Hello and welcome to “Aspie Nomad,” a new travel blog geared towards people with Asperger’s/autism and other forms of neurodiversity. It is intended to inspire such individuals to “shoot for the stars,” follow their dreams and defy any perceived limitations. It will also have many resources for solo/budget minded travelers and backpackers, as well as nature enthusiasts who are NOT on the autism spectrum. I will start posting more frequently in the summertime.
So; who am I? As I write this, I am a (soon to be) 35 year old expat, teacher, and travel enthusiast. I am from the USA (specifically the New York area) and I have Asperger’s Syndrome. That is the reason for the title of this blog, perhaps a first of it’s kind. The concept came about upon realizing that there were few, if any, travel/backpacking blogs geared towards neurodiverse individuals. I also believe that my story can be a source of hope to others. It has been a long ride. When I was initially classified autistic as a toddler (in the years before an Asperger’s diagnosis was common), my parents were told that I would most likely be unable to live independently.
Through years of education and remediation, I was able to defy expectations, graduate summa cum laude and earn a Master’s Degree at 23. Eventually, my path led me overseas. I have been living and teaching English in Korea (South; not North, just saying because I have been asked that so many times!) for six years. In late August of 2020, I will leave my job (it’s been a long and great ride) and embark on a backpacking journey that could span almost two years. I hope and plan for this adventure to take me around the world. However, I will start in Latin America. Already I have many videos, photos, and stories from various adventures and wildlife encounters that I hope to share with you. Despite how far I have come, I continue to face many of the stresses and challenges that individuals on the spectrum face, and I want to detail how these play out in my day to day life, past travels, and the adventure to come. Thank you for joining the ride.
April 17, 2021; Eulsukdo Island. Busan, South Korea.
It had been a productive morning of bird watching; all fitting, because it was my birthday weekend. Blue rock thrush, black kite, Siberian stonechat, and falcated duck; to name but a few. The previous day (my actual birthday) had yielded Japanese robin, osprey, several thrush species, warblers, and red flanked bluetail. As the afternoon heat rose, I set my sights on a lone duck diving for food in the center of the small tidal lake. It was too far away to be sure, but the first few shots from my Nikon Coolpix P900S held promise. I thought it might be Baer’s Pochard, a critically endangered species. A friend of mine, who is far more seasoned a birder than I am, had spotted one back in November.
Excited, I moved closer to make shots that would confirm the bird’s identity. As I got where I wanted to, excitement turned to disappointment. A small mohawk confirmed that it wasn’t a Baer’s at all, but a female tufted duck. A beautiful bird, for sure, but certainly not rare in South Korea. I changed my E-Bird entry and said, “Well; that’s birding. Just like fishing.”
As I walked away from the reed bed, a large shadow passed overhead. I glanced up to see what I thought was another black kite. It made its way off into the distance and landed on a branch that was far off, but still within view. As I got closer, though, I noted that this bird was likely too big to be a black kite or a buzzard. But what could it be? I took a quick shot. Then, the bird took off and passed over me, allowing for more shots to be taken. Looking at the shots, it wasn’t long before its identity was no longer a mystery. My heart EXPLODED with excitement.
The eagle made a few passes before disappearing into the sky. Needless to say, I forgot about the Pochard that wasn’t and geeked out like the excited, nature loving nerd that I truly am. And it made me wonder if birds, like mammals, can sense emotions like disappointment. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the “Scream Queen’s” timing could not have been better.
It’s not all about the birds for me. Indeed, as a little aspie nomad, while others were playing freeze tag, I was sifting through the leaf litter to look for worms, beetles, slugs, and the occassional salamander. And, what was true in 1994 remains so all these years later. Sometimes I like nothing more than to look for creepy crawlies. Here are some of them!
After a year long delay due to the pandemic, I have decided to resurrect my old backpacking dream. After 7 years in Korea, I will leave in September. After coming back to the US, I will stay with family and get vaccinated. Rollout is proving dreadfully slow in Korea, although on other infection control measures, the country has done an incredible job. After that, I will head South of the border, starting in Mexico and slowly working my way through central and South America, with a focus on birdwatching and other nature. I am also going to spend lots of quality time with my father, who moved to Colombia a few weeks ago. He is 74, and so I have every intention of making the very most of that time, too. Likewise, I will treasure time with other family members in the US.
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