I’m in the process of planning ‘Kestler Euro Trip 2018.’ Yes, I know, I live in Europe, so I won’t be crossing an ocean, but my parents will be. And my brother may come and a friend from college. My life is a bit at a crossroads and I’m possibly looking to leave Europe soon. With the thought of moving lingering, I’ve basically devoted the next 2 months to travel. I plan to blog and record many updates via my podcast (aka mini rants).
I thought I’d take some time and explain how planning goes for me as a wheelchair user. While most people can quickly book train or bus travel I need to look into the accessibility. I’m also a baller on a budget (currently drinking 2euro wine out of a coffee mug). Therefore, I spend additional time checking prices, waiting and checking again.
Let’s start with trains.. Now, most trains in Europe are super wheelchair friendly. The concern comes when I have to book assistance for a ramp or lift. onto the train. For example, just today, I’ve emailed the access services in France, Belgium and Italy. The French were super helpful (and even had a ticket discount for people with disabilities), but they refused to respond to me in English. Another fun thing I learned was they only had the disability links on the French language page…not the German or English. I had to figure this out on my own and thankfully I’ve noticed before that webpages are different when they are translated…often lacking a lot of the original material. First, I book the ticket, then the assistance, then show up on the day of and hope it all worked….or that the lift isn’t broken. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all trains stations have elevators or assistance service. I need to look into this before booking as well. No fun getting to a station to find there’s no way out…ugh.
Buses are worse than trains! For example, FlixBus states on their website that they can take electric and manual wheelchairs – just call and make the reservation. So, I call and they
were so helpful told me that, in fact, they don’t allow electric chairs and that on the route I needed there was no ramped bus. This happens all the time! So, the best way to get somewhere is by bus, but you must climb the steps into the bus. This might be possible if someone was traveling with me. But, I’m an i-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t woman (to quote some rap songs). I often travel alone, so it’s nearly impossible to manage all that alone…especially because the driver can sometimes be less than helpful. Ok, so now I must avoid the bus and instead take a train that may add hours to the trip.
Let’s move onto hotels/Airbnb/hostels. Airbnb is actually getting a lot better. Recently they acquired a company called Accomable that specialized in rental homes that were extremely accessible. Therefore, the Airbnb site has a ton more filters for accessibility…of course this is all a bit subjective to the owner. I often must message the host and ask specifics. To some people, one or two steps is accessible. I am thankful I can be flexible to a point, but I also like to inform the hosts that indeed that doesn’t equal accessibility. Hotels sometimes also state they are accessible, but lack rooms or bathrooms fit for someone in a wheelchair.
I won’t go into many more details, but as you can see this all takes a lot more time, hair pulling and wine! I’ve said this before…I’m extremely lucky and fortunate to be able to travel, but it is frustrating when it comes to planning. I have a lot of secret anxiety…I worry a lot about accessibility, especially if I’m traveling with someone who I haven’t traveled with before. I’ve also accepted that in order to see the world, I’m gonna need to sit my ass down on some strange floors to scoot up stairs or ask strangers to help. (side note: I asked a complete stranger for a half-lift into a bathroom stall a few weeks ago..talk about swallowing pride. But, I had no option… I had to pee and there was no accessible toilet and somehow it was less awkward to ask a complete stranger than the friend who was with me that I didn’t know that well…). So, life gets a bit complicated. But, if there’s a will, there’s a freaking way!
Now, onto the more exciting part…where are we going?!?!!?!?
Belgium, France, Switzerland, Southern Germany, Morocco, Italy….and who knows where else! More details to be released later, when it’s not 1am.
I’m going to aim to keep a decently updated podcast and blogs maybe when I return from places. Find me on the insta for pix and more frequent updates!