We have had a pretty amazing year and like most people we have been reflecting on how we travelled through 2014.
We had a relaxing start with a trip to a place we call our second home, Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid North Coast. We love holidaying there because it is an area so familiar to us we don’t need to run around sightseeing. We head to the beach or lake in the morning and just chill for the day. It is the most relaxing holiday and fantastic because of the beach wheelchairs available to borrow.
As soon as that short break was over I started feeling nervous about how BJ would take to life post school. I didn’t know how well the new setting would cater to his needs and my expectations. It was hard starting all over again with people who didn’t know BJ.
It didn’t take long to feel reassured and the enthusiasm with which BJ greeted every day proved that a good choice had been made. That is not to say every day goes smoothly but all in all it has been a good transition and BJ is very happy.
Not only was BJ making progress with his transition but he was making other gains at home.
We learnt some important lessons in 2014. Never give up, keep working on goals and everyone likes to feel they are contributing to family life. BJ climbed on to his bed by himself and was rather pleased with the fact he could do so and help himself to his books. He continued to make progress at swimming lessons which in turn helped his walking and balance. In 2014 BJ showed more interest in helping around the house and took great delight in unpacking the shopping every week. BJ also surprised us all by saying three words very clearly one afternoon. He worked hard on hand function goals and continues to make progress including mastering swiping his iPad and accessing other features on it with great skill.
It has also been great to share tips with you, some our own and others supplied by our facebook and blogging community.
Some of the most popular this year were BJ’s new electric wheelchair and the crayon and spoon strap. It is wonderful to think that things we learn from our team of therapists can help people all around the world, some who have little access to therapy.
Once BJ was settled it was time to turn our attention to planning our trip to the USA which saw me fulfilling my dream of visiting New York.
Once again BJ found the flight a challenge, which meant in turn we did too. This time having the blog we documented the process of making a seat cushion for BJ and the experience of flying. When we returned we shared it in a blog in the hope it would help others.
Three and a half weeks in the US gave us a wonderful holiday but once again we felt we only scratched the surface of what we would like to do in America. I fell in-love with our hotel in New York and spent any spare time I had in the room gazing out the large windows. Hotel Beacon will always have a special place in my New York memories because it provided a view into every day New York life……….especially that of the lady who lived opposite. I was envious of the time she had to read the paper each day over breakfast! You can read my blog about Hotel Beacon and their accessible rooms here.
The kids loved seeing all of New York’s sights with favourites being visiting the Statue of Liberty, high tea at The Plaza Hotel and BJ loved riding the New York subway and other accessible public transport in the city.
The highlight of this trip for the kids was definitely Disneyland and California Adventure Park. We found ourselves once again with a pep in our step as we walked towards the happiest place on earth and heard the familiar Disney music playing. The Disneyland Disability Access Service Card had been implemented since our last visit so we were keen to try it and see how it worked. We wrote a blog about it on our return in the hope of making it easier for others. You can read about it here.
Not only were the theme parks fun for the whole family, we continued to find the staff at both parks just ‘get it’. They want to do all possible to ensure everyone has a great time and that a wheelchair is no barrier.
On our return we had the great fortune to have Victoria from Reindeer Riot step in and do a complete make-over of the website for us. She donated her services to help us out as we have no sponsorship for the website at this stage. Not only were we thrilled with the new site and lettering (Victoria loves doing beautiful lettering) we were delighted to meet such a fabulous human being. So generous and she is lovely to boot! Pardon me giving her a plug but she does website design for people all around the world and she is a pleasure to work with.
It was hard to settle back into life at home after the trip but I enjoyed reliving our travels while writing blogs and sharing all our experiences with our blog and facebook family. The ‘likes’ for facebook rolled in which was lovely to see and we hit 5000 ‘likes’ by August and 6000 ‘likes’ by December. It feels quite an achievement considering this started as a small idea of sharing a page on a website about our original trip to the USA and only started two years ago.
We have always appreciated the support of our facebook community and love the fact that people feel comfortable enough to share holiday photos of their travels with us, comment on our posts and share with their friends and families. The support in 2014 has been overwhelming.
Talking of support – we were thrilled this year to have some of our blogs appear in mainstream media. We are very grateful to Holidays with Kids Magazine who linked to our website before we had our own audience and made a tab on their website which says, ‘Travelling with a wheelchair’. Support like that gave us the faith to keep moving ahead. This year Holidays with Kids Magazine linked to our blog on Disneyland. Out and About with Kids supported us when we visited NRMA Ocean Beach Holiday Park and shared our blog on their page. Parenting Special Needs Magazine, a US online publication, asked me to write for them and have continued to support HWWT by sharing both in their online publication and on facebook.
We did a few local trips up and down the coast this year and enjoyed sharing these with everyone.
When we travelled the first rule was that no-one was to put a bag down or use any of the facilities until I took photos for the blog. The family are pretty well trained now. We tried to share a variety of accommodation and asked to inspect the accessible rooms even when not staying in them. I squeezed myself into awkward positions to get the bathroom shots but it was always worth it knowing that this information was valuable to the people needing reassurance that the accommodation was fully accessible.
I had a major challenge in the second half of this year when I had to keep a big secret. NSW National Parks and Wildlife asked our family to be involved in a trial of the TrailRider, a piece of equipment which allows people with mobility restrictions to access areas otherwise inaccessible. We were having so much fun with it and seeing some amazing sights but I couldn’t share any of it until the official launch which happened in mid-December.
Now I can shout it from the roof tops. I love the fact that people seem to be finally getting it – people with mobility restrictions want to get out and be a part of the community in every possible way. It is liberating and we are thrilled to be a part of this project. The TrailRider can now be borrowed at Kamay – Botany Bay National Park and Dorrigo National Park in NSW. It is available in many locations around the world and you can read about our experience with it here and find a list of locations around Australia here and the other locations in Canada, USA and Japan on this website.
We were thrilled to have our blog nominated and then win the travel category in the Bupa Blog Awards.
Hubby and I headed to the city and had fancy drinks, food and heard those exciting words, “and the winner is, Have Wheelchair Will Travel”. The keynote speaker was Sally Obermeder, a local media personality who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in the final weeks of her pregnancy. We were fortunate to be seated with her and her sister for the lunch and she was delightful and full of great advice for the audience. Many of the bloggers had started blogging due to life circumstances and found that they had valuable stories to share with their audience. It was a fabulous day not just because we won an award but because of the people we met including Carly Findlay who is an inspiring speaker, writer and all round lovely person.
We have had many other special occasions which we have shared with you but I didn’t get around to sharing AJ finishing primary school. She is off to high school next year and although she may be ready I don’t think I am!
The end of year was a blur of events and special parties with AJ involved in band, choir and other activities outside of school. BJ thinks she is just wonderful and the relationship between them fills me with pride and travel definitely continues to bond our family.
We have loved sharing our lives with you and enjoyed hearing about your family holidays, successes in therapy and life. A big thank you to all of you for following along and to our family, friends and those who have supported us in our quest to share positive, can-do stories with you all. We hope you will join us again in 2015.
We’d love to hear about your highlights in 2014. Feel free to share in the comments below.
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