Preparation + Opportunity = Luck

I’ve been spending far too much time watching the Olympics (like most of the 1st world, I suspect) and I’ll keep doing so until the Paralympic closing ceremonies.

(For those of you with Olympic fever and wished the games would last longer, they in fact do, the Paralympics just aren’t on TV as much).

With the Olympics comes a lot of discussion about what it takes to be an Olympian. I think anyone who is an Olympian will tell you that although the destination is the same, the paths can be different. That’s also what draws people to the Olympics (I think), the stories that the athletes have. I still remember hearing about a swimmer who had some kind of respiratory condition that was like the equivalent of an average person breathing through a straw, and he was a world class athlete.

I remember thinking, if he could be who is and do what he does than I have a chance too.

I don’t remember his name so I have no idea what happened to him, but he still comes to my mind on occasion.

The philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

This has become my philosophy on athletes, especially world class and unknown ones.

People can argue that blessings can get you anywhere you’re meant to be in life but that’s like saying wishing a flight of stairs would turn into an elevator and having it actually happen.

Blessings are great and they do have their place but no amount of blessing is going to make it possible for you to win a gold medal without some amount of training beforehand.

For example, as much as I want to be a world class athlete I have yet to be “blessed” with the resources to even be able to a serious recreational swimmer. But I have been damn lucky and chased every potential opportunity I can come across. I’m not where I want to be but I am putting forth the effort in the unlikely event that one day enough opportunities align themselves to make things a little easier.

It’s nice to call someone blessed but that can downplay the hard work and dedication that goes into achievement. It’s like calling someone an “overnight success” when they’ve been working towards their success for countless years.

Just because you haven’t seen the blood, sweat, and tears, doesn’t mean they didn’t (and don’t) exist.

God is great and everything and unbelievable blessings do happen but not as often as people like to think (not unlike other things in life).

Luck and blessings are real but rarely do they ever come alone. Instead they come mixed in with blood, sweat, tears, disappointment, hard work, early mornings, late nights, busy schedules, sacrifice, and a host of other things you don’t catch on camera.

Sitting On Saints

Catholics have an interesting relationship with saints, we ask for their intersession, visit shrines, we may even stand in line to view their relics (which sometimes includes their actual body).

I admit that I don’t fully understand the significance myself. However, I also need to admit that I have also taken an already misunderstood relationship with saints to a new level.

I sit on them.

(Yeah, you might want to read that again and let it sink in.)

It wasn’t something I was planning on doing, but it just kind of worked out that way.

I made an offhanded comment about whether or not St. Joseph of Cupertino would intercede on behalf of the safety of my wheelchair during flight. Because every wheelchair user has at least one airline horror story that’s wheelchair related. He is the patron saint of air travelers, and I have admitted that I often refer to my chair as a person, so I didn’t think such a question was that far out in left field.

 

And before we go any further, my chair does not share a name with a saint, at least not from what I can gather. Besides, that would be a little too strange.

I had this idea to get a patron saint medal and somehow attach it to my chair. But it just didn’t work out. I might’ve had better luck if I was within walking distance of somewhere that has every patron saint medal under the sun, but that was so long ago now.

It the flurry of preparations for my swim meet the thought resurfaced, although I had no idea if there was indeed a patron saint for swimmers. I knew of St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes, but I wanted to find something a little closer, if at all possible. Because I really could use all the help I could get, even if I doubted it would make a difference.

There seems to be a saint for nearly everything, until you get specific.

It turns out there is a patron saint of swimmers/swimming, Saint Adjutor of Vernon, who, escaped, apparently swimming to freedom.”

Considering my history with swimming and my goal of not drowning during a race it seemed like a good fit.

I embarked on my original mission, with a different saint, get a patron saint medal and somehow attach it to my chair. However, finding anything on obscure saints is a challenge, and if it isn’t, it costs more money than you want to spend given one’s individual needs.

I got the idea of putting something inside my seat instead. Wheelchair seating typically comes in layers so it wouldn’t be completely out of the realm of possibility to slide something under the cover and leave it there. But if the top layer gets wet it tends to seep all the way through, requiring a complete dismantle of the entire cushion, which is if nothing else, annoying.

I found a workable solution however.

Yup, pictures of saints in plastic baggies.

