Episode 12: Travel & Entrepreneurship with The Autistic Travel Goddess

Join Joyce & Brynne as they sit down with Shalese Heard, AKA The Autistic Travel Goddess, to discuss online entrepreneurship and travel.

Photo of Shalese Heard, with text that says, An Interview With Teh Autistic Travel Goddess. Featuring Shalese Heard. MomAutismMoney.com

Shalese shares her innovative tips for traveling on a budget, along with travel tips for Autistic individuals. We learn about ways to fund your new business when you’re Autistic or otherwise disabled, and why entrepreneurship is so vital to the Autistic community.

We also discuss some of Shalese’s favorite travel sojourns, and her experiences growing up as a non-speaking child.

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Travel & Entrepreneurship Episode Transcript

Brynne: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Mom Autism Money. Today, we are going to be talking to Shalese Heard, who is also known as the autistic travel goddess. Shalese is an author, YouTuber and social media influencer who creates content primarily about traveling as an Autistic adult. And in her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking and shopping.

Now, Joyce, we talked to Shalese about a few different things. We talked to her about entrepreneurship, building a business online, using vocational rehabilitation services to build a business. And also just like all of the travel tips ever. And it was so amazing. I’m so excited to share it with you guys.

Joyce: She did share with us some tips on how to travel and how to do it and how to fund it so that was like, exciting to hear.

Brynne: Definitely. There are some smart tips, too, about traveling with autism and building those accommodations into your trip. I was appreciative of those too. All right, let’s get into it.

(whooshing sound)

Brynne: All right, everyone. Welcome to Mom Autism Money. We are here today with Shalese Heard of the Autistic Travel Goddess and we’re so excited to have you here with us today.

Shalese, I want to kick things off just by learning a little bit about your business, what it’s about how it got started and how you’ve I’ve seen you growing a lot lately. So I’m just super interested to hear all about it.

Shalese: Honestly, the craziest thing ever this started back when, see, I always had a special interest for travel and I’ve always been obsessed with like seeing the world ever since I got really indulged in the encyclopedias that my parents bought me.

I would like spend hours and hours reading about the places I want to visit. And so I used to watch Discovery and travel channels. And I remember being in college and saying to myself, “I’ve got to have a job that allows me to travel. I have to have a job that allows me to incorporate this special interest.”

And, you know, I was getting discouraged with the applications that I filled out to work in my field because I got my degree in public health. And because I was really discouraged with, you know, being autistic and try to find a job as an autistic person, I decided, and I thought to myself, well, Hey, since it’s, you know, this level of frustrating, why don’t I just put all of my energy in the thing that makes me passionate, the thing that I’m most passionate about, which is traveling.

And so I thought like, you know, What do I have to lose? You know, why don’t I just create this page, autistic travel goddess, this website and see what I could make of it and become a blogger, right? That it started out as something that was passion and something that I was just experimenting with. I thought to myself, I could be the next Samantha Brown.

I could be the next travel host. And you know, the internet is going to allow me to reach my dreams of being the next travel Explorer. And I thought, why don’t I go on social media? And tell everyone my stories about what it’s like to travel with autism. From there, I’ve gotten a lot of people who were inspired by my story.

I’ve gotten speaking engagements. I’ve gotten, um, I actually decided to delve a little bit into coaching and talking about life as an autistic person and getting involved with personal development. Because of my traveling, I actually got in touch with a lot of people who were in the coaching industry. I took a coaching certification and so I still do traveling and I still talk about, you know, what it’s like to travel as an autistic person and specific destinations.

And I still do YouTube in regards to that. But I also talk a lot about personal development. With that has come books that I’ve created actually have two books on Amazon right now. Musings of an Autistic Traveling Goddess, and You’re Too Good for That, which is a social skills book. And I’m also coming up with a dating course, and I’m also coming up with like a travel book as well to get started traveling as an autistic person.

So a lot has become this thing that I thought was going to be an experiment.

Brynne: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. And I just absolutely love it. I feel like so many online businesses, we start as a passion project and you know, you always hope you’ll make money from it someday, but it’s so awesome to see people who are actually out there doing it and making it happen and making it grow.

I do want to talk to you about all of it really, but let’s just start with the money. Because Joyce and I, a huge reason we’ve been just so excited about your content is that you don’t just talk about the travel. You also talk about like travel takes money, right? Like you have to, you have to save, you have to strategize.

So I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about how you do that. Like, how do you afford to travel? I know that you did like a pretty long European trip at one point, and I’m just wondering how you handled that. Like, did you have. I don’t know, I’m getting too far into it now. I’m like wanting to know, like, did you have a place you were paying rent for back home and then also you were traveling while you’re in Europe or did you give up your place for a little while and then go?

Shalese: I found it very hard to travel while paying rent, you know, in a place because is so expensive where I live. And I always find that I get the best travel experiences and the easiest time traveling when I’m not paying rent. So I gave up my face for a while in order to be able to travel.

That’s how I got started traveling. And I also, you know, had a side business that I turned into a full-time business where I rented my cars out full time on this platform called Turo. So that’s what I did to earn money. Primarily. I did that. Of course, I also have my speaking engagements. Sometimes I would get paid to go to a location in order to speak or offer a workshop.

Something else that I did to travel too, was I definitely was taking advantage of conferences, industry conferences. A lot of times, if you choose your field of study or something like that and you’re a student, they’ll offer you a free ticket to the conference with free travel to the conference. The other thing that I did as well was I’ve gotten really like, super creative about my living situation and like in between my trips for a little while, right before the pandemic, I would actually like rent an Airbnb, something super cheap in between, because I knew I wouldn’t be staying around very long.

