as small as a world and as large as alone

Maggie and Milly and Molly and May by E.E. Cummings

maggie and milly and molly and and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles; and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

I’m no literary buff so I took to the web to learn what this poem was really trying to tell me. And I found this analysis:
Maggie, Milly, Molly, and May went to a beach in this poem and each found a different thing. The beach seems to be representative of the physical, while the sea itself is the deep core. The last two lines of the poem, ‘for whatever we lose(like a you or a me)/ it’s always ourselves we find in the sea’; seems to say that if the girls, or if anyone had gone deeper and into the sea, they would have found something greater. To find oneself means to go beyond all the good the bad and physical, and dig deeper.

What do you think?

How to slow time down

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.   ― Pico Iyer

infinity clockYou know how when you were little, cookies took a year to bake. The time between when you got hungry and when you got food was at least a week. A lifetime passed before Christmas would. Summer was always at least an eternity away.  And a driver’s licence…you couldn’t even conceive of the length of time before you could get one of those. Then life happens and the older folk find that time is just flying by!

I heard a really interesting theory when I was traveling.

I kept a journal of where I went and what I did on the trip. It didn’t have to be anything super exciting, maybe just a little note about the couple I met on the train, a place I found myself when I was completely lost, watching the sunset from a new horizon. And at the end of that trip, I could have written a whole book!

In this past month, I’ve done enough noteworthy things to fill a post-it. No wonder Year-End Newsletter’s are phasing out: it takes an entire family to come up with enough interesting to fill a short letter.

postcardsIt doesn’t make any logical sense, but somehow the 2 week trip you took provided you with more memories than the rest of the year. Even though while you are physically sitting in traffic it seems that it will never end, looking back the two weeks will feel longer than the other 50.

The idea is that by experiencing new things you slow time down. Routine speeds time up.

This makes sense when applied to the young and old. For children, every experience is a new experience. Older people have already experienced so much and have established a nice routine for themselves.

Ah to be a young fool.

Tropical Accessibility

There are many things I thought I would never see happen for wheelchair users that I turned out to be wrong about…

  • I never thought skiing would be wheelchair accessible, but it is.
  • I never thought African safaris would be wheelchair accessible, but they are.
  • But what I REALLY never thought would happen: wheelchair accessible eco-tourism. I am once again blissfully wrong!

Brazil has put effort into Accessible Tourism programs. These don’t just let you look at the amazing landscapes from afar, but actually engage in nature!

Different communities are making changes to vastly improve accessibility to nature. Now there are a wide variety of locations and activities disabled travelers can participate in. There are accessible hikes, beaches, and even water sports like rafting! Even the coral pools off Pajuçara Beach have become accessible using specially equipped boats.

Wheelchair accessible dirt ramp on ecotourIt is really neat to see how these groups take initiative and ingeniously make nature accessible while still respecting and conserving nature. For example, this ramp… I’m sure it would not stand up to ADA regulations but it preserves the environment, culture, and integrity of the entire experience. It’s these types of efforts that are so amazing to see (for me! at least!!)

This is such a good example of using resources you have available to make creative solutions. It in no way detracts from the natural beauty, but rather incorporates the beauty of a raw incarnation of human ingenuity. It stays true to the spirit of eco-tourism and offers disabled tourists an authentic experience.

What other opportunities have surprised you for being accessible?

Travel is fatal to prejudice

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.  ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

Before writing about the mother who threw her disabled baby off a bridge, I thought I understood what this quote meant.

I thought it meant that by traveling I will have the experiences necessary to better myself. I will meet new types of people, appreciate different culture and the struggles they face. I will see there are many “right” ways; my way isn’t the best one to happen to this world.

Now I know that I’m not the only one who is bettered by the experience. I think that it is a two way street. I see and experience new things, but so do the local people who meet a mysterious outsider like me. Suddenly I’m a representative my entire “people”– whatever others perceive that to be, whether is people from my country, with my coloration, education level, my unusual height, with my condition, share my fashion sense, or who thinks FRIENDS was the best sitcom ever, etc. etc. etc.

It’s not just about race and religion! It’s about letting others experience a different way of life through you! You’re example can not only advocate for different abilities, but can open minds. And just like that you’ve become a vanquisher of prejudice!

I think it would be really fantastic to see more people with disabilities travel, not just for their own personal satisfaction, but for the betterment of the world.

If that mother had met an individual with Down Syndrome, leading a full and fulfilling life, maybe she would have chosen to embrace her daughter’s differences instead of tossing them away. She is just one of the many people in this world who Mr. Twain would say sorely need travel.

So if you are considering traveling but are on the fence, just think of it like this…you’d be doing with world a public service. 😉

Happy Friday!

Travel on the cheap: A solar powered journey

In 2010, Haidar Taleb started a 200 mile journey across the United Arab Emirates in his power chair.

Inventor of the solar powered wheelchair, Taleb put his invention to the ultimate test, and challenged the way we see disability.

