Hello, and thank you for stopping by. We are so pleased that you are interested in getting to know us. I thought it would be easier to introduce ourselves, and it’s time to meet the Cantan’s.
We are Gemma (that’s me), the blog writer; Nick, our family photographer and selfie-taker (he has the most extended arms); Alana, the eldest child and singer of the family; Thomas, the fireball that started us on this journey.
We live in Hampshire (North of Portsmouth); it’s our closest city! However, we are on the West Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire border, making Chichester, Portsmouth and Winchester on our doorstep. Nick is originally from Surrey, but I am a Hampshire girl, born and bred.
How did we get here?
Nick and I met at college at 16 in 1999 (yep, good old ’90s) and became friends. A year later, we decided to try out the dating thing, and the rest they say is history. Well, kind of. We decided to get married in 2005 and buy our first house simultaneously (I recommend you never do both together!)
I’ve always had the travel bug (more so than Nick); he’s a creature of habit, but I did manage to get him to Disneyland Paris (2003), on an aeroplane to experience Majorca, Spain (2004) and Ayia Napa, Cyprus (honeymoon, 2005). Mortgage payments meant holidays weren’t accessible.
Alana came along in 2007 at the start of the UK’s recession, so holidays for us weren’t a priority, and my parents just happened to live by the coast (win-win). Short breaks to Cornwall became the norm for many years.
We welcomed Thomas in 2010, and what a little whirlwind he was. Thomas developed Group B strep at three days old and was extremely poorly and would change our family forever.
I told myself that until we knew Thomas’ outcomes, I wanted an everyday family life as possible. Our first holiday to Perran Sands Holiday Park was in 2011. In the times before, Instagram was a thing. So this year makes it our 11th visit. Our children have grown up with annual Cornwall holidays. However, over the years, Thomas’ needs have changed, his learning difficulties have become more apparent, and we constantly have to juggle year on year the activities we take part in, the places we visit and how long we stay for. He can no longer cope with many of the local attractions he loved, or they are aimed at much younger children, and he can’t access them independently. But it hasn’t always been about the UK…
A Little Bit of Disney Magic
The first time I remember Disney was when I was eight and on my first trip to the cinema to watch The Little Mermaid. Most children’s first trip to the cinema involves a Disney film, Alana’s was Frozen, and Thomas’ was Toy Story 4. My absolute love of Disney began with Aladdin, Beauty and The Beast and The Lion King; we are talking about the iconic animations in the ’90s, not the live-action versions (although I love them too).
Disney wasn’t a huge deal then; there weren’t costumes of princesses, marvel were still comics, and Disneyland Paris was brand new and called Eurodisney. My obsession with Disney grew over the years, and I eventually made it to Disneyland Paris in 2004 (my 21st). It was a very special trip; it was our first trip abroad as a couple and our first trip without our parents. We then went again in 2015 and 2019. We were aiming to go to Disneyland Paris in the autumn of 2021, but covid-19 happened, and apart from travel being extremely complicated, the compulsory mask-wearing is a no for Thomas. Fingers crossed for 2023!
The reason I mention Disney – the whole franchise is a big deal in our family. Not only am I the Marvel geek of the family (no, not Nick), Thomas adores Toy Story, Frozen, and Tangled. Alana is the thrill-seeking theme park junky; we have no idea where she gets it from because Nick isn’t a theme park fan, and I cope with limited thrill rides (Big Thunder Mountain is my limit). Nick likes the random old Disney movies, long since forgotten – Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, The Sword in the Stone and the OG Herbie movies.
Our dream is to eventually visit every Disney park in the World, go on the Disney Cruise Line, and stay at the Disney Aulani resort in Hawaii. The plan was to plan an epic trip to Disneyworld Florida for 2023 – 2024 (Our 40th, Alana’s 16th and Thomas’ 13th and approaching our 20th year of marriage). However, Nick’s fear of flying is an issue; Thomas’ isn’t the best traveller, so 8 – 9 hours on an aeroplane would be terrifying. Not just for us but the other passengers! So I have my fingers crossed that someone out there will create a plane that flies it in 4 hours (I can dream) or, as Nick says, a tunnel-like the Eurostar (he’s anything if optimistic).
You still with me?
At 13 years old, I began writing in journals and chatty diaries, reading a lot. Plus, like most teenagers, I did watch a lot of films and tv shows, which sent me on the path to study media. Many years of experience later led me to marketing, social media, event coordination, and hospitality.
Before at 30, I embarked on a degree in event management and hospitality. It wasn’t the easiest of times, and I soon realised that event management meant long hours and not being at home with my family on the weekends. So returned to 9-5.
