I’ve got a couple of trips coming up in the next month or so. Trips I’m more than excited for, but that are also anxiety inducing. They aren’t too far away, but they do involve planning. A lot of planning. I need to know exactly what I’m taking with me. I need to look at transport when I’m there, what I can do safely and on my own, the mobility aids I need with me, etc, and I try to do it whilst travelling light if I can. It’s made easier by the fact I travel to most places with my sister, because it means I’m not having to carry the suitcase, and we share a suitcase. But there’s always a lot to consider.
Firstly, how easy is public transport going to be for me? In the case of London, I can download a map of the accessible tube stations here but, these are still going to require me looking at the accessibility and seeing just how truly accessible they are each day. I’m planning on taking my wheelchair for the days my pain levels are higher. But that means I need to look at where I’m going to be able to get to. My fibromyalgia, arthritis, and chronic fatigue can affect my ability to self propel. It can stop my legs from functioning properly. I know this trip that my sister isn’t going to be with me every day. So each day is going to require a very detailed plan for travel. The buses in London, whilst cheaper than tube, don’t necessarily always have room for wheelchair users, and quite frankly, I hate travelling by bus with my chair. Some days are going to be walking stick days, and those are more easily done, but I still need to plan where I’m going.
I mentioned my sister not being able to be with me all the time, this means I need to have my anxiety emergency pack with me, ready to go when I venture out alone. This means I need my backpack with me at all times. In it I’ll have the following items:
- Laptop and charger
- Colouring books
- Phone and charger
- Pencil case with coloured pencils, pens, pencils, eraser and pencil sharpener
- Small plastic toys
- Fidget cube
- A small cuddly giraffe known as Jerry
- Chewing gum and sweets
- Nook and charger
- Paper bag
- Oyster Card
- A notecard that has my sister’s contact information on and details of why I may not be verbally responsive
Now some of that will slip into my handbag rather than my backpack, and I’m aware it looks like a lot, but actually it’s not when you consider most of it will fit in smaller folders/wallets inside my backpack, but I need to be prepared for anxiety attacks, PTSD flashbacks, Sensory Processding Disorder Overload, or shutdown. These are the things that can help calm me down, and/or are essential to me getting around.
I also need to look at the accessibility of the activities I intend to undertake and just how easily I’ll be able to do them. Like for instance on this London trip, one of the things I am doing involves this amazing British Library trip with Quest Retreats. So I’ve spent a good amount of time checking the accessibility of the library, making sure that I’m able to decide on the day if I need my chair or not, and I’ll spend a few hours with my sister going over transport routes from the place we’re staying so we have options available. Because of my Asperger’s I need to know in advance the routes I’m taking. It minimises stress. It also means I can have them saved in my phone. I’m less likely to forget them due to fibro fog and that helps to reduce stress as well.
Once I’ve thought through all of these things, and made sure I’ve got my medications packed, with an extra week’s supply, just in case, I then can look at the normal things, like clothes, and underwear, etc. My trips involve spreadsheets, print outs, folders with information in, checking repeatedly for available information on accessibility. I like to know what I’m facing. And I like to know that I’m not going to be disappointed when I get there, like I once was in York. The Shambles has a beautiful Harry Potter inspired shop that doesn’t have a fold-able ramp for disabled customers. The step would have been too high, even with my walking stick, and because of my hypermobility, would have meant a hip out of joint, so I missed out on something I desperately wanted to experience and had gotten excited over.
Being disabled doesn’t mean that I can’t travel. It just means I do things in a different way. I take into account the fatigue I’ll feel each day, the pain levels that may or may not cause me extra issues, the environments I’ll be in and the people I’ll be with. I pack things that are beneficial in making experiences enjoyable for me. I can’t wait for the trips I have coming up, and I can’t wait to share photos and blog posts. I’m going to be so excited about the British Library trip, and the possibility of meeting a friend or two I have yet to meet in person, that I’ll be bubbling over! I just need to prepare a little, okay, a lot more in advance than others may need to.