Even when I travel, one of the things that I do is like, I’m always on the lookout for discounts. You know, like budget options when it comes to accommodations and rental cars. And I always take advantage of membership discounts, like AAA. I’m a USAA member, which is for military families. And the other thing that I take advantage of too is if they, if they have student discounts or industry discounts, there’s that.

And actually during my time in grad school, I was a grad assistant and I also had like fellowships that I used income from that to travel as well. I was able to do my fellowship from online. And, you know, it allowed me to be able to travel anywhere in the world while doing the work.

Brynne: That is so incredible. And honestly, I work a lot of times with people who talk about like travel hacking, like they’ll use credit card reward points to do stuff, and that’s really creative in and of itself.

But like the things you’re talking about, I have never heard before. This is like, this is really, really cool.

Shalese: These are my hacks just because, you know, I’m not a huge fan of credit cards because they can be—it’s easy to get disorganized with them. But there were times when I did take advantage of credit card points, like, um, if they’re offering a big, you know, bonus or a big offer, then I’ll take advantage of that.

So there was one of my very first trips that I took, American Express was offering $400 worth of travel credit. If you spent, you know, a thousand dollars a month, you know, in that first month that you opened a credit card. And so I spent that easy by paying my rent, you know, I just paid the rent and then paid to statement balance off.

And I did that and I got my points for travel. So basically I earned free points by doing stuff I already do. So that’s a way to take advantage of that as well. And of course, there’s these super cheap flights that I would get. I use sites like theflightdeal.com and I use skyscanner.com and justfly.com tends to have the best flight deals.

And I recently got involved ever since the pandemic started, I’ve recently started taking advantage of the super cheap accommodations to sign up for things like Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy memberships, so that I can get super cheap accommodations at nicer hotels. Also, another thing that I discovered was Google Flights.

So, if you, you know, Google say, you’re trying to go from Atlanta to LA. Like if you Google ATL to LAX, which is awesome, Angeles airport, um, they’ll pull up the flights for, you know, whichever dates that you’re trying to go to. And if you’re flexible, you can actually see the entire calendar for how much the prices will be the cheapest prices for each day.

And if you’re flexible, you can get some of the best deals if you do it that way as well.

Brynne: Oh, my gosh. That’s all so smart. I’m like writing down all these website names and guys, as you’re listening, if you want to just check out the show notes, we’ll definitely include all of these resources that Shalese is talking about today.

So make sure to check out those notes.

Shalese: It really comes down to deciding what’s important, you know? Cause the other thing is people think that I’m, you know, a lot of times people will think you’re irresponsible by traveling and you know, spending money traveling. But the other thing they don’t realize, too, is the things that you also cut back on or the things that you don’t do as it is.

Like, it’s easy for me to spend money traveling because I really don’t do a lot of socializing. I don’t go to bars, I don’t go into restaurants. And so that right there makes it easy for me to travel for that reason.

Brynne: Yeah, it’s all about trade-offs in personal finance. Like if we want the things that we really want, then we have to cut back on the things we don’t care as much about. So do you like, do you cook a lot, like, do you book places with kitchens or how do you handle food whenever you’re traveling?

Shalese: I prefer to book something with the kitchen, and that’s actually the main reason why I booked Airbnbs, when I first started traveling, it wasn’t just because they were super cheap.

It’s because I wanted a kitchen because I’m a very picky eater. When I travel being autistic. I like to make my own meals because it gives me some sort of comfort in an unfamiliar area, making my own food and having control over what I put into food and, you know, having control over, having something that is familiar to me. Until I discovered, you know, Hilton Homewood suites, which also has a kitchen and Marriott Residence Inn also has a kitchen as well.

But prior to that, I also did Airbnbs that also had a kitchen because I like to make my own meals and not to mention it’s also cheaper. And for me as an autistic person, it’s more reliable than going into a restaurant because restaurants can be very noisy and sensory overwhelming.

And so I prefer the comfort of eating in my own room if I’m going to eat. Or packing my own snacks from, you know, I would go to a grocery store and pack mountain sacks. Because quite frankly, I think home cooked food and homemade food tastes better than a lot of restaurants.

Brynne: No, definitely, definitely. Now on the other side of things like looking at, so we know that certain strategies that you use to like save money on travel today, but I know you also have some longer term financial goals, and I’m wondering whether those include travel or not like some of them I’m sure do incorporate that, but some might just be life goals.

How do you plan for those and what are some of your personal financial goals?

Shalese: My financial goal, honestly, is to buy my first property before I’m 40 by, by the time I’m 40. I want to have my own, my first house. That is my goal. Another goal that I have is to actually travel full time, like actually travel nonstop. Go to places like Antarctica, New Zealand, Australia, the more far-flung exotic locations that tend to cost more to go to.

Those are my goals to go to. But my biggest goal is to continue to make money online so that I could afford to travel while staying long term in these destinations, too. Because I don’t want to go to a destination just for a month or just one week or just for two weeks. I want to actually be able to stay in a place long enough to actually get the feel for it.

Like stay for months at a time in a particular location that I like. And my financial goal is to be able to like, make my money online so that I could continue to do that.

Brynne: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. And I feel like that just rings so true for so many of us millennials, right? Like, “I wanna buy a house before I’m 40!”

Shalese: Location independence is where it’s at and see, here’s the thing. The reason I know that this goal is attainable is because living overseas, you know, the American dollar goes further in other countries, right? And so it makes it easier for me to save money without depriving myself of the things I enjoy.

I can actually live comfortably in other countries while saving money for my dream house. So it’s a win-win situation. I find that here in America, that’s darn near impossible to do.

Brynne: No joke, no joke. Is there a specific country or locale that you’re looking at as far as purchasing real estate?

Shalese: You know what?

I have had my eyes on having a house to Vancouver, British Columbia. I love Vancouver and the houses there, and it’s just so perfect. The city, because you’ve got the mountains, you’ve got the sea and I just love this progressive green culture that they have there too. Like, I just feel very welcomed and like I belong there and you know, the houses are beautiful.

