Shanny Matterson, Founder of Fifty Two Truths

 Shanny in her element, doing what she loves to do, reporting on her adventures.

Shanny in her element, doing what she loves to do, reporting on her adventures.

1) Hi Shanny, and congratulations on becoming a globelle gal in focus! Can you tell us where in the world we can currently find you?

Thanks so much for having me, Globelle, I’m thrilled! I’m Shanny Matterson, an Australian freelance travel writer and blogger with a serious case of wanderlust and itchy feet to match. Think of me as a rebel with a passport; I travel, dive, explore, push the boundaries and unapologetically live my life exactly the way I want to.

I’m currently living the sweet expat life in Niue, a little tropical island in the South Pacific with my partner in life, love and travel, Dan. When I’m not exploring the island and writing content for my blog, you can find me teaching grade five at the local school.

It’s a pretty damn sweet gig.

2) What inspired you to first start travelling?

Ever since I was a little girl doing a school project on France, I‘ve 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. It was like a magic doorway to another life had been reveled to me. I had big dreams to travel when I turned 18, but as so often happens, life had other plans for me. It wasn’t until my husband left me when I was 27 that I finally had enough of dreaming and decided to make shit happen.

Heartbroken and deeply craving adventure, I used the small amount of money from my separation settlement to buy myself a backpack and a ticket to Europe. I spent 5 weeks in the summer travelling solo, and for the first time in my whole life, I finally felt complete. It was the greatest experience of my life, and from those first tentative steps abroad, my love of travelling blossomed. I hungrily sought out any opportunity to travel [even when I had no money] and I dedicated my life to seeing as much of the world as possible.

That was four years ago, and I haven’t stopped wandering since.

 One of the views Shanny enjoys at her new home in Niue. Jealous? Yeah, us too. 

One of the views Shanny enjoys at her new home in Niue. Jealous? Yeah, us too. 

3) What’s been your favourite place to visit, and why?

Oh dude, that’s like asking a mother to name her favourite child! There’s too many to just pick one [and besides, I’m an indecisive Libran with commitment issues]. Paris, Budapest and New York City all rank in my top cities to visit, but I guess the place that truly stole my heart and left me begging for more was Rome.

The Eternal City is everything I’ve ever wanted in a destination: stunning sights, rich history, incredible food, buzzing atmosphere, and an endearing culture that is proudly and unapologetically unique, whilst perfectly complemented by the most beautiful language to ever grace my ears. Every step through Rome was a delight; every moment a dream come true. I was intoxicated by the city’s charm, its balls-out confidence and unrelenting beauty. And the gelato. Oh, so much gelato….

I think the reason why Rome is so special to me is because it reminds me of myself: an entity that has been through some rough times and was painfully torn down, only to use its natural tenacity and stubbornness to rebuild and once more flourish. Rome is the city that says, ‘I don’t give a shit what you think about me. I know I’m pretty damn rad, and if you don’t like it, you can suck it, ’. Rome is shamelessly good humoured, self-assured and audacious, with just a hint of sass.

Just like me.

4) Who would you say has been the most influential person to your travels?

Actually, I have two, but in totally different ways.

The first is my mum, Amanda. She has always supported and encouraged my adventures, whilst more often than not bailing me out of some kind of financial trouble when I find myself stranded in a foreign country. She’s relentlessly proud of me for travelling and being brave enough to live my life as I wish, which she never fails to tell me before I leave home on yet another sojourn abroad. My mum is my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, and is hands down one of the most incredibly kind and caring humans on the planet. I couldn’t do what I do without her love and encouragement.

The second is Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. [Yes, I’m serious. No, I’m not a groupie].

I remember reading Liz’s memoir when I first realised my own marriage was crumbling beneath me, and her journey of post-divorce self-discovery whilst traveling solo shook something up inside me. Deeply. Passionately. I devoured her words with hunger, each word pulling me closer to my own big moment of self-realisation: I too wanted to travel the world alone to mend my broken heart and figure out who the hell I was. If she could do it with such bravery, humour, and willingness to be challenged, then so could I. I’ll always be grateful for Liz and her inspiring story, and my battered copy of her book is still a constant and comforting travel companion of mine.

5) What is the worst thing that's happened to you on the road?

I got a kidney infection in Florence and had to cop two injections of unknown drugs in my butt cheeks by an Italian doctor who spoke little English. To this day, I still have no idea what she shot me up with; all I know is that I wandered the streets of Florence as high as a kite for a few hours, but was cured soon after. This may be part of the reason why I love Italians so much…

Oh, and there was this one time a bartender in Vienna accidentally set my face on fire…that kinda sucked [and hurt]. But it was pretty funny too, in hindsight.

Moral of the story? Don’t try an Ultimate Flaming Shot when you’re already drunk. Better yet, just don’t try them at all. That shit *never* ends happily…

6) Obviously life on the road is about less possessions and more moments, but what is the one thing you can not travel without? 

My Macbook Air - it’s been everywhere with me and is a non-negotiable inclusion in my carryon.

 My Fujix100 camera.

My iPhone for those moments when you need to take a sneaky shot in the Sistine Chapel at 3pm [or to capture drunken shenanigans at 3am].

Havaianas.

Dark sunglasses [the darker, the better; I’m a Wayfarer girl myself].

Contact lenses.

Headphones.

Birth control.

A good alibi.

 Some of Shanny's favourite things. The plate can also be found at GT HQ, great minds think alike right?

Some of Shanny's favourite things. The plate can also be found at GT HQ, great minds think alike right?

7) GT featured you a few months ago now, with a post that resonated with alot of our community regarding not being your 'typical' travel blogger. Do you feel there is a certain expectation of women in the travel industry to pursue a certain direction? Do you enjoy challenging this?

