“What on earth are you doing here? Should you really be here?”
Those questions are what I imagine are going through the heads of people that have seen me on holiday around the world. And the answer to the last question is, no, I should probably not be here. I have polio, and due to my disability, I get around using two crutches and have to wear a leg brace whenever I leave the house. My mobility has been impaired because of this, coupled with the fact that I also have scoliosis. It really is a wonder how I even leave the house at all…
However, I refuse to allow my disability stop me; I have an addiction to travel and it is incurable. I travel to new and exciting places to immerse myself in the culture and experience of my destination. Or as much immersion as you can get on a three week holiday from work.
What I have noticed recently is that I may also be slightly addicted to the more dangerous aspect of travel. A couple of years ago I went to Belfast, N. Ireland and booked a tour to see the famous Giant’s Causeway as well as the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. As is usual with UK weather, it was damp and grey with little teasing peeks of sunlight every once in a while.
In the history of the rope bridge being crossed by people, nobody has ever died from making the crossing. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to make this small trek, I decided to make the crossing of the bridge. I had to be mindful of the time constraint that I had as we were only allotted a certain amount of time before we had to make our way back to the bus. Unfortunately for me, the heavens opened up and it started raining making my situation that much more precarious.
Whenever I find myself in such a situation, I start to hear two different and opposing voices in my head. The more sensible voice reminds me of my various conditions, and my mother who lives in a state of perpetual worry. Until the irrational voice interjects that I have already come so far, and that I should just keep going. The latter usually wins out the argument.
Slowly but surely, I made my away across the rain slicked rocks and pebbles, the wooden pathway and the glorious amounts of muddy grass. My stability is not that great at the best of times, but the situation made me grip even tighter onto my crutches. So much so that for over 20 minutes I had a cramp in my hands, but I refused to give in.
A line was forming behind me as I made my way slowly down the wet metal stairs, trying to keep my balance as steady as possible. Intrigued whispers behind me as to how I had even made it that far, and some words of encouragement from the young man that worked at the park. I had made it onto the actual bridge itself. Then the gravity of what I had just done hit me, I was on the bridge, I had made it. It was at this point that my mind veered back to the fact that nobody had fallen from the bridge. My palms started to sweat and my heart beat so loudly and quickly, it was matching the rhythm of the waves crashing below. My calm exterior barely holding itself together, my very disabled body would be no match for the ferocity of the waters beneath my feet.
On that bridge, in those few minutes that I was actually there, I must have aged myself by 5 years. The warnings my parents had drilled into me from youth coming back one after the other, be careful. Always be careful. But life is much too short and unpredictable to live in such a manner, so I walk across bridges that are not that sturdy. I climb up steep hills that I definitely shouldn’t, with only God as my travel insurance.
I know that there is a good chance that my polio may get worse the older I get, and I may not be able to will my body into doing the things that it can now. So I take every single crazy travel opportunity that I can, while I can. Even though travelling with a disability is bad for my health, I will continue to do it. Something is going to kill you anyway, may as well enjoy the journey!
Have any of you gone against the wishes of medical professionals, loved ones or your local witch doctors? Where did you go and what did you do?