This travel blogger interview features Shannon Kircher of The Wanderlust Effect. Not only is she someone who loves travel but also works in the tourism industry.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
I was born and raised in Northern California, and lived there until adulthood when I moved to London and then to Anguilla, the island I currently call home.
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
I live and work abroad. Previously, I lived in London while attending the LSE in Central London – it was an amazing experience and a time in my life where I traveled as often as possible on the limited budget of a graduate school student. My husband and I now live in the Caribbean on the island of Anguilla where we manage a luxury boutique resort and travel internationally at every opportunity! We’re lucky to run a 10-month season in Anguilla, which allows us to escape for about a month each fall and embark on a serious adventure somewhere new. This year, we’re spending a month in Africa, exploring the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
My husband and I both work full time at our resort, and have other side projects that keep us fueled, including my website! We travel enough during the year to keep content flowing for my blog, which is the perfect balance. I prefer to work/blog while we’re traveling instead of revisiting everything afterwards since emotions and takeaways are so fresh in my mind.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
Growing up in Northern California, I remember regular childhood trips in the winter and summer to Lake Tahoe where we’d go skiing and snow tubing in winter, and swimming and camping in the summer. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that I realized quite how beautiful Tahoe is as a destination – we were lucky to have had that as our regular getaway!
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
I think the most pleasantly surprising destination for me was Ireland. Unlike many friends of mine, it had never been a bucket list destination for me so I don’t think I really had any expectations at all. I’ve been twice now – once to Dublin and the West Coast, and once to Dublin and the Southwest on a road trip with my family. I was surprised both times by how much I loved the country. After our most recent trip (October 2015), Ireland is an absolute favorite destination of mine. The culture is so rich, people are so friendly, and the scenery is stunning!
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
Nothing terribly bad. I was traveling with my sister and father in Paris in my mid-twenties when my dad was pickpocketed on the Metro. We didn’t even realize it was happening – they operate quickly! We tried to not let it ruin the trip, but not having any credit or debit cards made it difficult. Recently, in Antigua, Guatemala, our car was broken into. Luckily nothing was taken, but it was a bit of a headache trying to get the window repaired. If that’s the worst we’ll ever deal with while traveling, that’s not too bad!
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Oh man, I hate to identify any place as being ‘bad’ since most places have some sort of redeeming quality. The worst place for me? Probably St. Thomas in the USVIs; it’s too busy, congested, and lacks any character. It’s essentially the antithesis of what I envision as a true Caribbean escape. Lest I be too negative, I will say that there are fun day trips you can take from St. Thomas so you can visit other islands in the region that are really great!
Where is your favourite place in the world?
This is such a tough question since there are so many places that resonate with me for different reasons! If I had to pick a single city that I find the most captivating, it would probably be Jerusalem. I loved everything about the city: the architecture, the history, the culture, the food scene – it’s so vibrant and absolutely unique.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
I have a never-ending, ever-growing bucket list, but it’s been so much fun embarking on journeys that I had once only dreamed about! We’re heading out on a major bucket list adventure this fall: gorilla trekking in the Congo, going on a boat safari in Uganda, plus whale watching and wine tasting in South Africa. If I had to pick three bucket list trips that are still the highest on my list, I’d probably go with Vietnam + Cambodia, the Adriatic (Croatia, Montenegro, plus Slovenia), and roadtripping New Zealand.
I keep my updated bucket list on my site so I can keep track of the adventures – it’s always so fun to look back on!
Can you imagine life without travel?
Not even for a second. I can’t imagine my life without it, I can’t imagine my marriage without it, and I can’t imagine raising children without infusing a lifelong love of travel into their lives. I think travel is so incredibly transformative and educational, and is so integral in really broadening horizons and learning about people and cultures first hand.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
Right now, my life is a great mix of travel and full-time work in the hospitality/tourism industry (namely, at the Frangipani Beach Resort in Anguilla, but also as the curator at Cruiseable, a cruise-focused tech startup). Even when I’m not traveling, I’m involved in other people’s travels, and making their experiences memorable.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
My travel blog was recently rebranded (at the beginning of 2016) as The Wanderlust Effect, after running under The Traveling Scholar since 2009. I started it in graduate school, but outgrew the confines of its original name. Rebranding was a great way to infuse new life into my site and allow it to grow with me as I continue to explore!
