able-bodied

Able-Bodied No More: How to Appreciate Travel

Feet up, no travel. Image by Flickr user Ted Eytan.

As Wanderful women, we’re very lucky. Most of us have had the opportunity to explore the world (or at least our own little corners of it). We’re educated, liberated, and we have the funds to see the world and enjoy it.

The women who make up Wanderful have taken spur-of-the-moment weekend trips, gone backpacking for months at a time, moved abroad for a year,  and even traded in all aspects of the ‘conventional life’ for long-term travel with no clear end date in sight.

And while we are often grateful for every moment we spend exploring the world, we don’t consciously think of the moment it all could stop, how one action could change our travelling lifestyle, sending all of our goal posts flying out the window.

For me, it was completely unexpected. On my way to a yoga class, my ankle turned over – a common occurrence for someone who’s hyperflexible. Unfortunately, I was at the top of the stairs outside my house when it happened. With help, I was able to walk back inside. It was only when I almost passed out an hour later that I realized this wasn’t just a sprain or strain.

Several hospital visits later, I had a final diagnosis: a broken ankle, three torn tendons, and a bone chip.  My ankle would be immobilized for two months.

Five months on, I took my first unassisted step this week.

Being immobile taught me a lot about what I take for granted and the advantages I have. Being ‘tied by ankle’ to hearth and home made me realize exactly how much even daily activities (going to the washroom, brushing my teeth, making dinner) depend on having four fully operational limbs. For two months I couldn’t leave my house without the help of at least two people. Heading to a different town or exploring new (even familiar!) places on my own were out of the question until a few short weeks ago.

My injury also made me realize how much we all depend on being able-bodied when traveling. It taught me, as I managed one daytrip and gave up on all other travel plans, exactly how much we take our health for granted when we travel, and how lucky those of us who are able-bodied are when we set out to explore the world.

able-bodied

Image by Flickr user Hey Paul Studios.

This isn’t to say that those with disabilities cannot travel — many do, as some wonderfully empowering stories and blogs out there about being ‘differently abled’ and traveling prove. But my own experience gave me a glimpse of what it must be like to realize you will never travel again, like the realizations of those who experience more serious accidents or to never have the opportunity to travel at all, whether for health, economic, religious, or family reasons.

Wanderful has always encouraged responsible travel — to be environmentally friendly, respect local traditions, and embrace cultural differences. But I now feel we also have a greater responsibility: to treasure each travel experience we have, both for ourselves and those women who cannot or will not ever travel, and to do whatever we can to help others of different nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, religions, and circumstances embrace and experience all the wonders that are possible through travel.

Perhaps this smacks of ‘seize the day’ or Hallmark-laden sentiments. All I know is what the last five months have taught me: Sometimes, losing those things we take for granted gives us a whole lot more appreciation for them and that travel, with all its freedoms and opportunities for self-growth, is definitely one of them.

Have you ever been grounded from travel? Have you helped those who were grounded spread their wings? Share in the comments!

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