The Locked-In Traveler (Wheelchair Traveling Journals)
Where to now?
My first trip in a wheelchair was two years after the stroke. The Doctors and therapists at the rehab recommended us to take a trip outside of the country. They thought that it would be a good idea because it would be getting my mind off the situation and help with the depression.
They proposed a short cruise to Stockholm, where you can get comfortable and relaxed on and off board. Sounded easy enough, like an excellent way to learn about traveling with a wheelchair.
It was a good idea and all that they said made sense. However, it did not sound like a pleasure trip, and what I needed was not easy. I needed pleasure and warmth.
The one constant thing since the stroke was cold. Since I could not move anymore, I was always freezing. I needed to feel the warmth of the sun shining on my face and heating my body.
Therefore, I booked a trip to warm and wheelchair friendly Florida, USA.
I had a massive brain stroke in January 1995. Because of this, I suffer from a condition called: Locked-In syndrome.
LIS, for short, is a condition in which a patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for eye movements. Patients who have locked-in syndrome are conscious and aware, with no loss of cognitive function.
In Layman’s terms; “I am quadriplegic that cannot communicate orally, I speak with my eyes.”
I cannot do anything for myself; I need to be fed, washed, and moved around. Only on my computer, I can be free and do everything by myself, including planning my trips.
Since that first trip to Florida in 1997, I have traveled the world by car, bus, train, ships, and planes. As a result of my journeys throughout Europe, America’s and Asia, I have gathered much experience of what the general public think that is accessible and not.
Abled people tend to see the less abled as a one-dimensional phenomenon, and that is not the case. There are many different types of disabilities, and what can be accessible to one may not be accessible to another.
Traveling enriches the mind, the soul, and the spirit. Experiencing different cultures helped me to overcome depression and enhanced my life.
Through these series of blogs, I want to share my journals (adventures and misadventures) and shine a light on pure accessibility for all. I will share some tips on how to travel the world even when you are completely paralyzed and locked-in as I am.
Life is a blessing, and it should be lived as such. There are two types of dreams; the ones that our unconscious makes up when we sleep and the kinds that our hearts create when we are awake. We have an obligation to ourselves to do everything possible to make these dreams real. No matter what the circumstances and situation.
(Kati & Henning van der Hoeven)