Montreal, Quebec, parents Edith Lemay and Sebastien Pelletier are taking a year to give their four children a trip of a lifetime—and for three of them, it will involve sights that they may never be able to see again. Mia, 12; Colin, 7; and Laurent, 5, were diagnosed years ago with a genetic condition that causes a loss in vision over time, and the parents want to give them as many visual memories as possible, CNN reports. The loss of vision caused by retinitis pigmentosa accelerates during the teenage years, and the children are expected to be completely blind by mid-life, Lemay says. The fourth child, 9-year-old Leo, has been given the all-clear.
Mia started having vision problems before she was 3, but the condition wasn't diagnosed until years later. Lemay, who works in health care logistics, told CTV earlier this year that they got the idea for the trip after talking to a specialist at Mia's school. "Talking to her, she said the best thing you can do is to fill their visual memory, and she was talking about seeing elephants and giraffes in books," Lemay said. "We talked about it, and we're like, 'Might as well go see them for real." The trip was delayed for nearly two years by the pandemic—and the itinerary no longer includes Russia—but the family left Canada in March and has now been to Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, Turkey, and Indonesia.
Pelletier works in finance, and the family's travel savings received a boost when the company he works for and owns shares in was bought. Lemay says the "super-curious" children have adjusted well to life on the road—and the parents hope showing the children different cultures will help them deal with the challenges ahead. "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," Lemay says.
The parents are chronicling their journey on a Facebook page. In a post last month, they wrote that it was a tough moment when Laurent, their youngest child, started asking questions about what it would mean to be blind. "Seeing him slowly lose his innocence and, from the age of 5, realizing the extent of the challenges that await him," they wrote. "Tonight my heart is in pieces letting the pain go away. Tomorrow we pick up the pieces, pick up our chin, and just keep biting at life. Because despite all its shadow areas and challenges, life is beautiful once you look where there is light." (Read more travel stories.)