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Brie Shelly of ‘The Experience’: “Don’t be afraid to feel your feelings”

Identify coping strategies that work for you and have a long list of them on your phone that you can read in any crisis moment. I encourage clients to pick tools that can be utilized in every type of environment — at home, work, in front of friends, at the mall, etc. That way you always have […]

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Identify coping strategies that work for you and have a long list of them on your phone that you can read in any crisis moment. I encourage clients to pick tools that can be utilized in every type of environment — at home, work, in front of friends, at the mall, etc. That way you always have an option ready to go and don’t have to figure it out mid panic attack.


Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brie Shelly.

Brie Shelly, MS, LMHC is the founder of The Experience, an alternative, transformational approach to person growth and experiential travel. As a leading expert in Growth Centric Travel, Brie has spent over 12 years working in the fitness industry and world renown hospitals, building a private practice, and traveling to five continents. Brie is on a mission to empower individuals to discover their core self, identify sustainable wellness practices, and build confidence through travel. Brie also believes in giving back and is proud to share that each individual who works with her provides an opportunity for someone else in the world to discover the joy of empowerment too!


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Growing up, I moved a lot and was lucky to have parents that constantly reminded me that the world was much bigger than the small towns I was living in. My parents enjoyed taking us to new cities, visiting family and museums, teaching us about history, and told us to chase our dreams as long as it came with health insurance. Fresh off my first European trip, my 18 year old soul always knew I was meant to end up working in travel. But first, a series of internships with individuals overcoming major health obstacles pushed me towards learning more about psychology through multiple undergraduate and graduate degrees, and eventually, led to a combination of over twelve years working in the fitness industry, renowned hospitals, and supporting countless individuals as a licensed mental health therapist in my private practice — all while maxing out vacation days to travel. By the time I decided to launch The Experience by Brie Shelly, it was already the culmination of endless personal and professional wisdom, and the fundamental belief that when we support each other’s growth mindset, we all thrive.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

It’s hard to remember a time in my life when I wasn’t being inspired by Oprah. When I was young, I watched her show in the way others go to church. Before mantras were trendy, I picked up on the fact that Oprah would always say, “If you’re not happy, you have the power to change it”. This mantra has stuck with me my entire life and is by far the reason why I’ve made so many of my life choices. Making the decision to move halfway through high school; studying abroad alone; skipping a bachelorette party for a solo trip to Asia; and leaving more jobs than I can count when I was no longer growing in them. There’s no doubt that Oprah’s ability to become a mega entrepreneur has rubbed off on me, and I know it’s why I was always driven to becoming my own boss at an early age. She’s also a key influence on why I designed my “opportunity for opportunity” initiative because she’s taught the world that with great success comes great responsibility to empower others.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

While I have a long list of people who have provided me endless encouragement and advice, the island of Maui has been my greatest source of inspiration. When I first visited Maui in 2017, I was burnt out and eager for a change. It was actually during a walk near Oprah’s ranch on Maui that I coined the phrase “travel therapy” and returned home determined to help others discover the power of travel. On March 14th, 2020, I set out on a work trip to Maui and within a matter of days, the world shutdown and 2.5 weeks on Maui turned into five. As one of the few remaining tourists on Maui, I spent endless hours wandering the oddly empty beaches and the recently rebranded The Experience by Brie Shelly is the result. Without my trips to Maui, I’m not sure where I’d be both personally and professionally, which is why my love for the Aloha spirit runs deep. As a thank you to the island who’s brought me so much, I’m gifting a special surprise to every client who books a trip to Maui with The Experience in 2021 in hopes that it continues to inspire others to discover their own fulfilling life.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I don’t believe in mistakes and view moments where things go awry as moments that I’m clearly meant to learn a lesson from. One moment that I often laugh back on is that I started my private practice with no financial backing or savings. I did all sorts of research to build the business, acquire a LLC, spent hours on picking a name, etc but barely had any savings and didn’t seek business loans. While my older and wiser self would absolutely have a well thought out plan these days, I think my deep belief in my ability to help others, a dash of luck, and determination to be my own boss paved the way for me to jump over any limiting beliefs and discover success.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Thrive is by far one of the most impactful books I’ve read in recent years. While we endured slightly different circumstances, Arianna Huffington and I both experienced being pushed to our limits and seeking a healthy way to overcome burnout. I love how Arianna weaves her story, crucial research, and sustainable suggestions together to empower people to lean more into wellness than working themselves into the ground. I also appreciate how Arianna has made it a passion of hers to be outspoken about the power of giving back to others on your overall health and why more companies need to embrace this model. I truly believe that if we all followed the four pillars outlined in Thrive, we would all do simply that — Thrive!

