Nova Scotia family planning around-the-world trip before children lose eyesight

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By Heather

Travel & Tech Writer

Nova Scotia family embarking on around-the-world trip before children lose eyesight

‘We want them to see and experience as much as possible’

Exploring the world is something Victoria and Andrew always wanted to do with their three children, but they never imagined they’d spend six months on the road seeing it all at once.

A few years ago, their sons were diagnosed with choroideremia – a rare, hereditary, and incurable eye disease that causes blindness in males.

Victoria’s grandfather was blind, but she never knew it was potentially hereditary until her optometrist noticed abnormalities in her retinas and sent her for testing. 

Once it was confirmed that Victoria was affected by her grandfather’s disease, she and Andrew had their sons tested and found out the “devastating” news that 12-year-old Felix and 10-year-old Atticus have both inherited choroideremia. Their younger sister, Talia, remains unaffected.

“I can’t control the outcome of the diagnosis, but I can control what I do with that information,” says Victoria. “Right now, that means trying to live as in the moment as we can, and we want the boys to see and experience as much as possible.”

‘This will be a huge adventure’

Victoria and Andrew began planning how they could squeeze a trip in every 2-3 years – limiting adventures to summer vacations, and spacing things out so they could juggle PTO.

But the pandemic had significantly limited travel for more than three years, and they realized there’s no way of knowing something similar won’t happen again.

“We saw how Covid impacted our ability to be nimble and how plans can just fall apart in an instant,” says Victoria. “I kept thinking about how precious time is, and just pitched it to Andrew one day. ‘What if instead of doing it piecemeal, we dropped everything, pulled the kids out of school, and took a trip around the world to see everything at once?’”

Andrew agreed immediately. The boys were already starting to see some effects of vision loss, it was important to show them the sights before their eyes deteriorated further and they wouldn’t get the full effect.

Victoria and Andrew kept their travel plans secret for a while, and finally sat down all three kids to make the big announcement. 

“We talked about choroideremia and the vision loss the boys will experience as they grow older, and we told them we decided to take them around the world so they can see everything they’ve ever wanted to see.“

The kids were shocked, but it only took a few minutes to get excited as the news sunk in.

“This will be a huge adventure for them! We’ve been taking out library books about different countries, and doing little projects to research where we want to go, what we want to eat, what animals we want to see – all of it,” says Victoria. “It’s really helped them develop their imaginations.”

The plan is to travel around the world for at least six months, possibly as long as eight or nine months. The Nova Scotia family will leave Canada in December or January and return no later than August, so Felix, Atticus, and Talia will be back in time for the next school year.

First up: The trial run

As their ‘wish list’ of destinations grew longer and longer, they kept running into an outlier: Costa Rica.

It wasn’t going to be easy to add it to the itinerary, since it isn’t close to any of the other countries they’ll be visiting, but they couldn’t skip it since it was Atticus’s top pick.

The solution? Visit Costa Rica over March Break as a ‘trial run’ for the big around-the-world trip.

Along with exploring volcanoes, meeting sloths, and tromping through jungles, it will give the family of five a chance to test out how they’ll fit into different-sized hotel rooms, how lightly they can pack the essentials, and if they can get away with carry-on luggage only.

They’ll also be testing a brand-new way to use their phones on vacation: downloadable SIM cards from aloSIM.

They’ll install Costa Rica eSIMs before leaving Canada, and use them for local prepaid data during their March Break adventure. It will be good practice for their around-the-world trip, where they’ll install local eSIMs for different countries and regions before moving onto the next destination.

“It feels like a huge relief to know that we’ll land, and we’ll immediately have mobile data,” says Victoria. “It’s going to eliminate the stress of landing in a new place and not being able to order an Uber, or get driving directions, or find a restaurant that’s open, or connect with the hotel shuttle.”

Victoria and Andrew will also have free phone numbers from Hushed, aloSIM’s sister app, so they’ll be able to make international calls during the Costa Rica trip as well as the around-the-world trip. 

“When I’ve travelled out of Canada in the past, I’ve used a plan through my carrier and paid $15 or $20 a day. I didn’t know there was another option.“

“We’re excited to try using aloSIM eSIMs and Hushed phone numbers to help with day-to-day travelling, and also help us maintain those connections with everyone back home,” adds Victoria.

Making ‘visual memories’ for the boys

The boys’ retinas show signs of choroideremia already, but time is on their side and the family is hopeful there will someday be a treatment to prevent the disease from progressing. 

While their around-the-world trip itinerary isn’t finalized yet, Victoria says the plan is to visit Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Bali, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Dubai, South Africa, Namibia, France, and Norway before returning home to Canada.

“We’re a really ‘busy’ family, so we’ll be doing a lot of activities – hikes, zip-lining, river rafting, caving, hopefully a safari. We’re up for pretty much any adventure that our kids are at the right ages and stages for.”

While they’re travelling, Victoria and Andrew will homeschool all three kids – but they’ll also get a ton of ‘real life’ history and geography lessons. In every country they visit, the family plans to seek out new cultural experiences, learn a few phrases in different languages, and try local dishes. 

“We’ll get to see so much, and I hope these visual memories will stay with the boys for a really long time.”

Absorbing the light

Taking an around-the-world trip isn’t cheap, especially when it’s for a family of five. 

While the family never intended to seek out sponsors for the trip, they currently have aloSIM providing data and Hushed providing international phone numbers. Companies interested in connecting with them are welcome to submit inquiries below, and all information will be passed along to Victoria and Andrew. 

Victoria and Andrew plan to travel between (and within) countries using flights, rental cars, buses, taxis, and boats for transportation, and for accommodations, they will use a mixture of traditional hotels, AirBNB rentals, and potentially a motorhome for a week or two. 

Victoria and Andrew will both be taking a leave of absence from their jobs, and are grateful their employers have been “amazingly supportive” about the family’s upcoming adventure.

If you’re eager to follow the family on their exciting journey, they’re already documenting their preparations over on Instagram, as well as raising awareness about choroideremia. 

Victoria decided to name their travel Instagram account ‘Absorb the Light’ (@absorb.the.light) since the choroid is the part of the eye that absorbs light – and the part of the eye that is starting to affect her sons’ vision.

“It’s a wish and a hope that my kids can absorb some light in their own lives as they grow and learn to navigate the challenges they’ll probably face,” Victoria captioned a recent Instagram post. “Having choroideremia is one of those challenges – but it won’t be the only one.”

This Nova Scotia family is preparing for the adventure of a lifetime. If you or your business would like to support them, they encourage you to make a donation to the Choroideremia Research Foundation Canada.

If you or your business would like to contact them directly about their travels, please provide details below and aloSIM will pass the information along to the family.