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On the Eve of Travel

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. 

Please donate to help us :  Virgin Money Giving  or PayPal

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.

 

 

 

Mindfulness Part 2 : Strategy for Sofia

Sofia’s school life was not quite what she was hoping for or expecting, in effect it is falling apart for her, and to make things worse, she can’t crawl into a hole and pretend it doesn’t exist, instead she will be thrust into thick of adventure travel and asked to deal with reality every single day for the next seven weeks.  As if adjusting to the road is not tough enough, she will be mourning the loss of her reality and having to find a new one.

This is undoubtably a difficult beginning to an adventure and helping her to transform her sense of misery to one of open awe and excitement is not going to be easy.    I do believe it will be possible though, with the therapy of constant movement, being outside all the time, and the safe head space of the helmet.

It would be nice to be able to just focus on my own present moment and model it as originally intended.  Give her the space to deal with her own issues.   As a strategy I will certainly try but Sofia is more like a tired toddler when she is in this state.  She needs to fight and push against someone, and that someone is me.  Ignoring it will only increase her feelings of abandonment and want to push harder.  Trying to comfort her will not satisfy her either.

I have to keep myself open and available to her until she has a melt down like a thunder storm that clears the pent up static in the air.   Naturally I will try to head it off but I will be on egg shells (whilst trying to appear not to be) until the sun has broken through the dark clouds in her mind.   Along with the strategies below, I will also be using Byron Katie’s method ‘The Work’ to help Sofia to let go of negativity she is holding onto for as long as the method works for her.

  • Sofia ‘needs’ to say things and ‘needs’ to be heard.  Instead of letting her control that, I will limit her as to how much ‘complaining’ she can do.  For every complaint my consistent words of wisdom will be ‘ when desire and outcome are at opposites, it means that there is something wrong in how you are approaching life and you need to change it.’   (she will likely hate me for this, but if it stops her from focusing on her complaints, and focusing on solutions instead then I’m good)
  • Sofia is going to, on the most part unknowingly in the social awareness sense, say things that are really off because she is in a negative frame of mind.   In effect, spilling all the stuff in her head out into the open which should be kept locked up.   I will likely get literal and assign certain times for talking as she needs to learn to focus more on the quality of communication that she is giving and keep those private thoughts private.   This is a concept she has no grasp of despite being told (she is completely blind to it at this time) , so I will be leading her by the hand to learn to do it without telling her what she is learning to do so she can’t resist it.
  • Each morning I will encourage her to state what she would like to happen that day and each evening to review the day and say what she would like different or more of, then spend a moment being glad to have certain things that support her experience.   This is likely to start in a very small way focusing on only a small part of her daily life, but the goal is to expand it to incorporate the entire day after a few weeks.
  • Encourage her to take photographs.  The initial reason is that it gives her the lense to view the world which she might not look at or see otherwise.   She really only sees the world out the corner of her eyes so this will help/ecourage her to see it more directly – I know it will start with photos of leaves or rocks, but everntually she will start to see other things through the ‘lense’ and I hope we will see that progression in the photos through out the trip.    This I hope will unltimately help her to develop her creative skills as well.   (Note to self – buy lots of micro cards!)
  • Encourage her to notice stategies I employ to help me reach my own present moment and to not comment if she copies me.

 

Sounds so easy when written in words!     Add the finding of food and shelter, and thinking of safety and risk assessing in relation to just about everything, AND making sure it’s all fun,  then my job description as ‘mother on the road’ will be complete  😀

Post Script:  Sofia has now vocalised that she doesn’t want to go or would like to cut the trip short, that it feels too difficult to do a whole summer.   I have told her that the point of the trip is for it feel as easy as possible with what we have, but if after New Foundland she is still struggling, then it won’t be a problem to head home early.  In our conversation last night some information came to light that has made me deeply worried for her and makes an early return not just an appeasing statement but a real possibility.  I will be deliberating over the weekend whether we should be doing this trip with the motorbike or if I should I cut it short now and make other plans.

 

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.   

Please donate to help us :  Virgin Money Giving  or PayPal

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.

 

Mindfulness Part 1: Motivating Sofia

One of the hardest things with Autism is motivation.  ‘What is the point?’ is not an uncommon state of questioning.  This is undoubtably linked to low awareness both of self and environment, and an understandable question when the awareness that does exist is confusing and difficult to make sense of.

We are setting off on our trip in less than two weeks and sadly Sofia has lost all motivation for it because she is in a high state of confusion.  Life has not worked out the way she expected in her first year at her new school.  The question, ‘what is the point?’ is currently very loud for her and, as is typical of children with autism, extends to questioning the point of life itself.