When did you begin your website The Wanderlust Effect?
My site started in 2009, while I was living in London and exploring other parts of Europe constantly. It was an amazing time for me to capture experiences and share them with my family, friends, and others embarking on similar journeys. Now, it’s continued to be a great way for me to reflect on previous travel experiences, how my travel style has changed, and how travel has changed me.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I write for so many reasons, but it all boils down to being passionate about writing and sharing stories (and photos!). I started doing it to document my experiences for myself and to share my adventures abroad with family and friends. My love for blogging grew after finding the communities that exist within the travel sphere; they’re incredibly inspirational and motivating. It’s so fun being part of these broader travel blogging communities and connecting with people from around the globe that are passionate about seeing and impacting the world.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
I think what makes blogs such wonderful outlets is that they’re all inherently unique because we’re all unique. Our perspectives on destinations, experiences, and interactions along with our personal focuses when we travel differ widely, so it’s particularly great to be able to see how a single destination impacts people in such different ways.
I focus on experiences in new destinations in a broad sense – whether that’s adventure (hang gliding in Rio), food and wine (wine tasting in La Rioja or Napa Valley), nature and wildlife (African safaris or river cruising on the Amazon) culture (overnighting in a Bedouin camp in Jordan or experiencing Semana Santa in Guatemala), art and history (delving into Parisian museums and walking Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem), or luxury beach breaks and city escapes. I don’t consider myself budget or luxury – I do it all, and I opt for whatever is right given the circumstance. My blog has grown as I’ve grown and I like to share very real takes on destinations, especially developing destinations that have previously gotten a bad rap for histories with conflict and instability. Seeing these places first-hand and sharing those experiences is something that I’ve come to love; it continues to teach me to never judge a book by its cover, and also helps me encourage others – online and in person – to delve deeper into destinations that are under the radar.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
I work with affiliate programs for brands and products that I absolutely love, and I’ll include links to those in posts on my site occasionally. I never promote anything that I don’t really love or believe in.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
Some of my most successful blog posts to date are about Anguilla, with tips, top 5 lists, etc. Anguilla has an incredible community of travelers that absolutely love the island with a passion that I’ve never quite seen before. If I share something on the island, it will often get picked up by forums to circulate to lovers of the island and future visitors. I’ve done posts on most romantic experiences, the anatomy of an appetizer crawl, and favorite beaches for lunchtime escapes (amongst others) that have gotten a lot of love.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
It’s so difficult to pick just one! One of my favorites to write was probably my experience in Petra since it felt so surreal. It had been on my bucket list for such a long time, and to see it in person and be able to share those experiences felt pretty magical.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
Toughie! I love air travel but I hate dealing with airports. Living in the Caribbean, I’ve come to love zipping around to different beaches and islands by boat since it can be such a simultaneously tranquil and exhilarating experience. Train travel in the right circumstance could be favorite form of travel though, especially some of the classic train journeys. I find trains to be such a beautiful way to get from Point A to Point B while taking in vibrant landscapes. We’re doing the Blue Train in South Africa this fall from Johannesburg to Cape Town (27 hours!) and I couldn’t be more excited to experience such a classic train expedition!
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
My biggest takeaway from travel is to be flexible, resourceful and optimistic. The truth is that travel isn’t always easy, things will inevitably go wrong, and sometimes destinations are simply not what you expected. You can let it ruin your trip, or you can take it as a learning experience, change up plans (if need be), and look for the positive and the beauty in everywhere you go, everything you do, and every person you meet.
What has travel taught you?