I slide them into my seat cushion and no one knows any difference (well now you do, because I said something).

There you have it, I sit on various saints, albeit in the spirit of intersession & reverence.

 

Luck Is For The Unprepared

A few months ago I achieved a lifelong dream. I’m not exaggerating either.

I dove into a pool. Nothing unusual really, except this time I dove in after a buzzer.

I (finally) swam in a meet.

When I showed up for my first team practice in the fall I knew competing could be a possibility, but I kept my expectations low. Even when the email was sent with available meets I didn’t answer. Why would someone think I would compete? Why would I expect the “OK” after two decades? I settled for being able to be on a team, that was enough.

It wasn’t until I saw “TBD” next to my name that I thought my coach might be serious about my entering a competition, even still I was prepared to hear “No,” right up until I was at the end of the lane waiting for those three magic words “Take your mark.”

So how did the day go?

There’s a saying, “Luck is for the unprepared.”

If there’s any grain of truth in that at all then I got lucky, really lucky.

I set really low goals for myself for the meet, so low in fact that my coach had to talk me into raising them a bit.

Still, my only goals were to not come in dead last, if I didn’t drown first.

I was planning on swimming in 6 events, which ended up being 5 the day of the event, which ended up being 4 because of a disqualification at the start of one race, which really ended up being a blessing when was all was said and done.

I was happy with how I swam, even if I wasn’t really looking forward to swimming in some events, and would have preferred to swim others. I prepared for what I planned for and planned what I prepared for.

I didn’t come in dead last or drown either.

I prepared myself in any way I could. I scheduled extra practices in a colder pool, because everyone kept telling me how freezing the pool would be. I asked hundreds of questions. I researched and planned my meals. I sought out ways to become faster. I had contingency plans for my contingency plans. I even attempted to desensitize my nervous system to the starting bell.

Being my first meet I needed to get classified first, which included a swim. Having no idea what to expect in that respect I was extremely happy with how it went. I was also happy I invited a friend to come along, because in hindsight I have no idea what I would’ve done without him.

I had some time between my classification and the warm up time so I had something to eat and reviewed the plan for the day, again.

Everyone was right about the pool. It was freezing but I had prepared myself for much worse so I convinced myself that once I got going I’d be fine. And true to form I collided with a teammate, which was even captured on film. As funny as I found the moment I hope “collide with another swimmer” doesn’t end up on my list of pre-race rituals.

I had decided pretty quickly that I should have someone on deck with me so I asked my friend if he would stay on the deck rather than head up to the bleachers. I figured at some point I might need someone to peel me off the roof and if there was one person there capable of doing the job it’s him. I guess that’s what happens when you share so many interests, you’ve been friends for over a decade and he’s peeled me off a ceiling or two before.

Little did I realize how much I’d need him for practical matters, like remembering my heat and lane numbers or when would be a good time to eat something.

My first race was one of my most comfortable strokes but I was focused most of my worry on turns. Short course pool means more turns. If my third race was my first race I think I would’ve been a complete mess the whole day so having a race I was more confident in helped a great deal.

It was after I touched the wall after my first race when I realized how far out of my comfort zone I was and how much I would need to rely on the practice I had put in, pure adrenaline, and my self-confidence.

I couldn’t see a thing (for one). Without my glasses I can’t see much. I didn’t realize just how much until I was somewhere I had never been before, which is a problem when you need to get in the correct lane and/or see the flags hanging over the pool. But it does give me the opportunity to swim my own race, because I can’t see anyone else.

The day went by fairly quickly I think I only looked at the clock (meaning a traditional wall clock) once and made a comment about how it couldn’t possibly be so late in the day (even though I had had a pretty long day at that point).

It was probably a good thing I had the schedule I did for two reasons 1) There was little to no time to think about the details I concerned myself with for countless practices and 2) my muscles didn’t have much time to become too tight, or too loose.

I won’t say that having some of my expectations for the meet met made me happy with how the day went because it’s not exactly true. More than anything the meet gave me a chance to really see what I need to work on for next time, because I wasn’t even out of the pool after my first race before I knew there would be a next time.

Even though I was able achieve a lifelong dream I now know how unprepared I was for the day, even with all of the preparation I had put in. If luck is indeed for the unprepared then I can honestly say I was one of the luckiest people on the planet for at least one day in my life.

