The idea of travelling to another country is an exciting prospect, which anybody of any ability can experience. In today’s age, there are so many different tours, organisations and sites that promote adaptive travel, which you can use to either form your whole trip or just be tips that you can draw upon if need be.
Throughout my life with a spinal cord injury I have been fortunate enough to travel to different areas taking part in actives with my parents and carers, or just by myself. From travelling frequently, it gave me the skills to learn how to adapt when I wasn’t in my familiar surroundings which eventually gave me the courage to go on a 7-week solo trip around Europe.
I had been dreaming of travelling to Europe since I was 14 years old so by the time I turned 19 and had figured out how it was going to happen, I couldn’t wait. However, when the actual day came for me to go on my big trip I was petrified, I had only been on a school trip to Indonesia, which is very different to flying halfway across the world to visit 4 different countries by myself. Like anything it took a lot to prepare; I had to ensure that I had enough continence products to last, my BiPap machine, prescription for spare medication and a light enough suitcase to carry it all. Luckily, I managed.
When I had arrived at my first destination, Switzerland, I felt so much more at ease. Weirdly like I hadn’t just been on a plane for 24 hours. At each airport, the staff were all so friendly and would assist me through customs and grabbing my suitcase, I wish the same thing happened getting to and from the airport. I’d have to say, that was probably the most difficult part of the trip, the days where I was lugging my suitcase to the airport or train station.
Fortunately, I found that most places could be wheelchair friendly and if not there was usually a friendly passbyer who would assist in a lift. Every day, required some element of planning to ensure that where I was going had all the necessities I needed.
Asking was a big learning curve for me which allowed me to really grow as an individual, before I had always been hesitant but travelling allowed me to not only gain confidence in myself but also confidence in my disability. The ability to travel gave me the independence that I had been craving for, it allowed me to be vulnerable and learn.
I’m not going to lie, many things did go wrong, there were countless embarrassing times where I fell out of my wheelchair but that all aided to the experience! All the minor inconveniences that I’ve had while travelling has been a point that comes up as humour in conversations because the best part about it was, there’s a 90% chance that I wouldn’t see those people again.
Travelling can be an eye opening in which you learn more about yourself, gain confidence in your disability and experience so many amazing opportunities. Travelling is not something to put on the back of your mind just because you may have a different level of ability than others.
If you feel compelled to travel, like I am, make sure to read up on the many perks that there are for wheelchair user. There is no reason why you should you miss out on the fun.
– See more photos from her trip on her Instagram here: @maya.dove