For a few years now, we have been planning and saving for a family trip to Hawaii. We started a “Hawaii 2016” savings account and marked it on our mental calendars for a time that once felt so far away. Well, 2016 is finally here and the travel savings have been adequately set aside to make it happen. But our family dynamic has changed and previous attempted adventures and weekend trips have left us wondering if travel and disabilities can coexist successfully.
When Spencer had a big birthday earlier this year, we decided to travel to California to celebrate. We considered leaving Betty with her adoring extended family members here, but then we thought this would be the perfect chance to test things out with Betty – traveling with her gear, seeing how she did on an airplane, at the beach, sleeping for several nights in an unfamiliar place, etc. Our little jaunt to California finally came up on the calendar last week and we just got back last night. I’m happy to report that everything went much better than we expected.We took Betty’s wheelchair which helped us easily navigate the airport and – bonus – got us to the front of the security line in a flash. We got to board the airplane before anyone else and settled in to our sixth row seats complete with personal tv screens for all. Betty sat happily during the entire 90 minute flight, chowing on Cheerios and quietly entertaining herself while Clara listened to audiobooks on my old iPod Shuffle. She couldn’t believe her luck, “Look mom, I get a story AND a show!”
We walked on the beach, played on the beach and carried Betty in the Ergo all along the way. She splashed happily in the hotel rooftop pool, but was not a fan of the icy cold Pacific Ocean. Content to hang out under the beach umbrella, she was a chill beachgoer until a handful of sand met her eyes. She did better than some of us in the Southern California freeway traffic, and for the most part was a total sport. We incorporated a bit of what we’ve learned on other trips and didn’t attempt to eat out, and with the exception of the beach, steered clear of anywhere loud, bright, or otherwise too stimulating. Betty slept well, ate well, and didn’t complain much. We really had a fantastic time.
So, do travel and disabilities go together? Well, this time they did. But as our trip came to a close, I started to realize that there’s no way to test for things like this. A huge part of our family dynamic with disabilities is the fact that nothing is predictable. Even though I’m thrilled that our trip to California went so well, it is no guarantee that a trip to Hawaii (with a much longer flight and time change to boot) will be a success. We’ve discovered that spontaneity and unpredictability are not the same thing, and our life as a family has had to transform from embracing one to accepting the other. A paradigm shift in the truest sense.
My realizations about our new reality didn’t have to unfold in solitude. These discoveries expanded as we chatted over a picnic with our new/old friends the Zawadas. We were so happy for a chance to meet briefly with Annie and Pip who have been our online friends since the day that Betty was diagnosed. Our children are six months apart and share the same rare diagnosis of Potocki-Shaffer Syndrome. We’ve been comparing notes since day one, and finally got to meet in person. What a treat to finally have a real side-by-side photo.