Being A Human Pincushion

I probably should’ve written this post closer to when these events actually happened, but, life.

I’ve made no secret that I’m not a fan of in office medical procedures, especially those that can and often are performed in an OR. It’s not due to fear of needles, but rather a dislike for the planning and upkeep involved. Call me crazy, and most people have, but I prefer a longer recovery for a “one and done” thing. Plus, I’m not good with keeping track of things that need to be regularly scheduled. If it doesn’t need to happen at least once a week or twice a year it just escapes me.

So imagine how happy I was to have 2 in office procedures scheduled for one day. It helps in the planning in one aspect but not in others.

I’ve accepted the idea that Botox injections once a year, with a few rounds of trigger point injections during the year, works for me. I’m still not a big fan but I’ve accepted it until another plan actually works.

I have yet to fully accept that the best course of treatment for lingering muscle strain is a regularly scheduled cortisone injection, even though I know every other alternative is less than preferable. The doctor in charge of managing my strain knows my concerns, so much so that she addresses them at each visit taking things on a case by case basis even though I think we’ve reached the point of a sustainable treatment plan.

I didn’t want to get Botox and Cortisone on the same day, but at the same time I just wanted to get it over with.

The Botox came first mostly because I know that 99% of the time the doctor in charge of that isn’t late. So there was little chance that the day would get backed up, but I did leave my mom in the waiting room with everyone’s contact information, just in case.

The appointment itself went OK aside from the fact that there’s another new medical assistant who asked me if I had fallen in the last 3 months. My guess is she’s not aware of the fact that people with CP can’t go 3 days without falling never mind 3 months.

I talked my way out of anesthetic and there were no residents hanging around so it was a pleasant appointment overall. Trigger point injections are scheduled for about a month from now but that can be moved up or back depending on how I’m feeling.

Then I was off to hospital #2 for the cortisone.

I actually don’t mind these kinds of appointments either the waiting and procedure prep (which is really just more waiting) is far from my favorite, especially when they ask you to arrive at least 15-20 minutes prior to your appointment. It’s times like this when I would actually bring something to read or other work, if it wasn’t for the need for a sterile environment. I realize that bringing a book probably won’t make a difference but I’d rather not take the chance with a very large needle going very close to my femoral artery, any and all chances for infection and/or bleeding need to be kept at a minimum.

What I neglected to realize when scheduling these appointments was that I would probably be jumpier than usual on the second round of sticks. I know there’s a high likelihood as is that my muscles may jump at the exact moment I need to stay completely still.

My PM&R knows this and knows just how to pin me down & stick me with only 2 hands at his disposal, although he could call someone else in he doesn’t need to.

The sports medicine staff has been more than accommodating when I tell them they’re going to have to pin me down even after anesthetic has taken effect.

As a result of my extra jumpiness I was given more anesthetic prior to the cortisone injection. So much so that I couldn’t feel a thing from my waist to my knee. It came to me pretty quickly that I was not told to bring crutches or my wheelchair to the appointment and I would need something to just get off the table, never mind put my shoes on, walk back down the hall, and then walk out to the car.

Thankfully I did have my wheelchair in the car so while I was resting for the mandatory 10-15 minutes I told my mom to go get the wheelchair and bring it in, because this time they were not going to let me go without using some assistive device.

I had scheduled a follow up in case I wasn’t feeling too great but that day has come and gone so I’ll schedule another appointment when I feel I need it, which will probably come in a few months.

At the end of the day, although it was long and got increasingly uncomfortable as the day wore on, I probably would be a “pincushion for the day” again. I would come better prepared however, like having one time use icepacks in the car, or asking for an extra when leaving my appointments, and having some OTC painkillers on standby.

About Help Continued

I had no idea this was going to go this far, but God had other plans I guess.

What stated with a Tweet:

“If someone with a disability needs help they’ll tell you & how. DON’T tell them what they need to do & how. That’s the worst thing to do.”

Evolved into a post*:

When someone tells you they need help ask how you can help them. It probably took a lot to even ask for help because honestly who really wants help. It’s like admitting weakness. To admit you need help you need to come to a point when you realize admitting your weakness might actually work out for the best. To turn that around on someone is at times just cruel, not to mention a break in trust someone had in you. Speaking for myself, I don’t ask for help from someone I don’t trust on some level, no matter how badly I need it (I have plenty of scars from bumps and bruises to prove it).

