Is Solo Travelling with a Disability Possible?

The short answer is yes. However, there are many issues a person with a disability has to overcome. In case you’re new to my blog, I’m a German student with a passion for travelling… and I was born one-handed. More on my disability can be found in my post ‘Handy Guide to Amputees: Origins’.

“We can do it too!” A self-portrait I’ve done a while ago

During all my travels, I don’t think I’ve met anyone with a disability as openly visible as mine. This, of course, doesn’t mean that there are no travellers with a disability, it just means that I either haven’t met them or their disability was non-visible. Likewise, an overwhelming majority of travel bloggers and travel vloggers seem to be able-bodied. Again, this is just a superficial observation. As I’ve already stated in my blog post ‘Handy Guide to Amputees: Origins’, not all disabilities and chronic illnesses are as visible as mine. However, what can be said for certain is that a disability makes travelling more complex. As an able-bodied person, all you have to do is to book a plane, grab your luggage and you’re off. There is hardly anything you have to consider about your journey apart from money and visa. A person with a disability cannot do that. Depending on the disability, there is so much that needs to be researched and possibly booked in advance. Is the form of transportation suitable for my needs? Do I need to find out where I can get my necessary medication from? Is the hotel/hostel I stay at access free? The list goes on.

Lend me a Hand?

As a one-handed person, I can say that there are not too many limitations awaiting me in comparison to someone who is in a wheel chair for example. However, in my case, even the simple decision of what type of luggage to take can become an issue. During my trip to London in May this year, I used a suitcase for the second time in 10 years and I regretted it immediately. In the past, I’ve been using two backpacks for travelling: either my 75L Jack Wolfskin Agadir Women Backpack or my 32L Eastpack similar in style to Eastpack’s Egghead (mine is a few years old and no longer in stock), depending on the length of my stay.

The first time I used a suitcase was three years ago during my semester abroad in Cardiff, Wales. It was a five months long stay. I had an apartment and didn’t travel very often during that time and when I did, I used my beloved Eastpack. However, when I did use my suitcase back then, and this year in London, it was a real struggle for me. Being forced to drag a suitcase along with me, leaves no option for multitasking whatsoever. Now imagine you try to use the overrun London Underground, trying to use your Oystercard, dragging your suitcase, and trying not to be too slow, otherwise you end up being overran, all at the same time with only one hand. Also, no matter how little you have in your suitcase, it is always a struggle to drag your suitcase a staircase up and down. There we oh so many occasions where I was cursing to myself for having used a suitcase. Sure these are struggles many able-bodied have to face as well when having a suitcase, but it is an even greater struggle when you’re one-handed. Similarly, even the choice of my daypack depends on my disability. You’ll rarely see me using a backpack for a daypack when travelling. This is simply so because it proved to be too complicated and stressful trying to multitask with a backpack as daypack when travelling. All this is nothing in comparison to the struggles other people with disabilities have to overcome while travelling. However, if you’re travelling solo, even the choice of luggage can cause a travelling nightmare or two.

2009 in New Zealand – Still a better option than a suitcase

There are also many other issues that a one-handed traveller has to face. I cannot just simply hire or even buy a car when travelling. While I do have a driver’s licence (just because someone has a disability, doesn’t mean that he or she cannot drive a car…), there are a few adjustments that need to be done in a car for me being able to drive it. Of course there are companies out there, although not very few, who offter access free rental cars, but they come at a price. So far I’m a budget backpacker, so getting a rental or even going through the hassle of buying a car and having it altered is not a financial option. Outdoor climbing or other activities of a similar kind? Not an option for me. Again, the list goes on.

I’ve tried to compile a list of travel bloggers with a disability as well as disability travel resources. However, in order to see that list, you have to wait until next week. So make sure to stay tuned!


4 thoughts on “Is Solo Travelling with a Disability Possible?

  1. first off: this was such an interesting read. 🙂 things you don’t really know are so often thought of as a diffuse ‘kinda easy’ or ‘kinda difficult’ until you get a palpable bit of insight, even if it is just a very commonplace thing, like luggage. in hindsight, nothing makes more sense than you going for hands-free options like backpacks. just as naturally, these come with their own set of limits and impediments. clear as day, yet surprisingly hard to see from a distance just how far the consequences reach.

    as i mentioned earlier on twitter, this topic reminded me of something i wanted to ask you anyway, because i pondered it myself for a good while and became curious whether you experience this in a similar way. i realise it’s a bit of a personal question, so please feel free to ignore it if it’s crossing boundaries. 🙂

    my asperger’s is largely invisible, as is a chronic byproduct i kinda got by ignoring my aspieness for too long. but i often can’t shake the feeling that parts of the world aren’t ‘meant for me’, or are not geared towards accomodating people like me. on good days, i laugh it off and just do my thing, whil eon bad days, it can make me feel like someone deliberately kept at bay, like a droid in the mos eisley cantina.
    do you get this kind of feeling a lot, say, with ‘normal’ activities that are still off limits or a much more involved endeavour for you, and how does it make you feel? as in, more/less at home in the world around us, more combative (i’ll show ’em!) or more like a hermit in the midst of a large crowd?


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