The Locked-In Traveler
(Kati’s Wheelchair Traveling Journals)
Sitting all day long is not as easy as one might think. Especially for someone that can only sit in only one position. My inability to move makes me such a person. No matter where I sit being it; the wheelchair, on the bed, a standard chair, or airplane seat, I am always in the same position.
Sitting like this has its effect on the body, principally my shoulders, my back, and my butt (of course.) It also is very tiring (unbelievably.) When I am at home, I go to bed sometimes to rest my body. I have three therapy sessions three times a week; stretching, standing, and swimming.
The stretching therapy is to keep trajectory in order and to keep muscles from shortening. The standing therapy is to keep bones in good condition and for blood circulation. The swimming therapy is to stay in shape, it is the only kind of movement therapy that I can do.
Long flights are, in a way, unavoidable to me. I like to travel and see the world. To do this, I must withstand the torment of sitting for hours. Long flights are hard enough on an abled person who can stretch out and even walk a little let alone for someone who cannot do either.
I can handle up to four or five hours of flight, anything more becomes like torture. Even though I take my Air cushion with me to the seat, it still hurts. Many times, I must ask my husband or assistants to bend my upper body and rub my butt because of the pain.
Stopovers are a drag but also a relief. A drag because of having to go through the whole process of getting in and out of the plain. A relief for my butt and back because of the movements and the change of surfaces. I will take the drag for the relief.
Long stopovers can also be a drag on wheelchair users. The wheelchair they use at airports is the basic kind that anyone can use. Most wheelchair users have a specific sort of chair depending on their extent of disability or requirements (body size or shape can also play a role.) A regular wheelchair is uncomfortable if you must sit in it for many hours.
My longest trip was to Bali. It took thirty-two hours from home to hotel. A twenty-three-hour trip. Seventeen hours in flight and six hours divided into three stopovers. It was a long trip, but I liked it. It was; Helsinki-Copenhagen-Vienna-Bangkok-Bali. Only the flight between Vienna and Bali was a long one (ten hours.) The other flights were reasonably short.
My ideal flight would be a three to four-hour flight. My perfect stopover would be for two hours, so you do not need to rush or wait too long. Such trips are strenuous on most people because most of the time people focus on getting there. It would be less grueling if one would focus on enjoying the moment. As the quote says, “life is a journey, not a destination!”
(Kati & Henning van der Hoeven)