From Farm Life to World Traveler: Micaela Shalane’s Nomadic Journey


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Seth Freedman:  Today we have Micaela Shalane on the show. Micaela, thank you very much for coming on the show with us today.

Micaela Shalane:  Thank you for having me.

Micaela, can you tell us what originally got you interested in travel?

I grew up in the cornfields of Ohio. I lived on a farm my whole life. I showed horses and sheep and had never even considered traveling. But then my senior year of college, I went on spring break and I actually made a new friend from Ireland who was the first person I’d ever really met that was from another country. Hearing their story and how they moved to America to go to school and stuff…that kind of sparked a light bulb in my head. I was like, “Wow, there’s actually some other stuff out there.” So I started thinking about it a little bit and thought it could be kind of cool to go to Ireland and see what what else is out there. I pulled together all the money I had. I actually sold my last four sheep to help pay for my very first trip abroad. I did a guided tour around Europe right after I graduated college and that trip changed my entire life. It just really showed me that there’s a whole other world out there. I fell in love with the idea of seeing these new places that I always dreamed about. It set the tone for the past seven years of my life. I moved to California and have been doing the nomad thing ever since. It was all because of the initial trip that I went on.

Can you tell us about your first trip? How did you feel before you ventured out on that trip and where did you go? What did you do?

Yeah. Even though I was excited about the idea of traveling, I was so nervous. I was traveling alone, but you quickly find that with traveling, you’re never really alone. There’s always amazing people to meet. Even though I was doing a tour, it was just kind of intimidating to have to go and experience something new and meet so many new people. I was just completely blown away by seeing all these places. When I went to Europe, I started in Ireland and did a lot of Western Europe. I went to Italy, Paris, London, and Amsterdam. It was just a really incredible way to get a little taste of everything. The trip was very fast-paced. It was go, go, go from the start but it was it was absolutely incredible.

If you had to define what type of traveler you are, what type of traveler would you consider yourself?

I would definitely say I’m a go-getter traveler. A lot of people have told me that I’m hard to keep up with because I just want to maximize the time I spend in a place. If I have one week, five weeks, or two months, every day I’m like, “Let’s go do something!” I’m actually living in Bali right now. I’m trying to get myself to relax a little bit more and not feel like I need to do stuff every day, but I also sometimes have a fear of missing out. I just want to make sure that I fulfill as much time as I can in every place and experience all the things you can’t unsee. I just like to do as much as I can.

Speaking of experiences….the American media is very quick to point out horror stories overseas. Is it safe to explore locally? What has been your experience?

One hundred percent. I mean, I’m one of those people that actually chooses not to watch the news much because it kind of breaks my heart how so many of these amazing countries are portrayed. I’ve gone to a few different places where people thought I was crazy for going, especially as a solo female backpacker. Some of the best experiences I’ve had are in these places and it’s just really heartbreaking to see how they’re portrayed. A lot of these countries rely on tourism. For instance, Egypt doesn’t have the best rap right now because of all the stuff that’s happened, but it’s one of the most historical places in the world, as far as the history that you can experience there. You can really see how much tourism has been suffering. It’s really sad. If it can happen in Egypt, it can happen in Europe. You shouldn’t look to the media for potential dangers because everywhere has the potential to be dangerous. You shouldn’t miss out on experiences.

Have you had experiences where you’ve been scared or you’ve been badly scammed?

To be honest, not really. I can’t think of any time where I actually genuinely felt scared for my life. I mean, there’s obviously some pick pocketing that can happen, but not anything that’s hindered my desire to travel.

Absolutely. I would imagine while traveling, there are moments that create these lifelong memories that just last forever. Can you give us a couple of those?

Yeah. I think one of the experiences I had that was the most unique was last year for my birthday when I went to Bhutan, which is a tiny little country up in the Himalayas. For those of you who aren’t familiar, I actually didn’t know much about it before I went. They actually practice gross national happiness. The country really focuses on maintaining their traditions. They’re not very big on tourism so you have to go there with a guide. You’re not allowed to just enter the country and wander around. So I went there and I had my own driver and my guide for the few days I was there. It’s a Buddhist country and they house some of the most incredible temples, but you can’t go in them and take pictures or anything. You have to go to the country to see it. I went there for my birthday and the people who put the tour on for me gave me just really made me feel at home. It was the first place I ever went solo for my birthday. I had no friends with me or anything. I would really recommend going if you have the chance because it’s really special. Since they’re not big on tourism, you really get a feel the place without all the crowds and all the people trying to sell you stuff. It’s just super beautiful, the way everything’s painted on all their homes. It’s really amazing. That’s an experience that I know not very many people have had. It will forever be one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had.

That sounds amazing. Have you ever had your heart broken on the road? Is there somebody that you maybe fell in love with in the moment or is there somebody that you keep in touch with? Can you tell us a little bit about romance on the road?

Well, I don’t have anything too crazy or juicy to share, but being on the road and moving around as often as I do definitely makes it a little trickier to have any kind of romance. You do meet some credible people around the world….you’ll definitely have those connections with people. I’ve had a couple of moments where I’ve come back and gone traveling with the person through their countries and stuff. I stay in touch with a lot of people and just haven’t found that right person to join me on all my adventures just yet.

Money is a big thing when traveling….saving money, spending money, knowing where to spend it. Do you have any good money saving tips for people that are trying to travel?

Taking public transportation is definitely something I recommend. Not only do you get more of the authentic experience of hanging out with the locals, but in some Asian countries, you can pay 50 cents for a six or seven hour drive or you’re going to pay almost 100 dollars for a cab. Public transportation might take a little bit longer, but you’re going to save so much money in the long run. I’d also say trading out the fancy accommodations…spending more money on paying for experiences and less on paying for the super fancy place with the pool and hot tub. You can stay in hostels or Airbnbs where all you need to do to explore is go right outside. Go on hikes and walks because there are so many things to see and you’ll save money this way too.