You know, they have my taste and housing along with access to all the nature and the activities. And, you know, you get this spectacular view all the time. And I just, I can’t get enough of it.

Brynne: Definitely. It is so beautiful up there. And one thing that I’ve noticed, I looked at moving to Canada and British Columbia seems like super like you were saying super progressive. And also just in like healthcare access, it seemed like they were very much more autism friendly than the other provinces. So.

Shalese: Totally! And that’s the thing. Cause you know, I looked at Quebec as well, but I cannot deal with the weather and see Vancouver?

They have better weather than, you know, the east coast of Canada because with the Rocky mountains and — here’s where I’m going to be a geography nerd here — the Rocky mountains box off that cold front that, you know, goes through the rest of Canada, of the east of Canada. And so, because it blocks that off, you know, and Vancouver sits on the sea, is not as frigid and is not as cold in the winter time.

As you know, Montreal and Quebec city will be.

Brynne: Absolutely, absolutely. Now I’ve heard you talk before about how travel has you kind of talked about it a little bit just right here, but how travel has always been like a special interest of yours as an autistic person, particularly like this isn’t just something that happened when you were grown.

This was something that, you know, when you were a kid, you were already looking into it and setting out to achieve it. So I’m wondering how autism has proved a strength when it comes to travel and learning about these different cultures and just going to experience them.

Shalese: Oh my God. So I remember when I was graduating high school, when I was looking at colleges to go to. And this one college ad came across my desk, you know, that really made me fall in love. And the number one reason I chose this college is because of their wealth of study abroad programs that they had, and the fact that they offered a study abroad program that first year of me joining that school. And so I applied, got accepted into the school and I was the most excited I’ve ever been in my life.

That was the most exciting day ever because I was thinking, oh, I’m going to go spend my first year in Scotland. I get to study abroad. I get to do all the things I wanted to do. Right. But I would say that me being Autistic, I was dead set on doing it, you know, because my parents were scared of me doing it. They actually were discouraging me from going to school out of state for that reason.

And they also were telling me that there were other things to do besides study abroad. And it’s just my one-track mind, as they say about autistic people, they, you know, I get very focused on what I want and it’s like, I can’t hear anything else outside of what I want. I’m very driven about what I want. And so just the fact that I sought out a school, I sought out a college specifically that would help me travel and, you know, check off these things off my bucket list.

The fact that I was willing to do all of that and see it through. And then when I got to the campus plans kind of fell through and I didn’t get to do the full study abroad program, but I still got the do to partial one that they offered in the spring semester. I still was able to do at least part of it.

But I still saw that through, like, I remember I was getting monthly allowance when I was in college from my grandmother and I would take my entire allowance and save it toward the trip instead of spending it on, you know, socializing, restaurants and going out with friends. I had friends who wanted to socialize all the time and go out and I didn’t do it just because I was so focused on getting my trip paid for.

I wanted to go into the study abroad program so bad that I did not care about anything else. I did not care if I was broke for the whole month. As long as I went.

Brynne: Absolutely. And you talked a little bit about how, you know, your parents were kind of nervous about even going to school out of state, nonetheless, like traveling solo. I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit more about people’s misconceptions particularly when you’re autistic. And how those misconceptions can be kind of unfounded. Like you can go out and do things independently, you know?

Shalese: Basically, you know, she was worried about the fact that, people would take advantage of me because of the fact that I have limited social cues understanding. I didn’t understand social cues, and I didn’t understand exactly how to be friends with people or how to detect who’s a friend and who’s not. Because of that, she was worried about how I would handle college life.

And, you know, if I would get taken advantage of, if I would get made fun of and bullied like I was in high school. If it was going to be repeat all of that, that I’ve been through in grade school. That’s what she was worried about. But one thing that I would say. Yes, I did have my challenges and I’m not going to deny that I had my challenges in college.

Like it was not rainbow and sunshine, but what kept me from falling too deep into the challenges was that I had the accommodation that allowed me to have a single dorm room. So instead of sharing a room and having a roommate, I was able to have a single dorm because of my disability. I had that accommodation and I also took initiative to talk to my disability specialists on campus regularly.

You know, whenever things weren’t going well. So I had that support system and I think the thing is parents, in this case, they don’t think that their kids will have the initiative to do what they need to do. But in my case, I knew what I needed to have happen. I knew, you know, what my weaknesses were.

And so I took it upon myself to seek out the resources that I know that I wouldn’t be to succeed. That’s one of the things that people don’t think about autism. Like they think that we’re not capable of taking care of our needs. When really a lot of times we’re the most resourceful people that you know.

Brynne: Absolutely. Absolutely. This is a question that I know Joyce and I have. Like, my kid loves traveling. That is, when we’re on trips and stuff, that’s like their happy place. There are some accommodations that we have to make when we do that. So I’m wondering, just as an autistic person, like you’ve talked a little bit about some of the accommodations you make, you know, you don’t, you don’t go out to bars and stuff and you don’t focus on the social stuff.

And when you cook, you cook at home things that, you know, you like, is there anything else that you wish parents knew as they take their own kids on trips? 

Shalese: I would say that first of all, don’t jam pack everything. Don’t try to jam pack everything into such a small amount of time. And what I mean by that is you may have an itinerary of things you want to see, but I would suggest spreading it out because what happens is, you know, what if your child gets overwhelmed and they need to have a break and they need to have some time off, then you wouldn’t have that flexibility to be able to put something off or reschedule something.

And depending on if your child is very much into routine, you may also want to be able to know the times of what you’re going to see and what attractions you’re going to visit, and you know where you’re going to go. You might want to have a set schedule depending on if you have a child that’s very much about routine. Or if you have a child that needs a lot of downtime and to step away, it really depends on you knowing your child.

