Lali writes about her travelling experience with ataxia, including accessible finds in Nice that helped her to travel comfortably.
The best thing for me when travelling is to have good friends who will always help and wait for me. Even better if they are strong, so usually that will be a boy! (Sorry to my girlfriends, but I promise whether you are strong or not, your help and support is equally appreciated.)
I am 26 years old and am now wheelchair bound. I have done a fair amount of travelling and, at different stages of my disability, so for quite a lot of it I could actually walk.
I have been on lots of family holidays which usually involved camping and it took until I was an adult for my parents to realise that I really struggled to enjoy myself when camping. Probably going to the loo was the most difficult thing. I can’t balance and I certainly can’t squat. I usually had to find a tree or gate or something to hold onto. I also get uncomfortable and extremely suffer from the cold. Even when it’s not cold for a person with no disability, I will find it cold and so do most people with ataxia. I do enjoy camping, once in a blue moon with my friends, but it’s always a challenge.
Since I left school, I have only been travelling alone or with friends and there have been difficulties because of my disability, like getting tired or frustrated, but then again, isn’t that just normal daily life? Anyway, enough negativity!
I went interrailing around Europe with my friends and there were some amazing disabled facilities that I discovered. The one that stands out the most in my memories is in Nice. I had wanted some time off from holding my friends back, so they went to explore Monaco and left me for the day in Nice (I had to really insist).
I was alone, zooming along the busy pavements by the sea. It was hot and I longed to swim in the inviting sea below me. The sun was blazing, sending sparkles over the massive ocean. The water was turquoise and crystal-clear, showing rocks and sand on the sea-bed where it was shallower. I desperately searched for a way down to the beach, hoping that if I could get close enough, I would just stumble and crawl the rest of the way to the water.
After about an hour of driving up and down the roadside, I came across some ramps that zig-zagged all the way down to the beach and, then, there was a flat pathway, seemingly designed especially for me. It led to a beach hut, close enough to the sea for me to make it there by myself. Nevertheless, in the hut, I found myself being transferred into a special buggy made for disabled people to go for a dip. The volunteers were strong, young men and I was very happy when the four of them helped me go for a swim, their huge muscles glistening in the sun. That was six years ago now, I wonder if that place still exists…
I also sailed across the Atlantic in a tall ship with the ‘Jubilee Sailing Trust’ which is a charity that can give disabled people a sailing adventure. Travelling through India for ten weeks is another story that is too long to write about in this post, but what made that experience so enjoyable, laid back and costs efficient is that I had a very good friend with me who was very strong and didn’t let my disability stop us.