I want to introduce you to Shalee from Shalee Wanders. I met her a few years ago on a media trip and I instantly connected with her over our love for travel and adventure. We even auditioned for the Amazing Race together after only knowing each other for a few days! Her incredible pictures will inspire you to travel and explore more often. I asked Shalee to share about her adventures along with some of her tips for traveling in your 20’s.
What are the advantages of traveling in your 20’s?
Learning is the biggest advantage. Someone once used the term “reverse retirement”, and I completely agree with that concept. I think we should travel when we’re young because you learn about the world.
Traveling while in your 20s is also a freedom unlike any other. You can survive by sleeping in hammocks, eating freeze dried potatoes and living off very little sleep. I like to hike mountains and jump off cliffs—everyone in their 20s is slightly stupid enough to do things like that.
Share some of your favorite adventures so far.
It’s so hard to choose! A few weeks ago I did the east coast and had a blast, so that one is stuck in my heart at the moment. Australia was my first big trip and it opened me to a whole new world of travel. Yosemite was killer, I would be perfectly okay with being a hobo in Hawaii and Canada always blows my mind.
What challenges have you overcome to travel?
Managing and saving money was my biggest challenge. My background doesn’t include a trust fund or a family that can afford travel. When I left high school and moved away to start college, I was really lost. I wanted to travel, but could barely afford gas to go to work. Once I developed a saving method and found out travel was possible, I knew I was hooked. It saved me from a really difficult time in my life.
What are your tips to save money and finance your fun/travels?
Tracking where you spend your money is the most important way to save. A lot of people don’t realize how much their morning coffee costs overtime. If you’re spending $4 on Starbucks coffee 5 days a week, your total over one year is $1,040…that adds up to a pretty epic trip!
Before I had a travel credit card, I would pay in cash for almost everything. When I would receive any one dollar bills back, I would put them away and act like I didn’t receive that change. In 6 months I managed to save over $400 in single bills alone. It’s a really great method.
What adventure were you scared to try, but you did it anyway?
Hawaii was my first big solo trip and I was terrified. I left on my first plane without a secure place to stay once I landed. I really thought I may have to sleep in my hammock my first night there. Thankfully, it worked out and I had the time of my life!
What adventures are on your list right now?
America’s northwest, Iceland and Thailand! I’m headed to Iceland in August and couldn’t be more excited. America’s northwest is my last unvisited region in the United States and Thailand has a culture that really intrigues me.
What advice would you give to someone who thinks they don’t have enough money or time to travel?
You do! If you make travel a priority, there is always a way to make it work. Make the most of your weekends and travel regionally if you must. I don’t get to travel non-stop, I have school and another job to balance, but I make time. Too often we get caught up in school, work and society and forget traveling is always possible.
What are some of your favorite travel hacks?
Finding cheap flights is my specialty. When I booked the trip to Iceland, my ticket was $450 round trip—including a $65 baggage fee. I am flexible with my travel dates and use sites like Skyscanner and Wow Air, who can offer amazing deals.
I also rarely stay in hotels, unless I use Hotwire. I like to use Couchsurfing, which is an online community of people who let you stay in their homes for free when traveling. Hotels are often the most expensive part of a trip and I try to avoid them as much as possible.
What have you learned from your solo travels?
People will either think you are the weirdest or coolest person alive. It also allows you to open up and meet other travelers. It’s hard at times when something goes wrong and you have no one to lean on, but it’s part of the experience.
Most importantly, it taught me the world is not as scary as it seems and the number of good people far outweigh the bad.
What did you do to make sure that you were safe during your solo travels?
I always try to make smart choices and follow my gut instinct. I’ve never been put in a bad situation, so that is good. I think it’s really helpful that I’m not afraid to speak up and be a complete brat to anyone who thinks they can take advantage of the fact I’m alone.
Most importantly, it’s important to stay in contact with loved ones back home. I give addresses to every place I’m staying and contact them daily. Even when I don’t know where I’m staying until last minute, the first thing I try to do is send the info their way.
You take amazing pictures, what are your tips for capturing a great shot?
Thank you! I try to capture images that tell a story. I have an IPhone 5 and a Canon 70d. Some of my best photos are taken with my phone, so having a big expensive camera isn’t a must.
You can never take enough pictures on a trip and the best ones are sometimes the candid unexpected shots. I’m a big believer in the rule of thirds, which means that the subject of the photo should rarely be in the center of the shot. Lastly, I never use filters or big edits on my photos, I think over edited photos ruin the image.
Where do you find travel inspiration and adventure ideas?
Everywhere and anywhere. I find a lot through social media and other blogs. I also get ideas from others who have been places and recommend them. I have a giant list of places that I’ve seen or heard from somewhere that I want to go. It continues to grow every day! I love seeing a place—especially in the Midwest—that I never knew existed. It’s so exciting to start planning a trip to go there.
What is your blog about?
My blog focuses on adventure and budget travel for people in their 20s. I focus on destinations away from tourist zones that will bring travelers back to nature. My specialty is anything related to hiking, camping, adventure, the Midwest and mountains.
Right now I am based mainly in the Midwest and Michigan region, but will be moving globally next year. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store!