Wheelchair Backpacking: The Beginning
In Australia it’s almost tradition that by sometime in your twenties you are going quit your job and go backpacking around Europe for an extended period of time.
As a result a lot of my friends have done this and I found myself getting jealous and frustrated. Then one day I though why can’t I go backpacking around Europe solo? Surely even with my disability it’s something I could manage. Many people suggested joining a tour especially designed for people with disabilities – inclusive travel. However I decided I wanted to travel as “normally” as possible, I wanted to have that “backpacking solo” experience. As a result I wanted to stay in hostels, travel using only public transport and be able to carry everything on their back.
The other thing I wanted to be able to do like my other able bodied travellers was to be as flexible as possible. A lot of people I spoke to and blogs I read advised against this as not having a plan means you don’t know about accessibility and get caught out later.
I ended up booking and planning the first 2 weeks of my journey and left the rest up to chance. I did however write down a general route, major cities I wanted to visit and generally how many days at each before I left. . I also emailed a couple of the bigger chain hostels to see which of their hostels in which cities were accessible and then made a list. As I was travelling in the off season (winter) I wasn’t too concerned about places being booked out. I also bought a 2 month Eurail pass (information on travelling by train in a future blog), so then I could buy the actual train tickets as I went.
I found not planning too far ahead was very liberating as you could pick and choose where you wanted to go. There were some instances that there were no accessible hostels in the city I was staying and I had to stay in a hotel. However making a list of accessible hostels before I went was very handy.