WCS-008: Shannon O’Donnell merges grassroots volunteering and global travel

Shannon O'DonnellShannon O’Donnell helps travelers and volunteers use their time and money to make a difference that counts. Download the show to discover the pitfalls of traditional charities and a new way to engage that supports the true goals and needs of local communities.

About Shannon O’Donnell:

Shannon is a travel writer, international speaker, and marketing consultant who lives mostly on the road. She was named a 2013 National Geographic Traveler of the Year for her work supporting community-based, grassroots tourism. She runs a vibrant community of travelers on her travel blog A Little Adrift, as well as at Grassroots Volunteering, a database of social enterprises all over the world. She published her acclaimed first book, The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook, in October 2012 and she has been featured in a range of publications from NPR to Outside magazine.


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Personal Mantra:

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes by each honest worker.”

~Helen Keller

When she almost gave up:

When Shannon confronted some of the negative aspects that volunteer organizations have on the people they serve, she paused and re-evaluated her mission. She shares some of the changes that arose from that crisis.

When she knows the work she is doing is making a difference:

She describes the efforts of Salaton, a Maasai chief, who is using the tourism dollars brought in through Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp to effect change from within his community according to his people’s own values that is having a long-term impact.

Practical Advice:

Shannon shares advice about how to keep going even when it appears no believes in you.

Personal Practice That Keeps her Going on the Tough Days

Learn how Shannon uses a gratitude journal to shift from the negative and into the positive.

Tools or Technology:


Recommended books:

I failed to ask Shannon for a book recommendation so I’d like to share a book she authored instead: The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook

Nomination for Upcoming World Changer Sessions Guest:

Mark H of MovingWorlds

How to learn more:


A Little Adrift

Grassroots Volunteering