Last year I went on a solo trip to Santoroni Greece and met some phenomenal women that left a imprint on my life as a woman of color. All different shades of beautiful melanin, some entrepreneurs, some corporate, different backgrounds, but we all had a certain commonality, we needed a new view, clarity, healing, support, sisterhood and fun. I met Ashley Brown on my trip and I knew that there was more to her than what met the eye and beautiful photos on social media. Ashley was transparent about her journey with her mental health, her life and goals. Her transparency and vulnerability inspired me and helped me at the same time. I wanted to share her story because I know there is a little bit of Ashley in all of us and if we can help each other through sharing experiences, I am delighted to be of service. We are all vessels and it’s important that we pour into others in a sincere manner. I ask questions to understand not judge. I am a constant student and inspired by everything that the universe provides. I hope after reading this interview you are inspired and have some great takeaways. 

What do you do for a living? 

I work for a quality solutions company within the automotive and manufacturing industry as a Staffing Specialist (recruiter). I have been recruiting for 5 years. My dream/goal is to become a full time traveler and travel blogger. 

At what age did you notice that you were experiencing challenges with your mental health?  And if you don’t mind sharing, what were you experiencing?

Although I don’t remember the exact age, it began when I was young. However, it became very clear and apparent when I was 16 years old. High School was really stressful for me. I was trying to fit in, keep up with school work, dating, personal issues, dealing with being a teenager…there were a lot of things going on in my head and I could not manage everything…which caused a breakdown. I cried all the time. I became distant and shut people out. I stopped going out and doing things that I normally would. Some days, I had no appetite. I spent a lot of time in bed. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I did a lot of smiling on the outside and being a complete mess on the inside. 

How did traveling help you with your mental health? 

Unfortunately, therapy does not work for everyone. I have tried quite a few therapists, however, I felt that none of them truly understood me and couldn’t get down to the root of my depression. So instead, I kept my emotions bottled up and dealt with it alone. I acted as if I was perfectly fine but in actuality, I was truly unhappy and severely depressed. But one day, at the end of 2019, I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. I asked myself “when was the last time you were happy?”. The answer to that question was when I took a trip to Las Vegas a few years prior I remembered how my face lit up when I saw the lights of the Las Vegas Strip for the first time. I remembered how much fun I had trying new things and how at peace I was. My problems back home didn’t exist for that weekend. So I began using travel as my therapy. I was so dedicated that I booked my first international flight to Bali before I even applied for my passport. When I’m in a new country, learning and experiencing new cultures, doing various activities and excursions and trying new cuisines (I love food), I don’t have time to think about what is stressing me out and making my mind run wild. Travel is my escape from reality. I have such an amazing time traveling that when I come home, I’m in a much better mood to work through my issues or they no longer seem important. Traveling truly keeps me sane. 

Do you meditate? 

I absolutely do! Meditation is a huge part of my daily morning routine. I meditate before I step foot out of bed. I started noticing a difference in how my days went when I start to clear and quiet my mind before doing anything else. YouTube has a lot of great guided meditations that serve different purposes like manifestation, stress relief, and simple relaxation. 

Are you a solo traveler or do you go with friends?

No, I am not a solo traveler. Majority of the time, I travel with friends or family. However, last year, I was introduced to travel groups and curated group trips. I visited Greece and Egypt with a travel group and LOVED IT. It was a great opportunity to meet likeminded travelers, creatives and I made new lifelong friends and connections. I highly recommend looking into group trips for those that want to travel but have no one to travel with and uncomfortable traveling solo. 

What are you passionate about? 

I am most passionate about inspiring people to do what makes them happy the same way that I did. I know that there are people out there just like me that are struggling mentally and battling depression. I always say that my goal is to be that friend that I wish I had when I was going through the motions and not telling anyone because I felt that no one understood what I was going through. As a content creator, I use my content to show that happiness CAN be achieved even when it appears to be nowhere in sight. I try to showcase what life can look like when you decide to no longer let life defeat you and live life instead. Even if it isn’t traveling…do whatever it is that makes you excited to hop out of the bed every morning. Do whatever turns your frown into a smile. Choosing happiness is the best thing that you can do for yourself and I want the world to know that. 

What has been your most memorable vacation experience that really helped you mentally and how did that trip change you? 

My trip to Greece is hands down my most memorable vacation that helped me mentally thus far. I was going through a tough time right before the trip. I wasn’t feeling my best, dealing with a lot of stress and I was slowing falling into depression. When I get into that mental state, I crave peace and relaxation and Greece, in particularly Santorini, gave me exactly that. From the beautiful scenery, breathtaking cliffside views and the amazing hotel that I stayed in (I stayed at the Sophia Collection Santorini) I was able to enjoy some well needed me time. I was able to relax, reset, recharge and get my thoughts together. I left feeling more confident, sexy and completely rejuvenated. This was the trip where I truly realized that traveling was the best way to cope with my mental challenges. I highly recommend Santorini to anyone looking for a beautiful, peaceful escape. 

4 things that you MUST  bring with you while traveling… 

I must have my headphones for the long haul flights, my tripod for content creating, bath bombs and at least one candle for relaxation.

What 3 tips would you give to our readers who may be currently dealing with mental health challenges on coping while traveling?

My first tip would be do as much as you can while traveling. One thing about depression, it’s not easily controlled. It is very possible to be on vacation and still be depressed, sad and unhappy. Do as many things as possible to keep you busy. Look for an activity or tour that interests you. Go out for a nice dinner. Visit a nearby beach or lay out by the pool. Make a new friend. Do something that gets you out of the bed instead of sitting and worrying about what you have going on in life. My second tip would be to try to hang out with the locals. I make that a priority when I travel. I enjoy learning about different cultures and seeing how people live, interact and live day to day. You could walk away learning something that you can incorporate into your daily routine, a new recipe or a new hobby. Lastly, whether you are traveling solo or if you are traveling with others, take time out for yourself. Self care is EXTREMELY important when taking care of your mental health. If your hotel has a tub, take a soothing bath or treat yourself to a spa day. Take some time out to do some shopping. Find a quiet spot and read your favorite book or whatever you do to unwind. Focus on ONLY you and take care of yourself.  

Ashley, what’s next for you? 

More travel! Traveling really has become a beautiful addiction for me. I am always looking up flights, travel deals, planning trips and researching new countries to visit. I’m also going to continue content creating and perfecting my craft…as well as starting my own travel blog and other ventures which will be coming soon. 

Please, give our readers your favorite book…

There are two books that tie for my favorite and they go hand in hand….The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy. The Secret introduced me to The Law of Attraction, the philosophy that your thoughts determine your reality. The Power of Your Subconscious mind further enhanced my knowledge of the Law of Attraction by teaching how negative thoughts yield negative results and positive thoughts yield positive thoughts. Both of those books completely changed my life. 

Lastly what is a quote that you live by? 

I live by the quote “ As you ask and feel and believe, you will receive” – Rhonda Byrne. As a firm believer of the Law of Attraction and manifestation, I feel that this is a simple life equation. Whatever it is you want in life…ask for it through prayer, writing it down or speaking it into existence. If you wholeheartedly believe that it will happen with zero doubt to the point that you can feel it and envision yourself having it while working towards it…if you will receive it. I am walking proof that this works. 

Instagram handle and website if you have one ? 

@_ashnicb on Instagram 

Photo credits: @pixtarami_photography @true_santorini