This is the last post from our two month trip around Europe with my brother Douglas in his wheelchair. Our flight home was delayed from Dublin by five hours, so checking your flight status before you leave your hotel is always key. Even if it’s nice out. We napped in the airport and got Douglas on by switching seats so Mom could lift him on her good side. He was a trooper. We reassembled his chair in record time on landing.
First I’d like to say, I am so proud of my brother. He overcame anxiety, fear, let go of a lot of his worries and worked through the ones he couldn’t. He was brave and so open to life and everything. I hope to see him do more travelling and know this breathed new life into him. I would be more than happy to go on more adventures with him. He is an amazing human. All the challenges were worth seeing the change in him. He is living life. Not in a hospital bed slowly dying anymore. Nothing can stop him! I knew his mind was unstoppable, now he as a whole being is unstoppable. The only one he had to prove it to was himself by getting out of his comfort zone. And me too. I need to learn from his example. Limitations are all in your head. Anything else can be worked around. Holding on to things working out exactly as you want them to caused misery, go with the flow, be ready to adapt, anything can happen and that’s the interesting part about life.
Final words from Douglas himself on the trip! I interviewed my brother on his take of the trip.
How long were you planning this trip?
D: It took a year of casual planning and research.
Why did you do this trip?
D: I was tired of being ruled by my negativity. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and my house. I wanted to feel like I could do something with my life that was crazy and exciting.
What were you most afraid of?
D: Dying and my chair getting destroyed but I had to let go of these pretty quickly.
What have you learned about the world?
D: It isn’t as scary as the news makes it out to be and there’s still hope for humanity.
Was there anything that touched you during this trip?
D: All the support I got from some of my family and strangers helping me and people following the blog.
Was there anything that really upset you?
D: The only thing that really upset me was rude people who can’t see outside of themselves.
What have you learned about yourself?
D: I’m able to do a lot more than I thought I could do, I have the potential to be more independent if I choose to be. And I learned that I’m braver than I thought I was. And I learned I can get through the itchy phase of growing a beard.
What were some of your favourite experiences?
D: Tank Fest, Bella and Lisa visiting in Paris, meeting the band Grave Pleasures, Lee and Day visiting in Marseille, meeting the Elton’s in Glasgow, and learning about our history, the DDR museum in Berlin.
What would you recommend to others who want to travel with similar mobility issues? If you have a dream don’t tell yourself you can’t do it, think of the ways you CAN do it. Plan for it but don’t not doing it because of someone else’s negative experience with it. Never let anyone tell you you can’t do something just because you are disabled. If you want to do something find people who want to help you. Avoid cobble stone.
How has this trip changed you?
D: It’s made me realize that if there’s something I want to do no matter how difficult it sounds with enough planning I can do it.
Would you do this again?
D: I hope to keep travelling to many other places. Iceland is next!
What have you got planned for when you go home?
D: I’m gonna try not to let my comfort zone shrink back to where it was.
What do you think the most accessible city was?
D: Berlin or Amsterdam were two of the most accessible places. Zurich came close but the attitude of some of the public employees was discouraging.
What is the least accessible place you visited?
D: Marseille was the least accessible city considering its size, you’d expect more accessibility than what we found there. France was very unfriendly to people in wheelchairs.
Thank you everyone for reading! Hope you enjoyed the posts and thank you for following our journey!
It took a few days to get back into our regular schedules. Douglas is already going on the bus and reaching out to the community to improve things so he can get out more. He has been in the garden and out more than I have seen in the past. I am back at therapy and taking all the inspiration from the trip, comparing it to home and making a new life. I realize there are many grassroots initiatives happening to improve our city. The difference between places that had an excellent city life was the city’s values, the people being a value. They had very defined values as a community. I can’t tell you what ours are as a city and community. The city’s the people respected had little to no litter and were cleaner, you could tell because the people were valued they had more respect. I know there are grassroots communities making things happen and it will have to trickle up to the city at some point. I felt frozen for long because my values weren’t valued by the city. This is home. And I do love a lot about it. I have hope we can do more to make sure we have all the wonderful amenities and avoid a lot of the pit falls we experienced in other cities at home. A large part of accessibility we found was the attitude of the people and those in power. Here I find there is an every man for himself attitude, but not everyone is like that. We are seeking out ways to surround ourselves with like minded people. As in business as in community, there IS strength in numbers. I always had a sort of wanderlust for travel and a grass is always greener attitude. Saying ” I’ll be happy when…” but I am happy to say that is gone and I can move on and commit to living at home now. I’m excited to see what comes.