For the past year, I have been writing blogs here about some of the lessons in my life that I have learned such as creating and enforcing my own boundaries, embracing my autism, and making friends (and realizing that they aren’t always forever). There is something very important about these pieces of writing, as they are previews to my next book that I am currently writing! 🎉
I started writing another book about my life as an autistic person. This one’s a bit different from my memoir, as I am giving advice through relevant stories and lessons I’ve learned from my life rather than a book that has memories going from oldest to most recent.
I’m looking forward to completing it, though it will be a while before it’s done (a very long while). Stay tuned for more updates!
Finally! I’m posting a blog that isn’t a year after the previous one! In this blog, I want to talk about making friends and drifting apart from them.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to make and keep friends. While there are some added challenges that come with being autistic, being autistic also adds some spice to the experience, which I will expand upon as I write this.
When I was younger, I had a friend who I’ll call Ava. I met Ava at a summer learning camp and she seemed really nice. Ava and I were both nine at the time, and when I first met her, she seemed really nice.
One day, I forgot my snack. Ava knew that I was snackless, so she offered me a yogurt cup. That same week, she invited me to get Mexican food for lunch and to come to her house where we went swimming and played Minecraft. That same week, Ava and I became best friends and, for a long time, we would play and hang out together. It was really nice having a real friend who accepted me for who I was. At the time, I’d finished third grade, and in my class, there were some girls who were mean to me and pretended to be my friends. After going through that, it was refreshing to have someone who proudly called me her best friend and actually invited me to hang out with her. I learned from Ava what a real friend was and how a real friend should act. I learned that while real friends might make mistakes, they don’t put you down and make you feel bad for their own amusement. They don’t beg for your things and give almost nothing in return. With a real friend, it’s generally expected that if you pay for food while you’re out and about, they’ll pay for food next time, or something along those lines. No one feels used in a real friendship.
From Ava, I learned how to trust that people were my real friends. After I had fake friends, I had a hard time telling if someone was my real friend, and knowing if I could trust them enough to be myself around them. After hanging out with Ava, I learned that I could be myself without her judging me. My fake friends took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have many friends and that I had a tendency to trust people too much.
Ava introduced me to American Girl dolls, a game called Subway Surfers, Drumsticks ice cream treats, and the TV show Liv and Maddie. We found out that we had some stuff in common like how we both liked the Dork Diaries book series and played Minecraft. It was so nice to finally play Minecraft with someone who appreciated it as much as I did!
Ava was my first friend who I got to walk around town on my own with and go on a short trip without my parents coming along. For her birthday, I went with her family to Los Angeles and we went to the American Girl store. It was so cool getting to go on an overnight stay so far away from my parents, and it was fun picking out clothes for our dolls at the store, which was absolutely HUGE.
Ava and I remained close friends until about middle school. I noticed that Ava was leaving me on “read” and not replying to my text messages, though I noticed she was active on social media a lot. I also noticed that Ava and I were talking and hanging out less, even though we had considered each other best friends the year before.
Drifting apart from Ava was difficult, even though I already knew we weren’t as close as we once were in elementary school. I didn’t have any distaste towards her, or anything like that, but our lives were going in different directions, and I felt like there were some things I couldn’t talk about with her that I could talk about with my other friends. Drifting apart from friends can be difficult. It seemed like the end of the world to me, and it meant change. However, I learned that it’s a natural part of life.
You might want to blame your friend for drifting apart from you. Sometimes parents might blame the friend and accuse the friend of being “mean” if they don’t want to play or hang out with you anymore. However, that is counterproductive to moving on. It’s also too “black and white” and it doesn’t help you see any nuance. If you are autistic, the black and white idea that a person sucks because they drift apart from you can cause even more harm because it doesn’t offer any explanation or reasoning. It just makes you feel angry and creates resentment for other people who might not deserve it.
Sometimes you might want to hang on to that friendship and do everything in your power to keep it going. You might try to text the person and try to invite them to hang out with you, but if they don’t respond or express interest, it can make things awkward. If the conversation is dry and you don’t know how to bring it back, it’s a sign to move on. There is a difference between peaceful silence and awkward silence.
Oftentimes during adolescence, friends from childhood will drift apart. Their lives may go into different directions and they might not talk to each other as much, if at all. Sometimes you’ll find new friends in that new chapter in life. Being autistic can make that part of life harder because it means letting go of the past, and it means that things aren’t the same anymore. When you’re moving into a new chapter of life, it can be disheartening to realize that you won’t have that person by your side to move into that new chapter with you. It means that you’ll have to find new friends and start over with the whole making a friend process.
It sounds nice to have a friend from early childhood that you’ve stayed friends with and will stay friends with all through adulthood, but that’s a rare treat. Friendships aren’t always like that, but that doesn’t mean that there is any less value to those friendships or that they don’t matter.