So really what it comes down to is you got to know your child, you know, how their personality is and how autism affects them before you could start to make accommodations for how you’re going to plan the trip. And the second thing I would say as well is also definitely know your child’s sensory triggers and know their food triggers as well, so that you can prepare food for them.

Take something with them that they’ll like. Be sure that you’re able to take their stim toys with them. Be sure that you’re able to, you know, accommodate them appropriately, like go to a restaurant. If, you know, for instance, you have a child that’s sensitive to noise, make sure you choose a restaurant that’s more on the quieter side or you can choose a place that has less bright lights or less noise. A hotel that has less of that going on, but it all goes back to knowing your child’s triggers and knowing your child, how autism affects them and adjusting the accommodations to that. 

Brynne: Are there ever times where you’re traveling and you’ve got your schedule and your routine and everything. You know what you’re going to do throughout the day, but then maybe something happens.

Maybe you’re in an environment where you can’t control all the triggers. Are there ever times where you yourself have sensory needs and you’re in an environment where you—the only option is to self-accommodate I guess. When you run into those situations, what are some of the things that you do to accommodate yourself?

I’m not sure if that’s the right way to put it.

Shalese: One of the things that I do, like, okay. So there’ve been times I would get off a flight and it will be late at night and because it’s too late, you know, you’ve got everyone off the plane rushing and going the same direction and it becomes super crowded in a small space because you know, other lanes, depending on what airport you come from, other lanes may be shut down.

So it’s just that one lane to go through with everyone is going through the same lane. And it’s just a lot of chaos. Just that one flight that was late. So one of the things that I tend to do is I self soothe by listening to music. Like I have my phone and my headphones on as well. And I listen to music that soothes me as a way to self-accommodate.

And the other thing that I tend to do is I always have water with me because somehow drinking water is another thing that helps me to reduce the overwhelm. So that’s another thing that I do.

Brynne: Awesome, awesome. Are there any things that like the airlines or the hotels or any of these venues can do? Whether or not you’ve needed them to do anything, I don’t know. But just like generally for autistic people, is there anything that people can ask for ahead of time that kind of helped the crew or the staff at the hotel kind of help you meet your needs?

Like I know I’ve done Disney with my kids before and it wasn’t, it wasn’t the most accommodating experience to be honest with you. But I called ahead and I found, all right, these are the places we can go if there’s, if we run into burnout or if we run into like this problem, we need AC or something really badly. These are the places where we can go.

And so I kind of planned with the park representatives, how we could meet those needs. I guess I’m wondering just for like hotels and airlines, if there’s anything that they regularly do that can kind of help with the trip prep, I suppose.

Shalese: I will say that I say this a lot. When it comes to booking flights or hotels. See, one of the things that I’m really thankful that I’ve seen during the COVID pandemic is something that we have not seen before. And that is that airlines and hotels and tour companies are more accommodating and more flexible in their booking.

So it used to be that once you book it, a lot of times, you couldn’t cancel it. Or if you can sort of, it will be a huge exorbitant fee behind it. I think that they need to keep doing what they’re doing. Because during the pandemic, they’ve actually loosened those restrictions, meaning that they’ll allow you to cancel with no penalty.

Flights still allow you to rebook them up until a year in advance. And so I think that that does not need to go away. That needs to stay. Because you know, being autistic, if you are someone who struggles with executive functioning, you may have all of these plans to get to the airport on time, right. Or you may have all these plans to get to the hotel on time.

And for some reason, you know, if you’re struggling with executive functioning, you end up being late and you don’t make it on time. Then you need to be able to have the flexibility to rebook the flight or get on the next flight with no penalty. And you also need to be able to have the flexibility that if you know, you’re off of a flight and you’re just feeling too overwhelmed to go to a tour, for instance, I would say that, you know, that tour company needs to be accommodating in the sense that they let you rebook it at another date.

Or, you know, they’ll give you a refund. There needs to be more flexibility first and foremost. And I also think that they need to continue with the digital check-in because Marriott and Hilton.

For instance, they do this where you book the room and then you could actually check yourself in digitally without ever having to stand in line or be in front of people. And for obvious reasons being autistic and, you know, not always wanting to deal with people, they need to keep that. Like they better not ever changed that.

This needs to be permanent.

Brynne: Oh my gosh. Yes. That was one of the biggest things at Disney was like the first day we walked in, we had to get this disability pass. Right. And the reason we needed the disability pass was because standing in line is, you know, sometimes a problem. But in order to get the pass, we had to stand in this massive line.

It was like, this is literally the accommodation that we need. And you’re like forcing us to go through it. It was just like mind-boggling. So just that. Yes, yes, yes.

Shalese: It’s like, I have a friend of mine who’s physically disabled. She’s got MS. And we were at Six Flags one time and they made it so incredibly difficult to get the disability pass.

It was ridiculous. And it’s just like, you know, the person is obviously disabled. Why can’t you just give them the pass? Like, why does it have to be all of these loopholes you’ve got to jump through to get the pass?

Brynne: Absolutely.

Shalese: It’s so hard. They need to make it easier to get a accommodations. Otherwise people tend to go without, and truth be told you’re going to lose a lot of money from the autism or the disabled population if you don’t make these things easier.

Brynne: Absolutely. And that’s like, I feel like I know specifically it’s probably with a lot of these theme parks, but I know specifically with Disney, their excuse a few years ago… I don’t mean to keep talking about Disney. We’ve been there like a couple of times, but it’s not like the only place we go. But like their excuse for making these passes more difficult to access, was they said like, oh, well, abled people were taking advantage of them. So therefore we have to make it harder to get. And that just like, it makes me so upset and so angry. It’s like, you’re assuming that people are faking their disability and then you’re actually making access harder because you’re trying to punish abled people?

