Travelling anywhere now feels like such a blessing. Grateful for every new avenue that opened up, we all yearned for so long to be, not only; anywhere-but-the-village; but anywhere-but-the-sofa. The world had closed it’s pathways, as we peered through windows, marooned, masked and frightened, shrouded in uncertainty as to how we might ever explore distant shores again.
Time inevitably stumbled on, pandemic, what pandemic?
Here we are now in Antalya, Turkey . And as far as we can see, there isn’t a mask in sight, There is no social distancing and no body parts have been sanitised.
It is quieter than expected here. The British school holidays haven’t begun yet, impacting on how many older children there are here. A bonus in swimming pools to oneself!
This is an all exclusive offering all the usual facilities, a very smart and organised hotel. It is beautiful, one of the cleanest and friendliest hotels we have been to. And it is is enormous. There are several pools, the hotel has its own beach and jetty, and there are even a selection of hotel cats who are allowed on the furniture.
Nobody has body swerved us in a queue or ducked away from a tickly cough. It almost feels as if, life has pretty much gone back to normal for a traveller. Only of course if you travel with mobility issues: you are often still faced with exactly the same old problems.
This holiday began well. Newcastle Airport was brilliant. The lady at the car drop off offered to take our trolley in for us, the desk wasn’t open but the staff offered alternative seating and the assistance service was as usual kind and efficient. The man pushing the wheelchair even waited for her majesty to choose perfume in Duty Free. (no, not me) Now that’s beyond his usual job remit!) .
Just like Covid19, an illness, pain or a disability can be invisible until it isn’t. People easily make snap judgements on your demeanour and your look and often don’t know you are sore. Yes, that’s a compliment in a way, but it is a constant red herring. The invisible smiling armour you must apply can wear thin very quickly as fatigue and pain begin to creep in. Travelling is way harder with mobility problems.
Maintaining your own style, your personality, your way of keeping organised is essential for anyone’s self respect. Which as we all know is a full time job you have to make look effortless. While most people are contemplating their airport look, the newest novel, the newest sunglasses ear buds and phones, your average immobile person is hoping not to miss their flight as they navigate the airport obstacle course. And still attempt a smidge of dignity after being wheeled about the concourse, riding the conveyor belt of chance and loss of personal control.
However, the important thing to remember is not the cards you got dealt, but how you play your hand. Managing being in permanent pain, being unable to simply do what others around you can, takes all your will power not to be sad about. Feeling powerless can be a choice though. To travel happily, one must accept our changing needs and how to best accommodate them.
Unless people know you, if you look well, you might look like you can manage.
When I first got ill, it was confusing. Even family ignored the level of pain I was in and the various and contradictory diagnosis I was receiving. If you don’t have an obvious fixable thing that can be operated on, many people believe you are simply making up your illness. Auto immunity conditions, rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, lupus these are real and they really do hurt. Operations leave scars, scrape bones horribly, leave us needing more support as joints deteriorate. Unfortunately much of the change is internal and tricky to fully fix. At best we create a damage limitation plan, at worst if we aren’t careful we can easily give in to its decay. For me that was not an option. (Although some days are far far harder)
Somehow, accidents and operations are easy to give empathy for. The stealthy, creeping deterioration of disease is a greyer area. It is hard to describe how I can’t walk more than a few feet sometimes, and with warmer air and another day I might get around the block with my sticks and our dog, Bear. It isn’t very sexy having an arthritic condition. Almost without warning your day’s potential changes; from looking not too bad and covering all with a smile to a sudden crippling fatigue leaving you stranded in pain, and making you want to weep. But it is true to say, the weather helps and a holiday was essential.
So, we arrive here having requested assistance at each side of the journey. The airport assistance had pushed me with one hand whilst pulling another man with his foot at breakneck speed through the airport. Whilst she ran to keep up. He then tipped me out at baggage reclaim. Once we had finally found our cases, sadly trundling about last (as we were first on) , we made our way to the door, having been told a rep would great us there and help get us to the hotel. There was no rep, it was midnight, hips had seized up, and everyone but us was running towards a coach.
The distance was horrendous, far longer than I can ever walk. But to add to the pain, a coach of waiting tourists, an anxious child running back to me every five minutes to check and the knives in my hip bones, found me eventually in my seat in tears. This wasn’t how I intended to start my holiday.
Having to ask for help is the worst thing when you actually need help. At your lowest, the absolute last thing you want to feel is that you have no power left, no dignity, no ability to care for yourself. Unfortunately, some of these things can be true, and what you need more than anything is a mind reader who knows your needs before you do, sees you as a real person still and does not make you feel guilty for asking for help. The trickiest of ages for a carer is a teen . Without going into detail, let’s say their heads are elsewhere and the world only includes their own image. A natural stage indeed but travelling with one relies on a travel structure as well as teenage hormone fluctuations.
On our way to the hotel There was no actual rep, just an envelope thrust at each party. Perhaps this was the new normal? Maybe things would be alright once we could finally unpack.
