Born in Philadelphia, Shalese grew up in a military family living in Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. Her travel spirit began young and she always felt a connection to geography and the physical world. Shalese describes herself as the "Autistic Travel Goddess" who helps autistic folks have careers and live the life of their dreams. In college, Shalese completed her thesis on the social construction of autism internationally, and shares more about her research in this interview. Also, Shalese shares more about her experience with autism, including how she was bullied, made fun of, and misunderstood as a kid, and the misunderstandings society has about autism.
"Understand that there are different ways of being."
Shalese faces stereotypes when she travels because she's a Black, autistic woman, and expresses how she's passionate about smashing these stereotypes. She shares how we can break these harmful stereotypes and change narrow perceptions of autistic folks and Black women.
In addition, we talk about Shalese's favorite travels and adventures, including snorkeling in Iceland, how she's always felt a connection to Greenland and Russia, and her recent move to Vancouver, Canada. And how she's always felt a sense of oneness to mountains, icebergs, and the physical world.
"Traveling has had me realize that I can defy barriers that have been placed upon me."
Shalese believes that traveling is important because it helps us gain greater empathy and understanding of people, and it helps us appreciate the earth and be motivated to take care of it.
We talk about how important self-care is, and how she attends to it while traveling.
"Find a place that inspires self-care."
Lastly, because Shalese seems so fearless, I ask her what she's truly afraid of. She shares her answer along with advice to others on how to step out of their fear and live the life they desire.
Questions For Thought:
- What stereotypes and expectations do you face when traveling because of your race/gender/disability, etc?
- What misunderstandings do you think society has about autism and autistic folks?
- Have you always felt a connection to geography and the physical world, and have a travels spirit? Share your story!
I would love to hear your responses to any of these questions! You can share them below!