Increasing Autistic Confidence and Empowerment through World Travel
One of the most effective ways to improve one’s personal development is to travel. It gives you the freedom to accomplish things that aren’t part of your regular routine. Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone and into a new environment, making you more responsible and giving you a sense of freedom.
We interviewed Shalese, also known as the AutisticTravelGoddess, about her experiences with travel, and why it’s so important to her.
Shalese is a travel content creator, YouTuber, author and life coach from the US. She creates content helping fellow autistic people grow, and achieve their goals. She’s the author of Musings of an Autistic Traveling Goddess and currently creating courses on various topics Autistic adults struggle with. Her core message is about Teaching Autistic Confidence and Empowerment through world travel.
What inspired you to start travelling? And are you travelling independently or with someone else?
I am traveling independently. I’ve always wanted to explore the world. In my teenage years, I had an attachment to places as my special interest. Geography is my passion. I’d read encyclopedias about far off places I wanted to visit, watch Discovery, Travel and National Geographic channels. My special interest in these inspired me to start traveling right after I graduate with my Masters degree. I’ve always wanted to host my own travel show, I later had the idea to focus on traveling through the Autistic perspective since no one else in the industry was offering that perspective. The travel industry needs our voice.
Why is travelling important to you and what do you enjoy most about it?
Traveling makes me feel independent and confident. Not only is it a way to indulge my special interest in geography; I find it thrilling to challenge myself with self advocacy skills, and pushing myself outside my comfort zone to socialise more when I’m traveling. I love the confidence boost I get when I travel to a new place and do something I’ve never done. I also enjoy exploring the landscapes and being in awe of how the Earth changes as I travel to other parts of the world.
How do you think travelling can be more accessible to people on the spectrum?
Given that 85% of people on the spectrum are unemployed, underemployed; I think there should be more affordable options for travel.
I also think hotels, airlines, restaurants, tours should be be more flexible in their policies. For example: those of us on the spectrum may struggle with executive function and time management, and be prone to miss or be late for flights. In that case, airlines should have more flexible policies about changing flights or refunding them.
What are your best “travel hacks” for someone who may be feeling a bit nervous about travelling?
I post my travels on social media as a safety measure. It allows my family and friends to know my whereabouts in case phoning them isn’t feasible. It also allows me to get feedback on the destination, and advice on what to look out for. I don’t go out solo past dark. I do everything in the daylight hours.
I take the pressure off of myself to be so rigid. As someone with Autism, I can be rigid about my schedule. I get upset when plans go awry (as they always do in travel). What I’ve done is keep a loose schedule. I give myself a block of time to visit an attraction rather than a specific time; to allow for flexibility so I don’t become upset if it doesn’t go as planned. Carry as little as possible, to avoid the anxiety of losing something.
Would you want to travel with someone you hadn’t met before who had similar interests?
Absolutely. As much as I enjoy solo traveling, I would love to share the experience with someone who’s just as passionate as I am.
Tell us about one of your favourite travelling memories and experiences! What place was your favourite and what did you enjoy the most about it?
Iceland was memorable to me. I’ve enjoyed watching the geological activity. From the fully dark days in the winter, to seeing the active geysers and volcanic terrain everywhere. I got to snorkel in between two continent and drink some of the earth’s purest water.
The wildest memory for me was riding around at midnight during Icelandic summer. I was looking for food and wondering why everything was closed. Well, everyone was asleep, I didn’t realise how late it was because it was still DAYLIGHT outside.
What place or country is on your bucket list?
My top 5 are New Zealand, Fiji, Greenland, Australia and Antarctica. Antarctica is my #1 though.
What advice do you have to others about traveling independently?
As cliche as it sounds, BELIEVE in yourself. Many of my peers want to travel but are hesitant because they don’t think they have the mental or social capability. You’re more capable than you give yourself credit for. Don’t feel pressured to go somewhere far flung. Start small. Traveling to the next town over still counts as traveling.
Find Shalese on Instagram @AutisticTravelGoddess, and follow her blog here: