My bucket list may be near-infinite, but it’s not all dreams and fantasies. Even traveling with my chronic pain, I’ve gotten to see and smell and touch a bunch of my bucket list destinations.
Paris was my #1 bucket list item from childhood. I studied there as a healthy college student many many moons ago. I’ve been back repeatedly.
Two years ago I took a weeklong jaunt to Paris. Just me and my pain, alone together. I rented a studio apartment in the 3rd arrondissement and spent the week visiting my favorite places and seeking out a few new sights. An old friend from high school lives in Paris now–he and his wife took me to dinner and to a few of their favorite spots.
I wouldn’t have done it this way if I weren’t already familiar with Paris, and I didn’t speak functional French. Since I am and I do, I felt comfortable rambling around my favorite city in the world on my own.
My pain certainly made itself felt on this trip. The worst attack came at the very end. I failed to plan properly, and my taxi driver dropped me at the wrong terminal. Because I was exhausted and already in pain from the walk from my apartment to the taxi stand, I became somewhat disoriented and decided to walk to the correct terminal. Bzzt! Wrong answer! I made it, after a long and horrible walk, dragging my heavy luggage behind me, crying quietly the whole way. I had to stop repeatedly.
Would I do it again? Oh yes. Anytime.
Last summer my friends Andrew and Catherine took me along on a trip to Kauai. I hadn’t been to the oldest major Hawaiian island since I was 5. (All I remember is being stung by a jellyfish.)
We had an active, adventurous blast! We snorkeled at Poipu. We spent a day driving around the island and did some snorkeling on the Na Pali Coast. We did an all-day boat trip out to Moku’ae’ae (with more snorkeling, of course). Another day found us driving up to Waimea Canyon, stopping to snap photos and take short hikes.
My pain didn’t bug me much on this trip. Both of my travel companions had varying levels of hidden disability themselves, different from mine but still pertinent to travel. We all took care to respect one another’s limits and needs. This made for a more comfortable than average island vacation.
Next, I want to explore Oahu, beyond the bounds of Waikiki.
* Mt. Shasta Region
My fabulous fiance Eric and I spent a week in the fall of 2009 hiking the waterfalls of the Shasta-Lassen region. Though we didn’t make it up to Mt. Lassen, and I wasn’t able to do long hikes, we found plenty of short and medium-length walks in beautiful forests along charming rivers and streams. I got to see waterfalls I’d never seen before. I got to watch Eric leap off a waterfall and plunge into an ice-cold swimming hole. (After sunset. Rather him than me.)
We stayed in a cheap motel–the “good” Motel 6 in Redding, in fact. See–I don’t always need luxury accommodations to enjoy a trip! We ate in the diner down the block and grabbed sandwiches for lunches. The trip was charming and cheap for both of us and reasonably comfortable for me.
Next time I want to go to Lassen proper–I’d like to stay at the farmhouse hotel in the southern reaches of the national park, or maybe in Susanville, and explore more of northeastern California on and beyond Highway 395. Hey–another bucket item!
* Victoria & Albert Museum, London
I have this thing for medieval and Renaissance art. Especially textiles. And jewelry up through the Art Deco period. The V&A houses one of the most amazing collections of beaux-arts in the world. Granted, they’ve moved the textiles. But in a way that worked out beautifully last June–it gave me the opportunity to explore the rest of the museum. Including the absolutely awe-inspiring jewelry collection.
But next time, I want to go to the new textile museum that’s being set up in London. It won’t open for a couple of years, so I’ve got time to save up.
* A Big Cruise Ship, Any Big Cruise Ship
I’ve always wanted to know what a cruise on one of those gigantic ships actually feels like. Yes, really. I am a plebian Philistine with no taste and no appreciation for What Real Travel Is All About(tm).
In the last two years I’ve been on two big-ship cruises: one to Ensenada on Carnival’s Paradise–a small and somewhat shabby ship by industry standards, but impressive enough for me as a first-time cruiser. The other cruise went to Cozumel on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas.
Perhaps the Great Travel Writers will forgive me somewhat for saying that my overall opinion of big-ship cruises is…meh. Cruises have many great features for disabled travelers, and I’ll probably cruise again. But the overall experience just doesn’t mesh well with my personal travel idiom. I like less fake and more freedom, frankly.
* The Caribbean
I only got one day on the island of Cozumel in the Caribbean Sea. But I got to ride a jeep around, taking in the beautiful scenery, local poverty, and native ruins. And I got to take a snorkeling tour on a Caribbean reef. For me, that constitutes a good start.
I added this to the “done” list, but the fact is that I’ve barely whetted my whistle when it comes to traveling in the Caribbean. There’s much, much more I’d like to do in this island chain. Most of my interest centers around historic sites left by the native islanders, and fish. I love paddling about in warm water, following pretty and colorful fish around as they go about their business.
Next time I visit the Caribbean, I’d prefer to do it without the giant cruise brick. I’d like to settle onto one island (maybe Cozumel again, maybe one of the Saints…I haven’t planned this trip yet), rent a car and a snorkeling kit, and take at least a week to explore on my own. Well, “on my own” meaning “with my husband or at least one friend” in reality. I’ll probably avoid the all-inclusive resorts, instead picking out a nice a la carte hotel or cottage-resort with an attached restaurant but no meal package and no property walls between me and adventures of my own design.
* The Bottom Line
Having chronic pain does not prevent me from attacking my bucket list with a strong will and a happy adventurous attitude.