There's something about the kindness of strangers that can be highly motivational. When I decided to get serious about Coconut + Concrete, Shanna Stevenson (@tripwithshan) was one of the first people to interact with me. It is organically inspiring when people who don't know you, have never met you in person can see your vision before you've even put it out there. I use the term "organic" in the social media sense; you know its real. I take those little interactions as a spiritual sign from above to press on; no matter how frightening the thought may be.
Shan also has an interesting story that I thought might inspire others to just get up, get out and do the damn thing!
Just to clarify, you're from Atlanta right? How did you end up in the Dominican Republic and how long have you been there?
Actually, I was born in Chicago, but yes, I was raised from the age of 2, in a northern suburb of Atlanta, called Marietta. My DR story starts back in 2014. That's when I took a mother/daughter trip with my mom, Donna. She picked the place after finding a deal online. Honestly, at the time I knew nothing about the DR and never had any interest in it. It's so wild to think about it now. Anyway, after researching the deal my mom had found, I realized I could find a better one, so we cancelled that one and booked the trip I found. Long story short, we had an amazing time, got off the resort, and enjoyed some adventurous excursions, my favorite being the horseback riding. It was on this excursion that I truly fell in love with the country. I had a chance to observe the authenticity of one of the local neighborhoods. The way the people all appeared so content. The way I witnessed the kids enjoying themselves and making the most out of nothing or the simplest of toys. It was astonishing to witness. My heart was forever changed. It was at that moment that I fell in love with this little place and begin thinking this could be the simple life I needed. Exactly one year later to that same week, I had landed in the DR to begin my new adventure there. It's been almost 2 years now and it's been quite the learning curve, but in all seriousness, I grow more in love with the place daily.
Do you travel back home often?
I try to get back home about every 3 or 4 months. Although, lately I've been traveling to other places, making the rounds to visit friends and family in other states. Next year, I plan on doing a lot more international travel, so home visits won't be as regular.
Many may not know but in addition to your trip planning services you also operate an Airbnb! Did you have to purchase property in the DR? If so, what was that process like?
You're right! Airbnb hosting was actually the very beginnings to TRIP WITH SHAN. My guests would constantly want my recommendations and would even request that I accompany them out. Literally through listening to them, my personal tour services (another segment of TRIP WITH SHAN) developed from these interactions and their feedback. And yes, I do maintain some property in the DR. I have been able to leverage some great relationships with some pretty cool people I have met here that trust me to manage their properties. Both the personal tours and the hosting have been great additions to the TRIP WITH SHAN offering.
How long have you been a certified travel professional? How did you get into the business and is this your only profession?
I received my official certification as an international travel agent and began offering my services just over a year ago, but have been trip planning for what seems like, all my life. It's one of my favorite things to do. Thank goodness, because my clients keep me busy! I came across the opportunity when a respected friend talked to me about becoming an agent based on my lifestyle at the time. It was a no-brainer for me and ever since I've been thrilled to be a part of this $8 Trillion dollar travel industry. It's really a fascinating sector. Travel has always been a big part of my life. Being able to introduce others to it, has been the most amazing thing to experience and is what really propels the direction I take TRIP WITH SHAN. Right now, its all about creating authentic experiences where people feel comfortable venturing off their resorts or away from their hotels to really get a better feel for a place. Safety and personal attention are what we offer. That's what people want.
Favorite vacay spot?
Can I say, my "backyard"? Literally, the beach is 5 minutes from my door! Hahaha, but honestly, any Caribbean locale with amazing food and positive vibes. I love the island life.
And we can totally agree with that! Many, many thanks to Shan for taking the time out for Coconut + Concrete. If you're looking to experience 3 nights, 2 excursions and 1 amazing time in the Dominican Republic this coming February, click here for more info, Shan's got you covered!
**Sidenote: Shanna isn't exactly fluent in Spanish, she likes to say she's fluent in Spanglish (Spanish + English), most of her clients refer to her as being "bilingual" and she gets a kick out of it every time!
So now what's stopping YOU from reaching your dreams?