By Suzanne Marriott
` Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
My husband, Michael, had MS, but that didn’t stop us from doing the things we loved, and the most important was travel. The challenge was learning how, not if, we could do it. Of course, we had to make many changes and accommodations in order to maintain this lifestyle.
When Michael was still walking, using his two hiking poles for balance, we bought a small, used RV and traveled up the coast of California, our home state. It was summer and I was free from my job as a teacher. As my husband’s caregiver, I made sure our little home on wheels was well stocked with all the things we would need, including all the paraphernalia that MS required.
But the day we were to leave, it was too hot and Michael realized he couldn’t drive in that heat. So our first accommodation was to embark on our trip in the evening, when it was cooler. As a former truck driver, Michael was used to driving at night, so off we went, enjoying the moonlight and a dearth of traffic.
With advance reservations secured, we stayed in California state parks in the parking areas authorized for persons with disabilities. This meant we were close to the toilet and shower facilities. All states have qualifications for their state parks’ disability status which provides many advantages, such as park-use discounts. For California information can be found at https://www.parks.ca.gov/30959.
There came a time when Michael could no longer walk. His HMO provided him with a power wheelchair, and we bought a used van with hand controls and a wheelchair ramp. Having the van meant that Michael was able to continue driving even as his disability increased. With some seat switching, I could also drive when needed. Soon we begin taking advantage of sightseeing closer to home. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, this included the wine country, San Francisco itself, and the nearby coast and parklands. Sometimes we made longer trips, staying in motels and inns with accessible rooms. As always, the key was preparation and planning ahead.
For Michael and me, travel was something we refused to give up. The challenge was always figuring out how we could continue doing the things that we loved and what modifications we needed to make. Travel allowed us to continue having joy and fulfillment in our lives. If you’re thinking of travel, remember, it takes determination, creative thinking, and planning ahead. So go for it. And have fun!