The moral of this story is that close friendships are important, but they might not last forever, and that’s okay. When I was younger, I had a hard time accepting this, and I felt sad drifting apart from Ava. I couldn’t just magically be over drifting apart from Ava, as she was a big part of my life up until that point. Now, five years later, it feels fine, but it didn’t feel fine then. It’s okay for it not to feel fine and for you to feel sad through that transition. My advice is to just let friends drift away if your attempts to connect are not being reciprocated, but don’t be ashamed of feeling sad about it. Feeling things is very important, and you have to let yourself feel emotions so you can be all right in the long term.
My advice is to remember the good times with past friends, cherish the friends you have now, and embrace opportunities for new friendships in the future!
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged (I believe I said that last time). This is going to be a long post, so feel free to read it at your own pace or if you just need to skip to the suggestions for observing and celebrating Autism Acceptance Month this April, I won’t be offended.
Since I wrote last year, I got my driver’s license (cue “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo), traveled to Nova Scotia, and I’ve started the process of moving. I’m looking forward to moving, but it is a very time-consuming activity to prepare for moving day.
April is Autism Acceptance Month! Autism Acceptance month is an important month. Many people prefer Autism Acceptance over Autism Awareness, because awareness implies that autism is something that needs a cure. Meanwhile acceptance means that autism is a neurotype that needs understanding. It shows that autistic people are people who deserve understanding and acceptance just like everyone else.
It’s easy to be aware, but it takes work and challenging your internal biases to be accepting towards other people. It means looking at autism through a nuanced lens, understanding that autism is what makes a person who they are, that it can’t just magically go away without erasing a core part of people. On the other hand, we need to acknowledge that autism can be a disability for many people and attempting to reframe it as a “different ability” is harmful in its own way. Autism is considered a disability because we live in a word that was not built for us. While there are different cultures in different places, in a capitalist society like the United States, how much you can work is placed above the quality of life and people believe that your success in the workplace determines your value. If someone cannot work because socializing and communicating with people all day is too exhausting or there is too much sensory stimuli for them, then people don’t see their value. A lot of the ideas of success for people are rooted in capitalism and “traditional values” like getting a house, getting married, and having kids which may not be attainable for some people.
April can be a hard month for some autistic people because many organizations that speak on behalf of autistic people use pathologizing language and imply that autism needs a cure. When people put up their blue puzzle piece decorations, “light it up blue,” and imply that autism needs a cure, it can be very disappointing and a bit of a downer, to be honest. While I don’t think that people have malicious intent when they talk about the “rates of autism” or the “epidemic,” it’s heartbreaking to know that people demonize a core part of my existence just because it’s not convenient enough for them.
Autism Awareness Month feels performative to me because it’s all about the blue. There’s no shift in philosophy, and just telling someone to “be aware” doesn’t mean much. Adding blue decorations to your store for autism doesn’t mean much and it provides no benefit other than being aesthetically pleasing. It doesn’t directly benefit autistic people and it can alienate them at the same time.
If something is performative, it means that it’s ingenuine, inauthentic, and the motive behind doing something is to get the attention and approval of other people. The reason why I don’t like the “light it up blue movement” is because it is often associated with the notion that autism is a disease that needs to be cured, and it evokes a similar vibe to the notion that an autistic person needs to conform to neurotypical standards, even if it is emotionally or physically damaging. Some people say that blue for autism was also coined by a certain organization (I‘m not naming names here) because of the idea that autism is more prevalent in boys. Really, the issue is that autistic women and people assigned female at birth are diagnosed less because of the stereotypes created on how boys and girls are supposed to act and present their gender.
While this whole blog post could be me airing my grievances, I want to offer some advice. Some advice I have for autistic people struggling during April is to take breaks from social media or the news. It is important to be knowledgeable about current events, but not at the cost of your mental health. If you do want to be on social media, but you don’t want “autism awareness” ads or posts recommended to you, you can click “show less posts like this” or “not interested,” and you’ll get less posts like that recommended to you.
Avoid visiting websites that promote “cure culture” or demonize autism. I’ve come across some websites that have promoted negative views on autism and have left me feeling discouraged and dehumanized. While resilience is important, it is important to know when to leave situations where you feel uncomfortable or threatened.
Some advice that I have for people who want to observe and celebrate Autism Acceptance Month is:
Ask autistic people what accommodations they need in order for your store or school to be accessible to them. If you are an educator and you have a student who has a hard time focusing with the bright classroom lights, create a solution so they can learn and thrive just like everyone else in their classroom. Don’t belittle them because they’re autistic and have more challenges than their non-autistic and neurotypical peers.
It’s also important that you do your research on autism. Good resources on autism to find information about autism include The Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network and The Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Expand your library. Read and/or listen to books written by and about autistic people. When I was twelve, I wrote a book about my life growing up as an autistic person. It’s called Autism Over the Years: A Twelve Year-Old’s Memoir and you can order it from Amazon or from my website directly. In the book I use person-first language but since then, my way of referring to and understanding my autism has changed. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any validity to my stories that I share in my book, they still matter. I am currently reading Different Not Less: A neurodivergent’s guide to embracing your true self and finding your happily ever after, by Chloe Hayden, who is an autistic actress and activist.
If you want to host any events, use red to symbolize autism acceptance and use the rainbow infinity symbol to represent neurodiversity, and refrain from using the color blue and the puzzle piece. The puzzle piece was created because it symbolized that there was a “missing piece” to autistic children and that it was a “puzzling” condition. The logo was paired with a weeping child in front of the puzzle piece. The puzzle piece also feels patronizing because it implies that autism is just a children’s thing. I’m seventeen, and I’m still autistic, and I’m going to be autistic for the rest of my life. There are many autistic adults in the world and they need to be addressed as well.
Understand that you learn as you go in life and some of the things you learned before don’t apply to everyone or just don’t apply nowadays. Some people get offended when you tell them that many people prefer the word “autistic” over “person with autism.” Some people think that “autistic” is a bad word and many people prefer person-first language, but I prefer to say that I am autistic over saying that I am a “person with autism,” because my autism is a part of me – I was born autistic and I will live the rest of my life as autistic. Autism colors every experience that I have. If my autism was removed from me, I would not be the same person, and I am completely happy with who I am. Many other autistic people have a similar viewpoint and it irks some non-autistic people. I can imagine that it’s frustrating to learn that what you learned in higher education settings doesn’t apply nowadays or it isn’t applicable to everyone. However, language has to change over time and it’s important that it reflects everyone.
I hope this information and these suggestions help. I didn’t want this blog to be a downer, but I want to express my opinions and suggest ways to be more inclusive to autistic people of all ages.
Stay tuned for more blog posts!
If you live in or you are close to Ventura County, consider stopping by to listen to me present about autism!
Saturday, April 8th 2023, 11:00 AM, E.P. Foster Library| Ventura, CA
Saturday, April 15th 2023, 11:00 AM, Oxnard Public Library | Oxnard, CA
Saturday, April 22nd 2023, 11:00 AM, Oak View Library | Oak View, CA
I know, I know, it’s been a very long time since I posted. I’ve wanted to keep a consistent blog about traveling, but it just hasn’t worked out. A lot has changed since I first started writing this blog. I’m now sixteen, I’m learning how to drive, and I’m learning life skills that will be useful for when I’m an adult, one of those skills being how to set boundaries.
Boundaries are an important issue for everyone. When going about life, you have to set boundaries so you can protect yourself and feel secure. When someone crosses those boundaries, it can make you feel uncomfortable and in some cases, unsafe. Boundaries can be especially difficult for autistic people who have been taught how to act according to the norms of the world, even at the expense of their own well-being. Just like with non-autistic people, sometimes feeling a bit awkward in a social situation is inevitable. However, for many of us, it can be hard to gauge what is a reasonable boundary to set vs what is unreasonable.
Many autistic people have been taught how to blend in with the rest of society, which means staying in a space even when it is overwhelming, refraining from stimming, and maintaining eye contact. Oftentimes, autistic people have been taught from a young age to suppress their needs in order to fit in with societal norms in a world that wasn’t built for them, which can lead to becoming a people-pleaser. Growing up, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to advocate for yourself, especially if the situation is going to put you in danger, but sometimes it’s normal to experience discomfort for the sake of the group. For example, if you go on a long hike with a group and you step in a puddle and your shoe is wet, it would be unreasonable to make everyone else go back just so you can get a pair of shoes. However, if you get bit by a wild animal on a long hike and you are bleeding profusely, it would definitely be reasonable to make people go back so you can get help from a medical professional. So ask yourself- is the situation you are in a puddle or a wild animal bite?
I think that women and girls are often taught to be polite and to refrain from speaking up when they feel unsafe or find themselves in an unpleasant situation. While there is a cultural shift for women to be more assertive, many girls are taught from a young age that they have to be polite no matter what. For autistic women and girls, this can present a greater issue. Oftentimes, autistic young girls are taught to be accommodating to others and ignore their social needs. Too often, they are taught that other people can trample their boundaries and they have to be okay with it. Frequently, they aren’t taught how to manage unwanted social situations while still being decent or how to assert their needs. Even though my parents and teachers have tried to teach me how to advocate for myself, sometimes this is hard.
Setting boundaries has been something I’m working on. As an autistic girl, setting boundaries can be more difficult, but luckily the world gives me ample opportunities to practice. For a few months this year, I attended a social skills group that worked with autistic youth and young adults. In this social group I met a guy, let’s call him Peter. Peter was in college and he was four years older than me. He seemed nice and at the end of the group meeting, he asked for my Snapchat. I was unsure of what to make of it at the moment, but I gave it anyway, since I could end communication easier with a social media handle than a phone number.
We started texting over Snapchat that evening, I felt pretty good about it and it was fun that evening. However, I didn’t want to communicate with Peter long term. He seemed nice, but I wasn’t interested in pursuing any kind of friendship with him. He complimented me a lot, but it felt like he complimented me way too much. We did call once for about twenty minutes, but it was kind of awkward and I didn’t want to call him again.
I asked Mom for some advice on what to do and I let her look through the texts. She concluded that Peter did not seem to have malicious intent, but rather that he was socially awkward. She also said that I don’t have to be polite to people I don’t want to talk to, and that I should set communication boundaries. For example, I can find ways to decline talking to someone on the phone. Mom also said that I can let someone know if they are making me uncomfortable when they are being over effusive.
Later on, I ended online communication with Peter by texting something like “I might delete Snapchat since I don’t use it very much but I’ll see you at group.” This experience taught me about setting boundaries, that you don’t have to give your social media information to anyone and that you don’t have to be friends with everyone. Even though this experience was hard, I’m glad I stuck up for my time and didn’t fake a friendship.
I think that setting boundaries is very important, especially for autistic people. I think it’s important to stress that while people need to make social sacrifices, it is important to set boundaries so that you can maintain a level of comfort. Making small talk with people can be awkward (and pointless to some people), but it is also what’s expected. As you can see, it is essential to set and respect boundaries. In a society where people’s boundaries often aren’t respected, it can cause people to lose hope and give up on advocating for their needs. I hope that by reading this blog post, people can be more understanding about the issues many autistic people face and respect their boundaries. If you are a parent, make sure to teach your kids to advocate for themselves and support them when they set a reasonable boundary, such as not wanting to hug someone. Also, the next time you experience some discomfort, ask yourself: is it a puddle or a wild animal?
When a person hears the word autism, the first things they may think of are one of two stereotypes. One thing that may come to mind is the smart, quirky boy who is obsessed with trains but lacks empathy, emotions, and the ability to flirt. One may also think of a person who needs to live with a caregiver or requires more assistance and accommodations in life. Autism isn’t just one way, but rather a spectrum. However, there is more to this. Yes, many autistic people may need more support than a neurotypical and able-bodied person, and there are also many autistic people who don’t need very much support and are able to live in a society that caters to neurotypical people. Many autistic people dislike functioning labels (i.e., low functioning, high functioning) and see the autism spectrum as a color wheel rather than as a linear function.
WHAT IS AUTISM?
If you’re unfamiliar with what autism is, it is a developmental disorder that shapes the way one thinks, acts, learns, communicates, socializes, and perceives the world. Autistic people can have difficulty with socializing, processing sensory information, and communicating. Autistic people can speak early, late, or not at all, and things such as reading social cues, understanding sarcasm, showing emotions, and understanding intentions can also be challenging for them.
I was diagnosed with autism when I was two-and-a-half years old and spoke much later than other children around me. I was fortunate to get diagnosed at an early age because it allowed me to get the intervention and support I needed. Unfortunately, most autistic girls tend to be diagnosed later in life. I think that this is because of stereotypes created about autism and gender roles in society. In our society, boys are often conditioned to be vocal and rowdy, while girls are often conditioned to be quiet and polite. If a boy’s speech is delayed, it’s often considered a problem sooner. However, if a girl’s speech is delayed, it doesn’t necessarily raise concern because people expect girls to be more quiet and shy.
The autistic community is a diverse community. There are autistic people who identify as part of the LGBT+ community, autistic people of color, and people who come from many different backgrounds. Many forms of media such as what you see on television and what you read about don’t really take this into account. When I want to see a TV show about autism, I want to be able to see diversity in who is represented. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an autistic person of color in a show and I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve ever seen an autistic woman or an autistic person who is part of the LGBT+ community portrayed in the media.
TRAITS OF AUTISM
Autistic people can get really into specific topics. The autistic community refers to these topics as “special interests.” A special interest is an intense interest in a topic. Interests can be really narrow, anything from reptiles to a specific movie or TV show. It looks like obsessions to non-autistic people, but these special interests can help autistic people cope.
Something that is usually hard for autistic people is taking perspective and predicting social reactions. For example, understanding intentions can be very hard for autistic people and this can make socializing very difficult.
It’s also common for autistic people to have trouble with sensory processing. People with Sensory Processing Disorder may be very active, or may dislike certain textures, foods, tastes, smells, or may prefer their clothing to be made of a certain fabric.
Some autistic people engage in self-soothing behavior, also known as stimming. Examples of stimming include flapping one’s hands, rocking, humming, and many others. Autistic people are also known to repeat words and phrases and perseverate on specific topics, often in line with their special interests. Stimming and repetition can help autistic people regulate their emotions and stress, calm down, and manage sensory input.
SHARING MY STORY
When I was twelve, I wrote, illustrated, and self published a book. My book, Autism Over The Years: A Twelve Year Old’s Memoir, is about growing up as an autistic person. It is available on Amazon and on my website, micaelaellis.com. In my memoir, I wrote about how activities such as playing and communicating with other kids were hard for me. I also included memories of behavior that people probably thought was weird, but in my perspective, totally made sense! As I share with readers in the closing pages of my book:
“I wrote this memoir because I want to show people how I see the world, as a person with autism. I want to explain how my life has been different from many other people’s lives, and how certain thoughts and ideas came into my mind that other people did not understand. I want to share why I did things that seemed strange to others… I want to put an end to the idea that autism is a disease that needs a ‘cure.’ I want to put an end to autism being a taboo subject.”
After publishing my book, I started presenting about autism to parents, professionals, kids and teens, graduate students, and school administrators. I’ve had many wonderful opportunities to give presentations and to do magazine and radio interviews.
Since April is designated as Autism Awareness Month, many members of the autistic community and allies are working to change it to Autism Acceptance Month. A lot of autistic activists don’t like the idea of “awareness” as it has connotations with the idea of autism being a disease that needs to be cured, when in reality, it’s not. It’s a core part of who I am and if someone ever gave me the option of a cure for autism, I wouldn’t accept it.
Although there are some challenges with autism, and it’s considered a disability, I still think autism is a great part of who I am. I’m proud to be autistic and to be part of a community where we share the same struggles and have some of the same strengths.
So I said I would write every week. Not! So recently, I’ve been pretty busy, and the free time I’ve had was spent pretty much doing nothing/watching Netflix/reading. Every night, my family’s been watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, and we’re on Season 3 currently.
In Costa Rica we stayed in a turquoise house, Casa Turquesa, in the jungle. We stayed near a beach town, Manzanillo, where there are lots of people and vendors selling handmade items.
When we left the San José airport in Costa Rica after our arrival (this was about five weeks ago), we stopped at a soda and we were getting food. Since the man at the counter didn’t speak English, Mom and Dad were making animal sounds to identify what they wanted. The man at the counter was explaining a pork dish in Spanish and since I forgot the word for “pig” in English (when I’m thinking in one language, I really can’t think of other languages, otherwise I’m just confusing myself), so I snorted, trying to explain what “puerco” was in English. So my explanation turned into Mom and Dad trying to order their food by making animal sounds.
We spent six nights in Costa Rica, and as we stayed there, we saw sloths, bats, raccoons, leaf cutter ants, howler monkeys (they sounded more like lions according to Mom), and smaller monkeys.
So our first full day there, after a good night’s rest, we went to Puerto Viejo, and there, we had breakfast at De Gustibus Bakery (at 2 p.m. ????).
After breakfast (or lunch?), we walked around Puerto Viejo, and we saw many things. We stopped at the beach and waded in the ocean a bit, and the water felt amazing on such a hot day!
I noticed how Puerto Viejo had been influenced by America. Many stores and shops in Costa Rica take US dollars, and that there’s a lot of American “food” (Lays Chips, Planters peanuts, Skippy peanut butter, you name it and there’s a 50 percent chance it was there) in the Supermercado we went to later that day. I said that America colonized grocery stores.
Besides finding all that, I found these super cool popsicles that are all natural; they use plastic-free packaging, and they still have some of the natural fruit pieces. I got a Mango one and it had those little stringy mango bits in it (am I making sense?).
The next day, we went to the local beach, Punta Uva after spending a late morning at the house. The water was too dangerous to go swimming for a long time, but Dad and I swam a bit (I think Mom got scared after a while).
At the beach, there were people selling empanadas, pastries, and Argentinian churros. We didn’t end up buying any though.
Later, we headed back to have a relaxing evening at the house. I spent some time doing schoolwork, and think maybe I tried making a blog post.
The next day, I got pretty sick. I had some sort of stomach bug, and I spent the day lounging around the house and getting sick. Pretty much what I did that day was try to hold food down, read, and watch Riverdale (don’t worry I’m not going to give any spoilers).
That night, when I felt better, Mom, Daisy, and I watched Gilmore Girls on my phone.
The next day, we went to the Gandoca Manzanillo Refuge, where we saw monkeys in the trees. We turned back after a while (half an hour?) because the rest of the trail was “dangerously slick and muddy,” as Mom said. It was pretty muddy! Besides that, the trail was very beautiful! We walked back so we could drive to town.
For dinner, we went to a Caribbean style restaurant called Mr. Maxie’s in Manzanillo. We had Caribbean dishes for dinner and outside, it was raining.
