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Our European adventure

We’ve just arrived home from a European adventure. It was different to our usual travels for several reasons. The catalyst for the trip was Amelia gaining a place to study at a University in Italy, and our desire to spend some time with her traveling before her studies began. The big difference to this trip was that Braeden wasn’t travelling with us.

European adventure - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Travel has always been a lovely way of giving Amelia some one-to-one time. If you’ve been following along for a while, you may remember our mother-daughter trip to New York and Los Angeles in 2018. It’s been a long time between trips for various reasons and on this trip we had limited time available due to my other caring responsibilities at home. The short trip and long-haul flight meant Braeden couldn’t travel with us this time, which of course was hard. Braeden finds flying, and lots of the challenges associated with travelling long distance, incredibly difficult. Whenever we’ve talked about a family holiday to Europe, we have acknowledged that for us to tackle it, we’d need to take four to six weeks to do it and we’d need to break the journey with multiple stops, making the flight time shorter and more manageable for him. I wish long-haul flights weren’t such a big deal for Braeden, but they are, and we accepted that for this trip it would just be the three of us going. I also really wanted this trip to be about Amelia, her interests and spending time with her. After all, gaining a place to study abroad is an amazing opportunity for her.

Europe - Have Wheelchair Will Travel
Our mother-daughter trip in New York

There was significant organisation involved in being able to go away and feel Braeden would be comfortable. We had a meeting with his respite house manager, I wrote a guide to Braeden’s daily routine and included photos of things like his meals, activities and his likes and dislikes. I feel some people are better with visuals rather than an overwhelming amount of written information. Braeden’s speech pathologist organised visits and we had Braeden’s usual support workers organised to take him out as usual during the week. Amelia and I went to the respite house the day before we left and tried to make his room feel more homely with his things. It was a huge pull on my heart to leave him but in the back of my mind I also acknowledge that as Hubby and I get older it’s important that we take steps to ensure that Braeden learns to accept help from others and settles into other environments other than home. Despite this, it was so hard, but I was excited to travel again. I was thrilled to have time with Hubby and Amelia and show Amelia places I’d travel before.

We left Sydney 30 December. In the lead up to our departure day I crossed my fingers, toes and everything in between that the predicted strikes and other airline issues wouldn’t affect our travels. I also hoped everyone would stay healthy as we’d had some close calls with Covid again. We ended up going into a bit of a bubble prior to our departure as Covid seemed to be circling and doing the rounds of those close to us that had dodged it for the last couple of years. There was such an investment of money (airfares are at an all time high and cost a ridiculous amount), effort and energy associated with the trip.

Europe - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

I couldn’t quite believe it when I was sitting on the plane, somewhat relaxed and actually on my way with Hubby on one side and Amelia on the other. We flew with Singapore Airlines via Singapore to Paris, our first stop. We arrived on New Year’s Eve. I’d smugly booked a hotel for one night with an Eiffel Tower view so we could watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks without leaving our room. Remember how I always say to research every detail? Well, I missed the fact that the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe take turns in hosting the New Year’s Eve fireworks and in 2022 it was the Arc’s turn. It didn’t matter as we loved the view from our room, and we were too tired with jet lag to make it to midnight anyway.

Europe - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

We had a wonderful five nights in Paris (four nights in an AirBnB in Montmartre). We kept in touch with Braeden via Facetime and by exchanging photos over Whatsapp.

Beach wheelchair - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

He was missing us but always looked happy when we saw pictures of him. He was making the most of our Aussie summer while we were in warm coats and gloves in Paris.

Europe - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

After Paris we headed to Florence. We enjoyed our time in an AirBnB in the historic town, but we were overwhelmed by the crowds of people. Florence was heaving with Italians taking advantage of the Christmas holiday break. At times it was just a sea of people in front of us moving like a wave. We took  a day trip to Pisa and Livorno and set a cracking pace to see as much as we could in the short time we had available while in Florence.

Europe - Have Wheelchair Will Travel
Crowds in Florence

From Florence we travelled to Rome. The city was crazy busy and seemed huge after being in Florence. We had two nights together in Rome before Hubby returned to Australia to take over care for my parents (my cousin had stepped in during my absence) and to bring Braeden home. Again, we fitted in as much as we could in the time we had in Rome.

Europe - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Amelia and I stayed on in Rome for an extra night and explored the area where she would be attending university for a couple of weeks. It’s a lovely part of Rome and it was nice when I had to leave to be able to picture where she would be spending her time. After Rome we caught the train to Cinque Terre, also known as the Italian Riviera. We had been warned off going to the area in winter as not much is open, and the area can experience heavy rain, but Amelia was keen and I knew it would be an area we wouldn’t return to as a family with Braeden due to the steep terrain and stairs. I don’t think I’ve ever tackled so many staircases in my life – perhaps when I was a child travelling with my parents around Europe for six months, but I was nine years old, so stairs didn’t mean much at that age. Cinque Terre is beautiful, and we had good weather and although lots of the shops and cafes were closed it was nice to experience the small towns without the crowds. At this time of year, it also appears any building work is done so there was scaffolding up but honestly, we just appreciated the fact we were there and enjoyed spending time together.

Europe - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

We finished the trip off with another night in Rome, a pasta making class and some last-minute shopping. I was sorry my part of the trip was coming to an end. How nice is it to just escape the daily grind and run away? But I was excited for what lay ahead for Amelia. She is a great traveller – confident in finding her way around, navigating a foreign country’s customs and giving things a go. It’s lovely to see the confidence she has gained through our travels.

Europe - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

I arrived home to a super excited Braeden. He is so family orientated he was thrilled to have me home. Now he’s awaiting Amelia’s return. I’m sure she will get endless cuddles and smiles from him.

While I wanted this trip to be a complete break, I couldn’t help but take note of accessibility. I have loads of information and photos to share from airports, cities and major attractions, I simply can’t switch off my access and inclusion radar. Stay tuned!


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