Like I don’t get it. I just don’t understand it.

Shalese: Whenever people say anything, and this could be anything right. Whatever, but it’s just whenever I hear the terms that people are using, ‘taking advantage’, able body, or, you know, ‘faking a disability’. I just, and this could be any situation. I get mad when I hear that, because first of all, I don’t even see the logic in that.

And I don’t believe that that’s happening to the extent that these people were saying it is. I just don’t imagine that that’s happening. Right. I think it’s a matter of these companies are too lazy to accommodate or they’re unwilling to accommodate.

Brynne: Oh my gosh. Yes. Oh, I’m so happy you’re here. So you’ve managed to turn the traveling into a business.

So whether people are looking at – this is a major thing that we talk about, because I feel like we see a huge employment gap because of ableist discrimination in our society. Right? Not because autistic people are incapable of work, but because we deny people opportunities to work in a way that is good for them.

And so I think that for, we also see like with parents, um, for all you parents listening, especially with maternal income, we see maternal income go down whenever you have an autistic child. Because of a lot of that same ableism and also a little bit of patriarchy mixed in for fun. I feel like entrepreneurship is like a really good way for people to kind of combat that.

But as you’re building a business, if you don’t have access to like a business incubator or resources necessarily to help support you in that, do you have any tips for people who may be trying to start their own business, whether it’s travel related or not to kind of take things from the passion level to the income level?

Shalese: I would say, be resourceful with the resources that you do have. So I had these cars actually had my own vehicle and I purchased a new vehicle at the time. And I actually one night I was up at 3:00 AM trying to figure out how to make extra money for this travel blog. Right. And something in my head told me to Google renting out your car because I was thinking if they got Airbnb rentals they must have car rentals, right? Sure enough.

I found this thing called Turo that I could rent my car on and they call it the Airbnb of cars. It took me awhile to get on it just because I thought it was too good to be true. So it took a month for me to actually try it out. I finally put my car on there and I got my first request and, you know, I started making money and that’s how I was able to fund trips and actually make money while I was away

For other autistic people who don’t have cars, you know, maybe you could start by maybe selling something that you’re passionate about. Maybe you’ve got. Maybe you’re talented at decorating clothes. Right. You know, maybe you’re talented at drawing or having some kind of art talent. You could see if there’s a way that you can sell those. Like you could sell that service to people.

Another thing that I’ve done that I actually found it really stressful and I did not enjoy it. I’ve done things like door dash, I’ve done things like GrubHub. I’ve done things like Amazon flex and you don’t like side gig type jobs. And I was not particularly in love with them, but I did that as kind of a way to be able to afford the thing that I had a passion for.

So, um, I would say, you know, depending on if you can handle that level of stress, like if you choose to do those gig jobs, definitely pace yourself. Don’t try to pressure yourself to do it all day or make this amount of money, like do it. And if you feel overwhelmed, stop, like don’t pressure yourself to overdo it, but do it as much as you can.

That’s what I was saying if you choose to embark on gig work. And then of course there’s like things like freelance. So if you like to write, for instance, for a topic. If you’re passionate about a particular topic and you’re good at writing, you can take advantage of that. But basically what I’m saying is, you know, be resourceful and think about the things you’re good at.

Think about what you’re good at and see if you can sell that to like your neighborhood, sell that to your friends, family, coworkers, like, see if you can actually try to sell that out in your community. You know, start that as like a side hustle. You’re really good at that. And you can use that money to fund whatever else you’ve got with what you’re passionate about.

Also, too, like if you’re in college, another thing to think about too is if you’re in college, maybe you can see if there’s extra financial aid you can use to invest in the business you want to start. You can see if you know the SBA has grants because, um, there’s SBA funding.

But personally I did not have access to that, but I know some states may have access to that as well. That’s something you can look into as well. Also, another helpful resource that I found was on the office of vocational rehab. They had this, this business program where they’ll actually give you free access to business mentoring.

So if you choose to go the employment track, or if you choose to go to self-employment track, they have a section where they’ll actually help you walk through the steps of starting a business. So there’s that. Yeah, like I would say take advantage of as many free resources as you can, when it comes to building a business.

We don’t always have the funds to invest or, you know, go into debt. I don’t suggest using credit cards or loans or anything like that because having the stress of debt can actually be detrimental to your creativity with building a business. So I don’t suggest that route whatsoever, but I do suggest, you know, looking at as many free resources as you can.

Brynne: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I’m so appreciative of all of those resources. Those are great. One in particular that I want to draw to people’s attention, because this is something that I’ve noticed that a lot of parents just aren’t informed about their office of vocational rehabilitation. And there’s lots of some states use their–

The federal government gives each state money for these offices and then each state kind of uses the money differently. You might find some similar programs across states, like some states will even help you pay for your college. I know here in Pennsylvania, residents can get like a grant equal to a Pell grant from OVR.

And so that’s really cool because I didn’t even think about that’s so smart with the business mentoring. Definitely guys know that that exists. It’s called something slightly different in every state. I have a link with, you can check out like each state, what it’s called, go to their website and everything.

I’ll post that in the show notes, but I feel like that’s such a huge resource we’re not educated about as parents.

Shalese: I feel like entrepreneurship is so vital to us because really, and I may be biased when I say this, but I feel like it’s actually the only way that we can truly get the things we deserve because you may get accommodations in school.

And that’s the thing about doing well in school versus getting out in the real world. You may get accommodations in school or get to do really well at school. But once you get out in the real world, these jobs, I hear, you know, I have friends of mine who complain about how jobs don’t accommodate them.

I’ve experienced it myself. When I had jobs, you know, out in the real world that were not very accommodating. Entrepreneurship’s the only way that we can actually get what we deserve in a way that works for us.

