WanderMany of today’s world travelers are yearning for authenticity. For genuine cultural exchanges and immersions. People have grown tired of the tourist trail and the “shows” put on for tourists in many places of the world. Between a “been there, done that” mentality and the recent huge shift toward sustainable, eco-friendly, hyper-local travel experiences, many people really want to immerse themselves in the soul of a place and connect in a real way with the people – becoming a part of it, and not just passing through with an outsider’s perspective.

I am one of those people. And perhaps you are, too.



At home in Austin, Texas

Hi, I’m Shelley Seale – freelance writer, journalist and author based out of Austin, Texas but a frequent world wanderer. My love of reading as a child instilled my desire to travel the world, to journey to lands I’d only read about, and visit lives I’d only imagined. My first major international travel experience was a month-long group trip to Europe that I was given as a high school graduation present, in 1984. This was your typical whirlwind tour package, 8 countries in 30 days, but for a young person seeing the world for the first time, it was wonderful.

I’ve traveled a lot since then. A lot. And through the years I’ve changed the way I travel tremendously. I journey more slowly, for longer periods of time. I often stay in home exchanges or small, family-run guest houses, where you get to know locals and the neighborhood life. I volunteer or seek out community projects. I eat at street food stalls. I talk to people who aren’t tour guides. Mostly, I wander. I get lost. And it’s often at those times that the most interesting things are in front of me.

I want to explore this aspect of travel – and I want to share it. Trading Places is all about experiencing the lives of locals, the real soul of a place, where I travel. As I journey to different places I will share the stories of the people, food, customs, work, social initiatives and regular everyday neighborhoods that inspire me — whether right here in Texas or across the globe. And are very definitely off the tourist trail. It’s traveling on purpose, travel that changes you from the inside out.

Trading Places is also about keeping it local in the sense of tourism which focuses on, and benefits, the real people in a place. Not corporations and tour operators from outside. It’s the antithesis of consumerist travel, in which we go to places only to take; not consciously, of course, not with a selfish purpose, but perhaps instead we can connect and contribute in a very real cultural exchange that benefits the people living in the place, as well as us who are visiting.

Not all who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien

This website is broken down into the following categories, which you can explore:


This is the fun stuff – good places to hear music, watch a traditional dance, visit a street market.


Home stays, guest houses, small independent hotels, maybe even a treehouse or unusual accommodations.


Pretty self-explanatory – restaurants, street food, chefs, family kitchens, local specialities, etc.


The history, temples, ruins, archeological sites, as well as the little interesting nook down the corner.


Get to know the locals, whether it’s the neighborhood painter or a person saving lives through amazing nonprofit work.


I think one of the reasons we travel is to learn something new; it might be a local sport, cooking, dance or art form.


Awesome nonprofit initiatives and how locals, and travelers, are contributing to better the lives and community.

You can navigate through the site based on any of these category interests, and also by country if there are particular regions of the world that you are interested in.

Thank you for coming on this journey with me. I hope it’s informative, entertaining, beautiful and enriching. If you would like to contact me, you can do so at the form below.





6 Comments on “about”

  1. December 16, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    I really enjoy following your blog and you inspire me to volunteer more often! I also really resonated with your “soul culture” post as I have felt this before, but never thought to write about it 🙂 Because of this, I nominated you for the Inspiring Blog Award http://amiramelody.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/inspiring-blog-award/


  2. Laura Jane
    December 29, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    My travel goals are the same, I get you! I am a teacher who will be living in Thailand next year, my first international teaching experience! I am new to this, and hopefully I will gain some inspiration by reading a few of your posts.


  3. January 4, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Hi there,

    Just wanted to let you know I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I hope this is welcome news to you. If you prefer not to accept the award, I certainly understand, but I hope you will visit the other nominees, and they will visit you, just the same. To see more about the award and accepting this nomination, please visit my post at http://wp.me/p1w5ra-H8. All the best!


  4. January 15, 2015 at 5:00 am #

    Oh I do look forward to exploring your blog! We try to travel in the same way – connecting with ordinary people and avoiding package tours.
    Thank you so much for following our blog. I hope you enjoy the stories of our journey, both inner and outer.


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