To RollingRains.com readers from travel author Liz Hamill Scott:
Last week I read Scott's posts and comments on universal design, the Spoon Theory, and whether the principles of inclusive tourism could become so broad as to lose the voices of the disabled travelers who advocated for universal design in the first place.The ideas got me thinking about something I'd written recently--a section of my upcoming book The Imperfect Traveler's Guide to Traveling With Pain.
Reframing Your Expectations: Imagine Your Pain as a Two-Year Old Child
By Liz Hamill Scott
Focusing on how much pain you're in and the ins and outs of your medical condition doesn't make it easier to plan a trip.
Instead, try this exercise: Think of your condition as if it were a two-year-old child. Millions of parents travel with toddlers every day of every year--it's considered a normal, even desirable thing to do.
Consider the following:
• Toddlers require special plans, from choosing the right hotel room to planning special activities to remembering to bring the doctor's phone number along.
• Traveling with a toddler means packing differently and it means lugging special items around throughout your trip.
• Toddlers can't do all the same things adults can--no downhill skiing, no back-country hikes, no 10-hour sojourns in art museums, no all-nighters at the hottest clubs.
• Toddlers need to eat frequently (and healthfully) and sleep on a regular schedule to keep happy and even-tempered, especially on vacation.
• Despite all the best planning and scheming, sometimes toddlers have tantrums and spoil an outing. It's not fun to have to abandon plans in the middle of the day, but it's not the end of the world either.
Now substitute "chronic pain condition" for "toddler" in each sentence. You'll realize that while traveling with pain can be a pain, it's something you can do. At least your pain won't throw food at other diners in a restaurant or start screaming during an opening night performance on Broadway!
It's a tough question--should inclusive tourism err on the side of super-inclusion to the point of denying that any group needs to be singled out for special or specific accommodation? Or should each group--wheelchair-users, chronic pain sufferers, parents of toddlers, lactose-free diners, etc. etc. ad infinitum push as hard as possible for their own accommodations without acknowledging that many "special" needs overlap enough to make universal design a viable answer.
As a member of Team Travels With Pain, I do like to chat with other travelers with pain--who else could understand and help advocate our needs better? There's value in diversity, and warmth in a sense of belonging to a community of like-minded and like-bodied folks.
But then, the accommodations I need on the road also help my best friend--the pregnant mom of a two-year-old girl. She might not be a traveler with pain, but she too travels with a limited number of "spoons" each day. Our needs overlap so frequently that we make near-ideal travel buddies.
Maybe I'm a starry-eyed optimist, but I think that inclusive tourism has room for both small groups and large crowds. I don't think we who belong to disabled travel communities need to give up our voices or our stories in order to advocate the creation of universally designed structures and modes of transportation that can accommodate all who need or want to use them.