Travels With My Teddy Bear
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(Travelogues of a woman with Asperger's Syndrome
with her teddy bear)

Travels With My Teddy Bear is the fascinating record of the author's journeys undertaken with her beloved teddy Bearsac, through familiar cites of Europe and regions as remote as China and Mongolia. It is both a travelogue that expounds the joys and problems of travelling through different countries and cultures, and an illustration of the highs and lows of Asperger's Syndrome, a condition characterized by issues with social and communication skills, but also by such strengths as logic, focus and loyalty.

 

Countries of Bearsac's trips:
America, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Holland, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, Poland, Japan, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Mongolia, China and 4 days on the Trans-Mongolian train.

photo of Debra and Bearsac

About the Author

Born 1967, in North London within a 'dysfunctional family', Debra boarded at a 'Special Needs' school with her brother. Despite her schooling, Asperger's syndrome - a high functioning form of Autism - was not picked up. Unimpressed by mainstream employment and society Debra found hope within the learning difficulty and disability rights fields and more recently a voice within the Aspie community. At 38 she was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. This put her life in to perspective and set her free. The combination of two passions 'Bearsac' her beloved teddy bear and travel has become the mainstay preoccupation and, like many Aspies, her preoccupation has become more than just a hobby, thus this book.

ISBN 978-1-906206-92-5
© Debra Schiman 2008. A Pen Press Publication

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Please note this book is for adults and has a small amout of content
you may find unsuitable for children.
I would 'personally' give an 'advisory' rating.

 

Reviews
please email reviews to bearsac@bearsac.com putting book review in the subject line

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This book was written a year ago, and the travel~, ND (Neuro Diversity)~ and SpLD (Specific Learning Differences) information provided is certainly still as fresh and valuable today as it was then. Fortunately, more awareness about ND/SpLD has lately been circulating via the media, whether it's based on scientific/academic or on 'circumstantial' evidence. The latter is the case in this travel log book.

The author, Debra Schiman, diagnosed at the age of 38 with Asperger's Syndrome (a high functioning form of Autism), has produced an unusual and informative volume both for typical/normal as well as a-typical or ND/SpLD readers. It's unusual in the way that her inseparable travel companion, teddy bear 'Bearsac', contributes to describing her experiences. Together, they demonstrate the Asperger's way of processing information, socialising and communicating while travelling to various European and exotic destinations. Thus, they point out as well as unravel some of the mysteries surrounding the challenges for people who travel alone in general and for those with Asperger's Syndrome in particular.

This travel log, set out in chronological order, covers the span of seven years from 2000, in which Debra and Bearsac visited seventeen destinations, described in thirteen chapters. On the one hand, this volume is practical as a guide book, regarding the places that were visited. Many interesting sight seeing highlights and/or tips are usually sprinkled randomly in each chapter. On the other hand, Debra provides an insight into the world of 'Aspies', as she calls them. In the first part of the book she lets us discover the ways in which the Aspies, or a-typical, neuro-diverse people are wired differently from the so called 'norm'. She achieves this through her descriptions of the way she and Bearsac communicate and interact with 'natives' they encounter in near and remote parts of the world. She also presents the way they both react to or get involved in indigenous customs and cultures. In the latter part of the volume she adds more detailed explanations of Asperger's Syndrome symptoms, when they arise; the strengths and weaknesses Aspies may demonstrate and how 'typical' people might react in turn when meeting Aspies. This interplay is fascinating and colourfully depicted in easily readable style and often rich vocabulary. Finally, Debra also reveals how her journeys with Bearsac have helped to set her free in her travel through life by learning to do her own thing, not to necessarily conform to the norm and to be happy that way!
(Book review by: Eleanor May-Brenneker MA, Independent Neuro Diversity/SpLD Consultant)

Debra Schiman is not the first to hook a travelogue on an essentially inanimate object - comedian Tony Hawks once travelled round Ireland with a fridge to win a bet - but what makes Schiman's new book distinct is both the extent of her travels (taking in parts of the US, several European countries and both Sri Lanka and Japan) and her chosen "companion", a teddy bear rucksack which she has developed into a character called Bearsac. "I know he is not alive, but Bearsac has really become a live 'character' and to not animate him would be to kill him," she explains at the start - because this is very much about their travels together.

