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Planes, Trains, & Automobiles: Travel Challenges with MS - Pt.3

You would think that the automobile would be the easiest, and most convenient mode of transportation to use when traveling. And for most people, it is. However, if like me you have very limited mobility with legs that more often than not don't cooperate?...than it's not so easy peasy.

First, there's the most obvious challenge: hand controls. I need them, and can't operate a vehicle without them. This isn't usually a problem when I travel, as there is always at least one other person with me who can drive. And honestly, when you're on vacation, it's way better to be a passenger enjoying the view, than the driver making sure you don't miss the exit!

Secondly, you need to make sure there's enough room for your wheelchair. If you have to rent a car, chances are you're going to have to spend a bit more, because that micro mini probably won't fit your wheelchair...unless it's a hatchback...then it's all good.

The other thing I need to take into consideration is how high the step into the car is? Currently, I pretty much need help lifting my legs to get into any vehicle. If the car is low enough, I can just sit back onto the seat and hubby lifts my legs in. But, the higher the car, the higher the step, the harder and more awkward it gets. So hubby and I have developed a routine whereby he helps get my leg onto the floor board of the car. I then pull myself up using the door frame while he gives my butt a boost and voila...I'm sitting in the car. It's not pretty, but it works!

The biggest challenge for me when travelling by car isn't the car itself, but rather the availability of washroom facilities along the way to wherever I'm going. My pesky, overactive bladder means that I need to stop hourly for a washroom break. This can prove quite challenging when you're in unfamiliar surroundings and although there are some decent apps out there to help you find a toilet, they're not always as accurate or up to date as they could be. The highway rest stops in Germany are spaced quite far apart. If you're lucky enough to have a gov't issued handicap key, you can get into any of the dedicated disabled public washrooms, which are fabulous! Of course, visitors are S.O.L...unless you know a resident of the country you are visiting who can possibly lend you a key. (wink, wink). If you don't know any such person, then you have to contend with a handicap stall in the regular washroom or no handicap stall at all...which I observed did happen in the highway rest areas and gas stations, particularly in the smaller towns.

Black Mercedes parked on a cobblestone street

Surprisingly, the car we ended up using was a Mercedes B200, one of their most compact models. And it was almost perfect. So almost perfect that hubby is thinking we should buy one for ourselves! It is quite spacious inside – my 6'3" tall brother had enough leg room, even in the backseat. The hatch area easily accommodated my fold up electric wheelchair. It was low enough to the ground that I didn't need to hoist myself up to get in. And it got great gas mileage.

What I've come away with while using all the various methods of transportation I tried, is that, regardless of the mode of transportation, it's important to keep an open mind, focus on the positives, and always, always remember..."where there's a will, there's a way". So keep travelling!


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