Saturday, July 21, 2018

Traveler Confessions of an MSer


I’ve been all over the world with multiple sclerosis—to every continent sans Antarctica, to dozens of countries, to thousands of towns and cities. I always wax poetic about my adventurous travels. And yet as a seasoned MS globetrotter, oh so much seasoning, I have a confession. Before every trip, I am nervous as all get out.

One would think after trekking through the Himalayas, scooching on my butt around Machu Picchu, camping in the Sahara, and heli-hiking over New Zealand glaciers, I would be over pre-trip jitters. But no. As the clock ticks down to my departing flight, my stomach is in knots as my brain, despite my best intentions, goes through every SINGLE thing that could possibly go wrong.

Of course that often begins with complications in the bathroom department, then jumps to all sorts of potential calamities and surefire pitfalls that will turn a cheery vacation into a trip of doom. DOOOOM. The all caps (in a bellowing deep voice) is joined by dark clouds, clapping thunder, and a skull-and-crossbones warning beacon shining in the night sky like the Bat-Signal over Gotham.

Here’s the thing. In the 13 years that I’ve had this disease, most of which have required mobility aids including a wheelchair, I’ve somehow managed to survive more than a collective year of intrepid exploration of our grand planet. Hundreds of foreign beds, unfamiliar and inaccessible cities, and countless virtual deathtraps masquerading as bathrooms, and I’m still here, and I’m still having an awesome time.

Now, that’s not to say I haven’t had issues traveling. Oh, I’ve had issues, as Laura would seriously kink her neck nodding in agreement—picture a shelf of bobbleheads going full bore. Traveling with someone who has MS isn’t necessarily a “vacation”. For instance, a wheelchair-accessible water taxi in Venice has to be arranged in advance, isn't cheap (opt for the water buses instead, which are all accessible), and there's that risk of falling into the canal while transferring, getting the chin strap on your dorky hat caught on the propeller, and then drowning while fish finish off your half-eaten gelato. What a waste of good gelato! But the experiences more than make up for the challenges. The memories of fun far outstrip the bumps (but boy do those bumps make for knee-slapping good stories). And every time I get home, I look back and wonder why I was so worried. Pshaw, I think.

There are always hiccups when you leave the relative safety of your home. But even that’s relative. More accidents happen at home than anywhere else, so look at it that way and it makes perfect sense to get out of Dodge. For our next trip, we were almost off to Dubai, Oman, Jordan, and Egypt, but accessibility, 100-degree days, and, well, common sense, dictated the decision to book a more pedestrian cruise to Spain, Portugal, and the surrounds.

I’ll admit the nerves are just starting to percolate, even though I’m months away from our European vacation. Before I embark on any expedition, questions of travel fitness seep into my subconscious, and always will because of this darn disease. And I’ll bet that your brain probably does the same thing. Doubts will abound when you leave your usual habitat, that’s normal. That’s also life—and travel—with a disability.

But I’ll be okay. Just like you’ll be okay. (Quick tip, maybe avoid doing really stupid stuff like running with the bulls.) Keep getting out there, even it's a short road trip on a shoestring budget. If I can do it, I’m confident you can, too. And if you need any extra inspiration, please check out the craziness on ActiveMSers' Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/activemsers/). Happy exploring!




14 comments:

Roland Clarke said...

My last expedition was sailing across the Atlantic on Queen Mary 2 - slower than flying but more fun. (I hated flying even before I was in a wheelchair.) Keep up the epic adventuring.

Terry B. said...

sounds wonderful -- My last trip was to an outdoor music festival in the hills of virginia over memorial day weekend. LOTS more walking that I was used to, but I did it.. I slept in a cabin instead of a tent but did have to deal with the midnight, 3am and 5am jaunts to the portajane.. that was not fun. So next year if I go to this music festival I may opt for an off site hotel room. Next up is a three day yoga festival in Asheville NC -- this time I am definitely in a hotel, but the workshops are in different buildings but basically across the street from each other. will bring my trusty nyc shopping cart to lug my yoga gear from workshop to workshop, and cab it from hotel to conference.

Anonymous said...

I love reading about all of the problems involved with travel, but I am jealous and can’t figure out how to save enough money to take a true vacation and have enough left for groceries after coming back from the pharmacy. What or who do I have to know to be able to do all the things you write about?

Cesar Eduardo Gil Carvajal said...

Awesome post! I felt identified and I am sure I am not the only one

Dave Bexfield said...

Thanks Roland, Cesar! Terry B, sometimes a little pampering can make a LOT of difference, even though it might ding the pocketbook more than you'd like. Way to go!

Dave Bexfield said...

And Anon, there is no doubt travel is not cheap. Especially in our younger days Laura and I made lots of trade-offs to take trips. Sales, traveling off season, and creative lodging options help. Other than a full-on financial workshop, the best advice I have is to set your sights on where you want to go—plant that seed—and then slowly start socking away with that goal in mind. The little sacrifices add up. But I know it is not easy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the inspiration Dave.

JE

Dave Bexfield said...

Thanks, JE.

Kathy said...

Hi Dave
It's nice to hear an honest comment about pre-travel jitters. I do a ridiculous amount of planning for all sorts of reasons but the nite before or morning of, I catch myself thinking' it's too much, is it worth the stress is nervous jitters?'. And then I stop thinking. And, once I am on the way, I don't seem to get stressed & all the advance planning was worth it. Including pre-travel communication for Italy when I was initially met with a 'no' as to travelling on a water taxi (with a scooter) from the airport, I went to the top, I think someone got into trouble.
Happy adventures, whether at home or elsewhere!!
Kathy

Dave Bexfield said...

Same with me. Once I'm on the road, life and travel tend to sort out, in no small part because of planning. Lots of planning! Great to get the feedback from one of my travel buds, Kathy. :)

Bette said...

Hi Dave,
Just came back from a 7 week road trip to Alaska in a 22 foot conversion van. I was highly anxious about this trip but it was amazing! we traveled from NH and I used more portable potties in rest stops in different states of yuck! Our van also has a small BR which makes all the difference. It was a great way to travel for gimps. I can luckily still walk a little with a cane and I just planned our sightseeing around that. Thanks for the encouragement to keep exploring.

Dave Bexfield said...

Bette, I know a number of MSers who travel that way. You are spot on, especially with the built in WC. 7 weeks? Must have been an awesome experience!

My Odd Sock said...

Love your post of travels! (And LOVE the 1st picture of you as an extra in Star Wars!)

Dave Bexfield said...

Thanks MOS! I actually was not too far from Tatooine (filmed in neighboring Tunisia). Didn't see any sand people tho.