30 Days of Thanks Day 1 – Kelly

A woman with red hair stands on top of a cliff over the Tasman Sea. The water is turquoise. There are puffy clouds in the sky.As soon as I received the invitation to speak in Australia, I began to think about who could accompany me on the trip. I would need someone able to physically perform the duties required of my Personal Assistants. I would also need someone who was available to take a two week trip to the other side of the world – someone who knew we would be gone for a set length of time and would not be coming back early, no matter what happened at home.

You might think it would be easy to find someone to take a two-week all expenses paid trip to Australia. At first, people were volunteering. But as I began to explain the requirements, they realized they would not be able to go. Some had small children and did not want to be away for two weeks. Some did not have enough vacation time at their jobs to take two weeks off. Some weren’t able to perform the required duties because of a back injury or other disability.

For me, it was important to find a travel partner with the right travel personality. I knew I would enjoy this trip no matter what. However, I knew I would enjoy it much less if my travel partner was full of anxiety, uncomfortable in various social settings and crowds, and unable to be flexible. In other words, I was looking for someone who was not “high maintenance.”

I didn’t begin to stress about the lack of a potential travel partner until September. While having dinner with my aunts, parents and sisters one day last fall, I made a comment about not having someone to accompany me on the trip. The next week, I got a text message from my cousin Kelly.

“Mom says you still need a travel partner for your Australia trip. I think I could do it – what do you think?”

What do I think?! I think this is the best news ever!  I had never considered asking Kelly to go with me, which was silly considering I had been asking almost everyone else.

Kelly and I discussed the realities of the trip. I explained the LONG flight, the reason for the trip. where we would be staying, and what duties she would need to perform. I was very honest about my needs. Every time I mentioned something, Kelly’s response was, “Well, that won’t be a problem.”

Kelly is a nurse and works at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Although she does not do direct patient care like toileting and bathing in her current job, she understands the basics – like how to perform a stand-pivot transfer in and out of a wheelchair. For me, finding someone who already knew the basics, who was used to providing assistance, took a layer of stress off the trip.

Although Kelly is my cousin, we have always lived on opposite sides of the country so we have never spent long amounts of time together. Several people questioned me before the trip, wondering how compatible we would be. I never worried about that because I know Kelly is an easy-going person who knows not to sweat the details she can’t control.

Kelly gave up two weeks of her life so I could fulfill a dream, and I will always be grateful. Since Kelly lives in Arizona, we met in Los Angeles to start our journey. I wheeled off the plane to see her standing with a smile and heard her say, “G’day! Isn’t that what they say?”Two women sitting eating ice cream at an outdoor table. The woman on the left has brown hair and glasses and is wearing a blue sweater. The woman on the right has red hair and is wearing a white jacket over a pink shirt.

Kelly was the perfect travel partner – upbeat, flexible, positive, social and FUN! I never heard her complain during our trip, even when things didn’t go quite as expected. Kelly just went with the flow no matter what happened. She listened to me practice my speech multiple times, offering suggestions and feedback each time rather than just tuning me out. She helped me perform at my best at every event while still charming the people we met with her humor and kindness.Photo of the author, a brunette wearing glasses, and her cousin, a red head.

At the end of our journey, as Kelly and I parted in Los Angeles after our long flight back home across the Pacific, we both said “thank you” in unison. We laughed as we hugged, knowing each of us had learned from the other during our adventure.

Kelly – thank you so very much for sacrificing two weeks of your time and energy for me. Without you, this trip would not have happened. I would travel again with you anytime because of all the fun we had. I appreciate all the little things you did to make it easier for me to be at my best. You were calm when I needed calm, eager to try new things, and able to be “on” without warning. From our time together, I learned new ways to appreciate so many of life’s joys. Your generosity and appreciation for all creatures helped me view familiar sights with fresh insight. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to go back!A woman with red hair stands next to a sign which reads "GASP!"