By taking-up this journey, I want to raise awareness about disability and tell people that we, despite our disability can achieve anything as an individual, if we are determined to try and have courage to do so. — Haidar Taleb

This is a really cool way to make travel accessible to everyone. I for one would love to see disabled and able-bodied road-trippers alike, flocking down the bike lane off to their next adventure.

I mean, if you’re going to vacation in a sunny paradise, might as well–right? Moral of the story, sunny states, countries and tropical islands need to adopt a pedestrian/solar powered lane on all their big roads to facilitate such roadtrips!

All in favor say “roadtrip!!”

Homeward Bound!

Hello world! Sorry for the absence. Two days before leaving Italy, our internet went out, never to return. I was actually writing a blog post when it happened. Sorry to keep you all waiting.

2 car rides, 3 planes, a couple shuttles and 26 hours later: I’m home!

It was a long day.

When we got to the Palermo airport, I was surprised to see that there were a few people in wheelchairs getting around the airport. At least one of them was on our flight and –for the first time I can remember– we took a jet bridge to board the plane instead of taking stairs from the tarmac. I was curious if this was a special accommodation for the disabled passenger, but apparently, when using stairs to board, there is a machine that comes and brings people up and down. The way the flight attendant explained it to me, it seemed like a platform that would move you up and over the stairs. But I have yet to find a picture of this contraption so I’m still curious if it exists or if its the lock ness monster of the air(lines).

Next we were in the Rome airport. There were even more disabled travelers. Somehow they were always in twos. Even the wheelchair runners with empty chairs traveled in twos! This was very different from the Toronto airport (next on our itinerary), where all disabled travelers moved in herds. The smallest group was about 5 and the largest was probably 15. I don’t know if these groups were traveling together, or if they were segregated for some purpose, but it was a little strange to see.

Also strange about Toronto, we had to wait on the tarmac for almost half hour before we could pull up to the gate to disembark. Why? A swarm of bees. True story people.

As on our trip to Italy, we also hit some turbulence on the way home. This was the first time I’d ever actually used my seat belt. We had a nice drop, big enough so that my loose-fitting seat belt actually prevented me from flying out. Ok, I’m being a little dramatic, but I’d never experienced a plane belt restrain me before. And to be fair, the person seated in front of me had his water jump out of his cup (from the tray table!) and land on him.

There was a resounding “WHOA” from the cabin, sounding much like a roller coaster ride. Instead of letting our imaginations get the best of us (like on the way to Italy), the flight attendants told us to review our emergency instructions and locate our nearest emergency exit. And then they repeated it in 2 other languages. What kind of response is that?! Was that supposed to be reassuring? We are going to die.

Fortunately, the English announcement was made by a flight attendant that was laughing. THAT was reassuring–I think that should be in the flight attendant guidebook.

5 emergency exits

Pack like a Pro – best kept secrets

There are times you get to wherever you’re going and realize I forgot to pack ___!!! And there are times you realize Thank goodness I packed this ___!!!

hand sanitizerMost often its the former. But this trip, I am so grateful for my hand sanitizer and it’s good friend: tissues. You never know when you will get to a bathroom with no TP and no soap (already happened to me twice this trip!). When you are spending so much time on public transit, you’re going to want to eat at some point and you will thank yourself for bringing some Purell. I promise.

There are plenty of other items that merit a spot on your packing list. I will bypass the usuals like ID, phone, chargers, etc and just give you an idea of the type of things you might need that you might not have thought to bring.  So here we go!

  • Hand Sanitizer & Pack of tissues
  • Journal with waterproof pen  – to write memories or directions, phone numbers, etc.  It’s always good to have.
  • Ziploc bags – whether you have a wet towel, dirty laundry, food storage or sea shells you want to take home, you will find a reason to need a ziploc bag.
  • Travel Clothes line – if you plan to wash clothes, you might not have the luxury of a dryer. If you anticipate this sort of situation, best come prepared to air-dry.
  • Sewing Kit / Safety pins – You never know when a bag will rip or your pants will split. And if you need to pop a blister-you’re all set!
  • Earplugs/eyecover – if you are a light sleeper, do yourself this favor.
  • Copy of passport in email!!! – This one is really really good. If you are so unfortunate to lose or have your passport stolen, having this copy could be a life saver. And if you simply print a copy and keep it in your wallet–the theif probably won’t leave that behind for you. I’ve done this for years and it’s so helpful, even for just booking tickets.
  • Luggage Locks – These need to be TSA approved so they can open your bags without opening the lock. Its also nice to have a lock in case you need to put your stuff in a storage locker, etc, anytime you are traveling.
  • Make sure you don’t find yourself here. My pink bow wont be so funny.

    A recognizable strap for your luggage – I’ve been that person who feels so dumb when they walk off with the wrong luggage or waits for twenty minutes as their bag circles them repeatedly. Now I have a bright pink bow on my bags, and baggage claim is so much easier!

