Bringing spontaneity back – part one

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on October 24, 2018 # Health, Mobility, Travel

My favorite pastime before my injury was embracing the true essence of spontaneous traveling. Waking up on a Saturday morning realizing that I hadn't dusted off my backpack in a while and in a short couple hours dusting off such pack, booking a quick flight somewhere away from home – mostly international – and making appropriate plans to leave town on a moments notice. It was exciting, the unknown travel trajectory, the spontaneity of meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, eating new foods and getting away from it all for just a moment. Getting a new stamp in my passport was like getting a gift of gold, a secret treasure that I looked at often smiling while reminiscing of my recent travels. I used to do this quite often, as I was a travel physical therapist, so I had the ability to take a week or two off every couple of months and do just as described above. And frankly, I have to admit this is probably why I became a travel physical therapist so that I might fulfill this wanderlust that nagged at me often. A lot of my family and friends wouldn't understand this, as they saw this as too challenging, maybe even a little dangerous not having secure plans once you arrive in such international destinations, or knowing what town I would be sleeping in or what local transportation I would need to understand and conquer or how to speak a few foreign language words for basic navigation. It was this idea of adventure, the unknown, that really fueled my fire – and it still does.

For obvious reasons and wheelchair, users will corroborate, spontaneous traveling becomes a thing of the past. I can no longer just dust off my backpack and throw in a couple pairs of jeans, my traveling sneaks and an old lonely planet to illuminate my travel plans. Now, I have to travel with what I affectionately call the caravan of a circus, with multiple suitcases and medical equipment. One 50 pound bag houses my shower chair that I must utilize for bathing and toileting while away from home, another hard case resembling a small coffin carries my 75 pound medical Hoyer lift necessary for effectively and safely getting me in and out of bed and wheelchair, while another suitcase has my basic clothing, toiletries and other small pieces of medical equipment i.e. blood pressure cuff, CPAP machine, extra catheters, baby wipes, program supplies, sterile water, preventative wound care supplies, medications, EpiPens, extra slings, extra wheelchair covers, you name it… it gets packed. Another army canvas bag – one of my "carry-ons" – houses my slide board, wheelchair protective wrapping, airplane positioning pillows and blankets with extra room to store parts of my wheelchair too delicate to go into the belly of the plane on transit. Like I said before, traveling with EB is like hitting the road with a traveling circus show.

Getting a spinal cord injury takes away so many things from your previous lifetime, I could write a book about all of the things that have changed so dramatically in my life. One of the biggest stingers is losing the ability at spontaneous travel as an independent woman seeking new adventures on my own. Hence why it was so important for me to learn how to once again travel, obviously with a new perspective and plan, but still be able up to fulfill the travel bug itch that bit me so many years ago. Up until this point, I have learned how to travel as a quad with "all the things" packed for those just in case situations, which happen. But, I decided a couple days ago after hearing Justin Timberlake's song "Bringing Sexy Back" on the radio that it was time to "bring spontaneity back", as much as possible, in my new quadriplegic life. My birthday is October 26 and therefore my new goal was, with one week's notice just like I did in my previous life, attempt to plan a week away from Denver Colorado and travel to San Francisco California to visit with friends and family for my 41st birthday. I would have to find appropriate flights for my caregiver and I, a handicap accessible VRB0/air B&B, an accessible rental van or other modes of transportation all the while not feeling like I had to sell my kidney or liver to afford such arrangements. I knew it would be hard but not impossible.

I found the last two seats on a United Airlines flight within three days, was able to track down a handicap accessible vacation rental in Corte Madera just over the Golden Gate Bridge and am utilizing a new van rental company called Get Around – a private car-sharing app – because every last accessible van in larger rental companies was sold out in the bay area. My plan… Is working.

Stay tuned for Part B of my "bringing spontaneity back" in which I will unveil my new adventures as a spontaneous quadriplegic traveler fulfilling my travel dreams as I always have. Anything is possible!