For today’s post I wanted to write about my recent experiences with travel, as my perspective on it now is very different than before I had my disabilities.

———- Hawaii ———-

Earlier this year my wife told me that she had been in contact with her childhood best friend, Tamara Moriarty, and she suggested we meet Tamara and her family in Hawaii. I agreed for a few reasons: 1. Fleur had not seen Tamara in many years, and this provided the opportunity to do so. And 2. The trip (at the time) was many months away, thus truly pondering any implications of this trip was beyond the scope of my thinking.[1] But as the trip grew near, more and more concerns began to plague me: Cormac would be 17 months at the time, how would he do during the 9-hour flight there and back? The last time I attempted to traverse a beach was in Long Beach Island (immediately after my discharge), which ended in a fall; how would I do on the beaches of Hawaii? How should I approach the titubation with Tamara and her husband Tim? As the trip approached, these worries really began to impact me, so much so that when my sister asked me if I was excited for the trip- my response was “No, not really. I’d rather be at home.”[2] I joked with her that I was probably the only person in history to NOT be excited to go to Hawaii.

Let me address each concern separately. Yes, Cormac seems to have endless energy. In fact the only time he slows down is when he sleeps, thus the prospect of 9 hours on a plane with him was daunting. I imagined 9 hours of him crying inconsolably. Thankfully, due to the hard work of my wife, the flights were pretty uneventful. In fact, most of the whining came from our 7 year old, who complained of headaches with flying. My wife is very in tune with Cormac’s needs, thus if she sensed him getting restless she would walk him up and down the aisles of the plane. Overall, I think he cried for a total of 10 minutes on both legs.

Walking, or even standing on the beach proved difficult, but luckily for me, Fleur understood my issues with the sand and would always be there to help me. Tamara and Tim also always picked areas (to plant) that were close to pavement. They also understood if I decided not to go in to the water.[3]

As far as titubation went, I only experienced it once in front of them, on the first night, at a restaurant. It was not a particularly bad episode. Actually, Tamara would later tell Fleur that she barely even noticed it, and only saw how I stopped eating and wondered if it was due to the titubation.

As I think back, it was a good trip that I enjoyed. I’ve never seen Christian so excited for a trip before. He also got along fantastically with Tamara and Tim’s elder son Sam. Most importantly, even though my tumor and subsequent increased time at home allowed me to spend more time with my family, being with them on a vacation trip was somehow different. Perhaps this is what people refer to when they use the term ‘quality time’.

The Chiou- Moriarty families in Hawaii
The Chiou- Moriarty families in Hawaii

———– Good People ————

If someone asked me to describe Tim and Tamara[4] it would be to call them ‘good salt of the Earth people’. I’ve yet to come across people that didn’t like them. They knew of my condition prior to the trip, and seemed to not be fazed or flustered by it at all. My condition has made me uncomfortable around people outside my family, but they were so warm and welcoming that I truly enjoyed my time with them.

——- Carlsbad ——-

On our way back we were to spend a week in Carlsbad (a suburb of San Diego) with my older sister Amy, her husband and family. My kind wife planned the trip so I could spend time with my family as well. It was incredible to see Amy and Amir and their three growing daughters. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Amy and Amir are both Emergency Department physicians. Amir works more and Amy works part time, but primarily stays home with their daughters. This means there are many days in which Amy is home alone with their three girls (their ages are 1,2,3). Yet somehow amidst the chaos of caring for three children Amy managed to be a wonderful host and sister. She always made sure we had great meals, and would schedule at least one outing a day. In the middle of our stay in Carlsbad, Fleur’s good friend and college roommate Jennie visited her. Jennie works for YouTube in San Francisco, exposing her to people from all walks of life. I’m not sure if it was this experience or her kind heart that made me comfortable to see her. I remember when I first saw her I was just awaking from a nap[5]. For some reason my titubation is worse after I get out of bed—I’m still trying to figure out why. It was a particularly bad episode of titubation, but Jennie did not even bat an eye. In fact, we had a long conversation during it. Usually I can detect some subtle changes indicating discomfort in body language when it occurs[6]. With Jennie she gave no such cues. Thinking back part of me even wonders if she noticed; it was such a bad episode though, that I’m sure she must have noticed.

The Chiou- Aminlari clan
The Chiou- Aminlari clan

The most important takeaway from my travels to Carlsbad is the importance of family.   I loved my sister and knew of her big heart, but appreciated it even more after the trip.

Nora, Rose, Cormac, Lila, and Christian in Carlsbad
Nora, Rose, Cormac, Lila, and Christian in Carlsbad

—— Traveling ——

I realize that my disability makes traveling difficult, but I believe it’s important for my sanity; it’s important to everyone’s sanity. When I hear of people who have never left their hometown, I am baffled. On the spectrum of traveling, I would consider myself closer to the ‘non-traveling’ end[7], but I do think it’s vital for one’s psyche. Even though I dreaded the logistical aspects of traveling, I am happy that I had the opportunity to spend time with such good people. Traveling 3,000 miles and overcoming my fears and apprehensions about the various aspects of travel was well worth it. I got to enjoy the company of the people I love, and build many happy memories with my own family and children.

[1] When faced with a question, I like to consider both the upsides as well as the downsides before coming to a conclusion.

[2] This is true, but I knew that Fleur should see Tamara.

[3] To lessen walking.

[4] There’s a cookie in New Zealand called ‘Timtams’.

[5] Neither Cormac nor any of Amy and Amir’s children slept well the night before.

[6] This can come in the form of increased or decreased eye contact, staring, or flustered speech.

[7] Meaning I don’t consider myself well-traveled and I do not like it. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who have both visited exotic locales and love to travel.

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