Traveling is something most people love to do. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy for everyone. In this post, five brave women share their experiences about traveling with (someone who has) a handicap/disease/restriction/whatever you would call it. They all have in common that they just go, they follow their dreams and aren’t afraid to dream even bigger!
Faith and her mother are traveling around the world with her sister who has Down Syndrome. She explains how that works out..
Grace was born with an extra chromosome. While this means she cannot read, do math, or hold a job like you and I can, it doesn’t mean she can’t travel. Life is full of limitations. All of us must decipher between the limits we must accept and the ones we can weasel around to grasp something greater.
As a mother of a Down Syndrome child, my mom sought and struggled to find beneficial programs within Grace’s capabilities. While some special needs programs were out there, they were either unattainable by decade long wait lists or mostly unsuitable.
In foreign countries with new sights, new smells, ways of life and transportation, Grace is constantly being stretched. And she has handled it quite well! Whether is it a strange door knob or riding a camel through the Sahara Desert, Grace is being forced to think, strategize, and problem solve. Keeping her mind alert has been key in fighting her dementia and Alzheimer’s.
During our three weeks in Morocco, we took a tour through the stunning High Atlas Mountains and then down near the Algerian border to the Sahara Desert. Our second night was to be spent sleeping under the stars in the desert with the nomadic Bedouins. We would arrive by camel.
The camel ride would only be about an hour and a half and in the cool of the evening. My mom knew Grace could do it. Grace loves horses and a camel is basically a desert horse, right? But the leading Bedouin guide refused to let Grace join when he saw her. He did not want the responsibility for her.
We were told Grace could take the 4×4 jeep instead, but what kind of experience would that be? My mom advocated for Grace to take the camel and won out in the end. Our wonderful tour group members assisted and encouraged Grace the whole way. She was extremely proud of herself. After a long night spent in the desert, we recognized a limit and took Grace on the 4×4 for the journey back.
It is experiences like these that convince us that travel is more than just possible for people with disabilities. For 10 months, travel has proven to be the best facilitator to help Grace flourish.
Faith wrote a longer article about traveling with her special needed sister on her site Follow in Faith, there you can also read all about their other experiences abroad!
Pam shares her story about how she deals with her anxiety, depression, OCD and autoimmune disorder while traveling.
I started traveling internationally when I was 18. At the most of my ailments were under control and required no medicine, but with any illness of any severity, you don’t get to pick and choose when it flairs up. I was diagnosed at a very young age with situational anxiety, generalized depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). As well as allergies and an autoimmune disorder. Theoretically, I should just stay at home in a bubble but that’s really no fun.
Now If I stayed home and lived in a bubble living with all of these things would be easy but like I said, that’s no fun. So I go and do what I want which for the most part is to see the world. And the only way I can do that is by acknowledging my ailments and taking them into account. For instance, I know what medication I need and how much for each trip I go on. I know that sunscreen has to be packed even if it’s cloudy and I know antihistamines are my only way around allergies. It is in my opinion that traveling with illness or handicap can be done as long as you plan ahead and try to foresee any unknown variables.
Sarah has an issue which is covert under the name neurogenic bladder. In her case, the nerves controlling the opening of her bladder don’t work. As a result of that Sarah can only urinate by using a catheter. She wrote a wonderful, long and open story on her site Gutter to Globe. This is a part of the message she shared with us:
Anyway, the point of writing this isn’t so much to list the challenges as to point out that I do it. Yes, it can be a bit of a nuisance, but the problems are certainly not insurmountable. There’s no way I’d let it stop me doing what I love. There are so many people with disabilities and medical conditions who are put off travelling by the thought of the extra effort involved. However, I’ve found that it doesn’t need to be a big issue. Yes, it’s going to be more of a challenge for you than for somebody who doesn’t have the condition, but it shouldn’t stop you. The key is not to be negative about it. Don’t think about how hard it is and get downhearted before you even begin. I’ve always found writing lists helpful. Down one side of a piece of paper I write all the potential challenges and all the things that might go wrong. Then down the other side, I write the solutions. It can cover everything from losing your medication to needing to explain a problem in a foreign language. If you’ve thought about how to tackle the issues in advance, then you’re not going to be stressed if things do go wrong: you’ve got a plan. You’re then free to enjoy the experience of travelling.
