Travelling for us was always an escape from reality; a time to recharge. We could leave our responsibilities behind us and explore new places or return to our favourite vacation spots. There was always some pre-planning required, but the effort was as minimal or as detailed as we chose it to be. The biggest obstacle was lining up our work calendars to match up our vacation days. After that, it was pretty much smooth sailing. Like anyone else, we expected and experienced minor issues such like flight delays, getting through on connecting flights on time and the possibility of bad weather that could hinder some of our plans. We travelled to other countries and also explored our own. Dan preferred more rustic off the beaten path kind of trips and I preferred places with drinkable tap water and low crime rates. At times we travelled solo, but mostly we vacationed together.
Our last pre-injury trip was to Las Vegas with my sister and her husband. At the last minute, we got some tickets to see Santana at the House of Blues and ended up front and centre in the standing room only section. It was a pretty amazing experience that set the tone for the rest of the vacation. If we heard about a show that sounded cool, we bought tickets and if there was a restaurant we wanted to try, we did.
Flash forward one year and a spinal cord injury later and we were back in Vegas, but this time, with a large group of new friends that we were just beginning to get to know. The first big hurdle for this trip was agreeing to go. We both knew we wanted to continue travelling and we knew it would look different and that there would be a steep learning curve; so, what better way to get back in the saddle than with a gang of experienced wheelies. The annual Halloween trip to Freemont Street was so far out of our comfort zone, but we were adjusting to our comfort zone getting stretched in all kinds of directions.
What are the top 5 things we learned on this first wheelchair trip?
- Buy a travel commode and be prepared to shell out a lot of money for one. Give yourself plenty of time to order because most of these come from out of country.
- Bring said travel commode in your carry-on luggage on the way to your destination and in checked luggage on your way home.
- Travel with at least one other experienced inter-abled couple on your first trip because there are so many little things that come up that could become overwhelming or discouraging without a little help from a friend.
- As a Wheel Love, invest in a good backpack or crossbody handbag for yourself to free up your hands for all of the extra carrying you may not have done before.
- Find out as much about your destination before you get there. Things like public transit, hotel accommodation details, airport to hotel transportation, etc. You can’t be over prepared.
Travelling with the group last year really empowered us to look forward to future travel. Some of the concerns we had before are no longer concerns. Things like the anxiety that I had regarding the flight itself is no longer a concern. The airline staff are very experienced and kind and willing to make the boarding process as pleasant as possible. Concerns that linger are things like the ability to find accommodations that will be suitable. I have to trust that even if things don’t end up being ideal, things can still be enjoyable and doable. I believe Dan can go with the flow just as much as he ever could before and it is more me that needs to chill.
I am looking forward to returning to our favorite travel destination and finding out how that will look and feel. I am sure there will be some tears, but I am also sure that there will be some joy and sense of accomplishment for a risk taken. Exploring an unknown city will be pretty amazing and something I look forward to doing whenever our world opens up again for travel.
Unless we continue to travel and explore, wheelies in tow, the world around us will not know that it needs to change to become more accessible for all.