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It’s funny, but when we travel, people will come over to chat with us, and when they learn we are Americans, they will straighten themselves up a little then declare, "Oh, yes, we have been in America.". When we ask them where they have been, most often they will say, "Disney World, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles," usually in that order.
If you are from the States, tell us: Have these foreign visitors really seen America? Is Disney World reality? And are the other three cities representative of this great nation? If you’ve been to Los Angeles, do you have any understanding of the Grand Canyon? Does a week in Chicago resonate with life on Cape Cod? And to what can you compare New York City?
You need to keep this in mind as you read this chapter. In it, we have selected some of the countries we have visited, and written of various trips in extensive detail. There are also shorter snippets of memories that are most outstanding as we recall the trips taken there.
Remember, these are not exhaustive studies, and we do not fool ourselves into thinking we have any greater understanding of many of the places we have been than those visitors to our shores have when they go to Florida, New York, Illinois or California. Consider this:
Russia is huge. We recount only a few sentences about St. Petersburg. But there is no fantastic Hermitage out in the "boonies", meaning it is vastly different in small towns or villages than it is in the big cities. This, of course, is true in most every country.
And as for the "true culture" of a country: Japan is complex to the point where I feel if we lived there for the rest of our lives, we would not truly understand the culture or its people.
Besides, these are our impressions. When you go to Russia, Japan, Thailand, Canada, or anywhere in the world, your impressions will be different.
But we do hope our tales will stimulate you to want to go and gain your own impressions- and that you will know by our examples it is possible for you to do so.
Remember, if we can do it, YOU can do it.
Now, let's get specific about some of the important details and considerations you need to think about when planning a trip involving someone who is physically challenged. You might even find it helpful to make a checklist of such things.
Nancy really doesn’t care where we go, as long as we are together. She knows she can trust me not to get us into something over our heads, or to get into situations we cannot get out of.
For my part, after 45 years of marriage and 20 years as her care giver, I know her abilities, likes and dislikes so well, I have little trouble assembling wonderful trips for us.
However, our situation and needs will not be your situation and needs. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be honest and accurate in assessing your abilities. While I continually urge you to take a chance and not allow others to impose their estimates of your capabilities on you, please do not forget if you overestimate your physical strength and capabilities (as, say, when you go to the Antarctic), you are going to have a rough time of it, with no easy way out.
I start with one special rule: We will do nothing both of us cannot do.
There are several important reasons for this rule: First, I do not want to do anything that will challenge Nancy beyond her abilities and lead to failure. This can only cause her to doubt herself.
Second, I do not want to put her in a situation where she feels she is holding me back from doing something I want to do. Many physically challenged people already feel inadequate in so many ways, they hardly need anyone to create more situations of inadequacy.
And finally, I don’t want to participate in an activity which puts me at risk. If anything happens to me, she will be in deep trouble.
Once we have agreed on a place we want to visit, I will begin a folder of as many articles as I can collect from the Internet about the place. Once I have this dossier, I will rank the information in order of importance as to places we wish to see in country, or activities we want to attempt. If you can afford it, a good travel specialist is invaluable here, and can provide you with many suggestions to make the trip safe and enjoyable.
I determine what time of year is best for this trip, and how much time and money we will spend on it. Some decisions are easy to make: It is silly, for example, to go to Australia or New Zealand for a week, as the travel time to and from these countries is so long. You wouldn’t have any time to spend once you got there, so a week is out of the question.
I prefer to select and make my own transportation arrangements. The Internet not only permits this, but many arrangements are less expensive when booked online.
When I have finished the details, I put the whole thing down for a few days, then go back and review the choices I have made to be certain they fit our abilities and desires.
I am ruthless about this, as the best time to determine something isn’t going to work is anytime before you put down money- much less actually arrive on site.
This takes time. That’s why I start so early. It eliminates stumbling blocks, and also helps prevent you from making choices only to find when you call to book a hotel or schedule an excursion, there is nothing handicapped available left.