Happy New Year! In many ways 2020 seemed extra long and there was much talk of looking forward to seeing the back of it. Although an optimist, I was never of the opinion that all our Covid issues would be over once the clock turned midnight and the calendar clicked over to 2021. I would have loved to be proven wrong but Covid seems to continue to dominate the headlines worldwide. Despite this I have an overall feeling of gratitude. That’s not to say 2020 was an easy one but our family was blessed with good health, the love and support of friends and family and during it we were living in a country which did comparatively well in the fight against Covid.
The year started with a trip to the heart of Australia where AJ was volunteering in an indigenous childcare centre. Not only did we enjoy our time together on a mother-daughter adventure but it reminded us of the challenges that still face our First Nations people. If you’ve never travelled to Uluru and Alice Springs, pop it on your list. Just remember the flies are next level in January.
It may be cliche to say so but Uluru is Australia’s spiritual heart. You can read our accessibility tips on what to do at Uluru in our blog.
At that time we didn’t know it would be our last flight for a long time but we had a quiet year planned as AJ was facing her final year of high school and the dreaded HSC exams. It was time for us to support AJ and for her to put her head down and push through. Little did we know that by March we would be pulling BJ out of his day program and AJ would start school online for several months. This proved our most challenging period. BJ loved his day program and the routine of leaving home each day with Hubby who would drop him off. I don’t think we can underestimate the impact the isolation had on BJ and how much he missed his old life. BJ was stuck to AJ like glue and loved nothing more than getting involved in her Zoom classes.
We had to become inventive as lockdown restrictions meant we couldn’t get out and about. Once drives were allowed, I spent a lot of time exploring Sydney with BJ. We didn’t get out of the car at first but the drives gave AJ quiet time to study and BJ was happy being back out in the community even if he was only seeing it from the car.
As soon as we could, BJ and I spent our days discovering various walks we could do. BJ loved seeing other people and I enjoyed the benefits of our walks.
We spent time in the park kicking the soccer ball and AJ perfected balancing on the slack line. We rediscovered arts and crafts and the kids had fun making everything from personalised t-shirts to cake decorating. If you missed it, you can see some of what they got up to in the isolation diaries blog.
Just before Australia went into lockdown we published the third issue of Travel Without Limits magazine. The issue was the first we were to be sending to Qantas Business Class lounges but of course those lounges were closed. Still we were proud to produce another issue of the magazine which was bigger and more diverse than the last. Ironically, we are currently working on the March 2021 issue. So much has changed in the last year but we know people are still keen to research and plan travel for the future. We are thrilled to have so many subscribers. Your support helps us to continue to bring great stories to life hopefully inspiring and informing people on how to travel. You can subscribe to Travel Without Limits magazine on the website.
Throughout our self-isolation and during lockdown we were constantly reminded of the simple pleasures in life and the power of love and support from friends and family. So many people sent cards, gifts and delivered goodies to our door. It helped sustain us and brightened the days.
When AJ went back to school for face-to-face learning BJ missed her terribly. Although she’d been busy with study when she was home, she was great company for him in her breaks. It was time to make the first tentative steps back to some kind of routine for BJ and we decided to hire one support worker we trusted to take him out and about. It was June and things were settling but he would still only do outdoor activities and keep away from others. BJ was happy and it gave me some time to work on the September 2020 issue of the magazine.
In July we took a trip to Lake Macquarie and Port Macquarie. We felt so lucky to have a holiday and we had a renewed appreciation for the freedom travel offers. We’ve always been grateful to be able to travel but after lockdown we were even more so. Our trip allowed us to review Belmont Lakeside Holiday Parks new accessible villa which is 5 star when it comes to accessibility. You can read our review of the villa here.
While in Lake Macquarie we explored the beaches and loved checking out the accessible walks on the Fernleigh Track. You can read about some of the things to do in Lake Macquarie in this blog.
Port Macquarie is our second home so we can always relax and just enjoy being there. When visiting in winter this year the weather wasn’t warm enough for long days at the beach. Fortunately we had plenty of entertainment for the whole family at Bago Vineyard & Maze, on a BBQ boat on the Hastings River and at the Koala Hospital.
This year our greatest challenge came with the loss of our sister-in-law. A huge gap has been left in our family and I’m so sad to have lost someone I considered not only a sister-in-law but also a friend. I’m sorry she won’t be here to share family moments as we always have together.
