Traveling with a Physical Disability

Turns out I am not normal. I know shocker right? But all kidding a side my body doesn’t work like yours. Let me explain.

   From a problem that stems back from birth I have early onset arthritis in my left leg. They told me this at ten.

At about 20 I ruptured a disc in my back and it pinched my sciatic nerve. Rendering me in horrible pain. In fact I thought an organ had burst until they told me it was just my sciatic nerve. Ever since I have lived with on and off pain in my lower back and into my leg.
 In August of this past year I was in Nantes when I started to feel a lot of pain and noticed I was having more trouble then usual walking. I shrugged it off saying it was just sciatic pains, it would go away. Three months later I was in some of the worst pain of my life.
 While in Turkey, still thinking it was just another sciatic attack, I was dragging myself all around while nearly in tears. I could barely tie my own shoes let alone trek around through fairy chimneys and the like.
 When I got back I decided I had put it off long enough and I needed to go to the doctor. Turns out there was more wrong with me then I had originally thought. What was wrong? The discs in my spine are compressing at a much more rapid rate then normal for someone my age and they are in turn crushing my nerve. On top of that I now have early on set arthritis in my lower vertebrae. My bones are wearing out much sooner then I had imagined they would.
I have known my whole life that this could happen. I have never been able to do the things other kids did and now I can’t do what my peers can do. I often forget I just simply can’t do these things.
     When I first got this news a few months ago I started to worry it would mean the end of travel for me. How can I travel when I can barely put on pants?
Sometimes I push myself because I think I will be ok but I just simply can’t do those things. It is often embarrassing. I know people probably think I am lazy. I look young and it doesn’t make sense why I can’t move faster or pick something up.
     I have been feeling better and I just went to the UK. When in Scotland I was told I should do Arthur’s Seat. I figured it was a light walk and I would be fine. Once I saw the mountain I should have just said I was going to sit it out. But I was with other people and didn’t want to back down in front of them or for me. I don’t want to miss out on amazing things. It just doesn’t seem fair.
     However I had no business trying to climb it. It was really hard and by the time I reached the top I had lost feeling in my left leg almost completely. In general I don’t have a lot of feeling in the top of my left foot all the way up to the knee.
Due to nerve damage I don’t feel much and sometimes I don’t have a lot of control over my left foot. I trip a lot because I can’t tell if I am actually picking my leg up all the way.
    When you get to the very top there is a rock formation you have to climb over, it got to the point where I was literally picking my left leg up with my hands and placing it in foot holes so i could drag it. Scary. On the way down I was really afraid of falling, from the wind and from the lack of control of my leg.
     When I finally got to the end I realized I have to stop doing that to myself or I really won’t be able to travel anymore. My travel style just has to adapt to my body. I can do things, I just can’t do everything. I have to just be slower and easy on myself. It is a lesson in progress.
It is also one I want to write about. I know I am not the only person with physical limitations and continues to travel.
I will be in North Vietnam soon and I am planning on doing a two day trek through Sapa. I plan on being more aware of my limitations and not pushing myself to keep up with everyone. If I am slow then so be it. At least it means I can still see everything I want to see.
I want travel to be my life. There might come a time when it is too hard for me but there is no reason to rush that.


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