It’s 4:50 in the morning and I’m holding my 4 year old as I type this post. His autism has been rearing its ugly little head for the past 3 hours. He can’t sleep. The soothing music and melatonin don’t seem to be working. I’m annoyed. That might sound crazy to some but can’t you tell, I’m cranky. All I want to do is sleep but that’s currently not an option. Thank goodness my 8 year old is slumbering peacefully – at least someone’s getting some rest in here. But then he’ll wake up in the middle of my catching-up on sleep. And my husband is away, doing what I’m supposed to be doing…traveling..alone! Am I bitter? Yes. Spoiled? Yes. Witchy? Yes. And it’s the perfect time for me to reflect. And just to prepare you, I’m not reflecting on the Mickey Mouse-laced memories of our recent family vacation.
I realize that my love for traveling has taken on a different meaning. The basics are still the same – going to a new destination or discovering a new restaurant in a familiar city, meeting new people, forging new experiences, creating lasting memories. But it also serves as a bit of escapism. Escapism from the reality of our lives. What we deal with in this crazy world of autism is a struggle. If it’s not behavior or medical issues, it’s insurance and school battles. It’s a constant up and down, a forced positivity in the face of much adversity. It’s a breast stroke through muddy water. It’s our life.
On the outside looking in, people think “Oh, you’re lucky. You’re always traveling.” I wouldn’t say “always” but maybe more than the average Jill. And I wouldn’t say “lucky” but maybe, blessed. It ain’t all peaches and cream over here. It’s work! Internally and externally. It’s late nights and sleepless ones too. It’s work obsession and constant reminders to stay away from ill-placed comparisons. It’s a battle with the whole work-life-balance equation. It’s a jockeying for me-time. It’s a consistent “figuring it out”, much the same as with my son’s autism.
This post may be all over the place but that’s pretty consistent with everything else. I like traveling with my kids but I love traveling without them. And my husband for that matter too. I’m just keeping it real. My love for travel existed way before any of them did in my life. Most moms would never admit such a thing. Oh well, I’m not most moms. I’m just me. My kids are at the age and point in their development where family vacations are for their pleasure. It’s not a vacation for me. Yes, I enjoy making the plans, booking the trip, negotiating deals, spending time, and putting smiles on their faces amongst the laborious picture-taking, editing, writing, budgeting, tantrum-managing and “what about me?” spousal pleas. But it’s much the same of what I do when I’m not on the road with the family. Work.
When I get an invitation to take a trip without family, guess what, I’m jumping for joy. I don’t have to figure out anew how to travel with autism, how to adjust for certain situations although I have to admit that my son has been pretty wonderful. He’s been a challenge but he hasn’t been impossible, therefore we do continue to make family travel happen. I know many families dealing with autism skip the family vacation thing altogether and I feel for them because I understand.
Although I don’t publicize traveling with autism constantly, we do. Every trip, every day. Whether we’re traveling around the corner or traveling around the country, autism is a co-passenger. Hopefully, I’ll get to a place in my writing where I’m more transparent about our struggles so that I can help other families living with autism who may be discouraged to travel. I struggle with that. It forces me to dig deeper beneath my surface, something I don’t have to do when I’m happily traveling alone.