Black expat Jazzie Más says she wouldn’t be where she is today if she let her past define her. Más, who is an international stand-up comedian and founder of the Black Digital Nomad, served some time in jail and then probation while living in the United States. 

“Not being able to travel after I went to my probation officer, getting denied going to Thailand, and not being able to buy a Snickers bar at night because I was on house arrest taught me what freedom really was and how free we are, and we can really do anything we want,” she told Travel Noire.

It’s been nearly four years since the Black expat and California native began her journey as a digital nomad with her husband. They moved to Playa del Carmen, Mexico first and from there, to Bali, followed by her goal of living in Thailand. She’s currently in Vietnam after what was supposed to be a three-month visit.

She says it’s important for people who are walking in her same shoes of probation or house arrest to know that these experiences do not define you.

“I think a lot of times, people who have experienced incarceration or lack of freedom, whether that’s probation or behind bars, create mental prisons or mental probation to where you’re telling yourself that you can’t do something based on your past experiences,” said Más. “You’re allowing them to hinder you.”

Más said since living abroad, she’s been able to live a life that wasn’t afforded to her in the U.S. and wants those who were formally incarcerated or on probation to not be afraid to do the same.

“Living abroad has allowed me to figure out my true passions in life and achieve those things.  I didn’t have that in America because it was years of go, go, and going. If you’re not sitting in traffic and if you’re not at work, you’re thinking about work or trying to create different side hustles just to survive,” she said. “To me, the ultimate success is really being able to learn who you are and heal your wounds.”

So, what’s next for Más? She’s ending her time in Vietnam and preparing for the next country. You can follow her journey on Instagram.