BJ celebrated his birthday in August and nothing was going to dampen his spirits. AJ’s trial exams started the following day so it was a quiet afternoon but he loved it.
Despite the challenges facing the travel industry the September 2020 issue of Travel Without Limits was our biggest yet. I was so proud to see this published. BJ is also chuffed with the issue and can find stories with him in them with a quick flick of the pages.
We added to our family with two fish, named Fish and Chips, we hoped they’d have a calming influence on AJ as she sat studying in her room. We also got a new guinea pig, Cody. Zach (big brown one pictured below) was a guinea pig we adopted a few years ago. Guinea pigs are supposed to have a friend but Zach was quite happy with the bachelor life and found his new mate Cody somewhat young and boisterous. They are now firm mates though Zach still seems puzzled and frustrated at times by Cody’s youthfulness.
BJ started a gym program this year and has made incredible gains. It’s one of the positives of having one to one support. He started off just making it to five minutes on the treadmill and at his last session made it to 15 minutes. His depth perception and walking in general has also improved and in turn, so has his confidence. He now stands up and starts walking across the room, which while wonderful, has the rest of us scrambling to get to him just in case he should lose his balance. It’s been so great to see the improvements BJ has made over the last 5 months.
In October we took a short break to Oberon and visited Mayfield Garden, the National Motor Racing Museum in Bathurst and Kanangra Walls Lookout.
It wasn’t long until it was exam time for AJ and her birthday. It was an intense couple of weeks but we all made it out the other side and had plenty to celebrate.
We weren’t sure that Covid restrictions would allow us to see AJ’s school graduation but regulations relaxed just prior. It was a lovely moment to see her graduate after a year of struggling to finish school during Covid.
Covid restrictions were also relaxed in time to see AJ’s school formal go ahead. I was so pleased to see the class of 2020 not only graduate but have their formal.
As soon as formal was done and dusted we hit the road again. We went back to Lake Macquarie to check out the newly completed accessible villas at Swansea Lakeside Holiday Park. Again we were impressed with access and the inclusive features including a pool chair and accessible play equipment in the playground. You can take a look at our review here.
We worked especially hard this year at getting accessible and inclusive tourism in the news and did a range of newspaper, magazine and radio interviews. I was also a guest on the Listenable and Source Mama podcasts. If you’ve got time over the holidays to listen to a podcast click on the pictures and you’ll be able to hear my thoughts.
In early December we rounded off the travel for the year with a couple of trips within the state. We had a glorious stay in Jervis Bay where we had lovely days at the beach and found a wonderfully accessible dolphin watch tour.
After our stay in Jervis Bay we headed across country to Wagga Wagga. We used the area as a base for day tripping to Junee, Coolamon, Temora, Tumut and more. It was certainly a busy week but we saw a lot and we were amazed at the number of museums in the area. I’ll be sharing more when I can about these little gems.
At the start of 2021 I look back on the year of 2020 with mixed feelings. I’ve been shocked and saddened by the loss and effects on the world since Covid became part of our reality. I certainly know that for many people with a disability the need to self-isolate has been a challenge. I’m grateful to live in a country which has managed the pandemic to date relatively well. And lastly, I feel immense gratitude for the love, support and focus on family that was the result of the year we had.
That’s our year in review. I’ve probably missed quite a bit but you get the general feel for our 2020. I’m wishing all our Have Wheelchair Will Travel family a good 2021 and I’d love to hear what your key takeaways were from 2020.
Sue Dillon says
Thanks Julie and family,
Love all the tips you have given. Congrats Aj on graduation. Congrats BJ in those work outs – just amazing progress.
I hope to check out the accessible Kaie Macquarie spots for my husband and I. Love all the tips thank you. Sue 🙋♀️
Thanks Sue. It was great to look back on all we achieved in 2020 despite the challenges.
Lake Macquarie is fab.
Linda Kouwenhoven says
Sounds like you’ve managed to keep yourselves busy and stay healthy! What a year it’s been. So sorry to hear of your loss this year…it’s been a difficult one for many people in that way. Australia looks like a lovely place and I would love to visit one day! All the best too your family in 2021!
Thanks Linda. All the best to you for 2021 too. And yes, Australia is beautiful. I feel lucky to live here.