Beyond being flexible and resourceful (good skills for life in general!), I think the most beautiful thing that travel has taught me is how similar we are as human beings. The more you travel and the more people you meet, the more you realize that there are fundamental similarities that we all share as people, despite what seem like differences from the outset. It’s amazing being able to see and connect with people despite language and cultural barriers – smiles, laughter and attempts at communication (even when you can’t really speak the language) can be create wonderful and uplifting moments.
What are your favorite under-the-radar destinations?
In the Mediterranean, I love Gozo, Malta’s smaller, neighboring island. It’s hugely historical and visually stunning, but also has a more tranquil vibe than Malta. In the Caribbean, I think Anguilla is amazing for a luxurious, blow-the-budget locale, while Dominica is the ultimate for adventurers looking for something a bit more off the beaten path. In Europe broadly, I love Basque Country. It’s not overly under-the-radar, but exploring beyond San Sebastian, into La Rioja and Pays Basque, is an awesome experience.
Which destinations have been the most jaw-dropping for you?
There are a few spots that really stand out in my mind as serious wow travel moments.
- Machu Picchu in Peru // We visited for our honeymoon and it was absolutely magical and awe-inspiring, and the area surrounding Machu Picchu (the Sacred Valley) was very rewarding to explore as well.
- Petra in Jordan // I’ve mentioned this already here, but Petra was a serious wow for me. Major bucket list adventure that was surreal to experience first hand. The scale is so much larger than you’d imagine going in – it’s absolutely awesome.
- Iguassu Falls in Argentina and Brazil // We explored the Brazilian and Argentine sides of Iguassu Falls and I was blown away by how naturally stunning the falls are and how expansive the park is. I was expecting something grand, but this blew anything I had envisioned out of the water. It was otherworldly and felt like we had been dropped into Jurassic Park and left to explore. We also visited Rio and saw Christ the Redeemer (a World Wonder) during that trip, and it didn’t hold a candle to Iguassu Falls.
What travel experience has been the most transformative for you?
Every trip that I’ve been on has helped shape me, and has helped me to really define my perspective on travel and on the world. I think our trip to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank in 2014 was perhaps one of the most eye-opening experiences for many reasons. We felt totally safe the majority of the time, which was in direct contrast to what most people on the outside looking in expected. My family was concerned about us heading to the region, but we felt nothing but warmth and excitement, and experienced welcoming populations for the most part. It was a big reality check on how the media warps many people’s vision of the world and what’s happening on the ground. Also, being in a conflict area, we tried to delve a bit deeper and did tours that helped highlight different viewpoints on the issues at hand in a very responsible way. It was great to see and hear about co-existence, the goals and perspectives of people on the ground, and what each group saw as a potential solution. It was real and raw, and one of the most powerful experiences we’ve had when traveling.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Not my ‘favorite’ in the most comfortable/luxurious sense, but I’m an American Airlines flyer! I’m so entrenched in their program that I cant’ help but love the free flights we score on American and OneWorld partners. We’re flying Qatar this fall, and I have a feeling that’s going to be a great experience.
Favourite country? As far as countries as a whole, Italy or Ireland.
Favourite city? Too many cities that I love, but as far as unique and captivating cities go, probably Jerusalem! I also love San Francisco and London – my former homes!
Favourite beach? I’m biased, but Meads Bay in Anguilla is hard to beat. Despite seeing it daily, I’m constantly amazed by how stunningly beautiful it is; it’s the ultimate Caribbean postcard beach!
Favourite food? If I had to live on one food forever, it’d probably be sushi.
Favourite language? English aside, probably Spanish since it’s the only foreign language that I feel comfortable and somewhat empowered speaking. I find Arabic beautiful and complex – I’ve tried learning but need serious immersion to try to ever master it!
Favorite drink? After visiting Brazil, I was really turned on to caipirinhas forever. I liked them before that trip, but now they’re my go-to. If cachaca is behind the bar, that’s what I’m getting 99% of the time.
Please provide the following:-
Website url? www.thewanderlusteffect.com
Twitter handle? @lavidashannon
Facebook page? www.facebook.com/thewanderlusteffect