Eyes on Rebel + Roam
Meet Shanny! Oh how I adore this little pocket rocket. She’s bold, punchy and tells it like it is (with a huge dose of love + humour). Shanny is an Aussie freelance writer, who regularly spins tales of her travels on her blog ‘Rebel+Roam’. For the past two years she’s been living and working as a Primary School teacher in Niue, a tiny island in the South Pacific.
When she’s not writing or teaching, you’ll find Shanny diving and exploring the coral reefs with her partner Dan, kicking someone’s ass at Jenga, reading the latest issue of Collective Hub magazine or playing with her puppy Willow.
Today on the blog we chat all things adventure and travel.
Hey Shanny, let's get to know you a little better! How would you best describe yourself?
I'm Shanny Matterson - an Aussie freelance travel writer and creative copywrangler specialising in weaving wanderlusty word magic for travel/tourism brands. When I’m not creating kick-ass copy for my clients, you’ll find me sharing my latest travel adventures (or just writing really funny shit about life) over at my online digs REBEL + ROAM.
I’m a travel addict. In the past six years, I’ve travelled to 23 countries and lived in 3, including a remote tropical island in the South Pacific (my current home with my boyfriend, Dan). I’m a feisty, fearless, foul-mouthed little pocket rocket of energy with a curious mind and an even bigger heart.
Basically, I just want to live in a world where airplane tickets are cheap, visas never expire, hangovers don’t exist, and the next adventure is always just around the corner.
You're an adventure seeker. What sparked your desire to travel? What's your fav destination?
Ever since I was a little girl doing a school project on France, I‘d dreamed of travelling the world. Looking at pictures of exotic foreign lands bursting with history and culture filled me with an insatiable curiosity and longing to explore.
At seventeen, I had big dreams to travel; but as so often happens, life had other plans for me. Ten years later - heartbroken after a divorce and deeply craving adventure - I bought myself a backpack and a ticket to Europe. I spent five weeks in the summer travelling solo, and for the first time in my whole life, I felt complete. THIS is what had been missing from my life. And I was so damn grateful to have finally found it.
Paris, Budapest and New York City all rank in my favourite cities on the planet, but I guess the place that truly stole my heart and left me begging for more was Rome.
Rome was everything I’d ever wanted in a destination: stunning sights, rich history, incredible food, buzzing atmosphere, and an endearing culture that is proudly and unapologetically unique – all perfectly complemented by the most beautiful language in the world.
Rome is the city that says, ‘I don’t give a shit what you think about me. I know I’m fucking awesome and if you don’t like it, you can suck it.’ It’s shamelessly good humoured, self-assured and audacious, with just a hint of sass.
To say I felt perfectly at home there would be an understatement.
What advice would you give to a woman who wants to travel solo?
You’re stronger, braver, and more capable than you can imagine. Don’t let anything – or anyone – stop you from going on the adventures you dream of. Life’s too damn short to wait, sista’.
If you have itchy feet, a curious mind and a wandering heart, then buy the damn ticket and get on the fucking plane – you won’t regret it.
Just don’t forget to pack some dark sunnies, birth control, and a good alibi. You’ll figure out the rest as you go.
Like so many of us, you're multi-passionate, splitting your time between primary school teaching and travel writing. How do you balance these passions?
Spoiler Alert: I don’t.
I’ve spent the last three years searching for and struggling to attain this elusive ‘balance’, and ya’ know what? That shit is just TOO DAMN HARD * micdrop *
I undertook a Bachelor of Education so I could travel the world teaching and empowering disadvantaged children through learning. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of kids who, for the most part, are largely unaware of the big, wide world around them and all the opportunities and knowledge it can offer. And I’m proud to say that I’ve achieved that.
But you know what I’ve learnt? Teaching and writing both require an insane amount of focus, dedication, sacrifice and a shitload of mental/emotional/creative resilience. For me, this means I have two choices:
1.) Try to give my everything to both roles, resulting in burning out and feeling like I’m doing a piss-poor, half-assed job at both (where I inevitably feel like a failure); or
2.) Accept that I can’t give 100% to both and choose one path – the one that really gets my passion pumping - and make the conscious decision to follow it joyfully, whole-heartedly and without compromise.
