I’m not good at taking holidays. I never seem to get organised. I fill them with freelance work, and the effort of finding somewhere I can get to and get into on wheels often feels insurmountable.
Even pre-pandemic, I had a particular fear of travelling by plane. I’m not scared of flying – in fact I quite enjoy it – but when flying with a wheelchair, it can often feel like I’m putting my mobility in the hands of strangers who won’t necessarily treat my chair with the care it needs and deserves.
This isn’t a baseless fear. My amazing friend and podcast co-host, Olivier-nominated playwright Athena Stevens, had her chair broken whilst flying from London to Scotland, and found herself trapped in her home for literally months whilst airport and airline fought out who was ‘responsible’. This was such a life-changing experience that she wrote a fantastic play about it, ‘Scrounger’, which is available to buy to read – I’d very much recommend it. But, having heard her story, and those of other wheelchair users across the world who have experienced similar situations, I am now terrified that if I travel by plane, I may get to my destination and find that I can’t get anywhere.
I miss international travel. When I first graduated medical school, and was able to get further on crutches, I took myself to Ghana for four weeks to work in a hospital there, and was pulling myself on and off minibuses, but that wouldn’t be possible for me now.
Of course, events of the last year have left most of us grounded and having to come up with alternatives. This weekend, I went to the Yorkshire Dales – only two hours from my home, and yet it felt truly indulgent as we were greeted by incredible sunsets and glorious weather, along with hosts who were delighted to be able to welcome people again. Being able to drive up into the Dales, roll myself up to the base of Ribblehead Viaduct on Merida the WHILL Model C, inadvertently herd some sheep – it was utter bliss, and nicely filled my need for travel without actually having to go too far.
I hate the word ‘staycation’ – it’s a holiday wherever you go and having never been abroad with my family, I don’t feel I missed out. It’s fascinating how not being able to holiday abroad is yet another thing greeted by much of the non-disabled community with horror, and yet for many disabled people, it’s the norm, and has been pre-Covid. Hopefully, as our economy tries to rebuild from the last year, the joys of holidaying in the UK will be apparent to everyone, and small businesses will benefit from our making the most of it!