CHARLOTTE, NC: Since being diagnosed with ALS, I have traveled to 10 countries. Some folks tell me I am a “road warrior” but I don’t look at it that way.
Travel has been my passion since my first European trip to Spain in the 70’s. Since then the wanderlust bug has bitten me hard.
I have endeavored to reach my personal goal of visiting 100 countries before I die.
I am now at 82 and still aiming at the century mark.
To do travel properly is difficult, even without health issues to get in the way. That does not mean, however, that mobility should be abandoned unless it becomes absolutely impossible.
A travel industry ready to accommodate disability travel
Today, travel professionals, tour companies, airlines and cruise lines are more aware than ever before of the need to accommodate disabled travelers. It’s a growing market and those that provide such services are ahead of the game.
Many places outside the United States can be difficult because ramps were pretty much used for building the pyramids and little else. Even so, there are usually ways to get around such obstacles and gradually individual countries are coming around to assisting those in need of assistance.
As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, ALS patients deal with their condition on an individual basis, which therefore means what I do to prepare for a trip is most likely completely different than others who have the same disease but separate needs.
Tips to arrange disability travel – use the wheelchair
First, notifying an airline in advance that you require wheelchair aid is a major convenience. Many people are in denial and do not want to be construed as a burden. Heck with that.
After several heart-pounding runs through airports to get to my gate or to customs (which, by the way, in most international airports seem as if they are in another country), I quickly discovered that it is far better to let somebody else’s fingers, and legs, “do the walking.”
After all, that’s their job. That’s why they are there. Swallow your pride. And give them a tip for hauling you around.
Cruises are a great way to travel for the disabled.
True, there are hazards to deal with like crowded venues and narrow corridors, but best of all ships allow you to visit multiple destinations in a brief period of time. They also have onboard medical services, provide handicapped facilities, offer dozens of places to sit quietly without having to move about and include many amenities other forms of transportation do not, such as meals.
As a traveler, more than ever before, I am always aware of my surroundings. Airports, escalators and any venue with stairs or crowds or a combination of the two can be hazardous. All it takes, however, is a little more observation of your environment and then placing yourself out of harm’s way.
Disabled travelers should not be alarmed or apologetic for their conditions. Let that burden rest upon the healthy who can more readily adapt to you than you to them.
One interesting cultural thing both my wife and I recently observed at the same time is that each day we become aware of new things we never noticed prior to having ALS interrupt our lives.
In our supposedly racially divided nation, more often than not, whenever an unknown black man, woman or couple sees us coming, they are the first people to ask if we need assistance getting into our car or holding a door or offering the simplest of courtesies.
Random acts of kindness do not go unnoticed by those of us with infirmities.
For myself, there are basic things which I must now adapt to in order to travel. Dressing, bathing, eating, using the restroom, reading a magazine or a book and on and one. Many of these situations can be embarrassing at times because they frequently occur at moments when a patient is least able to deal with them.
About the only thing someone with ALS can do is to grin and bear it and move on with the knowledge that most people understand. Those who do not have too many of their own problems for the ALS patient to worry about.
Most importantly, such hassles should not deter an ALS sufferer from his appointed rounds, much like the mailman who used to trudge through “rain or snow or heat nor gloom of night to keep his appointed rounds.”
Find disability travel resources before you go
A great source for disabled travelers is WheelchairTravel.org which provides invaluable information and guidance for those of us with a desire to see as much of our planet as possible in the time we have remaining.
Remember that ALS, for whatever reason, has a knack for drawing out the best in people.
There are angels out there dressed in stranger’s clothing who invariably take notice and offer empathy, service, kindness, compassion, indulgence, toleration and, in general, loving assistance to their fellow man.
It’s not something you will hear on the news at night, but it is real and it is happening.
These are actually some of the blessings of ALS that too often go unnoticed. I will attest to the fact that I was not aware of them myself until I personally became a member of the ALS fraternity.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the great Scottish author was an avid traveler who once wrote,
“I travel not to go any where, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
That’s the key. If you are so inclined then just go ahead and “hit the road, Jack.” ALS may make it slightly more difficult, but, in the end, it will truly be a “moving experience.”
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up