The truth is, with enough strength of will, a traveler with pain or hidden disability can travel anywhere she or he wants to, and I’ve got no right or reason to say otherwise. If one of the trips below is your dream, do it! Just be aware that when you do, you are liable to run into the problems and pains I describe here.
But if you’re not the hyper-adventurous adversity-loving type, give these trips a miss.
Arctic and Antarctic Adventures
To get cachet with the hardcore adventure travel crowd, you’ve got to spend time on the 6th continent, or above the Arctic Circle–preferably both.
For travelers with pain, there’s no good to be had in the Frozen North or on Antarctica. For starters, IT’S COLD. Cold exacerbates pain. So does struggling into survival suits to go, dealing with near-total lack of amenities (imagine trying to go to the bathroom in an outhouse in -50 degree temperatures), and of course attempting to sleep in arctic conditions. There’s a reason that most people don’t live in the Arctic or Antarctica–conditions in these places are not hospitable to human life. They’re even less hospitable to people with pain and hidden disabilities.
Hike-In and Back Country Camping
It’s hard to get closer to nature and further from man than by piling your shelter, bedding, food, and equipment onto your back and hiking miles away from the nearest road to camp in the back country. No other people around, no cars, no roads, no buildings, no cell signal…no bathrooms, no heaters, no medical centers, no help of any kind should something go wrong.
And did I mention the part about lugging every single thing you need on your back or in your hands? Which means that the less you can carry, the less you’ve got to camp with when you reach your remote destination. And then, after a day or three of sleeping on the ground and digging holes behind bushes for a toilet–you get to pack it all up and carry it all back!
This goes for paddle-in, ski-in, and parachute-in camping as well.
Solo International Hostelling Journeys
It’s a rite of passage for college-age kiddults to cram a backpack full of denim, flannel, and hemp, fly standby to any continent other than the one they live on, and spend a month or six knocking around as far and as wide as their rail passes permit. I love this custom–did it myself as a young, perfectly healthy 20-year-old, and it rocked my world in all sorts of ways. If you’re young and hardy–go for it!
If you’re not so healthy (or even just not so young), this is not the best way to see the world, no matter what a certain class of travel writers claim. (Sorry Rolf. I know it’s your raison d’etre, but it’s just not feasible for the 100s of millions of us who aren’t as strong and healthy as you are.) Travelers with pain shouldn’t carry their things on their backs, nor should they be changing lodgings every night or two. Hostels make for a lousy night’s sleep, and many travelers with pain need serious sleep every single night.
What do you think? Am I totally off base? Have you successfully done any or all of these trips? Or do you agree that these aren’t the kinds of adventures you’d prefer to try in your current condition?