I was determined to enjoy my 21st I arranged a few events with my friends for my special Birthday.
The countdown would be good and the actual day special as I was jetting off to Miami with the family, spending two nights in Miami followed by two weeks relaxing on the beach in Daytona.
This is the first holiday I gate crashed and paid for my own flight!
I love the US so there was no way I wasn't going, the fact it was my Birthday was going to make the holiday very special, I just didn't realise how special!
I've been extremely lucky to have frequently visited the US growing up.
You've probably read somewhere on my website I am all about creating memories and my 21st Birthday would definitely be memorable, regardless of my quick deteriorating vision.
Memories happen regardless.
There is a large list of places I'd love to go but America has a special spot in my heart.
I even visited once with my late Nannie Pat.
Each time we go as a family we revisit every eventful memory, from hospital visits with suspected meningitis (yes, only me!) to trips to the outdoor cinema to see Cat in the Hat!
All the family holidays here seem to involve landing somewhere and driving several hours to get to our spot on a beach.
As a growing independent woman with Usher Syndrome, I've started to realise that not only will I need to afford this sort of holiday but I will need to travel with a driver.
Of course there's always the cities, which I've been lucky enough to visit (New York, Chicago and Boston) but as I say, still so many more cities I’d like to add to the list!
Of course I know nothing in life is free but memories are priceless so it spurs me on to earn money and to be the independent person I want to be.
The week before my Birthday one of my closest friends declared she'd arranged a few activities for one of our "spontaneous" night outs. This is one of the many things I love about my friends. They know me, just get me. They know I love memorable experiences rather than an expensive present (of course both could be expensive!)
Manchester - our "spontaneous" night out, this was not a trip for guide dog Unis, alcohol would be involved.
At 20 I hadn't done a night out outside my comfort zones. I say comfort zones, because with local friends we'd always head to the same places and of course I would always be latched onto someone's arm. Like a lot of visually impaired people, you get familiarised fairly quickly, though of course with alcohol involved this doesn't always remove all challenges! (It's funny how I chuckled typing that- another blog, another story!)
My two friends and I successfully found our hotel thanks to our Applewatches, whoever said these watches were just gimmicks hasn’t realised what their capabilities.
The girls had set up a few surprises for me, including a trip to the spa followed by a lovely meal and cocktails at a local swanky restaurant. Thereafter we ventured out dressed up to "hit the town" as they say. That night out I was not once a bit anxious, being with two close friends who know the score and never make me feel a burden, it really was an amazing night away.
Special friends make special memories.
The Sunday before my Birthday my family hosted a garden party at our house. I really could not tell you a lot about that day/ night except it included a vodka luge, pimms and a swimming pool. Looking back on pictures I can tell it was another brilliant day and night, again with the company of the most special people in my life, priceless family and friends and another memory in pictures I feel lucky to see.
Finally, the actual day of my 21st birthday came, and this was different to a normal birthday. It included waking up at 6am to open present followed by a swift trip to Heathrow airport. This really was always going to be the best birthday yet.
My Mum told me our flight was at 10am hence the rush.
Though once we had dropped our bags in I panicked thinking we were running short of time and I hadn't even had a birthday breakfast!
I felt very uneasy, of course!
The checking in had taken a time but the airline had been very helpful at Heathrow but I was stressed thinking we were going to be late for the flight after faffing around in security, I always hate that part.
My anxiety kicks in in crowds, no Unis to steer the way I help onto my cane and my Mum’s arm.
"Here are your boarding passes, and you’ve upgraded to Upper Class, I'll let my colleague escort you to the Clubhouse Lounge"
Did I hear that right!? MUM?
Mum had fibbed about the flight time to get me to the airport early and to experience the Clubhouse, I had no idea!
On entering the Clubhouse I was treated like a princess, I was completely overwhelmed, I won’t ever forget.
Huge Shout out to Virgin Atlantic's touching and unforgettable assistance! For someone going blind, you really don't know how much this means to be able to experience such luxury!
From then onwards, the breakfast was awesome, the bucks fizz continuous. The Clubhouse Lounge was spacious, the most amazing and relaxing way to start a holiday particularly on a special Birthday,.
It would truly be the dream to be able to afford this luxury on a regular basis.
Being sat at the window in a birdcage swing with bucks fizz in one hand while watching the planes depart, all I could think was how lucky I was. It's times like those that make me realise working so hard to live and create these memories make it such a treasured memory.
We had a five hour delay that day but it didn't matter, the experience was amazing and the holiday was just about to begin (thats another blog for another day).
Whether I lose the rest of my 5 degrees or not, at least I can say I experienced this luxury on my 21st Birthday and I will never forget it.