Picture a setting sun over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Or the sparkling of sunlight as it blankets a snowy mountainside. Imagine gathering with distant loved ones around a holiday table. These are the kinds of things that do more for my spirit than any medication can. Disability makes accessing places like this more challenging, but more rewarding as well, and finding ways to explore and discover new places expands the boundaries of limitation in our lives.
KosAbility is a community diary series posted at 5 PM ET every Sunday and Wednesday by volunteer diarists. This is a gathering place for people who are living with disabilities, who love someone with a disability, or who want to know more about the issues surrounding this topic. There are two parts to each diary. First, a volunteer diarist will offer their specific knowledge and insight about a topic they know intimately. Then, readers are invited to comment on what they've read and or ask general questions about disabilities, share something they've learned, tell bad jokes, post photos, or rage about the unfairness of their situation. Our only rule is to be kind; trolls will be spayed or neutered.
Prior to becoming disabled, one of the greatest joys of my life was traveling. I'd been fortunate to be able to travel for pleasure, and I was one of the (perhaps sick!) few that loved traveling for business, as well. I spent roughly a week a month away from home, and looked forward to that time as a spiritual "unplug" from the monotony of daily life. I liked it all - except being away from my family - and looked forward to opportunities and assignments away from home as new adventures. So when I suffered my disability, I truly grieved the thought that I'd never travel again. I felt a certain amount of fear, as well as a large portion of guilt: I felt that if I was too sick to hold down a job, I shouldn't travel, either. A thoughtful physician helped me see that it was not only okay, it was actually important to my long-term well-being that I find ways to travel. After all, if I found life monotonous before I was home "all day, every day", then I could certainly benefit from escaping the monotony of my new reality. Whether it was a trip across the ocean or across my state, changing the scenery would often change my very attitude.
Not that it's always easy. I've had my wheelchair break down on a trip out of the country. I've visited hospitals in more places than I would like. But I can say without exception that it has always been worth it. It's taught me flexibility. On a recent trip to Europe, I found that the simple task of finding a sidewalk wide enough to travel down could take some work. I found just how many "accessible" buildings left vast portions inaccessible. I was reminded that Metro trains aren't always wide enough to fit a wheelchair onto. But I experienced art, architecture, and cuisine that I will remember all my life. On days that are difficult, I can close my eyes and picture nighttime in Paris, Spring in the South of France, the ancient architecture of Rome. With my state-issued disabled ID card, my wife and I were able to visit government museums for free, avoiding lines, and getting "front row" views of exhibits. Some places were better than others, and some weren't accessible at all (though I understand the decision not to make all 500 year old buildings accessible to wheelchairs). With email communication, I was able to make sure that hotel and transportation arrangements knew what to expect, and was able to be assured of the smoothest trip I've had in a long time.
Often, it's in perspective that travel has become more rewarding. Family and friends love going to theme parks with us because of priority boarding. Sports events are often best viewed from disabled seats, sometimes at field level. Airport security lines? What airport security lines? Sure, I've paid a cost for these concessions. But seeing that I've already paid that cost with my disability, I might as well enjoy the "perks".
I'm not sure the next time I'll be packing my suitcase or where I'll be going. But as long as I'm able, I'll be dreaming and finding new ways to see the ever-changing world. Who knows... maybe we'll meet along the way.