My Life as an Autistic Solo Traveler
Iwas given my autism diagnosis at age 6, and naturally a lot has happened since then now that I have just turned 28. When I was growing up, we often went on family trips to either Greece, England or Spain, all places that we had close relatives living. I always loved travelling to these places, but even from a young age I had a desire to go somewhere different, without the familial connections that drove us to always go back to the same spots every vacation. I started to learn the Japanese language at 13 and the following year my Mum and I travelled to Japan for a 2-week holiday, hosted by Japanese friends, we travelled around the country. It wasn't until I was 20 years old that I was able to move ahead with my dream of living in Tokyo.
I finally felt immersed in a different culture, tried foods unavailable anywhere in Europe, not to mention solidifying my pursuit of fluency in the language. So, after numerous setbacks and feeling I was going to get caught in an endless loop I decided enough was enough. I found a language school in Tokyo that readily accepted my application to study there, and with the money I had saved from my part-time job I was off on a one-way ticket. Living in a place is always a hugely different experience from visiting it.
Embracing another culture helped me break out of my shell
Thankfully, I loved the anonymity that comes with finding yourself in the largest city on Earth, but I was driven to push myself a little harder than I normally would and partake in social events that I found advertised online. I was quickly able to make friends and contacts, most of whom, like me, found themselves living in a foreign country. The lack of an established set of social norms helped me break out of my shell, I interacted with people who had lived in vastly different circumstances than I did. Before long I realized that the majority of the unhappiness I had felt up until that point was linked to the location, society, culture and set of societal expectations in which I had grown up. It was a strange but liberating feeling consciously being on the outside looking into my life, but it gave me a lot of clarity that continues to this day.
Fast forward 5 years, and after graduating from university, I started to travel solo and document my travels on Instagram. It all started as a response to failing to land a permanent job related to my degree; I had failed to have a long-term relationship; and I had failed to emigrate abroad despite my best efforts. I'm sure the first two points in particular resonate with a lot of the autistic community. Being perplexed by society and its failings in justice and morality is something I see time and time again.
Yet, with society placing such a heavy emphasis on having a successful career and relationship, I couldn't help but feel worthless. So, I decided to give it all up and do things my way. I knew travel was one of the only few things in life that brought me any sense of joy, and was a welcome distraction from the fact that there were certain things that I could never obtain in order to become that 'functioning member of society' that we all hear so much about.
Unique blog supports travel aspirations of autistic adults
It hasn't been plain sailing and there is still a lot I'm learning and working on both inwardly and outwardly now that I have my own website and business to keep track of. The idea of setting up my business came to me after realizing that there was little to no information available online for autistic adults who engage in travel (or want to travel). The majority of information is directed at families travelling with autistic children.
I always thoroughly researched my chosen destinations online. The more research that I did, the more I discovered that a lot of what I had acquired in knowledge and experience could potentially prove useful to other individuals. So, I started up my website and blog, Autism Adventures Abroad.
It's still in its early days, having only been launched this summer. But my earnest hope is that it proves to be a valuable resource for other autistic travelers looking for tips, advice and other travel related information. This means that I'm making contact with travel industry companies, autistic organisations as well as a range of others who in some way are connected with travel, hospitality and autism. My goal is to explore how we might work together to inspire and support more autistic individuals to explore this amazing planet we live on.
Now that I am on this path, I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't think I could have it any other way. Autism is what makes me who I am; it affects everything I do and say. I have to thank being autistic for how far it has driven me to make it all this way, and how far it continues to push me towards my future goals.
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