I’ll Be Your Pilot

As I’ve said, my dream is to go to Iceland, and has been for a few years. I was absolutely terrified of flying, and so my first time on a plane wasn’t until a few days before my 25th birthday, when I went to Sweden – I was supposed to go to Malta earlier in the year but a passport-related incident stopped me from going. Flying back from Italy in business class was a great experience and one that almost made the whole being told I have a brain tumour worth it. (Jokes, of course, but it was pretty excellent!) Since then, I haven’t flown anywhere, or even been out of the UK, so I don’t have many tips for longer distance travel (yet, though I’m still hoping for Iceland!)

I also don’t drive – I didn’t learn when I was younger, because when I turned 17 pretty much everything I needed was on a bus route, and for university I went to Glasgow where, again, I could get to most places by public transport or walking. Both my parents drive, though, and my youngest brother is currently learning. Not only does that make it relatively easy to get to appointments, it also means I’m able to get to various places for fun things! There’s also the train for other trips, especially to London!

So, a few things I’ve learnt about the actual process of travelling:


Plan ahead if possible. Most of our trips away have been by car, and a couple so far have involved overnight stays – we also spent a lovely two weeks in Devon this summer. I always prefer to be over prepared when it comes to travelling – I was always that person who would insist on being at the station at least half an hour before my train was due to leave, and would get panicky on the way in that I’d somehow miss it anyway. Especially if you need assistance, planning (and having a back-up plan!) is essential – how are you going to get from Point A to Point B? This is where travelling with someone else has been really useful – not only is it essential for me to actually be able to get anywhere, but it means that someone else (usually my mum) can sort out the details!

Build up to big trips. We only live a few miles away from a lovely zoo, so that made for a good day trip! One weekend we went up to Manchester, and the next month we went up to Glasgow – the Glasgow trip was really tiring but I want to go up again. A lot of my favourite people are still there. Doing gradually bigger trips worked for me – it let me know what my limits are and get used to being away from home for gradually longer periods, until I was able to go on holiday for two weeks in Devon, and with the exception of a couple of days at the beginning, I was able to get out everyday and we went to lots of old childhood haunts (read more here: https://debbiescancerblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/02/ease-your-feet-in-the-sea/)

Don’t feel bad if you can’t do everything. There were a few things I’ve missed out on over the last year and a bit – my dad and brothers went to Green Man festival in Wales, but I wouldn’t have been able to make it (though I was represented by my bear, Cuthbert!) and I didn’t manage to see everyone I wanted to while in Glasgow. Prioritising and having a realistic idea of expectations is good – to take Glasgow as an example, my two main priorities were to get to the wedding I went up for and to catch up with friends after church on Sunday, and I managed to do that – so the fact that by Monday I was so tired I suggested we just went home a few hours early instead of trying to meet friends and my supervisors at the university.


It’s not always easy travelling while disabled – I rely on accessible transport and accessible hotels. I’ve heard horror stories about both from various people. The assistance at stations seems not to turn up more often than it does! I remember when I worked at a well-known cinema chain being given fire safety training which involved (I paraphrase, because this was over six years ago) ‘leave someone in a wheelchair in this space on the stairs’ – I do worry about what would happen in the event of a fire or other scenario where the lifts aren’t usable.

I have a few trips coming up – most of them fairly small day trips but those still involve thinking about some of these things. I’ll be going to Oxford in October, for a day to see my brother, and perhaps most excitingly, for my birthday in November I’ll be going to that there London for a couple of nights to see the Cursed Child!

Anything abroad will involve this on a much bigger scale – after going to Stockholm, pre-diagnosis, I came up with a plan to visit 30 countries by the time I’m 30. That’s no longer possible, but I’m investigating whether going to Iceland, or maybe Norway, is a thing I could do. That also opens the world of insurance and flying, so it may well prove impossible – it’s worth looking into though, even if it turns out to be too complicated!

2 Thoughts

  1. Have you considered going to Iceland on a cruise? You can sail from Southampton & cruise companies are generally geared up to support people using wheelchairs; making sure assistance is available if needed, all ship areas are accessible & also making due considerations on the excursions available. They’ve also got medics on board for anyone/everyone who may have the misfortune to need them. And, in my experience, the food & entertainment is usually top notch too. A great way to travel & see the world without having to fly.


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