On our last full day in Costa Rica, we drove 45 minutes in the northerly direction (it was Dad driving, but I wish I was behind the wheel personally) to Cahuita National Park. There, we saw sights of bats, monkey families, sloths, raccoons, and leaf-cutter ants! We said it was like we were in a nature documentary. Daisy had her spyglass that I got her for her birthday, and she used it to get a better look of the monkeys.
We waded in the ocean there a bit, but since there was debris and the waves were rough, we didn’t swim for a long time.
Later, we went to the ice cream shop in the town of Cahuita and I got mango sorbet (mango sorbet is one of my favorites), and we walked around Cahuita. It was warm out, yet it felt good. We noticed that there were a lot of stray dogs in Cahuita, and Daisy thought every one of them was cute.
Later, we headed back to Puerto Viejo and we spent a bit of time at the beach. A man was selling Argentinian churros, and of course, I couldn’t resist. We were all hungry from the day’s adventures, so I got some churros. We waded into the ocean a bit; we couldn’t really go swimming because we had to get to the car soon so we could go back to the house.
That night, we enjoyed our last dinner in Costa Rica and we packed our things for the next day. The next morning, we would have to leave at 5:30 am, since San José was five hours away from the house.
The next morning, we woke up at 4:45 a.m. and we packed up our stuff and went to the car. Dad drove for a while and he got coffee at a soda and he gave me a sip (I didn’t want a whole coffee).
We finally got to the airport after five hours of driving and after getting our stuff done, we got on the plane to Guatemala!
We’re now in Costa Rica again after five weeks, but I’m trying to catch you up here.
So a few weeks ago, my family got back from traveling around the US and Canada, and in a while, we’re getting on a plane for a late night flight to Costa Rica and a four-hour layover in Mexico City (the plan already sounds tiring).
For the next six weeks, I’ll be traveling around Central and South America with my family. I’ll also try to post more often.
As I travel around Central and South America, I’ll be studying the history of chocolate, the growing process and science, and how it’s incorporated into many cultures. I’ll also study the child labor that many big chocolate companies try to cover up.
I’m also planning to make a presentation for an international school in Guatemala. I’m looking forward to presenting at the school and being able to say that I did presentations outside of my country.
Right now I’m at LAX so I’ll try to write about the beginnings of my trip soon!
P.S. I prepared for a long flight. I brought peanut butter cups, Sea Salt and Vinegar chips (thanks to my grandpa), and some gum. I also bought myself a music album and downloaded some movies.
I haven’t written for a while so I’m going to catch you up on what happened. I’m not able to fill you in completely, since that would be a lot of writing, but I’ll tell you what’s been happening recently. First, I turned fourteen on September 21! Also, I crossed into Canada and I stayed in Canada for two weeks!
So on October 14, we crossed the border from Michigan into Ontario, Canada! In Ontario, we went to Niagara Falls (the Canadian side), and we visited a town called Niagara on the Lake because Dad wanted to go to Strewn Winery. At Strewn Winery I got some dark chocolate, since I’m too young to get wine. Mom and Dad were going to buy me some chocolate, but they said I’d have to share it. So, I bought my own so that nobody else could have any.
After Niagara, we went into the province of Quebec and we explored Montreal! There, we went to a museum where we learned about French colonization and the beginning of Montreal. In Montreal, we also went to a restaurant where we had lunch and Mom got me a cookie that looked like a giant Oreo.
In Quebec, all of the street sighs are in French in order to keep the French culture and influence dominant there. Also, in Quebec, a lot of people speak French as their first language, and English as their second.
After Montreal, we stayed a night in a motel in Quebec City. The next day, we FaceTimed the class from Old Town Quebec City. We told them about the culture in Quebec and about the French influence there. After FaceTiming the class, we went to a restaurant where I had a savory salmon crepe for breakfast and a side of poutine.
At the restaurant, the bathrooms were in the basement, and there was graffiti on every wall, but the graffiti made it look cool. And the sink was a bathtub with water spouts from above for your hands.
After Quebec, we went to New Brunswick and we stayed in the Kouchibouguac National Park for three nights. In Kouchibouguac, we explored near the lagoon, biked, and saw the bogs. The bogs were very interesting; there are carnivorous plants that eat insects such as mosquitoes.
Our dinner on the last night was tacos and quesadillas, and that night, I think I lost the chocolate from Strewn Winery that night because right now, I can’t find it. 🙁
Besides losing my chocolate piece, that night, dinner was nice. I enjoyed my dinner, and afterwards, Daisy and I went stargazing.
When we went back to the camp, Daisy and I went to the fort we had built near our campsite. It was night, and we took some Luci-Lanterns and lit up our fort we had made with branches and a tree. We stayed there for a bit until Daisy got scared.