Help comes in different forms. I don’t like knowing I’ll need a lot of help from others, or at least I like to think that way, so I try and avoid it as much as possible. And if I do end up needing help I try to tell people I trust and I know they don’t usually mind it, and if they do they’ll be honest about it.

Ask how. Don’t tell how. In all likelihood someone’s put more thought into it than you realize. Attempting to think you know better, and then actually saying it, you may as well spit on them or slap them in the face. Not only are you not helping, you’re making someone wish they never asked in the first place.

Who wants to live in a world where no one wants to ask for help for the simple fear of being disappointed? Certainly not me, and I’m someone that needs some help from time to time (but find someone who doesn’t).  *portion of original post

Has now moved into conversation:

While spending time with a friend’s parents her dad told me about his recent experience with trying to help someone; which left him not wanting to help someone ever again (which I know he won’t stick to because he’s not that kind of guy). I should tell you that he is an amazing man & anyone to receive any help from him will not be disappointed. He’s also the type of person you can talk to about anything for any length of time; he may be a physician by trade but he’s been known to have conversations about church history, bridge structure, and wars in the 1800s without difficulty. So I thought explaining “the help thing” to him would be a good place to start if this were to ever become a thing.

I had my post, and previous experience, in mind when choosing to wade into the waters with this one. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well as I hoped it would, which is totally my fault.

In the end I told him about Jennifer Rothschild’s book Lessons I Learned In The Dark. I had 2 reasons for this. The first being I know he likes a good read which this book certainly is. The second being I could never put the right words to disability before this book, but now I can, or at least I try. Really it just seemed like the best way to save my point the best I could, begin at the beginning and all that.

In the end I can’t remember what I said. All I can do is hope I did the right thing.

And have faith that one bad experience in trying to help someone won’t stop a person from trying again (and again, and again).

Because if it does that doesn’t help anyone at all.

Now that I’ve gone this far what’s next?
A book?
(God help us all)

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on December 9, 2011

About Help

I sent out a tweet I feel I should explain, because 140 characters just doesn’t do this topic justice.

“If someone with a disability needs help they’ll tell you & how. DON’T tell them what they need to do & how. That’s the worst thing to do.”

I should also mention that after I clicked “tweet” I realized the last part should be, “That’s not help,” but you live and learn.

I’ll attempt to keep this somewhat vague yet relevant since it does apply to several life areas, even if it basically falls into one of mine almost exclusively.

Growing up I always had help. I didn’t always need it, it wasn’t always given, but it was always there. In a lot of ways, I feel like my childhood was idea for an individual in my position. (I also had very few people to compare myself to before the age of 5 which I think also helped, but not really the point here)

More often than not someone could be heard saying, “She doesn’t need help, she’s got it,” or something to that effect.

People may have had doubts, but they were rarely voiced in my presence. And if they were, they were quickly shot down. I can only see now how helpful that in fact was for my wellbeing.

Somewhere into my late teens/early 20s the help changed. The pontificating started and has only increased. I may be sensitive to it, but that doesn’t mean it should be there as often as it should be.

It started in college. At the time I was attending a cousin’s alma mater, as I had planned, when he called me. We talked about life on campus, particularly dorm life, considering he lived in the same building a few years before. I had heard about the parties for years, particularly the rugby thrown ones, now he was telling me not to go. Was I a little disappointed? Maybe. I knew with age came wisdom so I took his advice, although not to the extent I think he was hoping for.

Upon graduation things took on a different intensity. It happens when you pick a career field people enjoy from a certain distance but few understand fully, no career services does not always live up to their name.

Now that I’m a not-so-new graduate things are different, yet the same. Most have established lives by now. Others are still free spirits. One group tends to “help” the other, whether they want it or not. (I’ll let you guess who)

A lot of discussions tend to take the same path, although well meaning, it’s often torture. You can tell where it’s going 2 lines in and you’re dying for a quick getaway, but you’re yet to find one, somehow.

I have to ask myself, “Did I do too good of a job proving that I’m pretty average? Why can’t people see that this is different for me?” not the heaviest of questions by far, but valid for sure.

