If you ever bump into Mitch St. Pierre in a bar or on a train someplace in the world, have a drink and a chat with him. He’s an amazing fellow, who’s been to so many places and done so many things it makes my head spin.
And over a pineapple mojito at the salsa bar on Navigator of the Seas, he said something to me that really got me thinking. I was thinking out loud, worrying about how to deal with my health while traveling abroad and alone. He said something like “Well, when you’re in the middle of a situation, you’ll figure out how to deal with it, won’t you?”
Yes, yes I will.
This maxim applies even when things go wrong.
There I was, lying on the bathroom floor in an airport, unable to speak coherently enough to explain my situation. But I figured it out. It was clear to people who saw me that I needed assistance, so people came to help me. I kept saying “water, please” until somebody brought me a cup of water so I could take my pain meds. After 15 minutes or so, the meds started kicking in and I became more coherent. I worked with the EMTs and we decided that if I wanted to, I could fly home. (And if things had been worse, I had the option to go to the hospital.) Because I’ve accumulated some significant knowledge of air travel and my body’s needs and caprices, I’d planned a long layover. All this commotion didn’t even make me miss my connecting flight.
In the long run, little harm was done. And I’ve added significantly to my store of knowledge about what I need on certain types of trips–much of which will end up here, in posts about business travel and traveling on enormous cruise ships. Next time, I’ll do it differently. Chances that there will be a next time – 95%. Chances that I’ll have another unfortunate pain episode on a similar trip – < 50%.
Mitch hit the heart of how I travel with pain–in fact, how anybody travels with a disability. By trial and error, emphasis on trial, but not discounting possible errors. The trick is to learn from those errors and to plan and execute trips that will work for me and my particular physical conditions. If I don’t try to travel to Africa or Asia or South America, how will I know whether I can do it or not?
I also travel with courage. Yep, traveling can be intimidating. That’s actually true whether the traveler’s disabled or not, but it’s worse with a disability in the mix. But…again from Mitch, “The only limits we have are the ones in our heads.” That means, in real life, that if I want to go fishing in Ecuador, the only reason I “can’t” is because I think I can’t. If I think “I can” I’ll probably find a way to make it happen. Not by ignoring my special needs–that’s a recipe for failure. But by looking at my needs, looking at where I want to go and what I want to do, taking the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years, and figuring out how to make the trip work for me.
Can I travel to every single place I want to go and do every single thing I want to do? Probably not. No one else can either, really, regardless of their health or ability level. The Earth is a muckin’ big place. This one’s from Scott Rains, “My disability takes away about half of the infinite options for things I want to do. Which leaves me with…half of infinity. Which is, by definition, infinity.”