I caught the travel bug early. One of my first memories is of a trip to a rented cottage near the sea that happened when I was four years old. Another favourite was my first experience with flying when my dad and I went to Rhodes just after my sister Janne was born. I was ten and loved every minute of the trip.
Being surrounded by landscape, food, architecture, and people who were completely different from my normal life opened me up in a new and exciting way and I’ve been addicted to that feeling since. I’ve been lucky to be able to feed that through many wonderful trips. We were very fortunate that my father travelled a lot for business and we benefited from the spoils of this, following him on some of these trips that added family vacation to the business part. Whether it was the UK with a road trip through the Scottish Highlands, visiting my uncle and aunt in the Eifel Mountains in Germany, trying a Romanian spa by the Black Sea, or roaming the streets of Paris, these trips were filled with adventures, with learning and seeing new things. Another addiction.
Other trips were just for fun without the business part, and many were in North America. The surroundings were a bit more familiar, yet still new and wonderful. We loved the West Coast, especially, and a visit to Expo 86 was followed by another road trip through mountains, this time the Rockies, which are very mountainous indeed.
And then my sister and I started travelling together, first visiting a friend of mine in Long Beach and in subsequent years discovering the grown up playground that is Las Vegas. Which is where this ocean-addicted blogger discovered the desert and described it as “like mountains, only more so.” This was a feeble attempt at communicating the feeling of insignificance these magnificent landscapes caused in us tiny humans. The way you know that you don’t matter to these environments, that they have been there long before you and will continue to be there long after you’re gone. It is humbling and focusing, all at once.
But this post is not about travelling. Rather, it is about not travelling.
I lost a great many things in the big flare 10 years ago and one of them was the ability to travel. Not just in a plane and out of the country, but in a car or train and out of the downtown Toronto area. My body is too wrecked and my pain levels too high. I can no longer use a manual wheelchair, which makes travel infinitely easier. My body is now so persnickety that sitting in something other than my power wheelchair is impossible and that precludes flying. The pain that I keep tamped down with medication and mandatory rest periods comes roaring back when I travel in an accessible vehicle, my power wheelchair tied down for safety. Which prevents a trip to Ontario cottage country, Niagara Falls, or my sister’s new house.
It comes roaring back when I present my body with anything new. Whether it is 30 minutes of testing a new wheelchair (paid for it for two days) or accompanying my sister on her gift of driving a race car just north of the city (paid for it for two weeks and worth every minute), my damn body will not give me leave to do anything but sit in my power chair, sleep in my own bed, and stay close to home.
And I miss it. Inside of me there is a longing to go elsewhere, to seek out the new. I yearn for Out. For flying, for landing, for new vistas, new food, to visit new friends. More than anything, I wanted to be at that wedding in Arizona, that conference in Wisconsin, and all the other moments, personal and professional, I’ve missed and will continue to miss because I cannot leave home.
And then there are all the places I have dreamt of going. All the places I thought I would get to. Ireland, Monument Valley, Alaska, New York City, South Carolina, New Orleans, Australia, Africa, back to San Francisco and Vegas, Paris and Scotland. And Denmark. To see the people and places I love.
In this new life of mine, I work hard to focus on what I have and what I can do, not at what I don’t have and can’t do. I am grateful every day that I have this miraculous life, that I am allowed the privilege of the work I do, and the joy of being with the people I love. I find adventures not too far from home and imbue them with the same sense of wonder and discovery that lies in foreign travel. And when I think of the things I have lost, I remember how much I have regained in the last ten years and try to believe that the door is not closed permanently. That it might open yet again.