Okay, I’m gonna preface this by saying that I don’t judge any of the brave and beautiful female travel bloggers out there, that I totally dig each individual’s approach to sharing their adventures with the world. Let’s be clear: No haters here.

That being said, I don’t know if it’s an ‘expectation’, so much as it has become a trend. I follow a lot of female travel bloggers and Instagrammers, and so many of them seem to be duplications of each other. Think: young, thin, twenty-something girl; perfectly lit and edited photos of exotic locations; flawless makeup and hair; impeccably dressed and accessorized with a Dior handbag, Chanel sunglasses or oversized floppy hat; the perfected pout and dreamy gaze out to the horizon…

Sigh. It all seems *too* perfect, ya know? But whether it’s a trend or not, those pics get the most likes, the greatest number of followers, and the biggest interest by travel companies. Well played, ladies.

I’m not like that. As I explained in that post, I’m the opposite of these babes. I’m 5″2 but curvy as hell, with big boobs, chubby thighs, wobbly belly and a butt that sticks out. I have a snaggletooth, my left eye crinkles when I smile, and I’m as blind as a bat. Far from model material… But that’s me.

I don’t know if I enjoy challenging expectations or trends, per se; I just see it as sticking to my values of always presenting myself as honestly and authentically as possible, and showing people that there’s more to travelling than just taking the perfect picture to go with that perfect outfit. Because real travellers don’t give a shit about how the world looks – they care about what it feels like to be out there and a part of it.

8) Since being on the road, you've started your own blog, FiftyTwo Truths. How did this come about? What inspired this? What's behind the name? 

 My blog – FiftyTwo Truths - is all about telling it how it is when it comes to matters of travel and life. My vibe? Straight up raw honesty with a strict no-bullshit policy. And a few f-bombs. Okay, more than a few. I’ve got one helluva’ potty mouth on me.

Before FiftyTwo Truths, I had another blog that chronicled my life as a newly-divorced young woman in her twenties. It was a lifesaver for me at the time, a way for me to work [and write] through the pain. But after writing about that experience for so long, I just kinda felt like I was over the subject. That shiz was so 2011. Although it was a big chapter in my life, I didn’t want it to be the whole damn story.

It wasn’t until one of the great loves of my life had exited the scene, I discovered my next: Travel. Travelling the world is THE greatest experience of my life and after my first trip - backpacking Europe solo for a summer - I found I was more addicted than a strung-out crack addict and I just knew with all my heart and soul that I had found my niche. THIS was what I wanted to write about.

From humble beginnings documenting my shenanigans through Europe, followed by my experience of living in Canada as a student on a scholarship, I shifted my focus away from writing about my old life and more towards writing for my ideal tribe of travellers: sassy, cheeky, intrepid rebels who break the rules.

52 weeks in a year. 52 chances for adventure. 52 lessons learned. Thus, FiftyTwo Truths was born.

9) What do you hope to achieve with your blog? And how?

At a basic level, it’s all about helping people. I write in the hope that my words may help to fix someone’s problem, make them laugh, show compassion, change their perspective, implore them to question, or give them a [gentle] kick up the ass to get out there and see the world.

On the big scale? It’s all about creating Ze Ultimate Life: travelling and writing fulltime as a paid consultant/blogger. I believe I represent a niche in the travel market: Independent and strong women in their thirties who want to see the world, crave adventure, don’t care about breaking the rules and want to live a wildly exciting life of their own creation. I want my blog to be the go-to place for fellow rebels and wanderers who want to know the down and dirty deets of a destination, without the BS. I want to be approached by like-minded travel companies and organisations that dig my vibe and want to get in on my tribe.  I want to rock the world with my words.

There’s some big changes coming up for my blog [think: new branding], as well as fulfilling my role in some new ambassador gigs with rad up-and-coming travel brands, which I’m freakin’ stoked about. Working with talented and driven wanderers who want to shake the travel industry up is what I’m all about. Partnerships are the new black, you know.

 The beautiful image of Shanny that resonated with so many of our GT gals.

The beautiful image of Shanny that resonated with so many of our GT gals.

10) What does travelling mean to you? 

In a word? EVERYTHING.

Travelling is freedom and adventure and education, all spun into one life-changing bundle. Travelling is the love that will never fail me, the companion that will never break my heart, the investment that always gives me far more return than what I put in. To travel is to dare greatly, love immensely, and live voraciously.

It means – quite literally – the world to me.

11) If you could offer one piece of advice to those considering travelling for the first time, either solo or as part of a group, what would it be?

Just. Freakin’. Do. It.

No matter the cost, no matter the risk, no matter the fear – just get yourself a ticket and GO. Whatever it is that’s stopping you is nothing in comparison to the amazing things that await you out in the world. Sure, you may [accidentally] step on a few toes or break a few hearts in the process, but the confidence, perspective and experience you’ll gain in return is invaluable.

Trust me, you may regret buying that new pair of shoes, your car, or even a house [I know, I’ve been there, dude], but I swear, you’ll never miss any investment in travelling – it’s the gift that keeps on giving, long after your passport is packed away.

12) And finally, how can globelle gals get in contact? 

Besides visiting www.fiftytwotruths.com to laugh at my latest escapades?

I’m a ravenous Instagram addict who loves to post daily [fiftytwotruths]. Even with limited Internet access on a remote tropical island (HQ can vouch for this, but Shanny is a trouper and where there's a will there's a way!), I can’t go a day without getting my Insty fix. Werd.

If Facebook and Twitter are more your kinda hangs, I’m there too [but not as often].

Virtual postcards [i.e. emails] are always gratefully [and excitedly] received and returned [shanny@fiftytwotruths.com].

Sending much love, sunshine and coconuts to you! x