Disability, Mental Health

April 16, 2021

How my 1st travel experience opened by eyes

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My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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I never thought that I would actually travel in 2019. I was asked by my friend who is like a second mom to me if I wanted to go to Punta Cana. I impulsively sais YES not thinking much of it but I never thought it would be real.

At first, it didn’t hit me what I said YES to. A 10 day adults-only all girls trip with four other women. It wasn’t until I paid for the trip that it hit me. As much as I should have been excited I was very anxious. I also asked for accommodations like help with filling out forms on the plane etc. Next time I travel, I will make sure that I research some more accommodations they could make for me to better understand things. While my friends were all excited, I had more anxiety.

I kept reminding myself that it’s only for 10 days and this will be really good for me. A new experience, a new country and a new culture as well as a new language.

I will never forget the shopping trip; I was wanting to enjoy it but I remember having major sensory overload that I had to step away. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited about the trip, it wasn’t that I was with the wrong people, and it wasn’t that I was trying to drag others down. I didn’t understand what was going on – what was traveling going to look like and this was a whole new experience.

I’m not going to lie, I did cry at the travel agent’s office when I was scared and was even wanting to back out of the trip. Thank goodness I couldn’t back out now that I look back at it.

On the actual day to leave, I felt scared. Though I didn’t sleep much, that fear turned into excitement when I got to the airport. It took some processing, and with the right support group of friends I started to get excited. It wasn’t real until I boarded the plane and we took off. It wasn’t real until we all got to Punta Cana and settled there. And on day one, all my worries were put to rest and I felt like I didn’t want to leave.

I got to swim in the ocean, experience paradise, meet different people from all around the world. I met a cute British guy whom I keep in touch with to this day, got to drink from a pineapple and from a coconut, tried different foods, and I got to learn basic Spanish and use it. I tried authentic chocolate which was amazing, and I got to see not only the markets, but a different way of living. I experienced seeing a sunrise and a sunset. While I kept to my routines, I learned how to be with a group of amazing women who looked out for one another.

Day 10 hit and the sadness kicked in, I started to feel upset but it’s because I didn’t want to leave. I feel like I came back with a different perspective on culture and discovered that I actually really like to travel. I recommend going somewhere for 10 days instead of 7 days.

Once we were back home, it took me a week to get back into the routine again, but that’s okay. I wanted to go on another trip the following year to somewhere different but then life stopped as we know it – COVID-19 hit.

My first travel experience opened my eyes in a way that words can’t describe. Traveling with a group, especially a strong support system taught me about team work and taught me how to compromise and to be flexible. This taught me to grow, and traveling gave me the eye opener that I needed to see how life is different in all parts of the world.

I learned to confront what was holding me back the whole time. If I would have had the opportunity to back out I would have missed out on the experience of being away from home and I would have been still terrified of flying.

I also learned how to adapt to new routines. As an autistic person, routine is crucial for me. I would have missed the opportunity to learn how to adapt to a new and temporary routine.

When they say to travel once, I didn’t understand it at the time. Now I do, and if I backed out I would have always been wondering what travel would look like or be like.

I can’t wait until it’s safe to travel again, and I have places I want to go on my bucket list.

To the woman who ran the vacation, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. I know I was resistant at first, I am forever grateful for the opportunity of a lifetime and you helped me in so many ways that I feel safe and okay. You helped me grow with this experience. You are very important to me. 

Lisa K.

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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