Brynne: No, it makes total sense. It makes total sense. And again, a lot of parents might be thinking, “But the ADA!” Which is very true, the ADA exists, but compliance with the ADA is not great.

Shalese: I find that it’s too many loopholes that these employers get out of when it comes to complying with the ADA, there’s always some kind of loophole that they exploit to get out of compliance.

Brynne: Yeah. It’s almost like they study that rather than the law. It’s so frustrating.

Shalese: Right.

Brynne:  Can you just tell us about some of your favorite trips and it doesn’t even have to be related to the money or business side, but just what are some of the most inspirational, breathtaking places you’ve seen? What are some of those really powerful experiences you’ve had while you’re on the road?

Shalese: I love, first of all, I love Iceland and this is where my geographic nerd comes in. I love Iceland because of the fact that it is like a scientifically magical place because I love how it sits on two continental plates. You can see the obviousness of the fact that it sits on North American and European continental plate.

So, you know, it sits on two continental plates and you can actually see the difference in the landscape because of that. It’s got all the geysers. It’s got all of the two streams, like the streams that divide the continental plates, Like it’s very, very – it’s like stepping into a science book because you’ll see like the geysers and the geothermal activity active very much active right before your eyes in the most random spots, too.

So you’ll be driving down the highway and you’ll see the icebergs. You’ll see all this volcanic land. Because it’s also very volcanic and, you know, you’ll see all the geothermal spas and the geothermal pools, and also in the winter, you get to see the Aurora Borealis, which is a fascinating phenomenon. What I really, really loved the most is that like I was in Iceland again, but one summer I went in a winter and I went in the summer, back in 2016 and I was actually driving around.

Actually, 1:00 AM. I was driving around looking for food. Right. And I kept wondering why everything was closed. Why was everything so closed early? Right. Because it was still daylight. Come to find out. It does not get dark in the summer because it’s so far up near the Earth’s axis that it does not get dark fully.

And so you, it took me awhile to get used to that because. You know, I’m used to it being dark when you sleep at night, but it didn’t even get dark. And, you know, it was, I just thought that was so fascinating, the way that it was positioned in the earth. And it just really made me feel in touch with like how the earth functions and how the Earth’s created.

Just like the, the processes that go behind why you’re seeing what you’re seeing. I could just really made me feel like, ‘Wow.’ I just, it was really breathtaking to see that at play all of the stuff that I’ve learned in geography and in the textbooks that I used to nerd out on. It was really like, oh my God, like words, can’t explain how much I love seeing that in action in person.

And I just really felt like I was on top of the world to actually witness that with my own eyes.

Brynne:  That does sound so amazing.

Shalese: And one other thing that I really enjoyed was I really seriously enjoyed Luxembourg because I liked how low key it was compared to the rest of the cities in Europe. I enjoyed how low-key it was and just how you know, it was historical.

But at the same time, it was modern at the same time. And it was small. It was small enough for me to really gather what the place was about. And Luxembourg city, particularly it sits so two levels because it was built – it actually was built from a castle ruin and it sits on two layers. And just looking at that is very fascinating.

You know, the city has like a lower level and then, you know, there’s the upper level of Luxembourg city. And, you know, I love the fact that they have three languages that they speak, you know. I also speak German. So I was able to use my German there. They speak Luxembourgese, German, and they speak French there.

Actually, they also speak Dutch too. So that’s four languages they speak. And, you know, it was really, I kind of like that feeling of kind of being in four different countries in one. So that was really fascinating as well.

Brynne: That was something I was going to ask you about. As soon as I heard Luxembourg, I was like, oh my gosh, what’s the linguistics behind that?

That’s so cool. So they have their own language like Luxembourgese. I did not know that.

Shalese: Luxembourgese actually sounds a lot like German. Like the way it’s written and the way that it’s sounds, it sounds a lot like German, but it has a lot of French in it as well. So I said, you know, I spoke German and still they understood me there because again, they speak a lot of German there as well.

You know, there’s French and then there’s Dutch, which is also, you know, it’s in the same family as Germany, German languages, Germanic languages. Technically, when you think about Germanic languages is English, we’re technically the same family as German. You’ve got Dutch, you’ve got German, you’ve got Luxembourgese.

You’ve got Swedish in Icelandic languages. You’ve got that within that family. Yeah. Like it’s really amazing when you look at all of the language families you’re going to be really shocked to learn.

Brynne: Yeah, definitely. I feel like with our old English, it’s so easy to see. Like when you go back and look at the older manuscripts, you can see how the grammar is related.

And then just with modern English, I feel like we’ve just cut off a lot of the, I don’t know the similar grammar structures that we used to share, but that’s such a good point that they’re all related.

Shalese: Kind of like romance languages, for instance, is considered things like French, Italian, Spanish. Those are considered the romance languages.

If you look at Italian and Spanish, they look similar. And I, I don’t, I haven’t started either of them, but when I look at the wording and just like certain basic words that they have is very similar. I actually studied German in Russian when I was in college in high school.

Brynne: You studied Russian, too? I studied that for a little while. I was going to ask you, like, what other languages did you study?

Because that helps so much when you’re on the road, I feel like.

Shalese: You know, I cannot wait to go to Russia because Russia is one of my special interests and I cannot wait to visit one day, but thing… This pandemic ruined my travel plans. I was so looking forward to seeing some of these places.

Brynne: Hi, everyone. Post-production Brynne, here. I just wanted to take a second to let you guys know that when this interview was recorded, it was January.

The reason that we are talking about Russia here without any mention of what’s been happening in Ukraine and the invasion on their sovereignty is just because it purely hadn’t happened yet. So I just don’t want anyone to think that we were ignoring that or that we endorse it just because we’re talking about Russia.

All right. Cool. Let’s get back to the conversation.

Brynne: Is there a particular part of Russia? Are you trying to visit like the cities? I know there’s way more rural and, but then like out east, there’s like a lot of that like natural stuff. Do you have any like specific part that you’re trying to visit?