The next morning, we packed up and headed to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In Nova Scotia, there’s a small store called Farmer’s Daughter. There, I purchased a banana bread made with chocolate chips. Of course Daisywanted some, so I gave her a bite on the way to camp. We would’ve had more, but Mom told us not to have anymore, since we were going to have dinner at our campsite.
When we got to camp, Daisy and I helped Mom and Dad set up, and since we didn’t have any firewood, I helped Dad by gathering branches to heat the chili we got from Farmers Daughter. At dinner, we had chili with biscuits. The biscuits were amazing, they had cheese and other things, and I’d say they were some of the best biscuits I’ve had.
The next day, it was very windy. The staff at the visitor center said the winds were going to reach as high as 50 miles per hour, but our trailer was probably going to be fine.
That day, we did a nice drive on the Cabot Trail. It was really beautiful, and the color of the ocean was so lovely. The ocean was dark blue, and the ride was amazing.
After we did our drive, we went on a walk near the ocean. It was my first time in years seeing the Atlantic Ocean, since I haven’t been on the Atlantic Coast since I was a baby. The walk was nice, even though it was cold.
After our walk, we had lunch at a sheltered picnic spot, and we had sandwiches while the wind blew outside.
On the drive back, I was allowed to read my book that I downloaded on iBooks, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. If you love cheesy teen novels, as Mom calls them, you’ll love the book. I’d say it’s way better than the movie, but I’m sure there are people out there who say the movie is better.
Later that day, we had dinner at a sheltered picnic place and we had a strange combination of an Asian-Mediterranean dinner. We had an appetizer of Kalamata olives and Parmesan cheese. For dinner we had noodles with soy sauce with roasted vegetables. It was salty, but delicious and warming.
After dinner, we went back to camp, fighting strong winds. We immediately got bundled up and we went to bed.
The next day, we had a relaxing morning at camp, and that afternoon, we hiked up part of a five-mile loop. It was super pretty, and Daisy was obsessed with picking up acorn caps, since she can use them as whistles.
When we got to the viewpoint, we had snacks and I had bell pepper and pistachios. I like to use the bell pepper as a bowl and put the pistachios inside.
Later, Mom, Daisy, and I relaxed in the trailer, and I read for my Language Arts class. I bundled up in Mom and Dad’s bed (I think Daisy took up our whole bed that day), and Dad went out to get pizza. For dinner, we had pizza; Daisy and I had a veggie pizza, while Mom and Dad had a seafood pizza.
The next day, we left Cape Breton and headed for Lunenburg, a small town in Nova Scotia. It was super beautiful, and we stayed at an airbnb called the Ahoy Matey. The house was very nice and homey, and we stayed there for five nights.
For our first night in Lunenburg, we went to a place called The Knot Pub, and their food was delicious! For dessert there, I had an ice cream sundae (it’s been years since I’ve had an ice cream sundae).
That evening, we walked around Lunenburg and we walked to a beautifully lit gazebo. Daisy loved the gazebo. I think she felt like a princess while she was there.
The next morning, Daisy and I had cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, and as usual, we didn’t leave until late morning to noon. Our morning was spent touring Lunenburg, with Mom and Dad showing us the places they had visited in the past.
That afternoon, we went to a store called The Atlantic Superstore. The Atlantic Superstore is pretty cool. We got the stuff we needed, but once we got to the frozen food/dessert section, We went all out. We got a box of sixteen Eggo Waffles. We got so many, Eleven would be jealous (Stranger Things reference)! We also got three flavors of ice cream! We usually never get that many; two is the maximum we usually get.
The next few days, we explored places around Lunenburg. We went on different bike paths and Dad, Daisy, and I also explored a couple of museums in Lunenburg. One of them was called the Fisheries Museum, and the other was a museum about the railroads and trains around Nova Scotia.
The Fisheries Museum had different sea creature exhibits and there. We saw a blue lobster. I didn’t know that lobsters can be blue, so I thought it was super cool to see.
Next, we went to the Halifax & Southwestern Railway Museum. I loved how engaging the man who ran the museum was (Daisy, Dad, and I were the only visitors at that time). They have a model of the railways built with LEGO pieces and some other things. It was so cool!
At the end of the museum trip, Daisy and I looked around the little gift section. Daisy found a pin to add to her pin collection, and I found a pair of beautiful earrings. They had porcupine quills and light blue beads. They were made by the man’s wife, who is Mi’kmaw. His wife makes authentic Mi’kmaq jewelry and she hand makes it with high quality products.
The items were about twenty-five dollars together, but since his wife made them and all, he gave me a discount on the pin and earrings. Dad didn’t have cash and I only had $10, so he only charged ten dollars, and of course, I thanked him very much.
The last day we were in Nova Scotia, we went to the Kejimkujik National Park. That day we went biking! One of the bike paths we went on had a great view of the lake!
