by Ella Alkiewicz
In the fast, uptight, smartphone world, a little disabled Inuk (me) with her retired disabled Gunnery Sergeant husband travel a lot by car. We spoke last night about how many times we slept away from home this past year. Take a guess. . .
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Seven times! That’s incredible! 7 times we traveled last year! I am proud, but recall all the hardships it took to be successful and graceful (or at least I thought we were).
The worst trip was when we took a family emergency trip to Toronto. My husband drove straight there with minimal stops. My brother was in a coma in ICU. The stress made my fibromyalgia et al. in a tail spin, but then the hotel had a one a.m. fire alarm. The beds were uncomfortable, similar to bricks too. (Happily, brother survived and is healing as I type this.)
Our best trip was when we went to a small bed and breakfast for our wedding anniversary. It had a double-sized jet tub. I got to soak and rest while bubbles pulsated on my back and legs from the cold walk around Woodstock, Vermont last December.
Before each trip, I ask myself if it’s worth traveling. And every time we return home, exhausted, the answer has been yes. The economics of travel need not be discussed. Money is a necessary ev*l and discourages any potential fruitful conversations. (AAA Plus and Kayak.com help with discounts.) The good news is we went, we saw, we lived. The bad news is how many bags one disabled person needs. Then times it by two for husband and I are a team.
We can’t be without. An example of my packing and what we need for two to ten days-worth of belongings:
- School bags (a roll-y bag for the heavy technological products, a messenger bag, my purse)
- One food bag (coffee pot, coffee grinder, coffee beans, two cups)
- Second food bag (snacks, sodas, water)
- Clothing bag on wheels (with or without a garment bag)
- A duffle bag of extra clothes since I can’t get too cold or too hot.
- A medicine bag (supplements, medication, OTC pills)
- Laundry bag (with laundry soap if the facilities have machines)
- Two walking canes (in the trunk, just in case)
- Our pillows and blankets
Therefore, all these belongings make it easier to drive. Fortunately, we have the Google Maps app on our smartphones and we can drive anywhere. We each have our handicapped placards and rely on parking in the HP spots.
The challenge is to have enough time to get there and back. Scheduling our time away from doctors’ appointments, his V.A. groups, and my school work. We have many people to respond to. We have learned to be flexible from trial and error along with give enough notice for our absence.
I can’t write that traveling is easy. I can’t write that there aren’t challenges to traveling. For example, when I leave home, I invariably get bound up and need to take my MiraLAX. I need to always keep hand sanitizer close by because new germs are not my friends. I need to always have my inhaler in my purse with some throat drops and Freedent gum. I need to always sip water in between my cups of coffee. I need to always have my eyeglasses and sunglasses available. I had migraines for two days on my last trip and that stunk. I missed some events because the fluorescent lights hurt. I need to always schedule myself naps or I can’t function, usually twenty minutes of shut eye helps.
I won’t not live because I’m disabled. I’m slow like a turtle. I get what I need done just at a different pace. I used to get so mad at myself. I recall my fierce field hockey goalie days. I recall the biking I did. Now, my joints pop. My feet ache when I’m cold where I can’t walk far. Then if it’s that cold, my hands stiffen up and I can’t write. Carpal tunnel is upon me. I need new glasses. It never stops. Yet, I lived this long and am dam# proud to get the chance to try again. I’ll nod when I see you on the trails.
Ella Alkiewicz is a full-time graduate student. Her eight or nine health labels don’t prohibit her life, she accommodates her life for them. She walks when she can. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.