Mike and I love teaching overseas. We started our adventures in Saipan at age 22, taught there for two years, took some time to get our Masters degrees in California, and then moved back overseas as soon as we had finished. Teaching internationally is one of the best-kept secrets. We are able to teach at beautiful, well-resourced schools with small class sizes. We’re given a home or apartment to live in, and we get to travel!
I didn’t have the opportunity to travel when I was younger. My parents had five kids. It’s not like we could take long trips to Europe or hike in South America. We did have amazing adventures at a nearby lake where we camped, water-skied, and had great family time. Honestly, I wasn’t really interested in traveling until I met Mike. Mike grew up traveling and caught that travel bug at an early age. It was his idea originally to move overseas, and I quickly understood his addiction to travel. Teaching overseas afforded us the opportunity to travel all over the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and some parts of Africa and Europe. We knew that teaching overseas would be our lifelong career path.
Well, we all know what happens to the “best-laid plans”. When we left Indonesia and moved to America to try to get a handle on what was going on with Braden, we thought our international teaching days were over for good. International schools are known to be pretty elite private institutions that do not service children with special needs. Although we didn’t have a diagnosis for Braden, we knew that he could not be properly served at an international school, and with the severity of his needs, we figured he never would be able to get admitted to one of the schools.
So our travel days were over…
Or so we thought.
We did manage to get back overseas when Braden was seven. Traveling with a child with autism, however, can be a challenge and we have had many challenging experiences. But we continue to travel, and although Braden can’t express it, we believe it gives his soul some peace, just as it does ours.
People with autism often do not do well on airplanes. We are so incredibly lucky, as Braden generally enjoys airplane trips. Stephen Shore, a friend of mine with autism, says that riding on an airplane provides him with proprioceptive (joint pressure) and vestibular (inner-ear) sensory input. So he actually feels better while flying. I imagine this is the same with Braden as he is a sensory seeker in many ways.
Braden looks forward to plane rides. We have to be very careful and not pack in front of him as he starts saying, “Want to go airplane,” immediately and repeats that phrase over and over and over again until we get on the plane. If that happens to be hours in advance, he’ll start crying, as he wants to go so badly. So, we’ve worked out systems to hide the suitcases, pack while he’s sleeping, etc. It works.
Hotel rooms can be tricky. There are many nights when we would have to turn off all the lights so Braden could calm down enough to go to sleep. Sometimes that would take several hours. Eventually, Mike would end up lying with Braden to calm him, and Madison and I would end up hiding in the bathroom, lights on, and reading books. We then found the magic of Airbnb and started renting homes or condo with bedrooms for our travels. What a difference! The other great thing about that was we didn’t have to deal with other tourists staring at Braden in the pool and restaurants when he flapped or made loud noises.
Just this year we tried staying at a hotel again, and it was fine. Braden is maturing.
Braden has traveled to the Great Wall of China, the beaches of Bali, the Philippines, and Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and New Zealand. This Christmas we’ll be checking off another country; Vietnam.
We feel so lucky that Braden loves to travel. Wherever Braden goes, he is teaching others about diversity and acceptance whether they know it or not.
Braden is experiencing the world, but more importantly…
The world is experiencing Braden.