Tan and her gorgeous daughter Mackenzie are on a road trip of a lifetime. Mackenzie is blind and developmentally delayed, but that isn't getting in the way of immersing themselves into the great Australian landscape. In their blog the delightful twosome share their challenges, their adventures and their most of all their love for life.
I'm so excited to be sharing a piece of Tan's blog with my followers. I hope you enjoy her writing as much as i do.
Mackenzie contemplating and resting on her beloved keyboard, 8th July 2016
When I started planning The Road Unseen I began following travellers who were doing the same thing all over the world in a converted and fitted out vehicle. That wasn’t an option for us because of all the equipment and resources I need to support Kenz on her journey to independence, although if I could throw some clothes and a surfboard into a van and make tracks I would (I would need to learn to surf first!) I wanted to tow a caravan for the freedom of having a separate living and driving compartment, but didn’t have the guts to do it. Towing and parking a caravan seemed way off the mark so I went for a motorhome.
Although it was convenient, it’s very restrictive. I never really felt settled or set up in our overnight locations because I knew I’d have to pack everything up if I wanted to go for a drive to explore or pop into the shops. Kenz fatigues so quickly when walking so I needed to park relatively close to things and it’s not always possible. I legitimately almost got stuck in a car park due to lack of turning space and a broken reversing camera! Not ideal when you’re alone and your blind child can’t help you get out! The Little Cottage was also quite confined inside which impacted on how well we could get stuck in to some life skills training with Kenz.
So I grew some balls and instilled some self belief and a ‘can do’ attitude in my fiery belly and we decided to buy a caravan and updated our car to tow it!
Before that crazy turn of events, we had our second planned event at Australia Zoo on 28th June with some other families, clients of Vision Australia and Vision Australia staff. We were treated to morning tea and some animal experiences including meeting and touching an echidna, koala, lizard, and snakeskin. Kenz was off it! We had channel 7 news reporting on the event and The Road Unseen journey and she was so disinterested, unwilling and incapable of appropriately responding to questions that they didn’t get enough appropriate footage to use! Check out this photo of her yawning and stretching, reaching above her head with a python snake skin in her hand and a camera in her face. She did not care!
Mackenzie uninterested in the 7 News camera, yawning and stretching with a snake skin in her hand at Australia Zoo, 28th June 2016
Thankfully, our amazingly talented friend from Amber Joy Photography had footage from our Go Fund Me campaign that was used to share the story and I was surprised to see how long the segment went for. It’s great that local media are involved and supporting The Road Unseen and Vision Australia and sharing the light and love along the way. You can watch the footage via FB here.
Patting Derek the Koala at Australia Zoo, 28th June 2016
We travelled from Caloundra in Queensland to Sydney in New South Wales in two days after the event and had a whirlwind of a time attending two medical appointments and buying a car that would cope with towing my newly purchased second hand caravan. Seriously, buying a car is PAINFUL. I really don’t like the ordeal of buying and selling cars. It’s exhausting, no matter how much I haggle I know I am coming off second best, and when they tell me they “can’t possibly reduce it any further” they are literally lying to my face. And I dislike the “fluffing”… “Oh you look great in this car!”… What the hell does that even mean?! I don’t care about aesthetics of vehicles, or the fancy shmancy technological advancements in blah blah blah. I don’t care what colour, I don’t care about leather interior, I don’t care for DVD players and sunroofs.
View of the road on the Pacific Highway heading south, 30th June 2016
Will it tow my caravan and can the tow bar be fitted in 24 hours? Yes? OK, sold. I am such a practical person. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to search for, find, and purchase a vehicle. I know this is something many people out there only dream of. I am so grateful. If it serves its purpose, I am satisfied. I look great in the car…Do people actually feel flattered or fall for that crap?
Receiving our car, Sydney 7th July 2016
I’m not in love with the caravan and car swaying at 100km/hour on the highway. Actually, it scares the crap out of me! But I have managed to drive it from Northern NSW to the Sunshine Coast (QLD), practiced parking it at 10pm in a deserted Bunnings car park, and am currently sitting in my recliner camp chair under the light of the moon in a caravan park, awning smothered in washing, my bike laying on the dewy grass, and grandma’s knitted blanket snuggling my legs. This is home.
It’s a better option for us and Kenz is navigating the space really well. And if every receptionist has a man that can help me park and set up like he did here, I’ll be just fine! I joked with my dad about needing to ‘hire a hubby’ to come along for the journey with us to help with all that ‘man stuff’. How uncanny that the couple parked next to me are parents to the founder of ‘Hire a Hubby’…Maybe I should ask them to hook me up. Do they offer that kind of service?
With a new car on hand we attended some routine medical appointments. The first appointment was hard. Kenz’s anxiety was so severe she was vomiting the second I pulled up in the car park. Nothing quite like lugging a massive handbag full of water and medicines, having a 32kg child with minimal capacity to hold her own weight and vomiting her guts up in the hallway of a hospital. I feel so alone in those moments.
They are so challenging because not only am I trying to cope with the situation at hand (which literally involves me catching vomit in my hands and trying to avoid it going on every item of her clothing and as little hospital furniture as possible), but I am trying to get her to a chair, minimise vomit on the floor, and keep her well enough to avoid having a hypo, which would require a life saving injection.
Semi conscious under nitrous for a routine blood test, 5th July 2016
It takes a huge amount of concentration, observation, cognitive energy, and emotional strength to get through it. There is no one else to go through that with her. No one else to help me. No one else to take the load. And I felt so exhausted that evening. We got through the procedures unscathed and returned home for a restful afternoon but it really upset me. I felt so sad. Depleted. I was pushing myself to the limit with the challenge of finding a car, unpacking and cleaning and returning the motorhome, repacking and getting back on the road, heading down the coast to celebrate a birthday, and then that thrown into the mix. I was a little broken that night.
Funny how sometimes it affects me and other times it doesn’t. Compounded by knowing how much there is for me to do to support her to overcome the challenges she faces every single day…It got me this time. I stayed with the emotion and the experience and knew it would pass. I exercised, did some yoga, and got an early night in bed, and the following day the fog had lifted. Her specialist confirmed all blood results are great and we don’t need to see her for 6 months, which is fantastic.
Hopefully I can make some changes to her anxiety, sensory processing and her ability to self regulate through negative experiences before the next testing and review.
This is why we are here. This is why we are on The Road Unseen. This is why I am unemployed and on the road with my daughter. So I can minimise distraction, minimise noise, support her and make a difference to the way she interacts with the world around her. This crazy busy world. I have a growing list of things to work on with Kenz and feel like there isn’t enough time. I feel like I could spend the next 2 years with this level of involvement, support and therapy and only then will I begin to see outcomes. Her development so compromised I wonder how I will ever get it all done.