The art (or is it science?) of travelling with an Asperger's 14-year-old

Sam main 1.jpg

(Or, a blog that is purely an excuse to post lots of pictures of Sam...)

 With Bruno, our Cienfuegos landlady's dog

With Bruno, our Cienfuegos landlady's dog

One of the first things people say, when we tell them we are taking our 14-year-old son Sam on a 9-month trip to places like Peru, Cuba and Greece, is "What an amazing experience for him! All those fabulous things he will see!" 

 Will he ever be this brown again? Peloponnese, Greece

Will he ever be this brown again? Peloponnese, Greece

It is, I hope, an amazing experience for Sam, but I have to admit at this stage, that when he looks back on this trip, he will have seen woefully few of the wonderful sights we've encountered along the way.

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We realised early on that as a teenager with Asperger's, Sam isn't remotely interested in old stuff, particularly if you have to walk to see it. Moreover, Sam may never be interested in old stuff My brother isn't and he's 51.

 Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba

So we made the decision (rightly or wrongly) not to enforce sightseeing - except by Segway or pink 1950s Buick. Sam did cast a quick eye over Machu Picchu, and we stumbled across a Roman amphitheatre while out on rented bikes the other day, which we encouraged him to look at - and here's the photo to prove it. 

 Gythio, Mani, Pelopponese

Gythio, Mani, Pelopponese

But we are all much happier when Sam stays "home" when Geoff and I either go on a walk, or visit old stuff - or both. His day is spent doing a mixture of schoolwork (he's enrolled with Te Kura, the New Zealand Correspondence School, as was), reading, and his own computer projects. For example, he recently built a Mani-inspired stone tower in Minecraft, complete with slots for pouring lava down on invaders. (Apparently you can't pour boiling oil in Minecraft, as the real Mani tower dwellers did.) He also writes the odd travel blog.

 A bit of internet time with the family, Vinales, Cuba

A bit of internet time with the family, Vinales, Cuba

Once "school" is over and Geoff and I get back, we all get together, often for a swim and ice cream (code for going out to explore the town we are staying in, but don't tell Sam). Then there's dinner and games (normally cards or dice). And bed.

 Dinner, Trinidad, Cuba. Just before we got the dice out

Dinner, Trinidad, Cuba. Just before we got the dice out

 14th birthday celebrations with an over-enthusiastic waiter, Cayo Guillermo, Cuba

14th birthday celebrations with an over-enthusiastic waiter, Cayo Guillermo, Cuba

 Leaving dinner with Carmen and family, Cienfuegos

Leaving dinner with Carmen and family, Cienfuegos

Of course, sometimes we are travelling much of the day. And some activities are Sam-friendly - caves, beaches, zip-lining, bikes, waterfalls, pools, horse-riding etc.

 Dirou Caves, near Areopolis, Mani, Greece. Possibly the most amazing caves in the world

Dirou Caves, near Areopolis, Mani, Greece. Possibly the most amazing caves in the world

 Horse riding, Trinidad, Cuba

Horse riding, Trinidad, Cuba

 And again, in Vinales. Sam on left, with me (centre) and Ben on right

And again, in Vinales. Sam on left, with me (centre) and Ben on right

But in general I reckon we've worked out quite a good system of travelling, where we choose bases to stay for a few days; places where Sam can sit on his bed and do his school work and computer stuff - and read books he's read a hundred times before. And Geoff and I can get out and explore.

That way we all have a good time. And we have. Sam is a grand travelling companion. (Even if he does have a bad smoking habit.)

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Which is a long-winded way of saying the experience of this trip for Sam won't be about understanding Incan architecture, the Cuban revolution, or the difference between Mycenaean and Classical Greek civilisations. Half the time he isn't at all sure of the name of the town we are staying in. But we reckon that doesn't matter.

 Smartening up, Lima, Peru

Smartening up, Lima, Peru

 On the way to our swimming spot, Punta Gorda, Cienfuegos

On the way to our swimming spot, Punta Gorda, Cienfuegos

Sam will finish this trip having swum in a multitude of different places, eaten in a wide variety of establishments (and not only chips and fizzy drinks!), stayed in rooms good and bad, and communicated with a huge variety of human beings.

 At Club CIenfuegos. No longer as exclusive as it used to be. I mean, look who they let in!

At Club CIenfuegos. No longer as exclusive as it used to be. I mean, look who they let in!

Hopefully he will be going back with an amazing, mind-opening experience behind him - one that he'll remember for ever. 

 An exciting moment - finding an old guy selling chupa chops on a backstreet of Trinidad, on a day so hot you only wanted to be swimming (but not walking for an hour to find a swimming pool, which is what Sam did - without complaint!)

An exciting moment - finding an old guy selling chupa chops on a backstreet of Trinidad, on a day so hot you only wanted to be swimming (but not walking for an hour to find a swimming pool, which is what Sam did - without complaint!)

 Helping Dad with his sandcastle, Greece

Helping Dad with his sandcastle, Greece

Far longer than his senile parents, anyway.

 Pelopponese, Greece

Pelopponese, Greece