An Autistic Traveling Man

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As a 62-year-old male who is on the autism spectrum, my all-time favorite thing to do is to travel to new and exciting places to see and experience them. Luckily, I have done a lot of traveling. I have been very fortunate to be able travel and visit with relatives from both sides of my family. My mom’s family lives in greater New York city and Long Island while my father’s relatives live in Buffalo, New York, whom we often visited yearly. God rest their souls as they both have passed away a while ago.

I was born in New York city Queens hospital 62 years ago.  My mom’s mother lived in Brooklyn, New York and my dad’s parents lived in Kenmore and Appleton, New York where my dad’s uncle had a fruit farm.  Before my parents and one of my sisters had passed away, we had been fortunate enough to go on many family vacation trips together. We have traveled to many places that I never thought I would see. I have been to the New York city World’s Fair in 1963 and 1964, the Statue of Liberty, and when I was really young the Macy’s Day Parade, which I have relived through many pictures. I also visited a glider plane airfield, located in Elmira New York. There you could watch planes towing other planes into the air to be dethatched mid-flight and land back at the airfield plus, there was also a picnic ground and a small amusement park there. I am sure there were a lot more places in the Big Apple that we went as a family but those were the most memorable.

Now as far as the upstate New York relatives, I remember going to the locks near my dad’s parents’ house and seeing freighters go through one of the locks. I also got the chance to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side which was amazing.  Another amazing trip was going to the Baseball Hall of Fame several times in Cooperstown, New York. I loved that as a kid/teenager I got to see all of the famous baseball player’s inducted, baseball artifacts, and even the stadium where baseball was invented. While there, we would always stop at a local diner near the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, which had the best food. I have traveled as far north as Maine and as far south into Virginia and as far west into Ohio.  One trip I will always remember was traveling through the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopping to see the Cumberland gap where three states meet.  I have also been lucky enough to see places like; Jamestown, the first settlement; Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home; and historic parts of Virginia. On each and every trip, I would always try to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

As far as American Civil War Battlefields, I have toured both the Antietam battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland and Gettysburg along with adult ASD support group. I have also been to several important buildings in Gettysburg that are tourist spots, like the Jennie Wade House, and the Monocacy Battlefield in Maryland over the years with my family. In the 15 plus years that my ASD support group has been together, we have gone to over 192 places together! Unfortunately, not every member is able to go on each trip but there’s usually about 10 or more involved which makes it fun. We’ve done so much that I can’t remember every place we’ve gone to or how many miles we have traveled together, but I do know that it’s started a lot of friendships.

On Saturday August 26, 2023 I traveled to Spooky Nook Complex in Lancaster County, PA along with another person to represent our support group “Spectrum Friends.” This event was for the Recreational Fest to show off different recreational sports that adults with disabilities can play. Some of these sports were demonstrated to our group, among many different organizations/vendors who attended. Our group also has more outings planned in September and October that I’m looking forward to.

In wrapping up this fun blog, on my many outings and trips I think I have probably logged over 500,000 miles of travel. Just as Frank Sinatra sings in his song My Way, “I have traveled each and every highway…I have done it my way” all the roads I have traveled in my life has been done doing it my way.

Thomas Hassell

Thomas is 62 years old and has spent the past few decades involved in autism-related social/support groups among other organizations and has become a well-known self-advocate throughout Pennsylvania. For the past 15 years, he’s led a group called “Spectrum Friends” that helps people with autism come together, listen to guest speakers, make new friends, and go on fun field trips. He’s also won and been nominated for multiple disability/autism advocacy awards for his work within the community. Thomas continues to strive for greatness every day and is looking forward to sharing his life story and amazing experiences through ASDNext blogs!

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