I try to keep up the act but one day I had my fill. I had to point out that this wasn’t one of those times when a cute pep talk could straighten me out and pull me through the situation. I needed help, not advice. Help. Telling and helping really are two different things.

When someone tells you they need help ask how you can help them. It probably took a lot to even ask for help because honestly who really wants help. It’s like admitting weakness. To admit you need help you need to come to a point when you realize admitting your weakness might actually work out for the best. To turn that around on someone is at times just cruel, not to mention a break in trust someone had in you. Speaking for myself, I don’t ask for help from someone I don’t trust on some level, no matter how badly I need it (I have plenty of scars from bumps and bruises to prove it).

Help comes in different forms. I don’t like knowing I’ll need a lot of help from others, or at least I like to think that way, so I try and avoid it as much as possible. And if I do end up needing help I try to tell people I trust and I know they don’t usually mind it, and if they do they’ll be honest about it.

Ask how. Don’t tell how. In all likelihood someone’s put more thought into it than you realize. Attempting to think you know better, and then actually saying it, you may as well spit on them or slap them in the face. Not only are you not helping, you’re making someone wish they never asked in the first place.

Who wants to live in a world where no one wants to ask for help for the simple fear of being disappointed? Certainly not me, and I’m someone that needs some help from time to time (but find someone who doesn’t).

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on November 3, 2011

The Thing About Independence

I, like most people who live with a disability (I think) have a thing with independence.

I hang on to it with a death grip. If I can do something myself I want to do it myself because I don’t always have the luxury.

Like being able to open a door or carry my own suitcase through the airport (or even just to the curb). I understand that people want to help, and I appreciate the sentiment, but what many people don’t understand is the significance of being able to do something on my own.

I know a lot of people view me as independent but they don’t realize what it takes for me to be seen as independent (as is the same for many others with disabilities).

I have a pair of pants that illustrates my independence pretty well. My mom bought me these pants because I didn’t want to buy a new pair and she was sick of watching me alternate between the same 2 pairs of pants whenever I go to the gym or pool. As hard as it for me to have clothes that fit well these pants seemed meant to be, basically meaning they fit without need of alteration.

But as far as functionality, they suck.

The first time I wore them to the gym I almost slid off the exercise ball.  My core strength is in fact so unreliable that wearing pants that provide some sort of traction for sitting is always a plus. So wearing these pants to the gym was a no-go. I’d just wear them to the pool instead. No big deal, right? You would think, and frankly I did too, but it takes me a long time to get them on. My feet never seem to want to point the right way to avoid the epic tug-of-war that ensues between my body and itself.

The only thing that stops me from giving up on putting on said pair of pants is the likelihood that I’d get banned from the aquatic facility or arrested.

I’m not saying don’t help someone if they need it. I’m saying if they say “No thanks,” respect that and back off, or ask How can I help you?” if you offer for help has been accepted.

Because even when we (or maybe it’s just me) accept help we really want as little help as possible.

There’s something about being able to do things on your own that is incredibly satisfying. It also provides me with human dignity that I sometimes lack when stepping (or rolling) out into the outside world.

Yes, not being able to open a door leaves me feeling downtrodden and pretty useless.

I have the smarts to work towards a master’s degree but something as “simple” as opening a door can prove to be more challenging (among other things).

How messed up is that?

Independence is something countless people have fought for and will continue to do, probably until the end of time. So before you offer to help someone (or probably afterwards) consider what that act of help says to that person about how you see, as well as value, their independence.

What do you consider to be signs of independence? How do you feel or would you feel if someone took those things away from you?

Grad School: The 3rd Spring

I thought this semester was going to be easy, instead it was a semester that looked easy on paper and was anything but in reality.

At first I was only taking one class, which isn’t uncommon for pat time distance learners, like myself, but I’ve been fortunate to be able to take at least 2 classes per semester (thank God for 1 & 2 credit courses).

Then all the practical pieces for my practicum came together and that’s where things got interesting.

Even my advisor was shocked, which should’ve been at least one clue.

I must’ve thought my practicum was going to be easy because there were no big benchmarks, like quizzes, tests, or papers. Instead it would be more of a “boots on the ground” class.

