Tag Archives: travel blog

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.

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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.

 

Schools, Sunshine and Scotland

The tension and pressure of the court hearing for Sofia’s school placement reached its pitch on the 25th June where the hearing turned into a non-event.  The Local Authority really hadn’t prepared a case and by the time they had realised that there was a case to answer, it was too late for them and eventually they conceded that Sofia would start at the school of our choice in September but as yet have not conceeded that she needs a residential placement and we are now waiting for the judge’s decision (yes still!)

All the time the sun has roared above since our return from Dubai and as the weeks have ticked by my feet became increasingly itchy and it seems mine weren’t the only ones.  Sofia, who has been generally negative about biking this year, was only to happy to jump on the bike and head up to Scotland with only a few days notice.

If only it was to be so easy.

The only thing that the bike really needed was a new battery.  I had no idea there was such a thing as a dud battery, but now I do.  So at the last-minute I was phoning around to find a new one, and racing off to get it, praying is wasn’t another dud.  This put a kink in our plans time wise and time had suddenly become important on this trip the day before setting off.  Leaving on the Saturday, we had to be back by the following Sunday so Sofia could spend time at her new school on Monday to help her mentally prepare becoming a student there (the transition).

We set off on Saturday half a day late and stopped by Mick the mechanic on our way north for a chain check and the leaky fork seal to be fixed and then pushed on for another couple of hours, stopping the night in a field just next to the Peak District.  Wonderful to think we would be driving through in the morning, this trip was looking good already and I was glad for our minor delay.

Until the next morning, when I discover the adaptor for the bike to charge the phone wasn’t working.  So the morning was instead spent finding a garage, and waiting for the phone (which was now only 2% charged) to give us enough charge to find our next stop.   We didn’t hit the road until midday, by which point there was only one thing left to do, ride directly to our destination for the night, counsins’ who live in the Boarders of Scotland.

It had been a long time since I last saw them and it was lovely to reconnect and catch up and Sofia got to make a new friend (a cousin 3 times removed perhaps?  I’m still not 100% on the nomenclature of cousins, but effectively my cousin’s, wife’s niece) who had exactly the same interests as Sofia it was no nice to see her hitting it off with someone so well, it really doesn’t happen often, certainly not to that degree!

We spent some time pouring over maps and it became clear that a full trip may not be possible in the time frame.  What I was certain of was that I didn’t want to race around anymore and already it was starting to feel that way with the big push up to Scotland that day seeing nothing along the way.

So we set off Monday with a carefree attitude of what will be will be, but to start heading south again on Wednesday, and to meet up with a group of lady adventurers on the Saturday camping in the Yorshire Dales.  This Monday night though, we were meeting up with Salla.

We met Salla last year at a bike meet in Estonia.  She was part of a Finnish contingent who we hung out with.  She was now touring the UK and had stayed with us several weeks before on her way to Ireland.  Now we were going to meet up in Scotland for a night of wild camping before parting ways once more.

It was such a lovely day of driving.  No rush, no big decisions, just wonderful weather, wonderful roads and wonderful scenery.   We met with Salla, and as happens with the universe is agreeing with your actions, we found the perfect wild camping spot next to a river in about 10 minutes!  Finding wild camping spots are usually a lot more challenging.  After setting up camp Salla and Sofia went for a wild swim in the lovely warm water of the river whilst I went through the discovery of realising that my wonderful Optimus cooking stove was not going to work and the spare part I needed wasn’t in the spare parts pack!    Why was this important?  Haggis of course!

Yes, I decided that we should cook a Scottish bonanza that night and had bought a small haggis earlier in the day.

Thankfully Salla had her kit and in the late evening sunshine we watched eagerly as the pot steamed wanting to see the results.  I was warned by the butcher that the bag would pop if it was too hot for too long, but simmering is a subjective measurement we discovered, and sure enough the bag had popped!   we were too hungry to care, and most of the haggis still in its bag seemed fine.  We woofed it down.  Not the best haggis I’ve had, but glad we gave it a go, and glad Sofia tried some too.

