Travelling with autism
In the past few years (and into the future) traveling has become a more frequent experience for me. We’ve had a few family holidays, along with mum and I having to make occasional visits to the University of California, or going interstate within Australia to do public talks/media interviews. There’s a trip coming up in a few weeks time when my family and I will be visiting California for a holiday.
I am of course looking forward to this upcoming holiday. This will be my fourth trip to California and I’m so excited about visiting the Disney Parks there, and Universal studios which has a Harry Potter theme park within. We’ll also be going on a cruise which will take us all along the California coastline and into some of Mexico. This will be the second cruise that my family and I have been on. We did our first on my birthday in 2015 and we traveled around New Zealand. Initially I was worried that I wouldn’t like the experience, and that it would ruin my birthday that year. However I was pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoyed the celebration; not to mention that the crew gave me three birthday cakes on the day!
Traveling always creates memories and moments of joy for me. Yet that’s not to say that it’s completely free of challenges. To begin with, no matter how well packed we are it’s always a rush to leave home on the first day of the trip, as well as going through the whole airport procedure. I have an anxiety disorder and it’s put under a lot of strain in this situation due to my slower processing speed. Airports are very noisy places with a lot of annoying sounds and flashing displays that give many people with autism (including myself) anxiety.
Flying itself is very stress provoking for me as well. Due to my autism I like space around me where I’m able to move around if I’ve got anxiety. That’s usually not an option during a flight. Also, those long hours involve me being squashed in an aisle between people seated next to me. Prior to a flight I always have to take Valium and do everything I possibly can to prevent having a meltdown; because if that ever happened while I was in the aircraft I’d certainly and understandably be forced (even in a kind manner) to disembark the flight. However I have never to date had a meltdown while flying. A large prescribed dose of Valium enables me to sleep, and having my iPad and colouring pages close by generally grounds my mind well.
Holidays (and working trips too of course) do indeed create the happiest kind of memories. Even when I’ve done an entire day of flying, it takes a mere month for me to want to do the whole experience all over again. Just about all of my interstate and international trips have happened in my adulthood, and it says a lot that virtually all of the memories which make me smile during the bleakest of times are from that stage of my life. So I know that I do genuinely enjoy the whole process of traveling.
All I need to do is take my medication correctly and make sure that I’ve got plenty of grounding exercises to occupy me. While flying that would mainly be colouring pages and puzzles. Though while I’m venturing on land mindfulness exercises such as “Leaves on a Stream” work effectively. Yet the various activities I can do on land (or even on a cruise as well) are so much more fun and exciting for me. Thus I’m less likely to feel anxious during those moments of my trips. The knowledge of the positive feelings (either from exciting ventures or the comfort of returning home after a trip) which await me at the other end also carry me through flights quite comfortably.