Got it. Do you have an internet resource that you use? Obviously, once Driftr is out, you’ll be using that for travel, but until that point, do you have an internet resource or two that you would recommend for people to use outside of social media?

I search for flights on Skyscanner and Kayak a lot. I go back and forth between the two to see which one has the better deals. But honestly, I just Google for blogs. I mean, there’s so many amazing bloggers out there. I don’t really have any specific ones I use on a regular basis because I kind of just focus on it pertaining to where I’m going. But I just Google search “Going to [this place] for five days”. It’s amazing what resources you can find. The people who provide that information make it so much easier.

Happy Birthday to ME!😜🎉🎈🐷 :::::::::::::::: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Another decade in the books on this wild, crazy adventure called life!✨Time sure is flying, but damn has it been an unforgettable ride so far!🙌🏻😅 As I sign the lease today on my first very own apartment (and first home in over 3 years!) the excitement butterflies are coming alive as I kick off my 30s with a new chapter in California! But I couldn’t end my 20s without crossing a big bucket lister off, which was hanging with the swimming pigs in Exuma!! My heart completely melted I was so happy!!!🐷💦😍 ::::::::::::::: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again.” -Eleanor Roosevelt ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 👙 @moietii 🕶 @fyeyewear 📷 @destinationchaser . ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ . ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #TravelTagged #travelgirlsgo #ladiesgoneglobal #girldiscoverers #thefairytalebloggers #speechlessplaces #backpackerstory #backpackwithme #girlsthatwander #femmetravel #citizenfemme #iamtb #theglobalgirls #travelbff #sheisnotlost #globelletravels #girlslovetravel #thetravelwomen #funlifecrisis #timeoutsociety #instagood #travelandlife #travelinladies #worldnomads #travelcommunity #visitthebahamas #itsbetterinthebahamas #thisisbahamas #exumabahamas

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Is there something that you take with you that you don’t leave home without? You know, everybody has something they always take with them.

Well, being a graphic designer on the road, all my technology stuff is a must. I do know something that would help a bunch of people. It’s a portable charger. It’s saved me a bunch of times, whether I’ve gone off on a motorbike adventure, out through the villages, or to the islands when I might not know how to get home. Having a portable charger is essential for a 25-hour train ride or things like that. I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not on the road, it can come in handy. It’s also good to have a reference point with maps and things. It’s good to have some kind of backup plan for your phone.

Besides the things that you’ve told us so far, is there another piece of advice that you would give people that are trying to travel not for a week, not for a month, but actually trying to go out and travel?

Honestly, I’d say just go do it. I have a lot of people message me through social media saying, “How do you travel for so long?” and “How do you this?” But I mean, I really think it’s just a matter of booking the ticket and just going. Everything else can sort itself out along the way. Especially with the Internet and being able to do research, there’s so many options out there to  make it work and stay out longer. I think the hardest part for people is just getting the courage to book the ticket and go. Whatever happens on the other side, you know you’re going to have an incredible time. You might have to figure things out along the way but that’s part of the journey. Just don’t be intimidated by the idea of it. Just do it.

Okay. What would you say your biggest success is?

I think it would be to have achieved my dream of being able to work and travel. After that very first trip where I fell in love with traveling and moved to California, I just thought I would work as a graphic designer in-house and be fine with that. But I think deep down I knew that I was craving something more, so I started focusing on building a design business of my own. Two and a half years ago, I was working from home every day and a lot of my friends were like, “You’re working too much” or “You’re crazy! You should just get a normal job where you have insurance” and I was like, “No, I have an idea and I want to make it happen.” I think my biggest success was to be able to have set off on this journey a couple years ago and not know that it was gonna work out. Then to have that moment where I reflected and thought, “I’m actually doing this.” Somehow I’m still going, two and a half year later, I’m still running around the world. I’m running my business, so I think being able to say that I pulled off one of my biggest goals.

This question is a little bit morbid but I like to ask it. It keeps the imagination going. Imagine you woke up tomorrow and knew you had two months left to live. After spending time with your loved ones, where would you go and what would you do?

Well I have a couple bucket list things still. I  hope to walk around with the penguins in Antarctica and cross the seventh continent off my list. And being an animal lover, I’d love to go to the Galapagos as well. Those are two places that I’m really dreaming of getting to. Another thing I want to make sure I do is raise some money. There are a lot of amazing people I’ve met who raise money around the world for different causes. I have a new project that I’m going to be kicking off here in the next six months.

Can you tell us a name or a link you want to plug?

It’s still completely under wraps and in the branding stage.

Let’s wrap this up now. I want  you to tell the audience something about you, something about Micaela that they might not get from being on your blog and your social media sites. Who are you? Who is Micaela? It doesn’t have to be embarrassing, just something about they might not know.

I would say how I grew up. One of my unique hobbies that I do when I’m back home is show miniature horses. That’s something that’s pretty unique that a lot of people don’t know about me. So for anyone who might be living on a farm, I grew up in super small town. If I can become a globetrotter and travel around the world, then there are opportunities out there for you as well. If you’ve got the dream, just go ahead and chase it.

Well Micaela, you’ve been an amazing guest. Great story, coming from a small town from and traveling around the world.

Thanks Seth.

We’d love to have more stories like that on The Best Travel Podcast. Again, thank you very much for being on our show.

You can check out Micaela on her Instagram @micaelashalane or on

If you know anyone who is passionate about travel, please subscribe, rate, and share this podcast. By sharing, you can inspire others to discover the world because, let’s be honest, besides friends and family, that’s what’s important. Please check them out on Facebook or Soundcloud.


Seth Freedman

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