This post was inspired by GirlvsGlobes talk at Traverse and a converstaion with BestBits about what makes you proud. I hope this post can be an inspiration to you and if anyone is in the same situation and wants someone to let it all out to let me know
My first memory as a 4 year old is crying myself to sleep as paramedics rushed through the house to take my mum to hospital. My next memory is asking my Grandma isn’t it time my mum woke up (she was in a coma) as I wanted her to read me a story?
Months she remained in hospital and the doctors were pessimistic stating that her brain injury would most likely leave her a cabbage for the rest of her life. If she could get out of bed and dress herself we were meant to be thankful. My dad wasn’t pessimistic- he knew my mum was a fighter.
As a child growing up my mum was my responsibility: she was my priority and she was my focus. Before she was ill my mum was a well-loved teacher who travelled a lot: a 6 week trip through New Zealand in a camper van before it was the craze, the wild west of America and even what was then communist Eastern Europe. She was independent, strong and an achiever. After she was ill she was no longer independent, she could no longer work and there were so many limitations. Over the years as a family this has led to frustration, tears and stress that are all typical of long term medical conditions. It has been an ever revolving series of doors into hospitals for one issue after another. For my mum I can’t imagine how hard it was losing her independence and having to face up to the permanent restrictions that are her life.
For what would be a disaster for many people she has made into a challenge. She has pushed her boundaries and constantly strives to surprise and achieve what the doctors said would be impossible. Brain injuries are baffling things for doctors as you really can’t predict the outcome and everyone is so different. A few years ago we crossed paths with a doctor that had supported my mum in her early days and he was shocked at her recovery.Our family hates the questions when will she get better? As her brain injury will be with her for the rest of her life but we are just amazed and thankful for all the improvements my mum has already made and continues to make.
My mum’s experience and attitude has taught me a valuable lesson: to make the most of the moment. My mum thought she had her retirement to go across India by train, to see Machu Picchu at sunrise and to explore the streets of Florence. Sadly, some of these things will never happen and the ones that do will happen with difficulty.
Although my mum’s travel is restricted she has been my biggest cheerleader in encouraging me to explore the world. She hassled me till I handed my application to study in Malaysia and South Korea, she spent hours with my online looking at jobs in China with me and she has an itinerary of my overland trip to Africa by her bed so she can check what I am doing every day. After every trip she is the only person who will looks through my numerous photos without getting bored and constantly reads my travel diaries. She is always quizzing me about my next travel plans and if I don’t have any asking me why that is?
Now, with more travel experience under my belt we have had more trips as a family and she is finally able to realise some of her travel ambitions.
Recently Mum and I travelled to Cuba. Before the holiday we had concerns on whether Mum would be able to cope with the rigours of the trip and for me I had a lot of fear that dealing with a new location, a different language and my mums difficulties would be too much. But one thing brain injury has taught us is to make the most of life and just go for it. And I am glad we did. This trip brought the two of us closer together and seeing Mum on this holiday I felt so proud of how she does not let her illness define her and prevent her from doing what she wants. Mum spent her nights getting her salsa hips into shape with the locals and it made me so proud to see her getting up not letting her disability get in the way. While our days were spent having trishaw tours through cities, exploring the caves of the Viñales valley and walking through streets full of life. We enjoyed far too many cocktails and this provided opportunity for me to hear about my mums travels before her brain injury.
I was also extremely appreciative of all the Cubans who supported mum and helped make our journey easier. Hidden disabilities are difficult as people are often impatient and rude which does take the enjoyment out of travelling but in Cuba this wasn’t the case; once I turned round from taking a photo to find mum fallen in a patch of mud with a police officer and chef on either arm helping her out.
The memories of this trip will stay with me and every so often a memory of mum on the dance floor or smiling as she enjoyed herself pops into my mind and there are no words to do justice to how proud I am of mum for everything she has achieved.
My mum is an inspiration. She reminds me how precious life is and never to say I will do that when I’m older. People often comment about how much I travel and how that has impacted on my life in what they see as a negative way. In my family, we look at my mum and realise how precious life is and if travel makes me happy why shouldn’t it be what I concentrate on?
Sadly, life is unpredictable. You never know what will happen so take my mum’s advice and avoid putting what makes you happy off whether that is travel, having children, writing a book, creating your own business. Seize your passion and make the most of it now.