In December 2009 I was left a T4 complete paraplegic with numerous other injuries while riding my motorcycle as a result of a negligent driver. The doctor’s words were ‘The spinal cord in completely obliterated.’
I will never walk again, which doesn’t bother me. I just wanted to do what I could to get home and get back to being me. With my mum by my side during 6 months rehabilitation, I pumped weights, gained wheelchair skills and confidence. During rehab, I had taken to social media on the Internet, tweeting here, tweeting there. I had met some amazing people over in London. In particular, a band named The Midnight Beast. They were crucial to my recovery and the friends that branched from there grew. I decided once I got out of hospital, I would go and see them one day!
It was 2 years later when I began planning what was going to be for me, the scariest, exciting, amazing experience I will ever encounter. I had never been overseas as an able bod let alone in a wheelchair! We planned to go for a month! This initial stage would take a while. I started working out how to travel based on my daily bathroom routine, which meant I would have to split the trip up and finally end in London. I had booked all accommodation, ensuring they all had access and roll-in showers, I also prebooked the majority of taxicabs from the airport to our hotels. We didn’t plan to do tours etc. as it was my first overseas trip, I did not want to commit to anything. So my boyfriend Aydan and I would just do what we felt like doing each day! September 2012, it was time to travel! We left Sydney bound for our first stop in Singapore. I’d never boarded a plane as a wheelchair user so I was terrified of the unknown! Little did I know, everybody is extremely helpful, staying in my manual chair until the door of the plane then helping me transfer into an aisle chair then onto the plane to my seat.
Once we hit Singapore, we headed outside the airport excited about being in a new country, jumped in the accessible taxi and began our trip to the hotel. 10 minutes went by and realised we forgot my commode! Just what we need! So naturally panicked and turned back, our driver was all too happy to, to grab my commode. First obstacle, Phew! The weather was so hot! My level of injury leaves me unable to regulate body temperature, we were only here for 2 nights to break up the trip so we didn’t mind hanging at the hotel for that time! Air conditioning, massages, room service, what more could we ask for to begin our trip!
Our next destination was Amsterdam. A place I longed to travel to for years! We stopped over in Frankfurt then boarded the tiniest little jet for an hour flight to Amsterdam to meet one of our London friends I had never met face to face, only tweeted with. Unfortunately I did not pre book a taxi thinking ‘yeah we can wing it, just ring one when we get there’. Mistake! We were hanging around Schiphol airport for about 5 hours (after 14 hours of flying) trying to get help from anyone on how to book a wheelchair accessible taxi. In the end we got one haha, but I wish I had have researched that part! We got to the hotel I booked, turned out the bathroom wasn’t accessible! Their driver ended up taking Aydan to a hotel they knew was accessible and we reorganised it all. Turns out it was better anyway!
Got to our hotel and met our friend. I struggled with my routine for the first couple of days as I took too many Imodium to stop it while we flew. Big mistake! Once that was all sorted we had the most amazing time. Although it is not technically accessible with the cobblestones, steps into stores and tiny doorways, there’s always a way around it! My boyfriend gained big shoulders from helping me push around the city, which is always a plus! The local storeowners would pop out of the shop if they saw me and ask if they could get me anything. We felt safe going out day or night, everyone was lovely and the experience there was exactly how we’d imagined it. Gorgeous little cafes down hidden alleyways, funky shops and vibrant nightlife! We’d set ourselves up at a pub or café and we had a ball!
The next stop on our trip was Paris. We caught the EuroStar Rail from Schiphol to Paris, arriving at ParisGare Du Nord. The EuroStar was a breeze to board and disembark, each way the attendant just let the staff know we were there and they helped us on and off. Only downside is that there was no wheelchair accessible toilet on board. However the trip is only a couple of hours, so it didn’t really matter. Another taxi mishap, we happened to come across an amazing taxi driver who happened to have a friend that drives an accessible taxi.
We were lucky enough to be within half an hour walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. What a beautiful work. Be wary of scammers at night trying to sell little souvenirs for obscene amounts of money. But that tip is for everyone, not just us wheelies. Paris is fairly bumpy, but a beautiful town to look at! There are so many open places to wheel around and just experience the people, coffee, food and the culture.
Catching the EuroStar once again, we headed to London. We quickly figured out that every taxi is wheelchair accessible! Amazing! You can hail any black cab and they all have a ramp installed. I was just dumb founded! Loved London, although we didn’t do the typical tourist sightseeing adventure, we just walked around and made our own. Visiting our new friend’s houses in places we had never been and friends we’d never met face to face! We also went to Camden Markets, which was fantastic – besides the cobblestones! It would’ve been a good for me to invest in a FreeWheel to attach to the front of my chair to make things less bumpy!
The vast majority of London is so accessible its great! I know most of the attractions; museums and shopping are highly accessible as London is one of the leaders in this industry. It was great to be in a place that felt tailored to me! This was our final place before beginning our trip home. We powered through obstacles that could only happen when you least expect them and partied ias VIP’s at The Midnight Beast after party on our last night in London. On our way home we stopped over in Hong Kong (to break the trip up again) then home to Sydney!
It wasn’t long before we got the bug again. 2 months to be exact! Off we went to Las Vegas to celebrate my best friend’s birthday and New Years Eve on the strip. Las Vegas is wonderful! A wheelchair users dream! Flat, fun and shop til you drop outlets! Going to see Penn and Teller at the Rio was one of our highlights. Everything there is accessible, minus the older town casinos and the excessive use of carpet in every casino! On New Years Eve, the police were so organised it was great, as soon as they saw me, amongst the 500,000 otherpeople attending Vegas, they quickly formed a barrier and helped me get to where I was going to in the crowd! We had a blast and one of the most memorable New Years Eve celebrations ever!
On these trips, I made lifelong friends, learnt a whole new way of life and experienced more than I could ever imagine! I wouldn’t change my injury happening for anything and I hope you enjoy your travels as much as we did!
List of Accommodation and taxi transport:
|Singapore, Singapore||Shangri-La Hotel Singaporewww.shangri-la.com||Limousine Transportwww.limousinetransport.com|
|Amsterdam, Netherlands||Hotel De L’Europewww.leurpope.nl||Boonstrawww.amsterdam.angloinfo.com|
|Paris, France||Mandarin Orientalwww.mandarinoriental.com||Taxis G7 Horizonwww.taxisg7.fr|
|London, United Kingdom||Grosvner House Apartmentswww.jumeirah.com||The London Taxi Experiencewww.the-london-taxi.com|
|Hong Kong, Hong Kong||Shangri-La Hotelwww.shangri-la.com||Easy-Access Transport Serviceswww.rehabsociety.org.hk|
|Los Angeles, USA||Sheraton Gateway Hotelwww.starwood.com||Sheraton Gateway Shuttlewww.starwood.com|
|Las Vegas, USA||Bellagiowww.bellagio.com||LV Cabswww.lvcabs.com|
Cami Lee says
I’m a volunteer and a guide for Accessible Travel Netherlands. I am not sure if you have heard of us, but I read about your rough experience in Amsterdam and would love to let you know that we can make your next visit to the Netherlands go a lot smoother. Our goal is to provide information about accessible travel in Amsterdam and surrounding cities. We can plan trips for people, arrange hotels, rent adaptable bikes, arrange for accessible taxis, and do all the detail work so people can have a fun vacation and not have to worry about what is accessible and what is not. Our main website is http://www.accessibletravelnl.com. We are also holding a conference in March on accessible travel. You can check it out at this website: http://www.accessibletravelnl.com/projects/ACCESSTOUR-Project.