  • Cloth bag – just a small tote that you can go grocery shopping with. Some places make you pay for bags, and if you plan to do a lot of shopping, it’s nice to have a sturdy bag to use. Also, you can use it as your “personal item” on the flight home, in case you return with more stuff you started with.
  • Feminine Products – I’ll leave this one to this blogger who says it best: “these are often harder to find than they should be (especially with language barriers), so it’s a good idea to bring at least a month’s supply. Even if you don’t need them, someone else will, and having them will get you lots of good travel karma.”
  • Tweezers/Nail clippers – hang nails and splinters can ruin your day. I can’t travel without these. And if you need to cut a string for your sewing kit, nail clipper are a TSA friendly option.

For this last one, I went to the web to see what people think. To bring a knife or not to bring a knife? And this is what I saw:

Contrary to every man’s instinct, a knife is very rarely useful. – www.wordtravels.com

Seriously. Uncorking a wine bottle, adding an extra hole in your belt, getting a splinter out of your finger, this is the tool of choice. Mock if you like, but mine’s been useful more times than I can count, and so it tops the list. – www.noaura.com

I’ve never traveled with a knife, but if your man instincts tell you otherwise, I say go for it!

And there you have it! Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

Related articles:
www.wordtravels.com/forum/discussion/1506
www.noaura.com/travellist
www.eaglecreek.com/travel-tips-packing-lists
www.onebag.com/checklist.html

The good traveler

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. – Lao Tzu

Yesterday I had fixed plans to publish my post on time, but being the good traveler that I am…this did not happen. And I thought This is just the moment to talk to you about “Italy Time”.

At UC Berkeley, when the class is listed as starting at 10am, it actually starts at 10:10. This is called Berkeley Time. Italy time is much less precise.

Italian-Swiss trainItalian public transportation is notorious for running late. They have a schedule of arrivals and departures but people rarely consult them because everything runs so late. If you are really lucky, you drivers or conductors will go on strike that day. This happens fairly often.

It’s easy to tell when you’ve crossed over into Switzerland.

This can be really frustrating, but its also kind of endearing I think. It gives character! Even in this small city I’m in now (San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily), kids rejoice when the bus drivers go on strike and they don’t have to go to school. Those kind of experiences are pretty cool. Like snow days. For the rest of the US snow days probably aren’t received so affectionately, but to this California girl, it sounds like a sweet deal.

Italian public transit epitomizes today’s quote–even if you have fixed plans, sometimes you just aren’t going to get where you thought you were going. “Travel” is just the word in an ancient language for “Planning is futile”.

Historic day in Italian Hotelery

The coolest thing happened the other day…

We were walking around town and we saw this:

IMG_2679

You can believe you’re eyes. Yes that is a giant ramp that is wide, stable and at a decent incline. Those are three adjectives that don’t go with “ramp” in the same sentence when you are in Italy.

I had to stop.

The nice owner showed me around and told me that that ramp isn’t, in fact, just for looks; the lobby/restaurant is accessible. I wasn’t prepared for what he said next: “And we have two accessible rooms. Would you like to see?”

Why yes! Yes I would!

We walk through this immaculate lobby with shiny marble floors and open the 90cm door (about 35.5 inches) and see this. A nice big bed with plenty of space to move around the room, the mattress is a decent height and large enough that you won’t fall off the bed.

IMG_2672

I was already impressed but I had to ask the dreaded question What about the bathroom? 

Fearing the worst, I see this architectural miracle that us Americans simply refer to as a handicap bathroom. It had a nice large entrance, a shower whose walls pull away so it is actually a roll-in shower.


   IMG_2673 IMG_2671

In short, this hotel completely blew my mind. I’ve been in Italy and Sicily before, so I was surprised to see that this hotel was so far beyond my expectations. But it really seems like people here are trying to incorporate accessibility in their plans! It’s no longer strange that a hotel has these sort of ammenities (did I mention that the lobby has an accessible bathroom, in case guests need to use one after checkout?). This is becoming the norm.

New hotels are actually required to have 2 accessible rooms if there are 10 rooms total. Each additional 10 rooms requires 1 more accessible room. So it’s moved beyond compassionate owners and business savvy entrepreneurs…its law!

As I’m sure you’ve picked up, I was very shocked to see the strides businesses are making to increase their accessibility. But I have to correct my misconceptions: now these sort of considerations are something I’ll have to start expecting from Italy. If this small town in Sicily can do it–I think we should hold the rest of Italy to at least the same standard.

This is encouraging news people! I hope you’re as excited about this as I am!

The hotel featured in this post is:
Alaba Hotel – http://www.alabahotel.com
San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily

Interesting guesses

“That’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
― Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

Last week I told you about navigating the streets of Sicily and the perils associated. My critique on accessibility may have come across as, well, critical…but, when you meet a challenge while traveling, I hope you can have a sense of humor about it and appreciate the experience.

Unlike daily life, nothing about air travel is routine (except for disrobing at the airport). You can plan and schedule all you like, but you will inevitably encounter a surprise. Spontaneity cannot be eluded–I’ll let you in on a secret; that’s one of the coolest parts about traveling!

I’ve been guessing since I arrived in Italy. Some guesses aren’t too interesting, but others lead to a cascade of events you could have never dreamed of.

It really is true; nothing quite compares to the wonder of interesting guesses.

Venice flood loungers