WARNING – this post is image heavy!!
It’s been over a year since I wrote a story titled Sonrisas Contra el Tiempo (Smile Against Time). It was about living life now, not putting things off until tomorrow, and making the most of the time we have on this earth. And it talked about smiling, even when time is against you. Every day we smile even though we know time is against us, and we do the things that make our lives special and memorable. Every day. Because tomorrow isn’t a certainty, only today is.
Our son is 9 years old. And he has already lived the life of a half dozen grown men. He has done so much, seen so much, and been part of so much. But his time here with us is limited, and so we are ticking things off his metaphorical bucket list. It’s a list that we have made ourselves, because at 9 years of age he doesn’t yet know what he wants to see when he grows up. So we have come up with a list for him, for the grown man that he may never be. And we are ticking things off his list, one by one. We know we will never cross off everything off his list, but we can make sure we give it one hell of try.
Almost 2 months ago, thanks to the assistance of many wonderful people in our lives, we embarked on a journey to make some of his biggest wishes come true. He’d always wanted to go to Disneyland, and also to see an Orca whale in real life. And so we all made it happen. We took our four children and a wheelchair to the West Coast of America for, what we like to call, the Trip of a Lifetime. We made up our bucket list, or should we say James’ Bucket List.
1. Visit Disneyland
2. See Orca Whales up close at SeaWorld
3. See The Grand Canyon
4. Visit Yosemite
5. Have fun and see a show in Las Vegas
6. Drive across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge
7. Drive through Death Valley
8. See Jaws at Universal Studios
9. Visit the Lone Cypress at Pebble Beach
10. See a volcano
11. Stand on Route 66
12. Drive over Hoover Dam
13. See a real live ghost town
14. Sit by the pool at Hearst Castle
15. Drive The Big Sur
16. Eat clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf
17. Walk through a Redwood forest
18. Walk along the Walk of Fame in Hollywood
19. Ride the roller coaster on Santa Monica Pier
20. Shake hands with a real live Olympian
The idea was fly into LA, and drive straight to Vegas. Our trip then took us to Grand Canyon, Mammoth, Yosemite, San Francisco, Monterey Peninsula, Carmel, down the Big Sur to LA, San Diego, then back to LA and Disneyland. We’d hoped to add Mexico to our bucket list, but were informed by many that it was both dangerous and a lengthy process to get there.
Thirty three days we were gone. Over a month. I had huge expectations of America itself, and plenty of anxieties about travelling with a disabled child. But I needn’t have worried. It was amazing. Everything about our trip was amazing! I documented it all with my camera and iPhone.
Considering we were travelling for over a month with not only 4 young children, but one in a wheelchair as well, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect family holiday. California caters for both children and the disabled very well. Surprisingly well. And Australians could certainly learn a thing or two about customer service in restaurants. Although, I’m thankful we don’t have to tip for service here (over there it was 15-20%, which added up considering we were eating out 3 meals a day), so I guess I can put up with an indifferent staff member or two.
The most important thing was that James and the kids enjoyed themselves, that this would give them memories and experiences to last a lifetime, however long that is. And it did. They talk about it, all the time. They love to look at the photos (which I am currently having made up into individual Blurb photo books for all of them), and they talk about their memories often. And even though they missed out on 3 whole weeks of school (plus there were another 2 weeks of school holidays in between), the things they saw and did make for an education that can’t be taught in a classroom. Travel is one of the greatest classrooms a child can be part of. Seeing and hearing and feeling makes a much bigger impact on a child’s development and intellect than books alone. I encourage anyone with children to cast your fears aside about taking them out of school and unsettling them, and take the opportunity (if it presents itself) to travel with your children.
I won’t bore you with the day to day details of our vacation, as I think the photos speak for themselves. But I would like to thank all those who made this happen. You know who you are. And you will always have our love and gratitude.
As for James, well he’s still smiling. And so am I.