The world is filled with beautiful sights, from magnificent scenic vistas to a basket full of newborn puppies wriggling to get closer to their mother.
Like most parents, Edith Lemay and Sebastien Pelletier of Montreal, Canada want their children to experience all of the sights, sounds, and experiences the world has to offer. Unfortunately, time is not on their side; they’re on a mission to see as much of the world as possible before three of their four children lose their eyesight.
Edith and Sebastien’s daughter Mia was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa. Most people who have this condition lose all of their eyesight by the time they are adults. Later, two of their three sons were also diagnosed with the disorder.
With the majority of their children gradually losing their eyesight and the future uncertain, the parents decided to fill their remaining sighted years with as many visual experiences as possible.
“I thought, ‘I’m not going to show her an elephant in a book, I’m going to take her to see a real elephant,” Edith explained. “And I’m going to fill her visual memory with the best, most beautiful images I can.”
Their original plan was to leave in July 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed their plans by two years. Instead, they threw their itinerary out the window and left Montreal in March 2022. They plan to spend an entire year traveling, and they’re choosing their destinations on the fly.
Before they left, each family member contributing to a “bucket list” of sights and activities they wanted to accomplish. Some of these items were silly, like drinking juice while riding a camel, and others were more meaningful.
The first place they visited was Africa. They spent time in Namibia, Zambia, and Tanzania.
Then it was off to Turkey, where they lived for a full month. After that, it was Mongolia followed by Indonesia. Along the way, the family encountered difficult weather, bad moods, and the minor discomforts that accompanies traveling. Edith and Sebastien believe that these experiences are also useful and will help the kids become more resilient as their eyesight continues to fade.
“They’re going to need to be really resilient throughout their life,” said Edith. “Traveling is something you can learn from. It’s nice and fun, but it also can be really hard. You can be uncomfortable. You can be tired. There’s frustration. So there’s a lot that you can learn from travel itself.”
The family has noticed that their children are bonding and growing in ways they never could have imagined when they set out on their journey. The kids are curious and accepting of other cultures, and they’re even willing to try exotic foods.
“They’re great together,” Sebastien said. “Over and above, I think it helps solidify that link between them. And hopefully that will continue in the future, so that they can support each other.”
While they’re trying to show the children sights they wouldn’t normally see at home, they’re also trying to instill a feeling of gratitude for their many blessings in their everyday life.
“No matter how hard their life is going to be, I wanted to show them that they are lucky just to have running water in their home and to be able to go to school every day with nice colorful books,” said Edith.
Edith and Sebastien are still hopeful that science will provide a cure before their kids lose their vision. If not, they’re positive their kids will be able to take a visual journey in their memories, thanks to their travels!
Don’t forget to share this story to wish this family the best as they continue their journey.
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