Tuesday morning, the sun high in the sky once more, we headed North to see how far we would get.  Inverness it would seem.   I had run out of chain oil and needed to get some as well as getting the chain tightened (again! – we riding heavy it seems :D)  Whilst this was taking place the phone, the centre of navigation and communication, was dropped, never to rise again.

I can’t tell you the pain I went through to reach a decision!   There we were, in Scotland and the sun was shining!  But the bottom line was, despite a group of guys who were also on a riding visit tempting me with news of the amazing roads they had been riding, I would not enjoy Scotland if I tried to stay without automated navigation, not with a deadline to be home by Sunday night.

So that afternoon we headed south again.  It was hard going when it was hot, but as the air cooled in the late evening, with no traffic and the Northumberland NP for scenery, I have to say it was not a wasted day at all.  We stopped in Newcastle for the night and the following day we were home by late afternoon.  It was almost like we had woken up from a dream.  Such good memories in such a short space of time so far away.

I’m already planning a return trip at the end of July early August – hopefully the weather will be with us again!

 

We travel and I publish our travel experience on Social Media to help raise awareness for Autism, please could you help us continue this effort by making a small donation – Thank you:  https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

 

 

 

 

Europe 2017: Sofia does a short interview

Sofia has changed so much since this time 2 years ago.  Since then she has travelled across Africa in a sidecar and the most notable change has been her level of inner confidence.

Since our return she has literally flourished and matured and started to develop as an individual, less negative, embracing new experiences, and whilst depressive thoughts will always haunt her as a part of autism, she strives to find the positive and make the best out of most situations.

Socially her confidence has served her well along with the help of a social story that was read to her everyday at school to help her stop her animal behaviours at the slightest provocation.  From feeling unable to make any friends when in the stressful school environment, she now feels like she has lots of friends and seems very content in her social abilities.

It took a little persuading, but I managed to do a short interview with her as a baseline for our Crooked Foot Adventure and look forward to doing another on our return, I’m wondering if Europe will still be ‘cliché’ 🙂

Please make a donation to our foundation by clicking the Virgin Money Giving icon and help us continue to raise awareness for autism.  

We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –   a donation of £5 will help us cover approx 50miles.

Impressions of Egypt

We have been in Egypt now for almost three weeks, and it would be hard to detail all our experiences as there have been so many.  Even keeping a diary has been hard work as it has been a full time experience as well!  Not a moment has been with out it’s own story and a name to put to it, and to all the people we have met, thank you so much!  We have fallen in love with you all and the country that you represent so well.

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Egypt is a land of extreme contrasts, but what is consistent the whole way through is that the people are simply kind and helpful.  However, even with in that that there is contrast, as on the one hand you have your every day person who will bend over backwards to help you, for no other reason than it gives them pleasure to do so.  On the other hand you have the tourist touts, who are the same, but they want to make you pay for it.  Sadly this is tourism the world over, and not exclusive to Egypt.  However, it does let the side down.

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A simple example of this was walking down the road in Aswan and a man starts to follow and talk, asking where we are from etc.  I say that I’m not interested in what he is selling, and I say it several times, but he insists that he is not selling anything (making me feel aware even more that I am a mark that he is working on) eventually he says as many will do – I’m only wanting to make you happy, to have a good time in Egypt.  So I replied that it was difficult to do that with someone following me making me feel uncomfortable.  At this point he left us and we could breath again.  What was he selling?  hotel rooms (his friend he knows and an uncle over there and maybe good price if I’m not happy where we are staying right now)

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Yet even with in this constant desperation of the tourist worker there is still positive experiences to be found.  Our guide at the pyramids ended up taking us to his home for tea, meeting his lovely wife N’agua, lent some trousers for sofia to wear on the horses and we left with an offer to stay with them should we return.  Just nice easy hospitality that was over and above the call of financial need.

