*Warning* This blog post is not whiney or negative in any sort of way, in fact it is quite the opposite. Bear with me as I walk, or wheel, you through one of the hardest yet most valuable lessons of dating and loving someone in a wheelchair.
Welcome to travel month, Wheel Loves! If we can’t currently travel at least we can dream, plan and talk about it! Travel was never really a priority in my life or something I really thought about…until I met James. Within 3 years of us dating we had travelled all around the US and around the Mediterranean. My worldly experiences exploded when I met James and my love for travel blossomed. Experiencing new cultures, landscapes and adventures is something James and I thrive off of and each journey has made us grow as individuals and as a couple. Before I get into the real topic of this blog post let me just share some tips and tricks I have learned from our travels over the last seven years.
- Don’t panic. Shit is going to go down when you’re travelling with someone in a wheelchair. It’s just the way it is. Embrace the chaos and find a way out of your pickle. It’s an adventure after all! (Obviously this is all to an extent, but try not let the anxiety of inaccessibility ruin your trip)
- James just recently purchased the phoenix instinct suitcase, in which he can attach the suitcase to his wheelchair and lighten the load for me when we travel. This bag has made our trips more enjoyable just by eliminating the amount of bags I have to carry. https://www.phoenixinstinct.com/
- While the wheelchair goes down below during flight, we always take James’ cushion with us. That way he can use it on longer flights or if the airplane gods lose his wheelchair at least we will be able to keep skin integrity until we find a solution.
- We really enjoyed cruise ship travel. It gives us the opportunity to travel to multiple places and experience so much in one trip but it also takes the anxiety away of looking for an accessible bathroom and place to sleep.
- It’s ok to ask for help. Sometimes, especially when you’re travelling in a country that is lacking in accessibility, it’s ok to ask someone for a hand. Sometimes you both have to suck up your pride and be able to accept help if you want to experience what’s over that looming set of stairs.
With all that being said, travel really does give you an opportunity to grow, face challenges and learn about your true self. A surprising factor that came up early on in our relationship was an overwhelming feeling of sadness and guilt while traveling. It has taken quite a few years to get over these emotions but with a lot of communication we have been able to get past this hurdle. Let me elaborate…simply and plainly…I felt sad when I wanted to go experience something and James couldn’t do it, so I just didn’t do it. Whether it was quickly dipping my toes in the ocean, or exploring a beach or going for a walk up a mountainscape that looked interesting, I felt sad I couldn’t do it or I would feel guilty for doing it without James. It really was a lose/lose situation. I’ve talked to other Wheel Love’s about this exact issue and it seems to be a common feeling (phew!).
I’ve done three major things to shed the guilt:
- James and I talked about it! Geez, if only I would have learned earlier talking about your feelings would solve most of my issues, haha! I learned that James didn’t really care if I went to explore a beach without him, in fact he now scopes out the most beautiful beaches, drives me there and enjoys his time checking out the view while I frolik in the sand. He’s happy that I’m happy and it would in fact make him feel guilty if I didn’t experience those things.
- Which leads me to, I go and do the things I want to do (shocking I know! And how horrid of me to leave my paralyzed boyfriend while I go galavanting by myself). Look, yes, it’s a little sad when you can’t experience some things with the person you love but you’ll regret not going on that hike, walking on that beach or going up those stairs to some ancient pyramid. It’s a tangled weave of guilt on both parts if you don’t.
- Lastly, I got myself a set of Wheel Loves and anything I want to do that James can’t, I ask them if they want to go. Most likely that thing will be inaccessible so it’s nice for all of us to experience! Traveling with another inter-abled couple is really cool in that sense as well!
James and I have done a lot of crazy awesome things and travelled many places. Our journey is just getting started and I’m looking forward to our next adventure. I encourage anyone in a chair or any inter-abled couple to travel; it is possible, it is fun and opportunities are endless. There have only been a few times where this particular occurrence has come up and I wanted to let you guys know, it’s an ok emotion and not an uncommon predicament to be in. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic and what techniques you have used to shed the guilt.