I won’t go into too much detail, but covid-19 happened; I decided that family life was far too complicated to return to work after furlough, so I quit and decided to write for a living and concentrate on my blog while homeschooling two children with learning difficulties.
Oh, and then in 2021, I had this crazy idea to begin studying towards an English Literature and Creative Writing Masters with The Open University. My only wish was I’d done it years ago!
Nick and I met in college, studying media. He wanted to be a cameraman. However, he soon fell in love with the idea of graphic design, and after a pit stop working for McDonald’s and a factory, he secured his first and only role as a designer.
In 2015, due to circumstances, Nick decided that he’d had enough of working 12 hour days and decided to become Thomas’ full-time carer. As I said, circumstances beyond our control meant it was becoming impossible for us to juggle family and working life and my studies. He has no regrets and works part-time as a self-employed graphic designer.
Nick spent his childhood summers in Cornwall, so it was apparent from the moment we met that he planned on it being a big part of lives and then our kids. He loves his routine, his comfort zone and his familiarity.
Alana is the eldest, and we knew the moment she was born that she would be a strong-willed little person with a huge personality. She didn’t let us down, but despite the attitude she gives us most of the time, she is a polite, empathic girl with a fantastic singing voice.
She doesn’t do well with school, so as you can imagine can’t wait to leave. College is next on her list – studying acting, musical theatre or performing arts, hoping that she will secure a place at a top acting school at 18.
Alana loves theme parks and is a secret thrill-seeker. She can’t wait to visit Disneyworld Florida and Universal Orlando, and she is desperate to travel to many places.
Thomas is our smiley, happy little guy who loves a good cuddle (on his terms). Thomas was diagnosed with Group B strep with meningitis at four days old and spent exceptionally poorly the first few weeks of his life.
Due to the sincerity of his illness, we were told that although he’d survived, they wouldn’t know how brain-damaged he would be. He developed slowly but relatively normal until he was three when he was diagnosed with epilepsy. His seizures in those early days caused a regression, especially with his developing speech and hand-eye coordination.
We’ve all learnt to live with the seizures, but his complete diagnosis is cerebral palsy, epilepsy, learning difficulties and 30% hearing in his left ear. He’s challenging day to day, he’s never going to have an independent life, but his little personality is beautiful to watch.
Due to Thomas’ difficulties, his understanding is limited, he can become overwhelmed, and his behaviour can be unpredictable. He struggles physically with walking too far, using ladders and moving around without tripping.
It all sounds extremely negative, but it’s not. He doesn’t allow much to bother him; he adores school, ball games, bikes and watching funny vines on youtube. He has the best sense of humour and often finds himself funny!
I decided back in 2018 that I wanted to document more of our lives. We’d filmed our travels for years; I took countless photos and wrote reviews on Tripadvisor, but it never felt enough. So the original inception was ‘Because Thomas Said So’, but I struggled to write honestly and openly about Thomas’ struggles for fear of judgement, so after a few months, I didn’t feel it. Then we booked our trip to Disneyland Paris, and I realised that travelling as a family was complicated with wheelchairs, meltdowns, access passes and carrying all our essentials.
Just because travel was complicated didn’t mean it couldn’t happen, so I decided ‘A Little Bit Social’ would be a family lifestyle and travel blog. Then within a month, Covid-19 took over the World, and we were not only locked down, but travel was suddenly missing from life.
Despite the current complicated nature of travel, I don’t expect it to halt our plans this year, and I certainly have plans for the next five years!
I’m an experiences kind of girl! Those once in a lifetime, never to be repeated moments that are shared as couples, families or with friends.
Our Travel Style
It’s hard to sum up the way we travel in a few short sentences
- Slow Travel: We prefer to stay in one place for several days and explore.
- Budget Travellers: While we strive for a few luxuries in life, we consider ourselves budget travellers. We try to save money where possible and splurge on our Disney trips.
- Eating in or takeaways: Thomas doesn’t like restaurants. Too many people and waiting involved, so we usually eat in our accommodation, take away or have a car picnic.
- Planned: We do miss the spontaneity of our early 20’s. Just booking a last-minute break is definitely something in the past, and it takes time and planning with kids involved.
- Accessible Travel: One of the most important things to us is accessible travel. We aren’t talking accommodation with adaptions, more ramps, lifts, affordable and something Thomas can access with support.
- Attractions: Having teenagers means that they need to feel constantly entertained, so accessible attractions are a must for us.
Want to know more about A Little Bit Social?
Head to this page, where we explain everything from how we got started to the meaning behind the name “A Little Bit Social”.