As a child I travelled extensively. In ‘those’ days my Dad and Mum were thought to be quite radical, foolish and one person even labeled my Dad ‘irresponsible’ for leaving his job and taking me out of school for 6 months to travel to Europe, Egypt and Scandinavia. These days overseas travel for kids is a lot more ‘the norm’, maybe not for as long but certainly from my experience kids travel more.
Travelling with my family gave me a real love for travel despite going through every church, museum and going to every monument in Europe. I might add it did give me a good education and an understanding of the world outside of my Year 4 classroom!
In my 20’s I started working as a travel consultant for a company that did corporate and special interest travel. I found myself ‘specialising’ in travel that was actually really foreign to me! Surfing tours (I didn’t know my right hand wave from my left, or what a goofy footer was!) Garden tours and Holyland tours! What a mix. Life was certainly never dull!
I had surfers putting their passports through the wash and bringing them in wrinkled and unusable despite drying them out in the microwave! Then on the other extreme, older ladies (mainly) keen to follow the garden trails to the best flowers throughout Europe, UK and USA. Finally a group lead by a priest who braved going to the middle east despite the unrest and during their travels being issued with gas masks which caused reasonable concern.
While working I travelled for work and pleasure, taking advantage of the discounted travel. Travel isn’t paid well so you tend to take advantage of the discounted travel.
During these travels I got stuck on a remote island in the Philippines during a typhoon and lived to tell the tale of being in Hawaii during Hurricane Iniki. All making for great travel stories on our return but hair-raising at the time.
My passport during this time sported many many stamps as I entered and exited the country joyfully. Falling pregnant with our son I planned to return to work part time and continue to travel with him as my parents had done with me.
Our focus and priorities shifted rather significantly when our son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 5 months of age. We were immersed into a foreign world which revolved around Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech Pathologists and eye therapy. I always remember the social worker at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (formerly known as the Spastic Centre) handing me a poem which drew a comparison between having a child with a disability to landing at a different destination than you had expected (ie landing in Holland instead of Italy for which you had booked)
You can read the poem here.
At the time I really didn’t feel like I related to the poem at all. I didn’t feel I was in an exotic country but I guess in hindsight I understand. 16 years down the track I certainly know I am a better person for having a child with a disability. I try not to take things for granted and we certainly have seen much kindness from people. Do I wish our son didn’t have a disability? You bet! In saying that he is a gorgeous boy, who is happy and loving and through his disability we have made lifelong friendships with people we have met along the way. We still struggle each day to feel we have done our absolute best and there are times that are difficult. We are fortunate though to have great friends and family who are there to help make those times a bit lighter and brighter.
I have so much information to share it is hard to know where to begin. I guess where you will start is either booking your trip yourself on line or going via a travel agent. We’ve travelled twice to the US as a family and on our first trip had a travel agent who didn’t know anything about disability but was very willing to learn and incredibly service orientated making it a dream booking. The second trip we didn’t have the same success. Being an ex travel consultant I understand that a consultant can’t know every hotel. If they haven’t experienced someone travelling with a wheelchair they will have to learn along the way but you do need someone with a level of experience to be able to put together a hassle free holiday.
Keep in mind even then things can always go wrong when you travel.
Check, double check and check again is my motto!