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Disabled Travelers Guide to the World
The World famous Taj Mahal in all its splendor, is visited yearly by millions of people from around the globe. There is no reason you should not be one of those visitors! Will it be easy if you are physically challenged? No! Will it be worth the effort? Most definitely Yes! By reading this book, you will learn ways to make it possible, and in so doing, achieve great personal satisfaction and enjoyment. Even if you are not challenged, this book is full of valuable suggestions to save you money, get you into better hotels, and help you find ways to make all your travel more memorable and enjoyable.
"Many of us- without even realizing it- poke ourselves into containers that limit our growth and enjoyment..."
Do you want to travel? Going to far away lands, eating exotic foods, seeing things other people only read about in books- do those thoughts excite you? We want you to know it is possible for you to travel wherever you wish. Fulfill those thoughts, experience the excitement and wonderment of foreign countries, different cultures- even if you are physically challenged. That is why this book was written. But to get the full impact of what you will read, you have to have a little background...
When I was just a small boy of perhaps 5 or 6 years of age, someone gave me a copy of Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels. It had pictures and stories of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World and the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. One of the pictures was of the Taj Mahal, and the story of how a wonderful love affair between an ancient Indian ruler and his queen gave rise to this magnificent structure. The story told of how the queen died in childbirth, and how her husband, overwhelmed with grief, decided to build a site for her burial, a place so marvelous, so magical, so beautiful, everyone in the World would easily be able to see how great was the love he and his queen shared. I gazed at the picture and read and re-read that story a hundred times. And I promised myself one day, I would get to see the Taj Mahal- not in a photograph, but in person!
My wife and I ultimately traveled to India, and we got to the Taj Mahal. So, after nearly 60 years, I fulfilled a life-long dream. But getting there was also a momentous accomplishment for my wife. Were we overjoyed to reach the Taj Mahal? Ecstatic? Thrilled?
Yet I was also saddened.
You see, my wife is in a wheelchair- and has been for 22 years. As we filled our eyes and minds with the indescribable beauty of the Taj Mahal, I looked around and realized NO other people in wheelchairs were there that afternoon. Nor did we see anyone else in a wheelchair when we returned to the Taj Mahal again the next day. Think of it. Millions of tourists throng to the Taj Mahal every year. Yet in the course of two days, only ONE of those millions was in a wheelchair. It may surprise you when I tell you this, but we have traveled all over the world. We have been on all 7 continents- including 8 landings in Antarctica. But we rarely see anyone else in a wheelchair.
You and we both know why.
Two reasons. First, most people with physical challenges simply find it too hard. Too much to deal with. They pre-decide it isn't worth the effort. All of us who deal with physical limitations develop "routines" for doing the tasks we face every day. We hone these tasks until we have everything arranged neatly in our minds so we know how we are going to deal with getting into a car, transfer, get around our usual destinations.
Trishaws, Malaysia, 2005- Difficult Transfer, but a great way to get around.
Whatever is the nature of your particular situation, you come to terms with it as best you can. This makes getting through your days much easier than otherwise. When you travel, however, all that changes. What to expect? You have no idea what you will encounter, and no assurance you will be able to successfully handle new situations in unfamiliar territory. It'll be a struggle, you just know it.
At least in America, with the Americans with Disabilities Act as the law of the land, you can be assured you will find things somewhat easier. Sidewalks have cut ramps that make wheelchair access easy. Intersections have special walk/don't walk signs or audible tones to tell you when it is safe to cross the intersection. It is easy to board trains with raised platforms. Thus, if you are unable to walk, you can ride in a wheelchair directly into the rail coach without having to transfer. Checking into a hotel, you know they must have handicapped quarters available- rooms with wider doors that have a peephole at wheelchair eye level. Grab bars, roll in showers, bathing chairs. Outside the US, none of this may exist where you are going. You figure you're in trouble before you even leave your house- so you just don't go.
Not a single 5 star hotel in site, Hill Country, Thailand
Would you settle for running water? Main Street, Hill Tribe village, Thailand (no electricity, either!) Quite a challenge for someone in a wheelchair, but "do-able".
There is a story told by the great social philosopher, Earl Nightengale (www.nightingale.com ) about a farmer who brought some pumpkin seeds in from his field. In his pantry, he found a near empty Aunt Jermima syrup jar. On a whim, he rinsed out the syrup, put some rich dirt into the syrup jar, and poked a single pumpkin seed inside the jar. He covered the seed with just enough dirt to let it properly germinate. In a few weeks, the seed began to grow.
The farmer watered it and gave it plenty of warmth and sunshine. And after some time, the entire bottle was filled with a pumpkin. He broke the jar and when he removed the glass, he had a pumpkin the exact size and shape of the syrup bottle.
There is a startling moral to this tale, and I share this story with you because many of us- without even realizing it- poke ourselves into containers that limit our growth and enjoyment. Those of us with physical challenges need all the room we can get to grow and expand beyond the limits imposed upon us by our conditions. We need to break out of the mold, break out of thinking we can't do this or that. Nancy and I will give you information that hopefully will begin to free you from such arbitrary limits.
This book discusses a wide range of problems you are likely to encounter traveling outside the United States. It is packed with suggestions and solutions to overcome these problems. And there is a fair amount of inspiration which we hope will light a flame of desire in you to follow along with us- and lead others in turn. Based on our extensive travel experience, my wife and I are certain you will find this book invaluable, even if you don't have disabilities. It is our fondest hope that by sharing what we have learned with you, you will be able to live a fuller, richer life.
Oh, yeah. About the second reason people don't travel: MONEY.
I held off a long time writing this book because when we travel nowadays, Nancy and I go pretty high-end. I was afraid people would read our book and say, "well, it's fine for them; they've got plenty of bucks, but I don't. I can't possibly afford to do what they have done." Hey, don't go poking yourself into that syrup jar already. This is only the introduction! Besides, you are going to find this book is full of money saving tips. Lots of great hints and a few secrets that are useful to you no matter how large or small your budget for travel. The techniques we teach about bargaining are just as appropriate in third world countries as they are on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles.
Nancy checks the "goodies". Central Souk, Muscat, Oman, 2005
There are lots of wonderful things to buy at very little cost everywhere. Outside of Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries, our standard of living is regal compared to most other countries. The dollar buys more than you would suppose.
Methods we suggest about getting a room upgrade are appropriate anywhere in the world. It makes no difference if you are booked into the cheapest guest house in Rome or into the swankiest hotel in London, Paris, or Buenos Aires. A too small room is a too small room. If you can't turn around in it, you're going to be miserable for whatever length of time you are staying there. If you can afford to have a guide with you at every juncture of your trip- fine. But if your funds are very limited, we will tell you how to maximize what you have so you end up getting just as much out of your travel experience as someone with much more money than you.
All through this book are pictures taken from our trips. Many show various situations you wouldn't think possible for someone in a wheelchair. Other pictures are included just to whet your appetite. We included them to give you ideas of things you might like to do- and the fact that we have done it gives you a compelling reason for thinking you can also! Perhaps you never considered going to the High Arctic country in Canada to see the Polar bears. After you've seen our pictures, you may reconsider. The same goes for Thailand, or China. So put yourself in this picture. The Taj and all the rest of the world are waiting for you!
Nan and Nate, Agra, India 2005
Viewed from an archway, the Taj is one of the world's most beautiful travel destinations.
My photos do not do it justice. Go to India and see for yourself!