Over the years, Schiman has found the ways people react to her companion both entertaining and revealing, but Bearsac has a role to play with her own social and communication skills. The real focus of the book, after all, is Schiman's personal insight into the highs and lows of Asperger's Syndrome, particularly when travelling in cultures quite different from her own. It's this element that raises the book above being simply a glorified travel diary with a quirky hook.
Able magazine - March 2009

I would like to recommend Travels with my Teddy Bear by Debra Schiman to be a cracking good read. It is informative throughout, moving in parts, mainly amusing and sometimes laugh out loud hilarious. I loved it and was rivetted.
Janice Riddell

As a Bearsac fan since meeting him the Northern Line I had to buy the book and am so pleased to have done so. It was great to hear about Bearsac but it was excellent to hear how things are from Debra. Even though it was not the central theme, I learnt more about Asperger Syndrome from this book than medical books as it was from a personal perspective of an adult. The traits come through so clear, even when she does not say they are traits of the condition. I adore her way of describing things, it's like I can smell, taste and see them. She certainly is not the shy type of Aspie and the people she meets in her travels seem to gravitate to her because of her individuality.
Rebecca Spinstead - Morden

Wow! Loved the book. The bit with the woman in Rome and the bit with the waiter in the restaurant in China made me laugh so much I almost wet myself.
Sam Marlow - Luton

I have read the book twice and think it excellent. I think it must be so much harder to travel when you have the problems with getting overloaded by unfamiliar things going on in the environment. The book made me think about how daunting it must be to travel alone with these difficulties. I would be too scared to ever go abroad on my own even with a teddy as streetwise as Bearsac!
Rebecca Cohen - Mill Hill

Extraordinary book: quirky, unique, funny, factually informative and great to read about Asperger's in relation to travelling.
I have seen the organ grinder and his cats many times in Geneva, as my work takes me there now and then, so it was great to read about them in a book. I have just seen You Tube videos of him.
Toby Reeves-Johnson - Harpenden

I really enjoyed this book. It was fascinating to read about how people with Asperger's Syndrome experience things that don't bother or get noticed by other people. People often assume that those with Asperger's are shy and can't speak to people they do not know well; so it was great that the book demonstrates the reverse. I feel inspired to do some lone travel. Who knows, maybe I will even take a teddy bear with me on my next holiday!
John Watson - Colindale

What a great way to travel - alone with just a teddy bear! I now want to take my dear old teddy on our summer hols, despite the shame my teenage son will feel!
A superb read. The writing demonstrates a uniqueness only someone on the autistic spectrum could posses; the drier humour might be lost on some but the more obviously zany antics of Bearsac and Debra are roll on the floor laughable. Imformative too.
Sam Rotwell - Coventry

The pages opened me to a new outlook on life, one of freedom from the concerns of what other people think. How free one can be in one's own company, how free one can be from the stereotypes of a condition or disability, how free one can be in being themselves. Next time I meet a person making their teddy bear talk to people on the bus I will not let my own insecurities bring out my judgemental attitude. It was my curiosity about the ''mad'' woman on the bus that found me on Bearsac's website and the wisdom that changed my perspective and sold the book to me. Thank you Debra and Bearsac.
Vanessa

Amazing book, made me laugh so much that I got stared at many times by people on the train to work; but now I have learnt not to worry about being stared at by strangers and it's thanks to the author and the way she presents herself in the book and on her website.
Tracey Smith

I so loved this book, more than the other travel books I have read, for its natural real-person perspective. I felt that I had shared part of the life of a person on the autistic spectrum. But mostly it gave me insight. My teenage stepbrother has autism and has discomfort on family holidays so it was great to understand what it might be like for him as he is not very verbally communitive.
Sally Hatton - Radlett

I have Asperger's and this book has inspired me to travel.
Willam P Branson - Longbridge (Nr. Birmingham).

Overcoming barriers, feeling the fear and doing it anyway, being free-spirited, not worrying about others' prejudices - it all comes through in this wonderful book.
Silvia Watson - Harrow

 

Of all the books written by or about people on the autistic spectrum I have read, I find this one breaks the mould. It does not follow the usual s**t life full of barriers that have been amazingly overcome by the misunderstood genius who can't make friends. But then I guess Autistic Spectrum Disorders is not the main theme. The book's strength, maybe, is in that that is its secondary theme. The reader is not overwhelmed but is taken on a journey to understanding without the 'obligation' to understand and accept but with the gentle kiss that opens ones eyes to the sunrise of a better world.
Danielle C - Contae Chorcaí (County Cork) Ireland.

 

You really won't believe this but I am actually ur BIGGEST fan ever!!! I work in Borehamwood and half my work colleagues have seen u around, I told them you were lovely and they have all read the book lol, now you and bearsac are famous in my office lol!
Your book was absolutly hillarious, I loved it and my eyes were glued, I usually take months to read a book but it only took me a week on the buses to finish it! I really want a picture with bearsac so I hope to bump into you soon!

Charlie x p.s. my brother has Aspergous syndrome and u have helped me to understand it better thank u.