Shalese: I really want to see St. Petersburg, Russia. I really, really, really seriously want to visit the more remote Siberian region, because, you know, like it’s closer to the Arctic and, um, I’ve just been really fascinated by cultures that reside alone, the Arctic.

Brynne: What draws you to them, do you think? I know with Iceland, we were talking about, you know, you’re kind of connected to nature so heavily and you can literally see it physically manifested around you.

Like all these things that we learn about in science. And is there something similar with the draw Arctic cultures in Russia or, or what is the through line for you?

Shalese: I remember I was writing, someone asked me this years ago and I actually wrote in my journal, in my diary about this. So I’m about to give you guys a diary entry from years ago. But I would say how, um, I was, I remember, you know, sitting around thinking about Greenland and Antarctica and you know, all the places along the Arctic and the Antarctic circle.

And, you know, just like when I think about everything we’ve learned about in history it’s kind of like Europe and Africa, all the countries that are, you know, in the middle, they’ve all just kind of been interconnected in some way. And they’ve all had a lot of chaos and stuff like that. And I think about the Arctic as kind of being peaceful and kind of be to themselves and reserved.

Like, I kind of feel connected to that because I almost feel like they’re similar in personality to me. For instance, Antarctica is considered perfect because like you’ve got all the different cultures from around the world and it’s just, you know, all the scientists that come from the different countries that go and get stationed in Antarctica. To me, that’s just really quirky that they don’t really have any rules or regulations because they’re kind of their own person separate from everyone else.

And it’s the same thing I think about with Greenland and Antarctica. I just kind of feel like the remote places tend to be more reserved and they don’t get involved in too much of the conflict that goes on in the world. And that’s what makes me admire them. Yes, I did the fascination of the earth being on the edge of the earth is very fascinating, but I definitely am impressed with how they tend to stay to themselves.

Brynne: Now, this is a very separate subject. Um, we’re going to transition here a little bit, but I did want to ask you before we go, because I’ve seen different articles and stuff that you’ve been featured in. And one thing that you’ve spoken about before is how, when you were very young, you were non-verbal.

And you went through speech therapy and all of that, I’m wondering if parents have non-verbal children who are going through that similar journey, what can they do to best support their kids? Or what really helped or would have helped you as you were going through that process?

Shalese: One of the things that’s helped me is I really think that I’ve had, you know, speech therapy has helped me to break down things like phrases that I didn’t understand that are more commonly used. I’m glad that I was in speech therapy so that I could understand a lot of the phrases that people, you know, were speaking. I was able to communicate better as a result of being taught how to understand what was being said to me.

In general, I think that because I was non-verbal, I think that it’s good for the parents to work with the kids on ways to communicate. If they’re not able to communicate verbally, maybe there’s a way that they could do so non-verbally whether it be writing or pointing, or maybe you could pay attention to certain bodily movements that they may have.

When they’re hungry, for instance, or they have a need. So I would say like pay attention to nonverbal cues, if that makes any sense. Like learn what your child is saying when they’re not able to speak. Learn what it is that they do to communicate what they need. My mother said, when I used to be, when I was hungry, she said, I would always go to the fridge and I just open it in order to say that I’m hungry.

And so she picked up on that by looking at my patterns. You know, I really think it’s important to be open-minded because I think, especially in my generation, people my age and, you know, older, we come from a generation where parents were taught that we were just being non-compliant and we were just being spoiled and we were just being unruly, but I’m so glad that it’s come coming a long way.

That you know, now that it has been, when I was younger, I wish that we had the understanding that we have now, because that would have spared a lot of us, so much pain and so much misunderstanding if we had the kind of understanding that there is now. But I would just say, you know, don’t listen to things like that.

I would say continue to like get educated. And be open-minded to the fact that your child may not be defiant, that they could just be trying to communicate something that they’re having a hard time articulating.

Brynne: Speech is definitely one outcome. And it might be the one that you as a parent are most comfortable with because it’s the way you communicate.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s any better or worse than if your child communicates through, like you were saying, writing or a communication device, or even just learning, you know, like you were talking about the patterns. Is your child, you know, trying to draw you towards something to communicate a need?

Those things are equally, equally valid. And I think the sooner we recognize that maybe we can start inflicting less damage.

Shalese: I can’t tell you how many of us in our generation, you know, because parents and doctors and authority figures, teachers, there was this idea that kids who didn’t comply that way were defiant.

And because of that, like a lot of us grew up with PTSD because we were disciplined for doing things that we didn’t even mean to do or doing things that wasn’t really wrong. But it’s just that we had trouble communicating it or articulating it. And so you can just imagine a lot of people have had PTSD behind that.

Brynne: And I imagine it’s gotta be like, just because somebody doesn’t communicate with speech doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what you’re saying. And so I would imagine there’s gotta be a lot of frustration just living in this world and not being, not having the resources you need to like communicate those needs.

I imagine that in and of itself has gotta be traumatic even before people’s reactions to you. The reactions are not okay.

Shalese: Yeah, it doesn’t. And then the thing is like, when you go through, when you have that trauma of being misunderstood, it also causes you not to have good boundaries in relationships. It causes you to move through the world, you know, seeking understanding, and seeking validation in ways that aren’t healthy.

When you know, you have a child that grows up in an environment where they’re not understood or they’re chastised for being themselves, you know, it makes it it’s a dangerous game because you know, they grow up and they get involved in toxic relationships because they think that that’s normal, they grow up and they think that, you know, they have to always, you know, ask for validation to be themselves or that they always have, have asked for permission or they grow up being afraid to be assertive.

Because they’re afraid of being rejected in some way or being outted, or ostracized because of who they are. So they grow up with kind of an unhealthy sense of self-esteem.

