Hometown exploration as a leisure time option

Posted by Michael Collins in Life After Paralysis on August 29, 2016

When vacation season is in full swing and the rest of the neighbors have headed out on trips to exotic locations, there's no need to sit around the house and think about how quiet it is in the neighborhood. Instead, it might be a great opportunity to take a few pleasure trips as well, although at the local level.

For people investing in vacations to far off places, transportation and hotels are big budget items that tend to make such trips difficult or impossible for people with limited financial resources. People who use many types of mobility devices can incur extra expense related to the cost of specialized transportation options, like wheelchair van services. Mobility device users who want to travel without risking damage or loss of their equipment in the process can avoid such expense, and potential problems, by keeping trips local.

It is easy to forget that there are many, often overlooked, attractions in most communities that are worth spending a few hours of time exploring. The nice thing about that type of exploration is that many of those destinations can be enjoyed at little or no cost, which is a great option for someone who is living on a limited income.

Disability advocates worldwide have expended much effort to gain the passage of laws that create or improve access, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (www.ada.gov). The sight of visitors with disabilities making use of that accessibility may serve to convince local businesses to follow through with even more improvements.

Browsing or window shopping at local stores, especially those not previously visited, will provide an introduction to business owners and employees who enjoy having new faces in their establishments. Seeking their advice about inexpensive places to eat lunch may lead to some undiscovered treasures that will become future favorites for repeat visits.

Since this type of "alternate" exploration does not involve much travel, it might be a good opportunity to use public transportation to reach the local destinations. Most public transit systems have at least some accessibility and are usually close to whatever major public attractions are nearby. Transit drivers, where they are open to conversing with passengers, may provide some information that will make the trips even more enjoyable. Besides the popular tourist destinations, they probably have a few ideas about how to explore the city while avoiding crowds. In some cases, the local paratransit system may be able to provide "point to point" transportation to their "subscribers" without the need to change trains or buses periodically.

Seeking out local opportunities for entertainment can be easy, as the Chamber of Commerce, city hall or tourism office are likely to host websites designed to attract visitors to the community; these locations may also be stocked with brochures from the many attractions that are available to those visitors. Local hotel lobbies are also a great spot to find those brochures. Some of the sites or tourist attractions may charge admission, but asking at a hotel's concierge desk or the chamber office could reveal some that are free or that may not even have a brochure available.

Larger cities often have a zoo, aquarium, art galleries and historical sites, as well as a museum or two. In season, arboretums and botanical gardens offer a relaxing and informative alternative, especially if they have guided tours that explain what is growing there. Small towns might have museums that showcase local events of historical importance, even if they are not open seven days per week.

For those who are living on a very tight budget, consider some lower cost alternatives.

Instead of a botanical garden, greenhouses and garden stores have similar environments, and it costs nothing to learn more about what is growing there from their knowledgeable staff. Pet stores can substitute for zoos and aquariums, with an added bonus; unlike their large public counterparts that keep the "critters" separated from the public by steel bars or large glass walls, pet stores usually let customers hold, or sometimes even feed, the animals that are for sale or ready for adoption.

Sports fans don't need to feel left out either. Even if your community is not large enough to host Major League Baseball, professional soccer or similar sporting teams, there are still plenty of options available for entertainment and excitement on the amateur level. Little league baseball, youth soccer, and a variety of high school sports teams are much cheaper to watch, and the audience participation from a crowd made up of excited parents and fellow students will rival the cheering heard at any professional sports venue. The admission charge at many of those activities is free or, at the very least, far less than the cost of a ticket to attend events where the athletes are paid.

To maximize the enjoyment of local exploration, perhaps this would be a good time to invite a friend or family member to explore with you: it couldn't hurt to ask.

© 2016 Michael Collins

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.