Once in the hotel, despite having organised a disabled friendly room, one near a lift, in the main block, we were told it was (vague hand gesture outside). We were led through acres of garden, the walking sticks making little difference to our young bellboy, to a very far away building at the edge of the complex. The young lad pulling our cases was nice enough, but it just felt like again, I was apologising for being slow or unable and it was agony. The moment the door closed was the last straw for us both . This room if it was kept would be a prison- too far from anything to enjoy. Cue a meltdown of epic proportions ( both) although mine was rather less blasphemous) and a promise that this would indeed not be our holiday spot.
But it was one o’clock in the morning and, “Yes, I know we can’t fold t shirts into cubby holes, and put our make up on the counter, but that can wait a couple more hours; now stop shouting and go to bed.”
The next day took another six hours to rehouse us. What that meant was not being able to properly access medicine, toiletries and swim stuff, and not relax into the holiday. And that isn’t good enough. Because there are thousands of spaces in this hotel, and (from what I could see) very few people with additional mobility needs. This had been booked due to the proximity to facilities, and I had specifically asked for assistance support. She had to get special permission to be out of school as a young carer too.
The new room was exactly what we needed and finally we could get settled in. Any complaints fizzled out as the staff throughout the week were attentive and polite.
Drawing attention to what can go wrong for a traveller will. I hope, make organisations better listen to us. Luckily, on this occasion it was tiny details in the big scheme of things which could have improved our experience massively. The holiday company booking us were asked all the right questions and knew specifics.
For example, there is a steep set of stairs here to the low pools and beach. Although the hotel has every available amenity; most involve walking. There aren’t very many accessible poolside loos, meaning one must plan for each potential route each day. As a self service all inclusive, it would be helpful to have ways to carry food to tables in the restaurant, or to make accessing the various food and drink spots easier for anyone not able to traverse the resort. To enjoy an evening drink in the room involved a complex system of separate ice, mixer and vodka, and a (not always) compliant assistant. Although a little sugar bribery goes a long way ..
Tracking down our rep by phone eventually, we asked for trips suitable for low mobility guests. Initially before he met us in person, he said there were none. ” Only if you can walk. ”
It is easy at this point to just give up. But lying in heat all day doing nothing is not our thing. So we met the rep in person and he got more of an idea of our situation. We booked an excursion to various stops in one day, including a river cruise. By the end of the day, I truly could barely move, but we saw enough sights to justify the pain, and managed some discount shopping too.
The hotel offered a spa service with several types of massage. When letting them know I needed a gentler type of massage, they insisted it would cost double because it was a special child’s massage because I am disabled. I cancelled that reservation. Paying double for half an experience seems daft. So instead we went to a traditional Hamam and had the full Turkish Bath experience. I declined the hot stone extra that could fix my arthritis for an extra £35 euro.
A few tips on travelling with health or mobility issues
It goes without saying that most people managing an illness or disability have to be fairly organised. Or they have a carer who is. Making sure everything you need for the day is not only packed but accessible. If you were your carer what would you give yourself?
Traveling is a great way to discover different areas, cultures, and cuisines. When it comes to traveling with mobility issues, planning a trip can feel overwhelming; however, it just takes some planning in advance to set your travel concerns at ease.
Plan in Advance
Call your airline, bus, trains, and hotels ahead of time to discuss your special accommodations and figure out what amenities are offered. By calling ahead, you’re able to gain more information and be proactive about preventative issues that could occur.
Factors to consider
- Reserve a seat ahead of time
- Call and discuss disabled accessibility of platforms/lifts/facilities
- Request a seat close to the bathrooms
- Ask about storage for any special equipment you may have
Questions to ask when finding a hotel to meet your needs:
- How are the rooms set up?
- Is the bathroom accommodating to prevent potential falls/slips?
- What in-room guest services are offered?
- What additional amenities will be provided to ensure your stay is as relaxing as possible?
Additionally, consider what special equipment you’ll need, the stamina and needs of you or your caregiver, and the accessibility of sites; planning these factors prior to your trip will help eliminate hiccups.
Traveling with mobility issues can seem overwhelming when you think about all the factors at once; however, when you take the time to plan in advance, you’re able to accomplish one item of your checklist at a time and successfully plan your trip.
Knowing what help you need to ask for can be hard. Especially if you look relatively OK, sometimes pain and limitations are not so easy to see. But a break away from it all can be possible for you.
Making sure your holiday team are briefed to enjoy all aspects of your trip.
Travelling full stop relies on several things for the monkey and me. Planning, belief, patience, acceptance, and a vision of an an end goal.
To have a mobility problem can affect your sense of self. But letting those fears win is losing your ticket to adventures and possibilities. Yes, you might need help, but you can chose to how and what to accept with gratitude and know it does not lessen you as a human being.
A kernel of power still burns inside on your pain days, frustrations when you can’t access freedoms like you perceive others can, will pass and new avenues will open.
Those initial hours in the resort could have been the undoing of all the hard work of getting abroad for the first time in four years. But so too these things will pass. And each day thereafter staff were aware and helpful. Managing to get around the resort with the help of the photographer, even resulted in some pictures of us, for once not looking cold and windswept!
We all need to remember that we can make things happen if we really want them. Everyone needs help sometimes, and by letting others help you; it becomes so much more possible for them to see what you are giving to and being in the world. Pain might be your constant companion, but it can sit and wait while post Pandemic life gets a chance too.
Happy Travels! Let us know where you go xxx