Brynne: Absolutely. This is a recurring theme that I’m noticing. Last season, we talked to a woman named Morenike. And we talked to her about teaching some of these boundary setting skills across the whole swath of areas.

It feels like a lot of the therapies and a lot of the ways that we treat our kids, it actually ends up just like you were saying, it can end up like leading to toxic relationships or I have to accommodate everybody else so I can like fit in right. Or whatever. And so she was talking about just like actively going through and teaching children that it was okay to draw those boundaries and how to kind of do that.

But that makes me so sad to hear, but I appreciate you sharing it because it’s really important to know.

Shalese: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Brynne: Now, before I let you go, Shalese, Joyce and I always like to end these things by acknowledging that we don’t know what we don’t know. And I’m wondering if there’s anything else you think it would be important for parents of autistic kids, parents of autistic entrepreneurs.

Is there anything important for them to know that we just haven’t covered yet today?

Shalese: So I want to touch on this whole thing about, you know, kids. This, this idea that your autistic child is lazy or unmotivated, just because it seems like they’re aimless or directionless, or it seems like they’re not making enough progress.

It’s not actually laziness. It’s oftentimes either a lack of resources or a lack of, or it’s plenty of overwhelm. It’s a lot of overwhelm as to where to begin. A lot of times it’s really easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you’ve got obligations. You’ve got responsibilities. And you just don’t know where to begin and it can look like you’re being lazy when actually you’re just paralyzed because you don’t know where to begin.

And it looks like an overwhelming situation and a high and a tough mountain to climb, I would say. And also, I would also say that instead of, you know, thinking that your kid is unmotivated and lazy, I would also suggest maybe you should talk to them about where they want to be. Maybe you should try to help them figure out how to get there and where to get the resources and actually help them find a structure that works for them.

Like actually help them develop a structure. Because it’s real easy to be dismissive. When you see someone who you think is not making enough progress, or when you think that someone is, it looks like they’re not doing anything, but in actuality to do with the best that they can. Mentally it is draining.

So I definitely would say try to be more understanding with that. That it’s a lot more to it than what it looks like.

Brynne: A thousand percent. If you had a friend or something who was like feeling super overwhelmed. And like, again, I’ve got to imagine there’s like a massive level of frustration that comes in that from being motivated, but not being able to start.

Are there any things that you would do to help them or like, are there any things that help you whenever you’re feeling that overwhelm?

Shalese: I get overwhelmed all the time, but, um, one of the things that helps me is somebody actually talk it out with one of my closest friends who’s also into business.

She’s also an entrepreneur. What helps me is that talking to someone who’s like-minded and who’s in a similar situation, and we can actually go through a list of things that I could do to help reduce to overwhelm. So that’s something that I find to be helpful. She kind of calms me down and I can go through a list of things that I could get done or things that I could take today.

And then something else that helps me, too, is when I get reminded that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that all I got to do is take a step today. You take small steps at a time, take small steps each day to get to the goal, because I think we get overwhelmed because we think that we have to do all of this.

You know, we think we have to do all this in a month, for instance, and that’s not the case. Like we have to realize that building something sustainable and being successful at it is not going to happen overnight. And so once we realize that we’re reminded of that. And we realize, you know, that we’re not failures just because it takes us longer. That also can reduce the overwhelm as well.

Brynne: Oh my gosh. Yes. I saw this quote recently, that was like, I’m so sorry to whoever said it, because I don’t remember where I do attribute it, but it was like, if you want to do something fast, do it yourself. But if you want to build something that lasts and go far, build with somebody else. And I think that’s just so useful for everyone, but it sounds a lot like what you’re saying too is just like, support each other.

Shalese: Over the years, I’ve had to learn that, you know, my mother always taught me that you don’t live in this world by yourself.

And I’ve learned that the hard way. So many times I’ve learned that the hard way. Because I’ve maxed out what I could do on my own. So it comes to the point where I have to ask for help and I’ve had to, you know, build with other people. I had to get over my shame of needing help because one of the things with me, with us, with autism. One of the things they say about us is that we have a hard time asking for help.

And I know for me, that is a hundred percent true, like asking for help is the hardest thing to say ever. But it takes me, you know, a lot to accept that I need help. And once I accept that I need help, that it’s still kind of a struggle to reach out and ask for it. But I find that once I reach out and ask for is. It’s like, I took a weight off my shoulders when I did that.

Brynne: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for being here with us today and guys, so many resources today, please check out the show notes. Thank you so much.

Shalese: Thank you for having me.

(whooshing sound)

Brynne: Thank you so much to Shalese. And guys, if you want to check out her work, be sure to look in the show notes, you’ll be able to find her YouTube channel.

Her Instagram. You’ll also be able to find a link to, she mentioned she offers coaching services. And so you can also find a link to where you can book with her there.

Joyce: And please make sure that you support Autistic businesses. It is important that you do.

Brynne: Absolutely. Absolutely. And if you’re looking for other businesses run by autistic people that you want to support, you can go back to our Black Friday episode from season one. We sat down and got to meet a whole bunch of different business owners across a whole bunch of different areas.

And Shalese was actually one of them. And we’re glad that she came back and did like a full interview with us today. It was really cool. We learned so much and we will see you guys next week. We’ll be talking about different strategies and ways that you can successfully — keyword there — successfully apply for SSI or SSDI with Dena Gassner.

We are very excited about that one. In the meantime, make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast, whether you’re listening on apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcasts. What that does is every time we release a new episode, it will automatically download where you on that platform. You can also subscribe to our email newsletter by visiting our website, MomAutismMoney.com.

And you can join us on Facebook, where we have a private Facebook group. And you can ask questions. You want to submit questions before we have a guest on an interview? That’s a great place to do it. All right, we’ll see you guys next week.

Joyce: Bye.

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