Instagrammer Shondra Martin On The Importance Of Giving Back While Travelling
Meet Shondra Martin; lover of immersive travel, epic hikes, and helping others through responsible and conscious tourism. She has a strong desire with regard to giving back to the communities she visits, shedding light on serious issues happening around the world through her writing, showing others how they too can help.
Our paths crossed at a meeting of like-minded individuals wanting to help support each other in a community environment. We got to talking and immediately felt that this wonderful woman was someone we wanted to know more about.
Below, she shares her travel with us experiences, the struggles she faces with trying to get the word out on the issues she helps to support, and why giving back while travelling is one of the most important things to her when planning a new adventure.
What motivated you to start your creative outlet on Instagram?
I actually got Instagram against my will a few years ago when I was the only one in my friend group not to have it, so they took my phone and signed me up for an account and I thought ‘hey, why not, I'll just roll with it’. Being an avid hiker and traveller, producing content was never a problem and right off the bat I started designing my profile into an outdoor adventure and travel theme and used it to share my travels, thoughts and experiences and connect with other adventure people across the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and well as build worldwide connections over social media and receive and share advice on travelling and hikes with other adventurers.
What speaks to you most about social responsibility?
Oh man, this question is a struggle to put into words. I think it just comes down to the fact that beneath the money, the politics, the race, gender or sexual orientation we are all the same, we are all human. And just because someone was born into a certain situation where every day they struggle for their basic human rights should not define how they are treated, how live their life, or what they can accomplish in this world. As someone who was lucky enough to be born into privilege, it would be a shame to waste it all on myself and not use it to help others.
Starting your own creative projects can be a struggle. What are the biggest challenges you've faced?
For me, the biggest struggle was just staying true to who I was, my experiences and my adventures. I often find myself scrolling through the profiles of people that have been to more places than me, are better photographers than me, can write better than me and have more followers than me. As I scroll I make mental notes of their content and captions so that I can replicate it, because these strategies that are using are more successful, and they have a huge following to back it up. Then I always end up feeling like I’m lying to myself and pretending to be someone I’m not. Long story short, trying to replicate your social media role model never works out.
How do you try to overcome these struggles?
I allow myself to be inspired by these people, but whenever I’m planning an adventure, taking a photo or writing a caption and something feels off, it’s often because I’m trying to replicate somebody else. I used to let myself just go with it, because if it worked out for them, it must work out for me right. But then I end up feeling like I’ve betrayed myself and my experiences, and that’s not who I want to be and what I want to do. To overcome this I always do a little self-check when something feels off and ask myself ‘is this my voice, or is this me trying to replicate someone else’s success?’ And if I can’t confidently say that it’s my voice, my thoughts and my passion, then I force myself to scrap it all and start over.
Who or what influenced you to want to get involved with Global Giving and Trees for the Future?
In mid-October, Trees For The Future reached out to me over Instagram and asked me to help them promote their Giving Tuesday Campaign. Their mission of creating food security for impoverished people in an environmentally beneficial and sustainable way immensely resonating with me and I instantly agreed to help them with the campaign. The more research I did on the organization the more inspired and passionate I became. Their dedication to sustainable practices as well as their respect for the environment and people they work with is so inspiring.
Why are these projects important to you?
What I find special about Trees For the Future and how other not-for-profit organizations inspire me is how they consider a situation from all angles and use a holistic approach to create the best positive impact possible. They look at all of the causes of a problem and create solutions to deal with each one, rather than simply looking at one problem and providing a temporary solution that falls apart the minute an organization leaves. Trees For The Future focuses on creating food security, building a source of income for families, providing education, empowering women, and benefiting the environment. This thorough approach shows their dedication to sustainability and their selfless motivation to help these people, and I find that so inspiring.
If you could pick 3 places in the world that impacted you in a big way, which would you pick?
Nepal has definitely impacted me a lot. As a mountain lover, I felt reborn when I set eyes on the Himalayas. Spending three weeks trekking through the mountains with no connection to technology and taking advantage of every spare moment to adventure and explore was life-changing. Summitting a 6,000m mountaineering peak was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it taught me that I could conquer anything I could put my mind to. The sense of awe, wonder and adventure that the Himalayas gave me was something else entirely that 6 months later I still struggle to put it into words.
While Nepal it was mostly the place that impacted me, for Honduras it was the people. I travelled there in February 2017 as a first-year university student with our campus chapter of Global Brigades, a non-for profit volunteer organization working to eradicate poverty by empowering communities in a holistic and sustainable way. Global Brigades is based around their Holistic Model which is implemented in the form of different student-led brigades each with different missions. There are medical, water, engineering, business, environmental and human rights brigades to name a new, and all aim to solve one of the causes of poverty. I went on a medical brigade where we set up a clinic in a rural community that had no access to healthcare and worked alongside doctors to treat local patients and train community members to become healthcare workers. It was absolutely incredible to be able to see the country and the culture without the tourist veil. Despite speaking minimal Spanish and armed with only a cheat sheet of common phrases, messy sign language and my outgoing personality, I got to interact with people who had absolutely nothing and were simply happy to be alive. There are memories that still give me shivers when I think about them. After almost half an hour of struggling to find the right glasses to fit a woman's unique prescription, she cried when she put them on and could read the biggest font on the chart. Children taught me to count to thirty in Spanish as we kicked around a soccer ball play keep ups, and they taught me their secret handshakes. A one leg man composed a thank you song and sang it to us on our last clinic day. People walked for hours to visit our clinic, and an old man made a wheelchair out of a plastic lawn chair and tennis balls to get himself to our clinic. Our brigade translator was a local Honduran and we instantly became great friends and are still in touch. Every single person I met impacted me in a unique and powerful way. I think the people of rural Honduras gave me more than I gave them.
Another place that has impacted me beyond compare is my own home province of British Columbia. I was born and raised in Squamish, BC, the best place on earth. Squamish is nestled in the mountains at the end of Howe Sound, between ski town of Whistler and the buzzing city of Vancouver. I was raised in a very adventurous family and began hiking as soon as I could walk. Squamish is what created and fueled my passion for adventure, and while rock climbing, running, skiing and windsurfing are all sports I enjoy to no end, it was hiking that stole my heart. The days spent exploring more and more of the Squamish backcountry, scrambling to new summits, exploring new trails and adventuring into unchartered territory gave me a desire to always chase new and exciting experiences. Squamish and Vancouver are also where I met my tribe, the people that share the same passion for adventure as me, that just want to explore and live life to the fullest without making excuses or letting things stop us. These people inspire me every day, support me in everything I do and are always down for every awesome adventure I can think of.
Where's the next stop in your travel plans?
I am heading to Nicaragua over reading break in February 2018 with Global Brigades! I’m so excited to go on my second medical brigade, this time to Nicaragua. It will be a similar structure to the Honduras trip last year, except we will spend part of our time also working with water and engineering brigade teams to build a water transportation and treatment system. I’m excited because it will be a completely different experience being a veteran brigader, and going to a new country, learning so much more and meeting more members of our chapter that instantly become family on the brigade. In June, I am going with a friend, her family, and my family to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and do other trekking adventures in Peru for three weeks.
I also plan on taking a year off of school from September 2018-September 2019 and travelling to Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, back to Nepal, then Southeast Asia and ending in New Zealand, either getting a work visa there or flying back home and spending the rest of the year working before returning to complete school. I’m pretty excited about that as well, it’s going to be a crazy amazing adventure.