What's up Nomad Nation!
We've got quite an amazing individual representing our September Nomad of the Month. Sheree Mitchell represents the epitome of nomadic life. In 2016, she started Immersa Global, which is a group of professional globetrotters offering unique travel experiences, customized itineraries, coaching, and development programs. And wow...she's got some amazing stories. Keep reading below!
Sheree, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a thirty-something globetrotter from Florida. A few years ago, after some serious soul-searching (and repeated failed attempts at being normal) I finally accepted the fact that I’m a nomad. Once I embraced it, I restructured my life (profession included) to accommodate this new reality. In 2016 I launched Immersa Global which has given me the opportunity to help others embrace their inner nomad and travel the world. I also work with foreign tourism boards and private and public institutions on creating unique, off-the-beaten path tourism products geared specifically towards the North American market.
What's your favorite city or destination?
That answer changes like the seasons, but right now I would have to say it’s my second home: Lisbon, Portugal.
How has traveling influenced your life?
Traveling and living abroad have been the best life teachers I’ve ever had. I’ve learned how to immerse myself in the world in a way that could never be taught in a classroom or here in the U.S. I’ve learned new languages, different approaches to problem-solving, the true meaning of empathy, and most importantly how to view the world as a global citizen and not just as an American.
What's your greatest travel memory?
My greatest travel memory was during a 14-month solo trip around the world. I was in Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) visiting the longest teak bridge on the planet where hundreds of Buddhist monks cross every day. The sun was setting and it was absolutely amazing to watch the monks in their orange robes glide back and forth over the bridge. I wanted to take a picture to remember the moment, but decided against it since there weren’t many other tourists around (and as a woman, I didn’t want to do anything to disrespect the monks) so I just sat in awe and watched them for a while.
As I was getting ready to leave, a group of seven young monks ran over to where I was sitting and asked to take a picture with ME! I was so thrilled. It was as if they totally read my mind. Our encounter only lasted for only a few minutes, but we had so much fun as they took turns trying on my hat, “modeling”, and taking pictures. In the end, each one of them gave me a kiss on the cheek before they left. It was truly a magical moment!
What's the most challenging moment you've ever faced while traveling?
My most challenging travel moment to date was at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv in 2015. I was actually leaving the country en route to Madrid. I was prepared for the increased security measures (it’s Israel!), so I got to the airport three hours before my flight. While in line to check in, an agent came over and asked me a few security questions (i.e. “where are you from, where are you going, what’s your nationality, what’s the origin of your first name, where’s your family from”, etc). I answered everything honestly and thought nothing of it. The agent then began to drill me on my nationality, my first name and where my family was really from. My response over and over again was, “I’m a fifth or sixth generation American so I’m American.” I guess either the agent didn’t know a lot about the ethnic makeup of the U.S. or my answer triggered an extra security check...or both. So my passport got a big yellow sticker and she sent me on my way.
I checked into the flight, dropped off my luggage, got my boarding pass and headed toward the gates. Once I reached their version of the TSA checkpoint, the agent saw the yellow sticker and called a guy with an automatic rifle over who then escorted me to a private room nearby. At this point, I’m getting a little worried, but I silently followed him into the room.
A few seconds later, in comes a female agent who explains that she’s going to pat me down and check everything in my carry-on because, according to her, “you might have a bomb”. At this point, I’m really worried and asked if I needed to call the U.S. Embassy or Consular Services to send an advocate over to help me. No one responded. I repeated the question, and again no one said anything. The woman proceeded to pat me down and take everything out of my carry-on. I glanced at my watch and noticed that at this point, I had 15 minutes before my flight began boarding and 45 minutes before it was scheduled to leave. I brought this to their attention and again no one said anything. I then said, I apologize that I don’t speak Hebrew, but you two both speak English, right? They responded simultaneously, “yes”, but said nothing else. I was almost in tears at this point. I felt helpless since no one knew where I was and afraid that I was going to miss my flight back to Europe.
A few minutes later, while the agent was literally examining the feminine products from my handbag one-by-one, I asked why I was signaled out for this special treatment. The guy’s response was “because we don’t know what country you really come from.” After he said that, I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. I looked back over at the woman who’s now examining the teabags (for the second time) with the same intensity as the tampons and it became obvious to me that she was intentionally stalling this entire process. I asked again about the status of my flight, and again no one responded. Twenty minutes later (now 15 minutes before the flight actually departs) the woman dumps all of the contents back into my bag and says something in Hebrew to the guy. He then turns to me and barks, “let’s go”.
We walk out the room, he mumbles something into his hidden microphone and we began to walk quickly towards the gates. Once we finally got to my gate, he looked at me, rifle in hand, and said “go”. I walk up to the airline agent at the empty gate and quickly hand her my boarding pass when I realized that I was trembling. She scanned it which opened the door to the gangway where I almost leaped in.
As soon as I stepped on board the plane, the flight attendants announced over the PA system that the doors were closing and that we were finally ready for departure. I walk by all the seated (and curious) passengers until I found my seat, 15D. I called one of the attendants over and politely asked for a glass of wine. She was just about to say “no” when she looked at me for a second, slightly tilted her head to the side and meekly responded, “ok”. A minute later, she hands me the wine, smiles and says to me in Spanish, “you’ll soon be in Madrid.”
At what moment did you realize your love for travel?
I realized that I loved to “travel” when I was around eight or nine years old. I used to spend my summers at the local library reading books and looking at pictures and maps from places around the world. I would sit and daydream about wearing the traditional costumes, playing with the children I saw in the pictures and trying their foods. My favorite childhood hero was unsurprisingly Amelia Earhart. I devoured every book I could find on her. A few years later, I started learning Spanish and fell in love with the idea of speaking an entirely different language! I was so excited to have a new “secret code” that even my family couldn’t understand. However, it wasn’t until I was 14 that my obsession with travel was taken to another level. My parents let me take my first trip abroad (without them) to Mexico on a global student program. And as they say, the rest is history!
If you could teleport anywhere RIGHT NOW, where would you go?
Great question! I’ve only been to 40 countries to date so I’d definitely pick one of the 156 options that I haven’t experienced yet.
What's your best travel advice?
My best travel advice is to just do it. Go! Don’t overthink it. Do it while you’re healthy and fit. Age inevitably slows us down later on. Start viewing yourself as a global citizen and leave the U.S. in the U.S. Try new things, talk to people, even if you don’t speak the same language. Smile, smile a lot. I promise that you’ll figure out everything you need once you get rolling (and whatever you don’t, there are experienced nomads around the world ready to help).
Anything else you'd like to share with the Nomad Left Behind community?
I love what Nomad Left Behind is doing. Creating and supporting online global communities like this one benefits everyone, everywhere.
THANK YOU SHEREE for sharing your story and taking time to connect with Nomad Left Behind. To follow Sheree on her ongoing adventures, check out her social accounts:
Sheree - Best of luck, Happy Travels, and Explore the World!