The bike ride that day was really nice, and later for lunch, we had a picnic near the lake where Daisy and I looked for small fish.
That night, I sadly packed my clothes into my suitcase, and my family and I played a couple last rounds of Dog Pound (a game that was at the house).
The next morning, we packed up, and I finished the ice cream Daisy picked out (she didn’t like hers), and because Dad wanted me to “burn off that ice cream,” I took a walk to the water to take a last look at Lunenburg. I was sad to leave such a beautiful place.
Mom, Dad, and Daisy came by in the truck, and we drove to Peggy’s Cove where there is a beautiful lighthouse. The logo of Mom’s business is based off of the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse.
Since I really wanted to try maple taffy, we decided to go to the Bubba Magoo’s candy store after going to see the lighthouse. At Bubba Magoo’s, there was lots of different candies and gifts, so I decided on some maple candies and maple taffy. Daisy decided on some cherry candies, and Mom got some chocolate fudge and maple fudge. I was so happy!
Later, we came to New Brunswick and we had dinner at the Hilltop Grill. The atmosphere was cool, but the waitress seemed very annoyed that we accidentally spilled a cup of water on the table and floor. Dad says that the people of New Brunswick aren’t as nice as the people of Nova Scotia.
After dinner, we stopped at Tim Horton’s so we could take Timbits across the border into the United States. Timbits are like donut holes, but they’re called Timbits at Tim Hortons. I got a Kit Kat donut with caramel, they didn’t have my favorite flavor, Canadian Maple.
We drove for about an hour until we reached the border. They let us through, and I took out the box of Timbits. I was sad to go.
My two weeks in Canada were the best two weeks of my life. I loved meeting different people, trying new things, and seeing the different cultures.
Mom says it sounds like I’m a junk food glutton with all the desserts and sweets I mentioned, and that she and Dad sound like bad parents for letting me eat so many sweets. But I made sure not to eat too much junk food in a day. When I bought Justin’s peanut butter cups one day at the store this month, Mom said I cannot buy anymore junk food for this month. So don’t worry, she and Dad are being good parents and not letting me buy too many sweets.
To see the full story of what happened between the California Redwoods and Canada, read Mom’s travel journal at lighthouseworldschool.com.
Last Friday, September 6th, our family left for our travels! Our house is all packed up, and we are currently at a KOA campsite with our trailer near the Redwood Forest.
So the day after we left, we went to San Francisco and one of Mom’s childhood friends, James, showed us around San Francisco and we went to the Dandelion Chocolate store. I saw how their chocolate was made, and I even sampled some!
Then after that, we went to Mendocino, where we stayed at a KOA campsite for two nights. For our day in Mendocino, we ate lunch at a coffee shop where I had a mocha with hemp milk. I really wanted to try it with hemp milk, since I’ve never had it before. After our lunch, we explored the town of Mendocino, and we went back to our campsite. At that time, Daisy and I decided to explore the KOA in Mendocino. We enjoyed exploring, and after our exploration, we made pasta for dinner. That was our second night there.
After staying at the KOA in Mendocino, we spent a night at the Jedediah State park in the Redwoods; and because we couldn’t stay another night there, we’re currently spending three nights at a KOA near the Redwoods. Here, they have the best game room and it’s pretty much the best KOA I’ve stayed at in my life.
Now, I’m about to go on a cruise to Alaska and I’m super excited!
Hello, Neurotypicals and fellow Spectrumites! My name is Micaela Ellis and this is my blog! In this blog, I will share my experiences as I travel around the world with my family. During our travels, we will homeschool and also connect with people all over the world who are affected by autism. I will try to post weekly during my travels. I can’t promise to post too often because I am extremely ADHD (for real) and I also don’t want to bore people with too many posts.
In preparation for our travels, we are cleaning out our house. This can be kinda hard for me because I am conscious about our environment, and I don’t want to throw away things that can be recycled. Environmental activism is a special interest of mine (one of my autie “fixations”), so I get stressed out when my mom or dad tells me to throw something away, like a piece of fabric, that could be recycled. This is causing some arguments in our house. At this very moment, we are having a disagreement about the fast fashion industry and the waste it produces. When I have to throw things away, I remind myself that this is a lesson I am learning to not bring so much stuff into our house.
Even though it’s hard to get organized and prepared, I am looking forward to traveling! I am excited to study the history and cultures of different regions. I’m also excited about meeting new people and eating new foods; I want to try different dark chocolates around the world. Dark chocolate is an obsession of mine but it’s not a special interest. A special interest looks kind of like an obsession, but, for a lot of autistic people, a special interest is a constant part of life and provides thoughts to retreat into when the world is too stressful. Dark chocolate is not a constant part of my life, though it is a constant part of my backpack.
Thanks for reading my blog! I’ll keep you posted on my upcoming adventures!