The big adventure has one singular goal; by exposing Sam to environments that will challenge him, we aim to improve Sam’s capabilities and independence. Over more than half a year in the middle of his adolescence, the two of us will travel the world to areas where he will see different types of people, hear different languages, and deal with situations where things don’t always go to plan. If the bus doesn’t turn up, he will have to come up with Plan B.
I have selected the more stable parts of Africa (overland from Cape Town to Nairobi) as best providing this environment. It will be backpacking travel: local buses, trains and boats, low-key hotels, mixing with locals, no safaris and minimal sightseeing. It will be about life experience, not an itinerary. To teach him about life and people, it’s this type of exposure that will maximise his learning. I won’t be working as a doctor while away; the focus will be on teaching Sam resilience and life skills. I won’t be taking him around the world; with time and support he will be taking me.
Many compromises will need to be made in order for this to occur. For most of the year, Benison will chronicle our journey from Sydney, staying at home to keep an eye on our older sons. Financially, we have had to downsize our house. My medical practice has had to make significant accommodations, and my patients are having to get by without me for a year. There are also inherent risks of rough travelling with an adolescent with special needs in the third world. However, I know it is the right thing to do for Sam and the rest of the family.
When we decided on this course of action, we had no thoughts beyond its impact on our immediate family. Yet when we began to tell family and friends the responses we received were remarkably similar: “It should be a book/a blog/a documentary.” (Admittedly we also occasionally heard “Have you gone mad?”) We came to realise that our story could have a wider audience and the potential to help others. As well as this blog, a book has been commissioned by Allen and Unwin and will be released in 2016. There is also the possibility of a documentary being made. We’re not expecting the year away to be all smooth sailing, but the most interesting stories never are.
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