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The most amazing welcome and generosity we experienced though, was from the bikers of Egypt which all started with Omar Alfardy offering us a place to stay in Alexandria.  From there came the Alexandria Free Bikers, the Golden Riders, and the Soul Seekers and perhaps most importantly George Spartant, who helped us get our bike out of port, and became organiser extrordinaire buy organising the TV crew in Alexandria, with a ride out and visit to the fort, and escort out of Alex, across Cairo (in rush hour), a place to stay in New Cairo, before our onward journey to Hurgada, where Elena and the Soul Seekers, and Mohamed picked up the riens, with Mohamed seeing us through to Aswan, our final stop before our boarder run down to Abu Simble and Sudan.

Even bikers with out group association were there ready to help when we needed guidance through a town after stopping for fuel, or finding a hotel.  No bakshish required, it was just a pleasure for them to help.

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Some may argue that we have been extremely lucky, and yes in many respects we have, however, I don’t think any visitor to this country would need to try very hard to find this kind genuine side to Egypt.  Once you let go of trying to control your experience of the country it opens up into an amazing technicolor of people and lives and relationships, an energy that is constantly moving and can carry you to those places that you really came to see an experience when you imagined travel to distant lands.

 

 

Arriving In Africa – Culture Shock!

Finally we were on our way to Africa!  Happy to be leaving European winter as the weather in Athens started to deteriorate.

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Wind and rain in Athens

I was very excited and very terrified all in a bundle mixed up in my stomach.  Sofia was more focused on the immediate event of flying in an airplane – she hasn’t been on one since she was 3yrs old.

We checked in early, got charged an arm and a leg for being overweight (all tools etc weren’t allowed to go with the bike)  and finally, half asleep, we found ourselves boarding the plane.

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The motorbike checked in for its journey by boat.

Sofia didn’t want the window seat to begin with but after  a while – she forgot her fear and as we landed in Cairo, the bet was on as to who could spot a pyramid first.  Neither of us did, but it became the game until we finally saw them. The first to spot the sphinx got bonus points. 

We arrived in Egypt at 2am in the morning and having arranged airport transfer, it was a little disoncerting for it not to be there when we arrived. Another taxi obligingly phoned the hotel and 10mins later and wheezing driver arrived.  I wasn’t sure he would be able to get bags into his car boot (trunk) but despite apparent health problems he managed to sling them in.

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On our way to the Pyramids

And then we were off!  At about 100mph the driver sped down the motorway.  Not a huge concern immediately, however as we came into town the expectation that he would slow down was sorely miss placed!  Oh did I mention he was on the phone constantly as well?

One near miss and I went ballistic.   He laughed.  At least he stopped using the phone.  But I can’t say he slowed down or that I felt any safer.

Finally at the hotel, we checked in and headed for some much needed sleep.  That never really came for me as all I could think about was how on earth I was going to drive on Egyptian roads! 

Realising I was in culture shock and in no doubt Sofia would be feeling it too with the noise of horns, general traffic, and people that was in full flow by 9am, I dragged her out onto the streets to speed up the aclimatisation process.

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Good times

One can always question the wisdom of mixing culture shock with lack of sleep and the results were getting back to the hotel by midday with Sofia fusing about flies and mozi bites and me feeling like a battered tourist.  That afternoon I decided the sooner we out of the city and back on the road the better,  culture shock or not, Cairo is not a place a tourist can ever really feel comfortable. 

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Sofia nervous and off balance to start was soon looking very comfortable on a horse

The following day, a good night’s sleep away and the promise of pyramids saw both Sofia and I up early.  Glad we had gone out the previous day as we were both much more prepared to be ‘tourists’.

We had a wonderful day that took is not only to the pyramids and horse rides to the desert, but to the ally ways of the supporting town where we met our guide’s family, who were fantastic hosts and invited us back for a meal the following day.

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Our guide Ruby

Both Sofia and returned to the hotel feeling full of of experiences and far more certain that we have a fantastic journey ahead of us.

We have not been able to attract financial sponsors for this journey to raise awareness for autism – we rely entirely on you donations – please click the following link to donate and share.  Thank you.

http://m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

Ps.  Pls let me know if you experience any formatting issues with this post.  Done from my phone so I can only see the android results.  Thx.