My grandfather is ill and dying, and I sit here, at home, writing. I sit because I’ve been searching in despair for three days for some kind of vehicle that might help me travel 10,000 km, across mountains and plains, forests and straits, and not have my skin peel off or my throat close up. He doesn’t have long, I’m told. If I left right now and drove there, it might be too late. My sister asks why I don’t just fly. My sister who has no allergies, no kids, no career, and lives only 1,200 km away from him. I want to rage against the world right now.
With a single parent family, my grandpa was my father figure for my early years. He played games with me. He taught me to love nature and how to be safe within it. He taught me right from wrong. He taught me about the magic of music, playing more instruments than anyone I knew. He taught me that it was okay to have fun and be silly, but also about the value of responsibility. He taught me about being industrious. As a young child, living on his land, he and my grandma were my world. In time, I moved away with my family, but I never lost that connection.
My sister asks me why I don’t fly. I don’t fly because there is so much danger of chemical exposure in enclosed cabins with hundreds of other people, not to mention that the airplane is literally sprayed with a chemical that can cause my throat to close up. I don’t fly because an airline recently kicked a family off of an airplane because of an anaphylactic food allergy, citing too much risk. I don’t fly because it is really hard to feed oneself on an 8-hour flight when you can only drink water provided by the crew due to air security and feed yourself with organic food you brought from home and can’t cook.
I don’t fly because when I arrive at my destination I will still have nowhere to stay or feed myself. I have more family in a small space there than anywhere, but none of them have any clue about the lengths I have taken to make my living space safe. It’s not their fault – it’s just hard to understand if you haven’t been living with it. None understand that I can’t eat food from almost any restaurant, or even most of the food from the grocery store. None have stocked kitchens that will provide me the basis for cooking the foods I need to eat. Some smoke heavily. All use household cleaners and wouldn’t think twice about the detergents they use to wash the cloths they use to dry their hands, the soap they use on their hands or dishes, or the foods they last cooked in a pan that weren’t properly cleaned off. There’s one hotel/motel in the town where my grandparents live. It provides a kitchenette with no dishes and no alarm clock or telephone. There is no good grocery store in that town. Other hotels are considerably more expensive because it’s a tourist area. My family lives spread over a 2-hour diameter throughout the area. To rent a car and hotel room and pay for a flight would be cost-prohibitive. It would shorten the trip while devaluing the time we were there.
Why don’t I go alone? My daughter is very advanced and thus needed to be homeschooled. If I go, she either stays here and my husband has to take time off work anyway, or she goes with me. If she goes with me, I have to additionally carry a booster seat, extra luggage, and possibly an extra plane ticket. If she goes and I drive…she has never slept well in the same sleeping space as others. Last time I took her alone on an overnight trip (for her benefit only), she crawled around the van ALL NIGHT. I got no sleep. Imagine what two weeks of driving plus a week of stops would do to my sanity. If she doesn’t go, she misses having the opportunity to have any memory of her great grandfather at all. Her great grandparents may never see her again. See, they don’t have the internet. They rely on pictures, which are fewer and further between than they should have been. The last time we made it out there, she was 4.
That leaves me with taking my van, taking our van pulling a small trailer, or somehow buying a motorhome that has enough seating and sleeping space, within my budget, that will get me across the Rocky Mountains and back without falling apart. My van doesn’t fit both us and our daughter, not to mention a cooler, and still doesn’t solve the food issue. If we build a platform in the back of the van to raise us up over our daughter so that everyone has a little more room, I will be trying to clean myself off with a wet facecloth and change out of unsafe clothing (after being in bathrooms, stores, etc) on top of what needs to be a clean bed, in a space about 2 feet high. I can’t walk into a truck stop and use a shower because I am VERY sensitive to chlorine. I can’t use a tent because most campgrounds are not open yet, and most Walmarts, gas stations, and rest stops frown upon people setting up tents in their parking lots.
I’m told that I should have no problem with a trailer because I can travel on big roads only. That person does not realize that stores that I have to go to to get foods are seldom on the edge of towns, sometimes even right in the downtown core. I could rent a trailer for around $1500, but then I will still struggle to get around cities and find places to leave it at a time of year when most campsites are closed. I will have spent a considerable amount of money to use something that I have to give back when I’m done, and I still will be stuck without a solution the next time I want to go anywhere at all.
What I really want is a camper van. It would make even local trips (within my province) more attainable. The good cheap ones are a 3 to 7 hour drive from me, and by the time I can plan a trip to see them, making sure my husband can get time off work to do so, they’re sold. The others are not worth a trip at all, and how can I be sure whether they’re any good without going to see them? The ones I can be sure will make it across the Rockies safely are $50-120k. The top end of that is more than the remaining mortgage on my home. If I can’t afford to pay my house off or buy a new car, I definitely can’t afford them. I can’t afford to rent, at $170/day, plus (most often) kilometers, of which they usually only allow about 200 per day.
My sister was planning to wait so she could visit at the same time as I do, but my grandfather’s situation is grim enough that she’s going now. I’m being stubborn. I’m refusing to lose all hope. I feel like if I can’t make this work that I won’t ever make any travel work, and I refuse to be confined by my allergies. I refuse to have my family stolen away from me by my allergies, but don’t know how to make this better. I feel trapped. I feel despair. This is not okay. I can’t accept it, but I can’t figure out a way around it.
This is Friday’s post, early. I will return on Monday.