The Toddling Travelers
Traveling After Disaster Strikes
While planning for our family's Disney cruise, I was prepared for every scenario. As we entered the "less than 30 days!" mark, I constantly watched the weather to make sure nothing would effect our trip.
Little did I know the very weather I dreaded would soon be heading straight for our home.
On October 8th 2018, my husband, 2 toddlers, 4 dogs and I evacuated our home in Lynn Haven, Florida (a part of the Panama City community), at about 10:30 pm from a category 2 hurricane. We finally arrived to our safe location at 5am the morning of the 9th, and got what little sleep our kids would allow. We spent the whole next day trying to get to know our new surroundings and finding local restaurants to feed us, for what we thought would only be a few days. As my family slept on our second night away, I stayed up all night watching the hurricane go from a category 2 to a 3, from a 3 to a 4, then finally to an almost category 5 massive storm. I cried as I watched Hurricane Michael directly hit the town and Air Force base my family has called home for the past 5 years.
The next 6 days were a blur of stress, anxiety, and lots of arguing. The biggest concerns were trying to live decently with 8 of us crammed into a little room, trying to contact the friends who stayed behind, and what to do about our cruise that was set to leave in less than 2 weeks. We didn't even know if our house was still standing. How could we go on vacation?! After a lot of planning, and re-planning, we finally decided to head down to Orlando early, and continue with our family vacation.
And it was the best decision we could have made. For the first time in 2 1/2 weeks, we were able to take a step back and relax. It forced us to stop watching the news, put the phones down, and breathe. We were surrounded by family (14 of us were on the Disney Fantasy together), and we were not only able to have quality time with our kids, but alone time as well. Let me just say, it's a lot easier to have the tough what-if conversations when you have a great view.
But most importantly, our vacation allowed us to begin the healing process. After all of the stress and tension caused by the hurricane, having the ability to unplug from the world and focus on each other was the medicine we didn't know we needed. And for the first time in weeks, we actually had fun, and didn't feel guilty about it. We explored in Tortola and St. Thomas, and had our very first family beach day on Disney's Castaway Cay.
We dressed up for formal night, and celebrated Halloween on the High Seas hundred-acre wood style. Experiencing Pirate Night for the first time with our children was a blast. While there was still the uncertainty of what would happen after the trip was over, we were able to disembark feeling refreshed and ready for the road ahead.
Luckily, we were able to return to a miraculously untouched home, but our town and the surrounding area has suffered greatly. We have used our time since trying to find a new normal, and doing what we can to get our community back on its feet. It's going to take time, but thanks to our family vacation and a huge dose of Disney magic, we are ready for what comes next.