Guilty Or Not Guilty? Is That The Question?

Filed Under (Travel) by Estee on 02-02-2012

As I begin to come out of my jet-lagged delirium from my thirty hour flight from Sri Lanka, I can talk more about my trip. I realized that yesterday when I was answering a friend’s questions about it. As I talk, the thoughts crystallize. It is only now that I’m beginning to realize that I was on the other half of the world; only now that I realize how much I miss it and want to see more.

“You can do it again,” said my friend, shifting her briefcase from one hand to the other at the doorway. I am sitting waiting for Adam to finish his O.T. session. She is also an occupational therapist who worked with Adam for several years, but I regard her as a friend since I’ve known her for so long. I suddenly felt a quiver inside my belly, a sick feeling. I realized, as I heard Adam laughing in the next room, that I longed to go back as much as I long to hear that laughter. When I travel, I long to be back with Adam. Later at home, I found myself googling “mother’s guilt over taking vacations.”

I’m pretty good at dealing with mother-guilt, that is, I can put things in perspective. Adam’s father and I discussed Adam going to Disney with him to break up the time I was going to be away. On the one hand, I was a bit sad that I wasn’t able to see Adam’s reactions to his first visit, yet on the other, I did not want to deprive Adam of the opportunity. I have to be honest — it, in part, appeased my guilt and anxiety over leaving him. While I was away, I was so happy to see beaming pictures of Adam there. Apparently Adam had some difficulty adjusting to the hotel room, but he loved the rides. It is but one of the issues arising from moving houses especially since the divorce — Adam’s issues with his environments really started at this time.

While at a place called Ulpotha in Sri Lanka, there were two European children running around. They had arrived after a visit to Israel, where their mother was from. Ulpotha is a yoga retreat in the jungle run by the villagers. The parents were hired to manage the guests for six weeks (Ulpotha is only open to the public for a small part of the year). I watched the children play freely, despite the poisonous snakes and other creatures. They were having a ball and socialized with the guests. I had wished and wondered about whether Adam could make the trip. What would living with monkeys and villagers who take care of this self-sustaining village be able to provide for him, I thought?

I can’t say that I wasn’t having some “the rice patty is greener on the other side” moments. What would getting away from the pressures and superficialities of Western life teach Adam? What would cultivating food and housing and belonging to a community provide for us? I kept thinking of the isolated box we live in back home, and how neighbours rarely talk to each other, and felt dismayed. What kind of community do we really have, I ask myself as an adult who in part continues to perpetuate the kind of city I live in. While we have our conveniences, I believe all of us feel this lack. I kept wondering about my own ability to live in such circumstances and felt in awe of Rupert Isaccson, the author of Horseboy, who traveled all the way to Mongolia with his autistic son, Rowan.

I did have moments of longing for Adam more when I saw the children, as much as I knew that I deserved and needed my time away. When one of the parent’s asked why I didn’t bring Adam, I didn’t want to get into a lengthy explanation about parent schedules or how such a short trip would make it difficult to travel with him as an autistic person. Traveling across the globe with him would require more practice on longer flights, breaking up the journey and longer stays in each location. The diet is different too, so it would take a lot of preparation.

So I guess there a are a couple of issues here: imagining some future travel with Adam in order to expand our experience, and feeling guilty or even guilty for not feeling guilty. Perhaps there are so many lessons for me to learn for myself and the way I live, and in my efforts to create a meaninful life with Adam.

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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.