 

I love grisliness of this book; the gory detail used such as: the use pumice stone to rub away dead skin from her feet, cheeses like slabs of congealed vomit, manky flesh torn bones, the pride she takes in the her poo in the woods! It is an unconventional contrast to the pretty details that arise randomly through her writing.
James Matthews - Peterborough

 

I love this book! The book mainly deals with three subjects: travelling, talking teddy bears and a condition called Asperger's Syndrome. It is funny, touching and it includes an overwhelming amount of travelling information. It's interesting to see how people react when they meet a "talking" teddy bear in different countries. The book made me think that we shouldn't judge too quickly what is normal and what is not. I recommend this to anyone who has ever loved a teddy bear and also to anyone who is addicted to travelling.
Johanna Lehikoinen, Finland

 

I bought this book because I love teddies. I had not previously heard of Asperger's Syndrome prior to reading the book and did not notice the subtitle nor read the introduction until the first mention of having Asperger's Syndrome within the later chapters. It then became clear that what first appeared as slightly over-described descriptions or reactions to everyday sensory stimuli that most people don't notice was sensory impairment and is often experienced by people with Asperger's. Despite these descriptions and it's subtitle 'Travelogues of a woman with 'Asperger's Syndrome' with her teddy bear' Travels With My Teddy Bear neither begs for our sympathy nor flaunts the triumphs of overcoming an impairment. It simply demonstrates the elements that play a part in the author's day-to-day life whether linked to Asperger's or not. With newly acquired knowledge of Asperger's I then start to feel that the traits bubble along gently not detracting from the general theme of travelling through countries and cultures that can be both daunting and satisfying for any lone traveller.
Trudy Bradshaw - Burnely

Through her averagely written but engaging travel journals the author has brought to light with this book some misconceptions of people with Asperger's Syndrome in a 'see if you have the sight to' 'but engage anyway, if you don't' forgivable and touching casualness. She does not 'tell' but 'casually evidences' that not all with the condition on the autistic spectrum are held back by the traits and barriers assumed to be impenetrable by 'meek victims of circumstance.' The reader feels as though they walk with her and her beloved teddy and share in a part of her take on life. Maybe not for the discerning lover of literacy, but this book is certainly worth a read if one is looking for something a little different, informative and easy to read.
Jacob Hartson

I have just finished reading a wonderful book called "Travels with my Teddy Bear" written by Debra Schiman. It is an account of the travels that Debra has made with her trusted companion teddy bear/rucksack "Bearsac".
Debra was diagnosed with "Asperger Syndrome" when she was 38; Asperger Syndrome is a less severe form of autism. People suffering from Asperger's can function pretty well in "normal life", but sometimes they get overwhelmed when there is a lot of noise, a specific smell or large crowds. Debra then puts in her earplugs and digs her face into Bearsac, so she can smell his familiar teddy fur.

Debra and Bearsac have travelled all over the world, even to Japan, Moscow and Mongolia, often using the local public transport system; I really admire their courage and, though there are often disappointments, the book gives you a real good feeling. At times the book is also very funny: especially when Bearsac tries to connect with other people, animals or teddies the situations become hilarious. One word of caution though: there is a very sad part at the end of Chapter two (it had me shedding a few tears).
Peter and his teds Antwerp (Belgium)

 

I had the pleasure of meeting Debra and Bearsac on my train a just over a month ago and bought a signed copy there and then. Debra has Aspeger's Syndrome however this is not a "wo is me" tale but a frank and honest and very very funny travelogue of her travels alone (well apart from Bearsac) around the globe. It is a fascinating insight into the cultures of the many varied countries both in Western and Eastern Europe, Mongolia, the Far East and Russia. I guarantee it will make you laugh out loud many times and the style means it is a great book for the train/bus/lunch break as the chapters are broken into many separate paragraphs. Check out Bearsac's website for more details of Debra and her bear (great photos of him with many many celebs and on their travels). Definitely worth a read and if you see them about don't be all British and reserved but stop and say hi....plus have some sweets ready!
Paul Goodfield

Wow - what a book!! I love it. The information about the places you visit is great. I feel as though I'd been there with you. It's so clear and interesting. Also the book gives a great deal of insight into what life with Aspergers Syndrome is like, and how you deal with situations that I would probably find ok, but that cause you to be disturbed. I have just ordered three more books for people that I feel really must read this, either because they have a relative with Aspergers or other conections with it; or just because they love bears.
Eileen Priddy and Finlay (the bear)

Travels with My Teddy Bear is written in beautiful English. The sentences are not just grammically correct but laced with humour and elegant variation. Underlying the book is the deep sensitivity of the teddy bear himself
(or possibly part of the author's psyche.)
Sebastian Martienenssen.

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