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Our First Family Vacation: Snoqualmie Falls, WA.

It took us nearly two-and-a-half years after Malachi was born before we felt comfortable venturing out for a family getaway.


This was in May 2020, and we were living in our little, high-rise apartment in downtown Auburn, Washington, just south of Seattle. Ten months earlier, Malachi and I had abruptly abandoned our home, 2.5 hours east of Auburn in central Washington, after a major medical emergency proved that we needed to be closer to his care team at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Jason had accepted a new job and finally made the move to join us in January 2020. By May, the world was deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, and we had been fully isolated for over two months. We were afraid to even leave our apartment unit to pass through the shared hallways and elevator of our building.


Still, we realized that we needed to continue to live life as it was at that moment. We needed to be incredibly safe in doing so, and we were then and continue to remain cautious of respiratory illness to this day. But it had also become clear that we desperately needed to establish our “new normal” — our new normal as family caregivers of a child with complex medical needs, who also want to explore the world and follow our dreams; our new normal as new residents in a new city; and our new normal as a high-risk family trying to survive a once-in-a-lifetime, global health disaster.


After 2.5 years, Malachi’s health was as stable as ever, and we decided to plan a weekend trip to Snoqualmie Falls, Washington.


Our first family vacay! We settled on Snoqualmie Falls as our inaugural excursion into the world of recreational travel as a medical caregiving family precisely because it felt less like an “excursion” and more like a toe-dip into the outside world.


Snoqualmie Falls is absolutely beautiful, by the way! Proximity was also a key factor for us at that time. The city of Snoqualmie is less than 30 miles from where we were living — far enough to feel like a getaway, but close enough for a very quick return-trip if we forgot to pack something important. (And we did!) It was also close enough for Malachi’s night nurse to meet up with us later that evening before bed. (We suspended home nursing about six months later as the pandemic risk of exposure increased. Jason and I covered the next 18 months of night care for Malachi.) The actual Falls is an obvious draw to the area, of course, and there is a very nice, resort hotel built directly adjacent to and overlooking the public viewing platforms.


We were equal parts excited and anxious for our trip.


 

Overnight travel with Malachi, or — I assume — anyone who requires a good deal of medical equipment and care, can be overwhelming. There is a lot that you must remember to bring with you. So much of what you must pack is essential for care and many items are difficult, if not impossible, to replace at your destination. These are specialized items covered by health insurance and shipped to you by medical suppliers. There are A LOT of these items, and it takes a great amount of effort to Tetris pack and unpack the multitude of bags and boxes that accompany you on your travels.


Travel is also more difficult from a caregiving standpoint. Emergencies that happen on the road (especially while driving) are significantly more challenging to address than in the comfort of your home environment where you have the equipment you need already set up and ready to go. Caregiving while traveling requires a level of adaptability and quick-thinking that isn’t required in a home environment with familiar systems and supports in place. By necessity, travel forces caregivers to adopt strategies that feel like battlefield-medicine under fire compared to the otherwise structured care on which they grow over time to depend.


We had traveled a few times before that first weekend getaway. We weren’t total newbies! However, every prior trip had been for medical care. It was necessary travel, which justified in our minds all of the effort that was required to coordinate overnight stays. We had to do it for medical reasons.


Elective travel for the sake of recreation is a completely different situation. It is not necessary in the same way as travelling for medical care. There is no external driver pushing you to pursue the process of travel. You must want to undertake the work of travel preparation. You must believe that the benefit of travel outweighs the discomfort involved in caregiving on-the-go. And you must feel ready to address any unexpected outcomes or needs that present themselves.


It is a big step to reach the point where you want to travel and where you begin to prioritize traveling as a caregiving family.


By May 2020, we had reached that point.


 

The city of Snoqualmie is located on land that has been occupied for many thousands of years by the Snoqualmie Tribe. Snoqualmie Falls is a 268-foot waterfall and one of the most popular scenic attractions in Washington, welcoming over 1.5 million visitors each year. It is a U.S. National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) site based on its cultural and historical significance to the Snoqualmie people.


Visitors to the area can explore the city of Snoqualmie’s historic downtown, enjoy breathtaking views of Snoqualmie Falls from a nearby observation deck, and stay at the luxury resort Salish Lodge & Spa, owned and operated by the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe.


 

That first trip to Snoqualmie Falls changed our lives.


The trip itself was fun. It was memorable, and we had a great time. But, more importantly than the trip itself was the meaning behind it. By making the decision to begin traveling, we proved to ourselves that caregiving and medical needs cannot, and should not, hold us back. We proved to ourselves that we could travel, that we could explore the world. The trip opened our minds to the idea that we could do anything we wanted to do, if we approach it with a sense of creative problem solving and flexibility.


That is exactly what we do now.


And we have been traveling all along.




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