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