I certainly have my work cut out for me!   However, this contast she is experiencing will hopefully make the lessons she learns all the more powerful because for her the question is on this trip will be, ‘what is the point of finding the present moment?’

My response to her sounds something like this:

  • All experiences you have, especially the ones you don’t like, cause you to create a desire to have experiences that you do like.   For example, if you taste something bad, you will desire to taste something good to replace it.
  • When you focus on the things you already have and like and enjoy them, you will allow those things you desire to manifest into your experience because the universe wants you to have more of what you focus on.  Focus on what you don’t like, complain about it and fight against it, the universe will deliver more of that experience to you instead.
  • That deliberate conscious choice of focus is what freedom is, it is not something that is bestowed on you by another, or removed by another.  To not be deliberate or conscious of this choice is to give away your freedom so that others can control the way you feel.
  • When positive manifestation happens, enjoy it and desire more of it, or desire improvement of it.  This is an effortless process, sit back and enjoy.
  • Your focus is what is controlling your experiences and that focus is experienced in the senses of sight, taste, touch, sound, smell and emotion.  When one or more is providing a negative experience, then use that to generate a new desire for postive experience, then focus on the other senses already in a positive state to allow the desire to manifest.
  • Only you can create the reality of your experience.  Emotions do not inform you of that reality, they only tell you if you like what you are experiencing or not so that you can generate a new desire.
  • Focus and desire are a dicotomy for creation like male and female.  Out of balance and creation will struggle to take place and will feel uncomfortable.   The balance for easy creation is found in the present moment.
  • With autism the power to create is magnified and you have the ability to move mountains.   However, the path to that power is equally a magnified challenge.
  • It is the true hero that walks that path successfully and it is a privalage and an adventure if you choose to take advantage of it.   And when you are successful, you will discover that life is actually a lot of fun and THAT is the point of all of it.

This sounds rather dull and deep for a 13 year old, however, I use words in a bite size simplistic way that appeals to her self interest, not wanting to be controlled and her powerful desire to have a better experience at school.  Certainly it is the basis of the lesson I want to take root in her mind that she can get what she wants.

Sofia is like water who needs the external force of a glass to maintain shape and cohesion.  It would be nice to see her start to take control of that shape so she gets to be who she really is to others and get what she wants out of life, rather than have them decide who she is she is and what she should have.

Part 2 will talk about expected mindfulness practise strategies I hope to employ whilst travelling

We travel 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.   

Please donate to help us :  Virgin Money Giving  or PayPal

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.

The Battle of The Tents

Tents have been a thorn in our side since we started travelling.

We went through Africa with a cheap dome tent that was heavy & we didn’t use it much so I dumped it in Zimbabwe and picked up light throw away ‘made in China’.

Then we went through Europe with a super light 2 man Vaude tent which was too cramped and Sofia especially struggled with this which meant the battle was on to camp – we did camp, but not as much as I would have liked due to the added stress on both of us. I love the tent though. It is easy packing and setting up, and one I (or hopefully Sofia) will use as a solo #traveller.

After that trip I discovered the perfect tent someone was using at the annual Overland Event. An Exped super light tunnel the only problem was that Exped had stopped production 15yrs ago and refused to sell me a spare.

All hope lost I got a cheap 3 man last year that at least gave enough bearable space for Sofia, only it is heavy (7kgs) and fills an entire pannier, so now we have a packing space issue. Otherwise a good tent that didn’t spark any major issues with Sofia so a big thumbs up on that front.

Canada, however, has to be a purely #campingtrip due to costs but now we have a lack of packing space, & at best there is no room for food negating one of the cost benefits of camping.

So today I started looking at tents again not thinking a solution was out there with only a year since last looking, when Vaude popped up with a super light (4.2kg) 3 man tent with standing room porch.

I can’t begin to describe the relief at finally finding a suitable tent. It’s like a weight of stress off my shoulders knowing that Sofia, who has been amazingly good considering her own battles, will finally have a tent that she will like and be #happy enough to stay in night after night or in wet weather hold ups, whilst meeting our packing needs.

The tent is £419 on sale, so we need your help! Please could you sponsor our tent with a donation (every penny helps!) – we would both really appreciate it!

Please donate to help us raise awareness for autism.

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Vaude comes up trumps for two up camping! We love this tent.

 

 

Developing Adventure With Autism

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!

Thank you for your continued support.

VirginMoney Giving 

Paypal (coming soon)

 

Notes:

(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.