Categories: Amazing WomenTravel

Amazing Women: Shannon O’Donnell, NatGeo Traveler of the Year 2013

Shannon leaps the Great Wall!

Shannon O’Donnell, author of the blog A Little Adrift, has been traveling and on the road since 2008. Shannon travels with purpose, and her goal is to encourage others to travel and volunteer, and to do it as best helps local economies and the people who live in them.  She decided to change her life, go on the road and do some volunteer work along the way.  Her plan was to go for a year.  It is now 2015, and she has written a book, The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook, started a website about Grassroots Volunteering, and become National Geographic’s Traveler of the Year in 2013. These are amazing accomplishments.

When asked about NatGeo’s Traveler of the Year award, Shannon had this to say: “The Travelers of the Year program chooses people for traveling with passion and purpose, and I was so honored they selected me for my work on grassroots travel and volunteering. I actively work to promote a style of travel that infuses money into the local economies and supports projects funded and founded by locals for their communities. They have given my work a wider reach and I definitely did a happy dance when I found out I was selected!”  You can read Shannon’s interview with NatGeo HERE.

Shannon O’Donnell, Traveler of the Year 2013, National Geographic.

As my own travel becomes more focused on volunteer travel and citizen science, I connected with Shannon a year or so ago regarding grassroots volunteering.  Recently I have sought her advice on building my “brand”, and becoming more visible.  My volunteer interests lean more toward the ocean and marine life, but all volunteer work is good work, as I’m sure you will agree.  Her concentration on local organizations around the world is unique, and inspiring.

I am featuring Shannon O’Donnell as part of my Amazing Women Wednesdays series not only because of her passion for travel and for grassroots volunteering, but because she is a strong and independent woman.  She does what she wants to do, and being a woman doesn’t get in her way.  So many people think it is unsafe for a woman to travel alone. Don’t be afraid!  As Robert Frost says, “I took the road less traveled, and it has made all the difference”.  Shannon is a shining example to everyone that women can, and do, make a difference in the world.  She is a worthy role model for our young girls and women everywhere.  Be sure to check out her travel photos!

Shannon O’Donnell

So, what is Shannon’s plan moving forward?  She and I are on a similar course, actually, and may be able to meet this year: “My upcoming travel plans are a trip to Mexico this summer. I will take my two young nephews (9 and 11 years old) for a month to learn about the Mayan culture and explore the region. After that, I’d love to make it to Istanbul this year!”.  As most of you know, I spend part of my summer in Mexico, and Shannon and her nephews will be in shouting distance.   Istanbul?  That sounds interesting, but I have a few travels of my own to make this year with two children having weddings! Hopefully we’ll meet up in Mexico, and if we do, I’ll be sure to blog about it.

Be sure to share Shannon’s story, and talk about the difference she is making in #womenslives.

Tam Warner

Award Winning Travel Journalist and Blogger, writing about Eclectic Travels in the Empty Nest! From scuba to luxury cruises to kayaking to expeditions, Tam is ready to go! Contact me at

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Tam Warner

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