Traveling can be an adventure or a relaxing vacation. Sometimes traveling can be terrifying and riddled with anxiety. While, it can also bring feelings of excitement. Imagine if leaving home brought about each of these emotions. Traveling seems to carry at least some chaos under normal circumstances. I’ve learned vacationing with cerebral palsy brings its own set of challenges. One of the challenges in my daily life is my physical environment. In an attempt to make life more simple I often frequent places I’m familiar with. The predictability of knowing what the physical environment is like, helps me navigate my way around. Often times when traveling everything is new, which often adds excitement to a trip. Finding myself in a new environment adds excitement to my life as well. It also presents new challenges and along with those challenges comes apprehension. Having just returned from a family vacation those feelings of apprehension and exhilaration are fresh. I’ve found over the last few years traveling is one of the most vulnerable situations I find myself experiencing. For this reason, I spent years without getting on an airplane and enjoying the gift of adventure.
It seems to take time in order to accept the feelings of vulnerability. When I am unfamiliar with the emotions surrounding adventure. The first fear I had to overcome in traveling again was my fear of flying. I found myself needing a reason to overcome the panic of getting on an airplane again. For years, my fear was so crippling I was unwilling to explore the idea of medication to help me fly. The reason for getting myself back onto an airplane came four years ago. I hadn’t traveled any significant distance in ten years. A childhood friend, whom I’ve known since he was born, was getting married. When I heard the news, it would be a destination wedding, I wanted to find a way onto the airplane. Through a confluence of positive events, a new-found dose of courage, and an openness to medication for the flight, it happened. When the time came, I found myself ingesting an anti-anxiety pill and walking onto the airplane to witness a wedding on the beach. Having not been on a trip in ten years it was full of unfamiliar challenges, but I’m thankful I was there.
As we fast-forward almost four years, I haven’t stopped getting onto the airplane seeking something new. For the second year in a row, a family vacation took me back to Hawaii. We traveled to the same place and my familiarity with the surroundings made this year even more enjoyable. I’m more comfortable with the feeling of being on the airplane. It gets easier to board an airplane, as repetition allows me to understand how the flying process works. The more I fly, the more routine it becomes. I’ve found a carry-on bag that works, learned how to dress making security more simple, and when to take my medication. It all adds up to having the ability to experience an exciting part of life again.
The fear of flying gets more comfortable every time, but being away from familiar environments is also challenging. The more I learn to function with different surrounding the better travel companion I become. This year something surprising had changed in the resort. Anytime I traveled before I’d get a key to the room and avoid using it as much as possible. It was always helpful when a travel companion took care of opening the hotel room door. With cerebral palsy effecting the steadiness of my wrists, holding my hands steady enough to slide the thin card into the slot on the door was a nightmare. It was incredible challenging to simply enter a hotel room on my own. Well, to my pleasant surprise all that changed this year. We still received a key card to open the door to the room, but this time there wasn’t a slot to receive the key. There was a small black disk that we simply placed the key card up against. The small red and yellow lights turned green and the door unlocked. For a guy with cerebral palsy it was magic. No more trembling hands, trying to insert the slim side of the key card into a small slit.
The pleasure of the new magnetic key card system went beyond the room entrance. At the resort, the room key is used to get on the beach and lift a gate to park the car. I recall thinking I could never drive to the resort last year because I would struggle reaching out of the car and using the key to unlock the gate. The key had to be slid into a small opening and pulled out quickly to raise the gate and drive into the parking structure. On this trip, we just reached out the window and held the key in front of the magnetic disk, up went the gate. The same happened to gain beach access. I rarely went down alone last year because gaining access would cause trembling in my hands, as I attempted to slide the room key into the small opening to unlock the gate. This year, the beach access had been transformed to the magnetic system signifying freedom from a challenge of cerebral palsy.
It seems traveling will often be a challenging task. Getting outside of my comfort zone has always been an idea I shy away from. However, the only way to truly move forward is step out of the comfort zone. It has taken time to become more comfortable flying and along the way I experienced difficult times. I’ve proven to myself the only way to overcome a fear of vulnerability is to keep trying. Soon, the thing which caused fear and discomfort becomes exciting. Like the functioning of the key, things can become easier as time moves along. I’ve found ways to deal with fear without it standing in the way. When the environment around me changes the frustration of cerebral palsy rears its ugly head. But, over time I learn to not let the frustration run my life and pin me down. The vacation this year was my favorite so far. Filled with golf, the beach, some exploration, and most important, time with family. I’m thankful for all the help I’ve received through the years, allowing me to enjoy these moments, instead of being stuck at home in fear.