#AD The moment we were told that Natalia has Down's syndrome has been well documented on this blog, but one of the very first muddled thoughts that I remember running through my head was that we would never go to the beach again.
The Beach is our Playground
We live in Cornwall, the beach is our doorstep playground, so this was a nonsense of course. I can't tell you what my confused reasoning was, but what surprises me is that so many other parents of children with SEND say exactly the same.
Not only have we come on a long personal journey since those early difficult days, but I am proud to say that Natty and her sister did indeed become little globetrotters. As soon as she had recovered from heart surgery, a trip abroad was a symbol for our new found freedom from worry.
With acceptance, love, a little forward planning and carefully chosen destinations, we have been able to create happy family memories and make international friends wherever we go.
How our Travel Plans have Changed
But then divorce and the Covid pandemic hit. This double-whammy has meant that the girls and I haven't had a holiday for 5 years and we are holding off making any long haul travel plans for a while longer. Lack of funds and then Covid restrictions penned us in.
Travelling by myself with two teens, one of whom has a learning disability does seem like an insurmountable chore, rather than a relaxing break I must say.
It just feels safer to stay within our borders and explore the wonders of what the UK has to offer, gently finding our way after lockdowns and restrictions, visiting family and friends we haven't seen in a while and helping our own damaged economy get back on its feet at the same time. And I'm not sure I'm ready to pick my way through the myriad of covid admin to get us to that point quite yet.
Our Safe Post-Pandemic Travel Ideas
1 Work Trips - My work trips to deliver talks at conferences are only just commencing again in real life after endless Zooms, and although I seem to have lost my confidence when it comes to booking travel and sorting accommodation I am determined to make these mini breaks as much of a holiday as possible. I can't wait to meet colleagues again and share a meal with them, catch up with a friend who lives nearby or squeeze in a spot of shopping or a swim.
What used to be a simple task has become a head-spinning travel organisation conundrum. Thank goodness for sites like eBooking, which allow me to book online with no pre-payment and often with options to cancel at the last minute without a cancellation fee. That kind of peace of mind goes a long way and feels as if someone is helping me with the planning.
2 College Visits - With Mia going to university in the next couple of years, and Natty looking forward to some kind of post school education, now is the time to visit various educational establishments. Just a couple of days away, visiting the college and taking in the local area can be an exciting, memory-making mini break.
We have a trip to Foxes Academy for young adults with a learning disability planned, to see if it's a good fit for Natty. I'll be driving and we'll be staying in a small inn nearby and we just can't wait.
3 Stay With Family - Of course we have finally met up with most of our immediately family and close friends, but not all. We can't wait to plan in a stay with the grandparents so we can catch up with the cousins and aunties after almost 3 years apart.
This is the perfect opportunity to go and revisit some of the lovely sights and attractions near my parents' home, that I associate with my youth. And while we're saving money on accommodation, we can spend more on days out and nice meals.
4 Staycation - Living in Cornwall, we have a plethora of beauty spots right on our doorstep. The pandemic has taught us to re-appreciate what we have long taken for granted. We pledged to 'think like tourists' and do all the fun stuff like getting surf lessons, or having coasteering lessons, and get out and about to enjoy what others pay to come and see.
And if we are feeling a smidge braver we will book a lovely UK-based stay a little further afield.
5 Camping and Festivals - I'm so excited that I might just burst, but we have booked to go to a 3 day family festival here in Cornwall. Live music, fresh street food, face paint friends, and dodgy loos here we come.
So whatever you decide to do, wherever you decide to go or not go and whatever you feel comfortable with, we wish you a safe and slightly more adventurous Spring and Summer.
* This post contains a link for which I was paid for my time.