So come the New Year, I’ll be making some very big (and exciting!) lifestyle changes - including a new location, new career direction, and new opportunities. I’m calling 2017 ‘The Year of Hustlin’ Like a Mofo’.
You're currently living in Niue, a tropical island in the South Pacific (Check out Shanny's Insta, it's paradise!) What do you love most about Niue? How do you manage homesickness?
Niue is one of the friendliest and most laid-back countries in the world. We wear flowers in our hair and Havaianas on our feet. The people are warm-hearted, kind and honest; it’s one of the safest places on the planet; ‘time’ is a very fluid concept; and there’s no poverty and very little commercialization. It’s a remote, but breathtakingly beautiful place.
There is a simplistic and authentic beauty about Niue that draws you in; whether it’s hiking the numerous sea tracks that dot the coastline, exploring ancient caves, or swimming and snorkeling in any of the pristine reefs surrounding the island. As a diver, I absolutely love being in the water and the diving here in Niue is the best I’ve ever experienced; 100m visibility is normal and the warm tropical waters allow us to dive comfortably year-round.
But even after 2 years of living here, I still miss my homeland of Australia. Homesickness comes and goes in varied degrees of intensity; I can go for weeks on end without a twinge, and then suddenly, I’ll be overwhelmed with loneliness and start to pine for friends, family, and the comforts of home.
Receiving packages filled with letters of love, Tim Tams, Lindt dark chocolate, The Collective magazine, peppermint tea, and Kraft Peanut Butter (some of my favourite treats from home!) always helps to ease the feeling of isolation and homesickness. Likewise when I can afford to call my friends and family and hear their voices over the phone (Skype and FaceTime don’t work out here).
Big hugs and words of encouragement from my wonderfully supportive boyfriend, Dan, are also an excellent cure, as well as reminding myself that I’m here for a reason – to live my dream – and that all dreams require sacrifice.
We've done a couple of shoots together and I adore the fun and vibrant energy you bring! What drew you to collaborate with Eyes of Love Photography?
You mean besides the fact that you’re ridiculously talented? Because you get me, lady. You understand and accept me for the pint-sized, foul-mouthed, ass-kicking, lil’ wandering wordsmith I am. And I trusted you to capture all that - and more - for my brand. I knew you’d encourage me to be ME during the shoot and not some fakey-shmakey model wannabe. I had no doubt that you’d capture my essence, focus on my best attributes, and make me feel like a goddamn mega-babe! On the other hand, I also knew you’d soften the spikier, in-your-face edges to my attitude when the shot called for it – which you did, perfectly.
Did you have any concerns/expectations/magic 'a-ha!' moments during the shooting?
I don’t take myself very seriously (I literally have no shame), so shooting with you was just like hanging out with my bestie: chatting, pulling faces, getting my groove on and laughing my ass off.
To be honest, the only thing that did surprise me was just how stunning the end results were! Through your incredible talent, I was able to see just how damn beautiful I am, so thank you for giving me that gift.
Anything and everything Mexican/South American: burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, tacos, ceviche... you name it, I freaking love it. Just point me to the guacamole and frijoles and I’m in foodie heaven.
On my bookshelf:
A stupid amount of Lonely Planet travel guides. A tatty copy of Liz Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love that has travelled around the world with me. Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck (a brilliant and game-changing read, FYI). More travel guides. And a massive stack of The Collective magazine – it’s like creative, inspirational crack for my imagination.
In my spare time you'll find me:
Travelling (or planning my next adventure). Swimming, snorkeling or diving with sharks, dolphins and turtles (#mermaidforlife). Reading – always reading. Feeding my Instagram addiction. Experimenting with new Mexican recipes whilst drinking tequila. Getting up the courage to write a best-selling book of hilarious personal essays, a la Amy Schumer or Rosie Waterland. It’s a (slow, painful) work in progress.
Dream holiday destination:
The Maldives [for the diving] and India [for the culture and architecture]. Both are incredibly beautiful in their own way and are tugging on my heartstrings.
My guilty pleasure:
Shocking people with my openness, honesty and lack of censorship (although, if I’m being honest, I don’t feel guilty about it). Saying ‘fuck’ (and worse) about a million times a day. And my habit of getting tattoos without any planning or forewarning; I love adding some fresh ink to my (growing) collection at the most random times.