I love to travel. Traveling is tough enough to begin with, and adding in physical conditions like Charcot-Marie-Tooth doesn’t exactly make things easier. But this past summer, I took the risk and embarked on a tour of the United Kingdom with my son, through a CIE coach tour. I have been learning to ask for assistance without shame, and this trip to the U.K. accelerated that learning process.
To prepare, I called my airline ahead of time to arrange for a wheelchair since I knew that my outbound airport (Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C.) was huge, as is Heathrow Airport (in London). Plus, I knew I had to conserve my energy for the trip. I also traveled with my folding cane and wore sturdy walking shoes, which helped with keeping my ankles stable on the cobblestone paths.
I was very nervous taking this huge trip with my 13-year-old son, as I was concerned that I would not keep up with him and the tour group. But all my fears were quickly put at ease. CIE provided a wonderful touring experience for us. Our guide was knowledgeable, personable, helpful, and a lot of fun. Also, our driver went above and beyond in so many ways. Together, they made sure everything was perfect on this trip. Using a coach for the tour turned out to be wise because I was able to rest on board after each stop. (And yes, I did take many naps in between looking at the amazing scenery.)
I only had difficulties two or three times over the course of 10 days. Once was at the Cardiff Castle, which has winding spiral steps leading up to the rooftop garden. I was a little concerned about the steps, but before I could even think about not going up, two men from the group were right there to help me up and down the steps. I was pleasantly surprised by this! Then we came to the high castle keep. I knew I could not even attempt the steps, but my son wanted to go. Thankfully, another family took him with them. That meant a lot to me.
I also had difficulty when visiting Edinburgh Castle (or “the walled village,” as my son called it). The Scottish guide talked and walked incredibly fast. I barely kept up with him. I began to panic because it was very crowded and I was terrified I would lose the group. A member of our group came over to help me, and she later spoke to our guide about the problem. He was so apologetic and had a car take me to the top of the very steep hill. My son and I did get to tour the castle and see the crown jewels of Scotland, so it all worked out in the end.
I learned a few things about myself and others during this trip. At first, I was afraid that people would only notice my cane and limp. I quickly found out that I was wrong; people may see the bright purple cane but it is not all they notice. I also learned that is OK to ask for and accept help. Most people are more than willing to help because they are kind and genuine and not at all judgmental about it. Lastly, I learned that I can travel — and I will be doing more of it. I would definitely do another coach tour and explore more places!
Check out Smart Traveler for some great travel tips for people with disabilities.
Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.