In other words, I’d be working with people.

It’s one thing to master concepts in a book but it’s another to put them into practice, or sometimes just attempt to.

Now I’m no stranger to working alongside people but this was semester was a lesson in interpersonal communications for sure.

I have a whole new respect for people who do parish work. I have even more respect for people who find it energizing. I think I would find it incredibly stressful if I worked at 98% of the parishes I’ve heard people talk about.

I appreciate the gifts of being able to work for myself, by myself, when, where, and as much, or as little as I want to, more as well.

I never imagined I’d look forward to learning about the Old Testament either, but that’s just how things worked this semester. I can honestly say that there’s more depth in the Old Testament than I ever thought possible, and the class just scraped the surface of it all.

I will not be changing to the Biblical Studies program with an Old Testament emphasis, just in case you were wondering.

The “easy on paper” semester ended up being the “hardest semester so far” in reality. I won’t lie I almost cried & screamed in delight when I logged in to check my official grades recently, which was probably a good thing because the library was morgue level quiet at the time.

I survived, that was enough for me, to be recognized for the hard work was just icing on the cake.

Now on to finishing with the summer……

Boats, Buses, and Piggybacks

I’ve always been on boats & around boats so I don’t really consider them a mode of travel, at least not exclusively. I’ve “lived at sea” before, however I doubt if it’ll be in my future. You’d be surprised to know how many people actually live on their boat. It isn’t for everybody, but it usually doesn’t come down to adaptations due to disability.

I know what you’re thinking. A common trait of CP is having issues with balance & coordination. How could you have managed on a boat?

Pretty easily actually, for one thing no one told me that it should be more difficult for me. Another reason is it’s good boating to hold onto something, or be close enough to something you can grab, at all times. If I ever got hurt while cruising it was usually my bad judgment or from someone speeding through a “no wake” zone, and that happens to everyone equally. I will tell you though I wasn’t too fond of safe boating practices, but it comes down to personal freedoms.

Funny story, the one time I remember the Coast Guard “pulling us over” I was actually wearing a life-jacket & it actually fit correctly. It still makes me laugh & I was around 5.

I’m not the biggest fan of long bus trips, thanks to hearing enough horrific stories. But when it comes to getting from point A to point B, like getting to work, I have little to complain about. I just wish it was a more popular mode of transportation to make it more convenient & safer.

I use to take the bus to work every single day & to get a lot of places to cut down on the walking. Remember when it was uncool to have a bus pass? I was uncool & totally O.K. with it. It’s actually really nice if you live somewhere with a quality transit system, including frequent stops so when you go up another stop for something to eat you can still walk home.

Cabs. Oh cabs. I know some people swear by them, but if I can get somewhere without one I’ll do it. I guess I’ve used too many DC cabs and not enough NYC cabs. The fare rates are totally different, if you didn’t know before now you do. Bring a lot of cash & prepare to be shocked.

For those that qualify there’s also the adventure of Paratransit. I used a service when my gym schedule wasn’t really consistent. Let me just say this, it has its issues on top of not being available when you need them. But if you understand what you’re getting into & you’re somewhat flexible it is a nice option for you. The biggest problem I’ve had were issues with the staff themselves, not the actual service. Overall it’s a nice thing to have in your back packet, just in case.

As for the piggyback rides, these work two ways, for fun & function. On longer treks with a group I usually end up catching a ride. After a while I just can’t keep up so the best solution is to hop on & hang on tight. If I’m the only one ready for a break it’s often better to get a ride than hold everyone else up.

However, everyone has their limits, after I announced my surgery plans to friends, I got, “You better tell that doctor to do his job, after this there are no more free piggyback rides.” I know he’s mostly kidding, but it’s something to be aware of.

I’ve also gotten a surprising number of places by bicycle. However, I don’t recommend riding on someone’s handlebars for more than a few blocks. It’s fun, but somewhat dangerous.

Norwegian push sleds are also fun, but mostly for fun, even if they have been/are used for transportation in some parts.

Did I miss something? I’m not sure I did.

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 9, 2012

Planes, Trains, And Automobiles

I love traveling, or at least I want to love it.

Don’t be surprised if there’s a part two for this; which would probably include Boats, Buses, and Piggybacks.

