I’ve been traveling alone for two decades. Part of that travel was for official business while I was on active duty in the Air Force, as well as for civilian work afterwards. But then I discovered the joys of solo recreational travel in my late 20s. It was hard for me to find other people who had the time or the money to go to the places I wanted to visit, so I decided, why wait? I’ve always been very independent, so I grabbed my passport and my sense of adventure and just went for it. I’ve never looked back.
But now that I have multiple sclerosis and use either an electric scooter or power wheelchair full-time, solo travel comes with some new challenges and complications. However, the joys I derive from my solo adventures haven’t diminished. Just like for my able-bodied peers, solo travel comes with many pros and cons. Here are some of the ones I’ve come across in my travels as an individual with a disability.
- I’m in complete control of where I go, what I do, and when I do it. This is a benefit of solo travel that I believe every adventurer shares.
- I engage in fantastic conversations with people I otherwise would likely never meet. Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever come across I’ve encountered during solo travel.
- It’s easier to obtain single tickets for certain concerts or other events on short notice.
- I continuously experience a profound sense of accomplishment whenever I’m able to do something by myself, or overcome my fears of doing something I’m not sure I can do with my physical limitations.
- I can splurge or be frugal at will without having to concern myself with somebody else’s budgetary preferences.
- With every offer of assistance from total strangers, my faith in humanity is restored.
- I see some absolutely amazing things during my travels, and sometimes it’s difficult to not have someone there to share the experience with.
- I do miss out on some experiences that I might be able to engage in if I had someone with me, for example, to push me in a manual wheelchair.
- I have to take extra safety precautions, especially when I’m alone in my hotel room. Getting hurt in a foreign country is NOT my idea of a good time.
- It’s really nice to have an advocate with you who can help with little things, like moving people out of the way or running in a shop really quickly to grab water or a snack.
- I rarely go out to socialize at night abroad because I feel like a woman traveling alone in a power scooter has no business being in a bar or a club. I believe in safety in numbers, and I’m sure I would have a blast enjoying a city’s nightlife with a traveling partner.
- I would probably spend less time on my cell phone during downtime because I would be chatting about observations with my traveling partner.
I’m very fortunate that my best friend is able to travel with me once a year. We had an absolute blast during a cruise to Alaska in May 2016, and were both extremely excited about our upcoming trip to Dublin in April 2017. But I also get excited about my solo trips and all the things I’m able to experience independently. Solo travel isn’t for everyone, and certainly when you have a disability and use a mobility device, you have to be prepared for the unexpected and able to work out some challenges thrown your way. I’m living proof that it’s manageable, and if you think you’re even remotely able to try it, I say, give it a go!