Vacation is over. Obviously, I knew it would happen eventually, but right now life is filled with a lot of, “Ugh. This is so NOT Disney World” moments. I’m not complaining about life in it’s current state (except for that whole ‘I’d rather not have a chronic illness’ thing); I’m simply saying that vacation in Disney World was super fantastic. I thought I would have another “Adventures of Snooki” blog after her travels in Disney World (FYI- Snooki is the name of my wheelchair), but people in Disney World (especially the Disney World “castmembers”) were exceptionally understanding of Snooki and the seemingly healthy looking person traveling in her. There was actually very limited absurdity while in the Happiest Place on Earth. I would like to think the world is becoming more understanding and accepting of those with mobility limitations, but I truly believe that the employees at Disney are just really well trained and able to handle everything. However, because I have a lot of crazy, chronic friends who are planning trips to Disney theme parks or other similar places, I thought I’d share a few pieces of advice gleaned from my time in WDW.
- Get over yourself.
I know. That sounds harsh, but my harshness is a necessary evil. Somewhere in the first half hour that I was in WDW I had a moment- one of those awful moments where you can’t help but feel sorry for yourself. For that one awful moment I remembered the last time I was in Disney World. I remembered walking as fast as I could so that I could see everything more quickly. For just a quick moment, I felt sad that life had changed so much. I had to wait on Joe to roll me to the next attraction (self-maneuvering the wheelchair makes my shoulder dislocate), and I was just really bummed that my reality had changed so much. But . . . I was still in DISNEY WORLD! I had a husband that was willing to push me wherever I wanted to go. I had an entire week of fun ahead of me. Pretty much I just had to focus on all the incredible, overwhelming “good” in life, and it wasn’t that terribly hard to forget the little bit of bad. Embrace your wheelchair, your walker, your disability access card, or whatever you need to make it possible for you to enjoy yourself. Get over yourself and just have fun!
2. Take someone with you who has a lot of patience . . . and a strong back.
Since Joe and I traveled with just the two of us, all the wheelchair pushing fell on him. He walked 12+ miles a day pushing a Tiffany filled Snooki. He was not only physically exhausted; I’m pretty sure his patience was tried many times. Since he was pushing my wheelchair, a lot of people would talk to him or ask him questions about me rather speak to me directly. He’s pretty good about keeping a sense of humor about such things, but I’m sure it was frustrating. If you’re going to WDW or any place that requires a lot of walking, make sure you prepare whoever is traveling with you for the massive undertaking they are going to try. Also, be prepared that your “pusher” may run out of energy- make sure they know that’s okay. (Side note- Serious shout out to my husband, he never requested a break from pushing me . . . even though I’m positive his back was wanting a break!)
3. Prepare to hurt.
If you (like me) have an illness that involves chronic pain, that symptom isn’t going to disappear just because you are on vacation. If anything, my pain intensified. Whoever came up with the idea of brick streets in EPCOT’s World Showcase clearly did not imagine what it would feel like riding over them in a wheelchair. I felt like a giant bobble head doll every time we scooted over those streets. Every day I had to consciously push pain into as far of a corner of my brain as possible, because it wasn’t worth missing out on fun!
3. Make a plan but be flexible.
Joe and I planned each day so that we weren’t starting super early (I don’t function before 10 AM.). We also planned an afternoon break so that I could back to the hotel and cool off. Every afternoon I would arrive at the hotel tired, sore, and overstimulated, but after a couple hours in air conditioning (and a shower- Florida’s heat is ridiculous) I was back to normal-ish and ready for dinner and more Disney adventures. Also, we took a lot of water breaks in the shade. Even though I was in a wheelchair, my hips and knees would be super painful after a couple hours riding. Resting and propping up my feet as needed was a life saver and allowed us to explore longer.
4. Make new friends.
One of my favorite parts of this WDW experience was all the people we had the privilege of meeting. Disability access often meant waiting in a somewhat secluded place with other disabled park goers. The cool thing was that gave us a quiet (and often air conditioned) to meet other people. We met a beautiful retired couple that had fostered over 100 children and had recently adopted a beautiful 8 year old girl. I had lunch next to a lady with a killer sense of humor and laughed with her about the crazy things that happen in wheelchairs. I also met some really impressive power wheelchair parallel parkers. That’s a serious gift. I’m thankful that Joe was pushing me, because I’m not sure my driving skills could maneuver quite so well.
Disney World was fabulous, but it wasn’t without it’s frustrations or just general chronic illness funk. That’s okay. I was still able to have my incredible vacation. I was still able to return to my honeymoon spot with my husband. I was still able to make memories that will last my entire lifetime. Joe asked the other day if I would return to Disney World tomorrow if I had the chance. My response, “I just need a little help getting the laundry done so I can pack!”
Peace, love, and health friends.