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I love the expression “The world is your classroom”. I first heard it from Oprah and it stuck with me because I’ve always viewed life as some sort of experiment. We constantly test things — recipes, jobs, relationships, homes. We find out what we like, dislike, how we would change something next time. I believe life is an ongoing lesson, and there’s no better way to learn than traveling the world. With each corner you turn, you’ll experience every emotion possible, build confidence, and once you learn a lesson, you might occasionally disobey the lesson you learned, but you’ll never forget it!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am the founder of The Experience by Brie Shelly and the leading expert on Growth Centric Travel, which is a modern, alternative way to discover sustainable growth. The Experience was thoughtfully designed to be an alternative way to reconnect with yourself and the world. Instead of spending endless months on the therapy office couch, what if you could dig deeper than ever before in only a few hours or while on the other side of the world? Instead of doing another “Big Bus Tour”, what if you could discover a new form of luxury travel that leaves you overflowing with a fresh perspective and a rejuvenated soul? The Experience’s innovative, experiential approach invites you to make the world your classroom and to start transforming today.

Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Seek regular support from professionals equipped with tools to support you. I believe that talking out various points of your life with a third party can help you reach your potential faster than you can on your own. Shop around and find someone who you connect with and keep up with it even when you don’t think you have anything to discuss. Those are always the days that clients have the biggest breakthroughs!
  2. Don’t be afraid to feel your feelings. Our society preaches that we all need to be happy 24/7 and that’s as unrealistic as every rom com movie that we see! Humans are meant to experience a range of emotions on a daily basis, and if you ride the wave, you will eventually reach the other side of the tougher feelings. If you are experiencing long lasting periods of feeling down, absolutely seek support.
  3. Identify coping strategies that work for you and have a long list of them on your phone that you can read in any crisis moment. I encourage clients to pick tools that can be utilized in every type of environment — at home, work, in front of friends, at the mall, etc. That way you always have an option ready to go and don’t have to figure it out mid panic attack.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

Yoga and Pilates have always been my go to when I’m feeling overwhelmed or off. While I love an invigorating run, Peloton ride, or swim to release any built up anxiety, I love how yoga and Pilates really force you to be present in your breath and body. The minute COVID took off, I immediately knew I needed to weave a few minutes of yoga into my daily routine to stay grounded and picked to do a quick flow while waiting for dinner to cook to help separate my WFH and personal lives. I often tell clients to pick three or four of their favorite moves and create their own flow to do a few rounds of on a regular basis. As cliche as it sounds, it really can improve your overall wellness.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Consistency — I strongly believe that engaging in movement on a regular basis makes it become natural vs. this forced on and off habit that you do. When I’ve been in a busier season of life, I’ll block out time in my calendar as a reminder that my time to move or go to my favorite yoga class is just as much of a priority as a client call.
  2. FUN — I also strongly believe that movement HAS to be fun or else you won’t stay engaged. I taught spin classes for over seven years and eventually burnt out. It wasn’t until I tried Alex Touissant’s Club Bangers class on Peloton that I found my love for spin again. The music, his energy. It makes me excited to show up and keeps me laughing the whole time, which is the best combination.
  3. Variety — I tell clients all the time that creating a varied routine often leads to longer lasting results. Few people have the motivation to do the exact same three mile jog or Pilates class every single day. I think one of the best parts of COVID is how it’s made digital workout classes, apps, and more accessible to all. Take advantage of this and switch up what you’re doing on a regular basis. It will help you stay engaged and see more mental and physical benefits!

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits.

As someone who started their career supporting women facing one the greatest evils — eating disorders — I am a huge advocate for learning about nutrition through dietitians who utilize an approach called intuitive eating. In today’s world, diet culture sends out more fake news than we can always sift through, and I always point people towards working with the true experts versus another fad or false claim. I like intuitive eating because I believe that the more we eat what we want in the moment, the less likely we are to feel shame or engage in negative behaviors in the long rrun. I also fundamentally believe that having a healthy relationship with food and your body is key to thriving.

