Only a few days to go and I feel like I’m chasing chickens. This always seems to be the way for me. I live in a state of panic thinking that I’ve forgotten something and spend all my valuable brain resources trying to work out what it is, whilst ticking off the list all the stuff that actually needs to be done thinking they are the wrong things (if that makes any sense!).
On Friday morning I will check that I have all the documents and bank card, and leave wondering why I didn’t just enjoy the journey to that moment since anything forgotten can be bought or dealt with on the road anyway.
Sofia was home at the weekend and it gave me a good opportunity to assess the risk of whether we may need to return home early. As it stands, the risk is less that 50% and I’m feeling optimistic that she will forget her woes and find a happy place for herself on the road after a couple of weeks. It may be rocky before that, so for my part I’m going to use the next couple of days before we leave to do as much detailed planning as possible for the first few days in Canada to make it as easy as possible.
And whilst my general state might be panic, there are definitely sparkles of excitement in my belly letting me know this is going to be a wonderful trip for both of us!
We travel on motorbike and share our story to help raise awareness for autism and the benefits of adventure travel as a platform for learning life skills for autism.
Sofia was diagnosed with Autism when she was 4 years old. When she was 10 years old she under took her first journey in a sidecar from the UK to South Africa. Since then she has started to ride pillion on a motorbike and travelled Europe and this year goes to Eastern Canada. She is now 13 years old and the skills she is learning on this journey are related to maintaining positive mental health. This skill is the hardest of the life skills to learn, harder still in a modern world where materialism and science define life and spirituality and wisdom not because it can’t be bought or proven, it relies completely on faith.
After the last couple of months being ill I am suddenly realising that Easter is here and I have fallen behind on many things!
It has not been an entirely idle period as I have managed to wade through the foggy brain and have started looking into the possibility of making travel opportunities available for children and adults with ASD.
As some may know, I put out a survey not too long a go asking specific questions to understand views towards travel in the autism community.
I am pleased to say that 100% of respondents agreed that this type of opportunity should be available for those on the spectrum. I also received a lot of helpful feed back on what type of journeys people would consider, an insight into support needs and people’s general availability. Thank you to everyone who responded.
I also received lots of feed back raising concerns about needs being met and flexibility to meet those needs, as well as direct responses saying ‘not my child’ or ‘not for me’. Again, thank you to everyone who took the time to respond and discuss further towards helping me understand.
All in all though, it was a positive exercise and I have reflected on how to move forward with the idea and have decided the following:
To move ahead slowly – yes I would like to pursue this concept, however, to start with small adventures in the UK for level 1 and 2 ASD initially before making opportunities available for level 3 ASD (please see note (i) below). If you are a parent/carer or an adult with ASD and you are interested, please use the contact form in the menu above and let me know.
To raise awareness for the benefits of travel within the autism community whilst at the same time for me to gain a better understanding of how best this service can meet needs.
I will pursue grants and funding applications in the medium term, however, I want to start putting greater focus on fundraising and PR this year. Any help in this would be greatly appreciated!
Again in the medium term, I will look into setting up a subscription quarterly specifically on the subject of adventure, travel and overcoming challenges with disabilities as well as the carers who support these inspiring feats. The current title for this quarterly is ‘The Big Challenge’. If you have a story of overcoming challenges with a disability, I would love to hear from you.
‘The Book’ on our adventure through Africa will obviously play into all of this. I am chipping away at it, however, I still haven’t successfully pulled apart the 3 stories (Sofia, myself and the motorbike) to make a single narrative that is readable. As I have also mentioned about a year ago, there is a second book that will be a Fantasy abstract of Sofia’s journey which both Sofia and I are working on, but remains a lower priority and will be many years in the making (it will be really good though!)
In the long-term, I have big ideas for AWA and what we can do for people with ASD but first one has to learn to walk before they can run!
(i) Levels one, two and three is a needs based system to determine the support needs of the individual where levels are clearly defined and we can use this as a guide in understanding needs and capabilities. People may be more familiar with high, medium and low functioning as descriptors of ability level and therefore support needs.
Life is moving so fast as the moment, that it is all becoming a bit of a blur! With in that blur are some key things that have changed in the plan, some for the betterment of the trip, some that will make things a little more challenging.
The biggest impact on life right now is the decision to start spending time in a caravan. The story of how this came about is a long one, but ultimately, the need to prepare Sofia for life style of no immediate access to TV and internet comes to the forefront as she will need to start to find other ways to occupy herself. It will be a huge adjustment for her and one that is better to happen before we leave when I can give her the attention, than when we are on the road and I have a million things to focus on.
The plan has changed in other ways too, not least because there is definitely an escalation of ‘trouble’ in the world. I certainly expected at some point that Egypt and Turkey would be more directly subject to events, however, I believed that would be next year, long after we have past through. The issues are still mild in both those countries, however, the a yellow flag is raised for me and so not only have I been looking for alternative boats to take us across the Med but will look to seeing if we can bring the timeline forward a little. Either way, I plan to have a definite date of departure in the next few days, either with a pre-booked crossing or a plan to arrive in port (Italy or Greece) and find a way across when we get there.
One thing I am certain of is that we will not be cancelling as I fully intend to we get through before any serious escalation occurs. And as happens with changes like these other aspects change to meet the requirement. The best one being the school I would like Sofia to go to on our return, who have started their assessment process earlier initially to ensure that we would be ready for December, but clearly this will allow and earlier timeline to occur as well.
The month of May has been the most frustrating month so far, mostly because the bike has been indisposed with a set of problems which I couldn’t just solve on my own! Fiercely independent as a person, it has been hard (though it may not feel like it to those on the receiving end of my calls!) to be constantly be asking people for help. It is impossible to climb that learning curve without it though, so had to get over my own inhibitions and just go for it. The bike being visible to the world is important to raise money for the trip, so it is a case of – get it fixed!
And fixed it now is! it took time to identify the problems, the battery was definitely one and was replaced, but as that seemed to have zero effect on the bike being able to respond, so it clearly wasn’t the only problem. With some very generous help from F2 Motorcycles and Barry Barber from Portsmouth and countless others who patiently received my calls and helped with suggestions and instructions, we got to the point where is was the timer (unit now replaced) and a relay – not picked up before because when I bought a new one I had no idea that is was the wrong type!.
So there we have it, my first foray into the world of greasy hands and frustrating hours with awkward screws and lack of know-how, I can now safely say that I definitely know my bike and how it works much better than I did a few weeks ago. I feel really lucky that the bike has taken me on this journey, not just for the learning process, but also got to understand the tool set needed and start to get a grasp of what will need to be contingency planned. There is one area that I’m still a little nervous about, and that is the valves – I suspect that the bike will take me there too before we leave!
Unfortunately this month we have not managed to set the launch day, and this may end up being unidentified until September/October time. Sofia’s application process for schools will be a defining factor and we won’t have a clear way forward until next term.
We are out there looking for a single sponsor to help with the funding of the trip – if you are interested or know someone who is interested please use the contact form on the Sponsors page of this site or message me through our FaceBook Page