I guess the conclusion is simply that the vast majority of challenges, medical or otherwise, are only a barrier to travel if you let them be. It can involve a little creative thinking and, of course, I realize some conditions are a lot more difficult to work with than my own. However, I don’t believe you should abandon all hope of exploring our amazing world just because life has thrown you a few challenges.
Although my handicap is invisible and I don’t take any medication for it, it still affects me sometimes. I, Yalou, have arthritis, and this is my story:
I think I was 11 when I was diagnosed with arthritis and to be honest, I tucked away most of the memories I had. The only thing I can remember are the visits to the hospital (the rheumatisms children department of the hospital of Amsterdam was pretty cool, it was as if you were in an underwater world. The design was the only cool thing about it though). I got really heavy medication for a child my age and that has a big impact on me till today. Apparently it worked, but the longer I took it, the more hate I grew against it. I went into therapy twice because I just couldn’t take the medication anymore without freaking out, but it didn’t help. Instead of taking pills, I got injections that I had to put in my belly every week. They weren’t any better, so after trying to take them for some months I quitted, without phasing it out, without consultation with my doctor. I felt so much better! I lost weight, I didn’t have to cope with the side effects of my medication anymore, every single day, and I didn’t feel any extra pain. In the end, that made me angry and it made me wonder why I had to take all those trash pills in the first place. I do my best to leave it behind me now. The thing is that, until this day, I cannot take medication without freaking out, so I don’t. This means that while traveling I won’t take Malaria pills (never had to luckily), and I won’t take any other medication when I’m sick (until today, I’ve never been that sick that I really had to).That I don’t take any pills, doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain. My knees and feet hurt pretty bad sometimes, but I can handle it, I’m kind of used to it by now. But I have to take into consideration that I need some rest from time to time.
I won’t say I can’t, but I’m afraid to climb a mountain, afraid to slow down the group, afraid that I have to take painkillers. Another thing most people love to do, at home and abroad, is going out and dance all night. I love to dance, I love music, but I love it even more if I can wake up the next day and move around without feeling pain. This means that I won’t go out most of the times. Most people don’t understand that because on the outside I look totally healthy and my smile covers the pain. Arthritis is an invisible handicap, but if you cannot see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I wish I could dance all night and climb a mountain the very next day, but I have to listen to my body. And when I do that, I can do everything I want, but on my own pace, with the right and understanding people next to me. One day, when my body is ready, I will climb all the mountains that are ahead of me, no fears attached.
I’m a 20-year-old tourism student and blogger from the Netherlands. Around my 12th, we discovered in a quite heavy situation that I’m living with IBS, Irritable Bowel System, which causes my digestion to be really sensitive and livingit’s own life. IBS happens out of nowhere and can get you a lot of pain and cramps. It basically marries me to bathrooms every now and then (:. You have to consider everything you eat, whether your drinking water is really clean and hygiene is more important to me than to others, since my body reacts to every single thing that it tastes, processes and feels in a heavier way. While I was in Morocco, I took medicines against IBS symptoms every day, but I still got sick because of the food and hygiene that my body simply isn’t used to.
However, it never ever stopped me from travelling! Of course it can be a problem, but it’s up to you how you approach it. I simply thought of ways on how I was going to deal with it during my trip. No way that I’m going to let this ruin my dreams! Before leaving, I tell my travel buddy about IBS, what could happen and what to do when something happens. I look up if there are bathrooms in trains, and I translate the words ‘toilet’ and ‘bathroom’ in the language that they speak at my destination. While on the road, I always carry extra medicines, toilet paper/napkins and use the bathroom whenever possible, even when I don’t feel the need to go. Just to be sure! Eating is always hard, especially when you’re in a country where they eat a lot of spicy food. My advice: just eat it and enjoy it to the fullest. Living with IBS, you’re probably going to get sick at some point anyway. So make the best of it and try all the local foods that you want. Wash your hand, use disinfecting hand gel and only drink water from bottles. Don’t let it lead your trip – it’s your body. Listen to it, be kind, act accordingly and make sure that you can cross off things on your bucket list!
Do you have a story to tell about traveling with a disease or handicap?