Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Travel is one of my favourite things...

...I love the thrill of being somewhere new, full of people to meet (growing up in a small town makes feeling anonymous quite nice!) and the excitement and anticipation that comes with being in a strange place.
For most of my life I travelled ‘mainstream’ – booking hotels through a high street travel agent, hobbling on to transfer coaches, re-arranging furniture in the room to accommodate my wheelchair. Luckily, I’m quite mobile; I have CP affecting my lower half but have been known to fling myself up a flight of stairs when the mood has taken me!

It wasn’t until I started working for Tourism for All that I realised, travel can be made easier!

Take train travel for instance. Who knew I could pre-arrange someone to carry my luggage and push me on to the train?! Being parked so close to the wonderfully smelling accessible loo isn’t so great, and having to glower at people who put suitcases in the wheelchair space. But getting 1/3 off the ticket price with a Disabled Persons Railcard? I fully embrace discounts for disabled people!

Until a couple of years ago, I’d never seen an accessible hotel room. Things like automatic doors, low level wardrobes and roll-in showers were an absolute luxury. I no longer had to clamber on to a chair to hang my clothes up, or perform acrobatics to get in and out of the bath!

Tourist attractions are another good one. The fun of being able to queue-jump (albeit whilst being glared at) often makes a trip for me. However I’m no use to my friends at a theme park, you can’t get me near a rollercoaster!

Finding somewhere to have a nice meal or a drink when in an unfamiliar place isn’t quite as easy. There is certainly a lack of information provided about accessible restaurants and bars. However, I see it as all part of the adventure, and with some careful research it can be done. Failing that, hunky doormen are always useful to help with steps, and I’m the best person to stand behind in a busy bar – a path can be cleared very quickly!

Overall, the thing I love most about travelling is the sense of independence. Dependant isn’t a word most people would use to describe me (would probably be more along the lines of stubborn and headstrong!) but travelling alone, managing it all, and sometimes struggling but pushing myself to carry on, gives me a huge sense of achievement. Living in a small, close-knit town, it’s very easy to get used to knowing everyone and everything, where every dropped curb is, which shops are easy to get into. Sometimes it’s a harsh wake-up call going somewhere new and having that comfort taken away, but isn’t that what travelling is all about? Going to new places, seeing things with fresh eyes, taking in new experiences.

Sometimes it can be a little more difficult for me, but that’s not going to stop me any time soon!

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