks a lot more like me flailing my arms and using Google Translate in panicked desperation. Fun fact: I SUCK at dialect and language. My C in high school French forever haunts me.
I’m not a huge fan of apps like Duo Lingo that teach you phrases like “the cat is black” instead of “where is washroom because I’m about to pee myself.” Thankfully, I find translation apps to be beneficial. If I’m traveling anywhere new, I do try to learn basic phrases, such as ‘thank you’ and ‘please,’ but you’d be surprised how far one can go simply on hand gestures and pointing.
How do you find time to balance relationships with family and friends with your time spent traveling?
This is a delicate balance and I’m not going to lie; I feel a lot of guilt. However, my friends and family are always 100% supportive and never make me feel guilty for doing what I love, which I genuinely appreciate.
Beyond that, friends and family know that they are ALWAYS welcome to visit or travel with me. In fact, I encourage them to! Nothing makes me happier than watching them explore a place for the first time.
I always set aside a few weeks a year where I am back home and spending time with family and friends. I come home for holidays whenever I can, and I make sure that even if I’m missing important events in their lives that they still know I’m thinking of them.
For those of you who have friends or family that live out of state, when we say come visit, we mean it! I mean, it’s a free place to stay on vacation, take advantage of it.
At any given moment, Shalee is either lost, hunting for ice cream, or obsessively planning her next adventure.
Born and raised in rural Michigan, she began exploring the shores of Great Lakes as a teen, often sleeping in her car to save money. Eventually, her urge to explore pushed beyond her Midwest borders. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure and outdoor tourism. Her pack now includes two spunky hiking cats and her partner, Josh. Learn more about her here.