In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

I firmly believe that if we all had even 10% more confidence in ourselves, the world would be a better place. After more therapy sessions with men and women than I can count, I’ve consistently seen so many people’s ultimate struggle is that they don’t have confidence in themselves. This lack of confidence led to spiraling with food, alcohol, material objects, you name it. I built The Core part of my business in hopes of providing people a safe outlet to finally explore what’s blocking them from believing in themselves, honoring their inner core self, and executing on their dreams.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Communication is the foundation to optimal wellness because we talk to ourselves all day. We are often our own worst enemy, and I guarantee that if most people had their thoughts on tape, they’d be very, very hard on themselves. I encourage clients to whisper something nice to themselves even on their toughest days and try to talk to themselves like they would to their best friend.
  2. Honesty is also key because we must start with being honest with ourselves. Individuals who are deeply struggling are frequently in this spot because they are not ready to face their fears or confront others. By making honesty a daily practice with yourself and others, you will see so much growth and empowerment in your life. Start with small things like picking the takeout order or saying what you really thought of the movie and work your way up to bigger topics!
  3. I believe that taking and creating space for yourself is essential to sustainable wellness. Even for extroverts, we all need time to rest, process, and acknowledge how we are actually doing. When we don’t do this, a volcano can start to build and ultimately lead to a big eruption. I encourage people to consider time blocking solo dates and traveling by themselves to build confidence and more.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

I have a background in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), and DBT teaches you to try the “half smile”. By engaging in even “half” of a smile, you can experience your body start to re-regulate itself during a stressful or challenging moment by communicating to the brain that your body is OK. I like to infuse humor into tougher moments and personally find that cracking a smile when I really don’t want to always provides a release.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Define spirituality for yourself. In today’s world, there’s a guru for everything, and many no longer connect with the traditional religions we grew up with. Allow yourself to connect with what values you believe in.

2. Identify others who can support you in your ongoing spiritual growth. It’s OK if others don’t want to engage in the exact same practices as you do but make sure that they are willing to support you as you evolve. If you evolve to a point where you’re ready to identify new relationships, that’s OK too. Don’t be scared to let go of what’s holding you back from being your full self.

3. Time block space in your daily routine and week to ensure you stay consistent with your practices. Don’t stop just because you feel better. Again and again I see clients who stop immediately fall into old patterns, which is why you must keep practicing the practice of wellness!

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

I believe you will never forget spending time immersed in Mother Nature and her incredible wildlife, which is why Africa is my number one destination to send clients to. Imagine the growth that can result from witnessing a lioness with her cubs while on a hot air balloon safari, your heart beating after an invigorating hike with gorillas, or overlooking the tip of Africa from Table Mountain. My other favorite spots are remote islands because, since you can’t just drive off them whenever you want, they require you to breathe in the salty air, watch the waves crash, and unlock the power of being present with yourself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I have dedicated my life to empowering people through Growth Centric Travel. With an open mind, travel has the power to shift your perspective, boost your mood and creative juices, and so much more. I wholeheartedly believe that I am who I am because of the lessons travel has provided me, and I can never get enough of the high that comes with traveling — the people, the food, the history, the inner healing — so much so that I am known to book flights for my next experience while flying! All of my best decisions in life were inspired by my own travel experiences, and I’m grateful that I can guide others on a daily basis to experience a more modern form of therapy and the power of growth centric travel for themselves. This is why I designed The Experience to bring the notion of “Eat, Pray, Love” to life in a way that is eye-opening, easy, and simply, life-changing for each and every one of you.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Can I invite both Oprah and Arianna Huffington?! I truly would be honored to meet both women because they’ve each had a great impact on who I’ve become. Oprah for her lifelong lessons of learning to love yourself, empowering others, giving back, and the moment walking on her street catapulted my career into Growth Centric Travel. Arianna because we both have a deep appreciation for how a breaking point moment can lead to growth and potential that you never imagined possible, while actually working smarter! Without ever having met them, I have no doubt that both Oprah and Arianna would believe in the fundamentals of Growth Centric Travel and be equally eager to share it with the world.

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