Twenty-three year old Shalee Blackmer graduated from Michigan State University on May 6th. That same day, instead of attending her graduation ceremony, she celebrated by hot air ballooning. This was only a small sneak peek into her future endeavors.
It took her five years to complete her bachelor’s degree in advertising, and through those five years she held up to three jobs in preparation for graduation. Her motive: Reverse retirement. This term is coined by young travelers who believe that it is more beneficial to travel now instead of when they are retired.
“I cannot imagine becoming an ‘adult’ without knowing what the world is besides through a television screen or class lectures. When we are young we also have better means to travel cheap. We can sleep in tents, live off of turkey sandwiches, and lug around a thirty-pound backpack.” Blackmer said.
Shalee is currently in Ida Oberstein, Germany, her 17th country in 2016 and her next stop is in Cheb, Czech Republic. After graduation, she flew to Lisbon, Portugal on a trans-Atlantic ticket she bought for a mere $290. In her first month of backpacking Europe, she stayed in exactly zero hotels, visited eight countries, and completed it all on under $500.
The journey began without a single plan. With a passport, her boyfriend, and a little ambition, she’s managed to do what many believe is the impossible. Instead of sitting behind a desk at her new job, she’s climbing Mount Olympus, Greece’s highest mountain.
“If I were to have waited until retirement to travel, I know I would not have been in any shape to do many of the incredible things I have done. I would have stayed in hotels, taken tour buses, and missed out on many of not only the physical, but cultural experiences.”
Shalee says she uses sites like Couchsurfing to find accommodation. This allows folks to stay with locals in their homes and many times embrace the language and culture of where she is visiting.
Her European journey will continue until the end of the summer, and then she will return home to travel to the western United States in a newly renovated van.
“It took a lot of work to get here, and I will admit I missed out on some of the college experience. However, there is truly nothing worth more than being able to see the world at such a young age. All it takes is a little patience and dedication to live the life you’ve dreamt about.”
In February of 2014, she officially launched a blog titled “Shalee Wanders”. Two-and-a-half years later her webpage has garnered over one million views, as she continues to travel and inform others how to make their travel dreams come alive. You can find out more about her journey on shaleewanders.com.