Attitude is Everything If You Are in a Wheelchair Or Not
Whether you have some kind of physical disability or not, traveling requires patience. Taking yourself out of your normal surroundings and into the hands of others opens up possibilities for potential discomfort. Even if you plan for months on end there are aspects of traveling that remain out of your control. However, what you do always have control over is your attitude. An American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, put it best when he said, “though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” What a shame it would be if you were at one of the Seven Wonders of the World and unable to appreciate its grandeur because your mind is focused on an ignorant comment someone made hours before. You have spent time and money planning this moment and you are stuck in the past. Look around you; be in the moment of now.
Try to never give a negative comment a second thought. The truth is that no one knows everything; truth is all relative and we all have an “ignorant” aspect about ourselves. Even if a question or a comment comes from the heart, it can be still be misinterpreted in a negative way and you may be labeled by someone as “ignorant.” Always try to act in love and do not worry about how others interpret your actions. You must feel you had the best intentions, nothing more. With such an eagle-eye perspective you will be able to communicate with anyone freely knowing you came from the heart.
Being physically disabled can feel like a spotlight is following you, highlighting where you are different from the able-bodied people. For those with a spinal cord injury (SCI), some encounters with the walking can be quite perplexing. This I have found quite true with many paraplegics who have also been in situations where strangers make a comment on how they do not look as though they need a wheelchair. “No I am just lazy.” Wonderfully, curious children often boldly ask, “Why are you in a wheelchair?” To be honest, there was a period in my life where I was annoyed with such inquires and found them rude. However, I now feel that such interactions are opportunities to teach people about SCIs; fill a mind with answers rather than assumptions.
When traveling, a physical obstacle or person could stop a part of you from being totally in the moment; don’t let it. Let whatever the small imperfection to be a part of the moment; perfection is made up of imperfect elements. Or better yet, use the imperfect barrier as a means to create a whole new moment. For example, you are on a train in a foreign country and plan to stop at a station that is labeled as being wheelchair accessible. However, when you get off you realize that the elevator you need is broken. Instead of rerouting your whole day, simply get help if possible. I value my independence the same as the next person with a SCI but have found great joy in the random interactions with strangers, in which I “play the victim;” only I think of it as “damsel in distress.” Some will walk right past you, pretending not to see you, but there are plenty out there whose hearts are open and will ask “do you need some help?” We all need a little help sometimes, and while exploring unknown lands it is just as much a part of the adventure to accept the kindness of strangers. No matter your religion, angles or guardians are all around you and sometimes they speak through us walking or rolling beings.
Traveling with patience is traveling an open heart. Welcome it all; laugh at the most frustrating of circumstances and use the need for help to your advantage. This will allow you to experience something unexpected, something unplanned, which is a gem of traveling. Why else are you traveling but to experience something different? Be totally open to whatever may occur. Expect nothing to be as it is and it will be all you need it to be.