Here’s the funny thing about my traveling experience.

I don’t really have any.

I’ve traveled to various places in the United States but I’ve barely been out of the country. I’ve had a passport for years but it’s empty, I’ve used it solely for identification reasons.

What’s really insane is that every time I’ve had the opportunity to travel, particularly overseas, in the last few years I’ve looked for reasons not to go. Actually it hasn’t been that difficult, which is probably part of the problem in itself, I have limited finances, I can’t get the time off, or some other reason contingent on the situation.

Rumor has it I may or may not have come from gypsy stock but my direct ancestors really like to stay put. Personally I find the whole thing incredibly boring, but the funny thing is it takes a lot more for me to travel than most people.

Traveling by car may seem like the easiest and most obvious choice for a lot of reasons. I have a love/hate relationship with it. If it’s over 6 hours & there are more than 4 people in the car, it really should be a minivan. It’s not physically uncomfortable as much as it is mentally taxing.

However, there is something to be said for setting your own pace. Like stopping whenever you’d like to take care of any need(s) that may come up. Like a dire need to pee without having to worry about one small bathroom everyone else has used in a small time frame. Naps on the road are also more conducive, as are discovering local awesome places to eat, and music to set the mood.

Whenever you find yourself on the verge of a road trip be sure to have a travel buddy. It makes the trip much better, or worse but usually better.

Train travel. This is the mode of transportation I’ve most frequented. I pretty much know it backwards, forwards, and sideways. I also have plenty of stories to prove it. I’ve been on everything from the subway to national train lines. Each has their positives and negatives, like most things. Most times it’s a choice between riding the rails and taking flight for most people. If you’re big on people watching the train is the way to go, by a landslide.

However frequent delays and overcrowding is always hanging over your head, at least if you’re me. I’ve found it’s often a lot easier than one would think for people with disabilities (the actual stations are often another story). But regardless you need to do your research, not all cars have ramp access for example. And if you’re going on a longer trip via train it’s always a good idea to give people a heads up since wheelchair spots are located close to the oversized luggage compartments & they’ll want to have an actual space for you.

Travel buddies are optional. I’m not one to make a habit of it on a train but it helps the trip be “less stale” if you frequently take the same route.

Lastly my personal favorite, up into the wild blue yonder, flight; however, this is when most bad experiences happen. Basically the best advice I can give is plan for the worst (& every possible contingency) & hope for the best. I’ve traveled with and without my wheelchair as well as with and without AFOs so no experience has been the same. Regardless of when & how I fly I try to be as direct & clear as possible with all the staff I come in contact with.

When I was preparing to fly to the west coast I deliberately booked a nonstop flight. It may have cost more but it was a big trip so I wanted to remove as many travel barriers as possible, like missing a connecting flight.

I had originally planned on shipping my chair since I pictured getting though a crowed airport to be easier without it as long as I had the physical stamina. However, one of my contact people told me it would be better to carry it on my person than ship it because there was less of a chance of damage. I understood his point once I saw my frame had scratches after deplaning & my luggage was “lost” after another trip.

If I have to have connecting flights I request someone meet me at the gate to take me to my next flight. For one I don’t want to get lost. Another reason it’s a lot easier to ask for when booking your flight than when you get to the airport, and since it’s only accomplished 50% of the time, just plan ahead to avoid arguments with airport staff.

When flying to my cousin’s wedding in the Midwest I had a connecting flight & little room for error. I requested someone meet me at the gate to take me to my connecting flight. After waiting for everyone else to deplane & having the flight attendant page someone to the gate no one showed up. I was prepared to get to my next gate myself since I was told it wasn’t very far away. Instead the pilot (from my 1st flight) took me to my next gate. Up until then I had no preferences for certain airlines but I do now. How many pilots do you think would do that? (I only wish I had gotten his name to send him a thank you card afterwards)

I’ve done more flying alone than I have with someone(s) else so that’s my comfort level. But if I’m flying with someone(s) I prefer that they’ve flown before. First time flyers take more mental effort from me than I’m usually willing to give.

Traveling with a disability is possible, sometimes enjoyable, and often memorable. It may take some more thought & effort on your part than your peers but it’s defiantly worth it.

I plan on traveling more in my lifetime, once I run out of excuses.

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 8, 2012