I can picture it like it was yesterday….
20 years ago I was sitting at my desk in my bedroom doing eighth grade homework and was surprised to see my parents’ car pull into the driveway; unusual because a Muller car never left nor entered the driveway without at least two horn honks.
I ran down the hallway and down the stairs of our raised ranch and met my parents at the front door.
I knew instantly from their expressions that something was wrong. Some would call this moment the end of my Camelot existence. I call this the beginning of a truly authentic life because within a blink of an eye the important things in life came into focus and remained in focus.
The day after my Mom had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), the two of us played hooky from school. My mom made a promise to me on that day from which she never wavered. “Multiple Sclerosis will not rule our lives. We will deal with it as a family but it will never be who we are.” With 20 years of dealing with Multiple Sclerosis as a family under our belts, it has been our shared commitment to appreciating the extraordinary in the ordinary that allowed us all to transcend the challenges presented by the unpredictability of MS and focus more on life’s blessings than life’s obstacles. Reflecting on my childhood, I recognize that the most poignant memories are those “small moments” shared as a family –
The living room picture window covered in steam from Mom’s spaghetti sauce cooking in the kitchen.
Friday night family nights where a lot of talking, eating, and laughing took place.
Holiday traditions that ranged from Easter egg hunts, to long rides in the back of my parents’ car to cut down the perfect Christmas tree, to my mom’s pork and sauerkraut on New Years’ Day intended to bring us all a year of good fortune.
I treasure these traditions of family togetherness even more as an adult who now carries them on with my own family. Traveling together as a family continues to provide all of us such great joy and an abundance of wonderful memories. In today’s fast-paced, virtual, get-more-done-in-less time era, very few of us regularly take the time to slow down, reconnect, and create those meaningful memories that will be long remembered after the last email is sent and virtual scrabble hand is played.
My mom approaches everything in her life with such grace, and traveling is no exception. Following is a list of tips we have gathered that have proven to enhance our travel experience. These tips are geared toward addressing accessibility challenges, but most of these tips are useful for any traveler.
1. Have fun planning your trip.
For us, this upfront research of course includes identifying the level of accessibility in the areas we plan to visit. We find word of mouth
recommendations are so valuable, and with customer-centric sites like TripAdvisor, it is so easy to learn about different peoples’ experiences without the fluff. Researching a location and uncovering all the ‘hidden jewels’ the location has to offer is such a great way to rev up for a trip, and for us ensures that we spend our precious vacation days doing what we want to do, not battling accessibility obstacles.
2. People are so willing to help – let them.
Multiple Sclerosis has shown us the best in people. Whether it be the four men who lifted my mom’s wheelchair over a long gravel path to allow her access to visit a Japanese tea room, or the man who carried my mom the 12 steps to board the Nile River Dinner Cruise, or simply the little girl who held the door to enter Harrods’ department store, people of every nationality, race and religion continuously go out of their way to lend a helping hand. When you realize that you’re not in this thing alone, it is so much easier to embrace the possibilities that abound.
3. Use an aisle chair when you fly.
Airlines now equal accessibility thanks to the aisle chair, a skinny wheelchair that fits the narrow plane aisles. When you make your flight reservation mention that you use a wheelchair and this ensures that you will board early and an airline representative will escort you directly to your seat using the aisle chair.
4. Lighten your load.
Every traveler knows that too much luggage can weigh you down and dampen your spirits; this is especially true when also trying to maneuver a wheelchair. When we travel we lighten our load by shipping things to our destination ahead of time.
5. Consider cruising.
Cruising offers such ease, a plethora of options, and flexibility for travelers with accessibility issues. Start by getting an accessible state room. In addition to the mobility enhancements, an accessible state room offers extra square footage which significantly adds to the cruising experience. If possible opt for a state room with a balcony. For any traveler a balcony is a major perk, but especially for handicapped travelers, it is sometimes nice to be able to experience the ocean breeze from your own balcony rather than having to fight the crowds on the main decks. Also, allow cruise staff to help you on and off the ship. Added perk – you get to be at the front of the line every time!
6. Bypass organized tours and opt for local tours.
Even before accessibility was a focus for us, my parents, both educators, instilled in us a love for getting to know a location’s true culture by exploring off the beaten path. Today whenever we are in a new part of the world we bypass the expensive, organized tours and opt for a local taxi driver and ask him/her to show us their country. With such pride we have been taken to the most amazing places that are rarely mentioned in the tour books, all while avoiding the crowds and rigid structure associated with organized tours.
I would love to hear what you do to enhance your travel experience….
My wish and challenge to you – regain control in 2012 and consciously make 2012 your best year yet!
You CAN change your life by consciously defining your own meaning of The Good Life, but YOU, and only YOU can make this happen.
Brooke Muller Horan is the creative mastermind behind the KIF Creations brand aimed at inspiring each and every one of us to seek out and cherish the extraordinary in the ordinary of our everyday lives! KIF Creations embodies Muller Horan’s passion for opulent living and desire to leave one’s legacy through immersing one’s self into day-to-day living that
maximizes every moment of the day. The first, multi-themed product line created by KIF Creations has been a huge success in fine/high-end New England gift shops.
Website (to be officially launched early 2012): http://kifcreations.com/