[Unfiltered; ep.6] Shelley (Travel-Stained)

Welcome back to another episode of Unfiltered: Unraveling Truths About Traveling. A segment where I ask bloggers, vloggers, and the like questions about traveling in order to share with you their perspectives and opinions.

For this week, let me introduce you to:

Shelley is a a coffee loving, cubicle hating, toddler toting, introvert who quit the grind 10 years ago, to live life on her own terms. Since the happiest day of her life (you know, the one where she stopped working), she moved halfway around the world, married an itchy footed European on a Thai beach, and welcomed an adorable little half Korean, half-Albanian baby globetrotter into her life at the ripe, old age of 42.

Along the way, she saw a cheetah kill in Tanzania, trekked the 42km Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, fearfully tried ayahuasca in Bogota, released baby turtles into the sea in Borneo, gawked at the fairytale landscapes of Cappadocia from high up in a hot air balloon, and yelled MUSH at a team of huskies in Norway.

1. What has traveling taught you?

Oh boy, this is a big question!

Aside from the  basic things, like planning, logistics, packing, organization, communication etc… there are the really important, big things that matter. And the biggest things I’ve learned is that we – humanity – are all the same.

People, no matter their language, socioeconomic situation, culture, religion – we all want the same things. And no, it’s not to be filthy rich.

Most people just want to have enough to be comfortable – a roof over their heads, decent food, a way to get around. And what they really crave, are the things we ALL need (but that seem increasingly harder to find these days): freedom, connection with other people, joy, pleasure, adventure and love.

Oh, also, that borders are total nonsense drawn up by old men from a time that’s completely irrelevant to now – but that’s an entire political essay, not an interview question. 😉

2. What has been the most surreal place you have visited? What made it so magical?

For me, the most surreal places are always the ones that have been formed by nature.

Cappadocia and Pamukkale in Turkey are both places that have such incredible alien landscapes, you can’t help but be awed.

Pamukkale in particular is super weird though, because it has landscape that looks just like ice, but meanwhile you’re standing in these warm pools of water and it’s 39 degrees outside (at least the day we visited).

Surreal Pamukkale in Turkey (photo courtesy of Shelley)

3. What is the best way to sleep on a plane?

In business class? 😉

Actually, I find it virtually impossible to sleep on a plane (even the few times I’ve been fortunate enough to fly business class and have a lie-flat seat).

My hubby, on the other hand, seems to have no trouble falling asleep anywhere, in pretty much any position. Unfortunately, I feel like this is something that’s just “in the genes,” and you’ll either be able to sleep on planes or you won’t. After hundreds of flights, I’ve just accepted that I’ll be completely and utterly exhausted after any trip.

My strategy is to avoid red-eyes as much as possible. Sure, I’ll be awake on the plane, but at least I’ll be able to sleep on a bed whenever I land at my destination.

4. What advice would you give to a first-time traveler?

Immerse yourself in the local culture as much as possible. I’ll share a few experiences that come to mind from our travels:

  • In Colombia, we ended up trying ayahuasca in an authentic ceremony at a Taita’s house in Bogota, AND on a completely off-the-grid coconut plantation by the sea near Santa Marta.
  • In Brazil, we hung out at a local bar in a favela in Rio, and were introduced to the food of Salvador de Bahia with new Brazilian friends we met there.
  • In India, we were invited to an Indian fisherman’s house for dinner in Kochi, where we met their children and received a henna treatment from his wife.
  • In Argentina, we went to house parties in Cordoba and found out the normal practice is to share 1 big bottle of beer and pass it around the whole house before you start on the next one!
  • In Cuba, we left our all-inclusive resort every day in favour of hanging out in the village with Cubans we’d met, who took us early morning fishing, taught us to chop coconuts, and baked us tarts in an oven they had made from found parts!
Getting henna at an Indian fisherman's house in Kochi
Getting henna at an Indian fisherman’s house in Kochi (photo courtesy of Shelley)
Off the grid at a coconut plantation in Colombia
Off the grid at a coconut plantation in Colombia (photo courtesy of Shelley)

My point is, it’s easy to just visit famous tourist sites, get your pic for Instagram, eat at the well known restaurants and call it a day.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do those things – those things are also a part of traveling – but for me, the best parts of traveling, the parts that had an impact on me and the parts that I know I’ll remember forever, are the ones where we met local people and experienced things with them that we’d never have been able to access on our own. That’s why my blog is called Travel-Stained. It’s all about traveling in a way that allows you to be stained and marked by the experience.

5. What has been your most memorable meal on a trip? Why was it so memorable?

Food is a big part of travel for me, so I’ve been spoiled with incredible meals all around the world.

The most memorable though is definitely the sushi I had in Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market… not just because it was the best sushi I’ve ever had, but because we had to wait a full 3 hours in line at 7:30 in the morning to get into the restaurant, which has just 12 counter seats. It was worth it though.

6. Where is one place that you have traveled to that you would love to travel to again? Why?

We went to the Maldives for our babymoon when I was 5 months pregnant, and I’d love to get back there again.

We stayed on one of the local islands and it was not only very affordable, but we also interacted with local residents (my hubby played soccer every evening with the boys) and got a taste of every day life. We visited one of the 5 star resorts on a day trip, and while it was definitely tourist brochure beautiful, the sea was equally as gorgeous, and we couldn’t wait to get back to Maafushi – our local island.

A Maldives babymoon on a local island (photo courtesy of Shelley)

7. Why did you start traveling? What made you fall in love with it?

I took several international trips before I turned 13. My parents immigrated from Korea to Canada when I was 2 years old (which I don’t remember of course), and then we returned for a visit to the homeland, with a stopover in Hawaii, when I was 7 years old. The trip that made me fall madly in love with traveling though was when I was 13. We had a school trip to Russia, when it was the USSR (and still Communist), and the sense of wonder and freedom I felt on that trip has stayed with me always.

Thank you Shelley for being a part of this blog segment! It was so lovely being able to read about your thoughts and perspectives on travel!

You can read more about Shelley’s adventures on her blog


You’ll find travel stories, no-nonsense destination guides, down to earth travel advice, and way too honest info about the 61 countries she’s visited independently so far.

Interested in reading more? Check out segments from previous guests on Unfiltered!