Ever since I was little there has been one place I’ve always dreamed of visiting. Last week, this dream came true and I went to New York!
It still doesn’t feel real and I can’t quite believe I have been. It was incredible! I don’t mean this in a negative way/start playing the violin etc., I mean it in a simply factual way if this even makes sense, but I’m used to not being able to do things I dream about mostly because they’re just not suitable! E.g. my dream job would be to be a nurse as simple as that sounds! But obviously that’s most definitely not going to work for me, haha! So to be able to do something that I dreamed of was extra special. I think sometimes when you have a disability, you can become used to just going with whatever for ease and because you rely on others, you often try to fit in with them instead of doing what you actually want to do. Don’t get me wrong, being flexible and fitting in with others is a part of life, but sometimes I do get frustrated in certain situations where under normal circumstances (i.e. if I was able-bodied) I would have choice and the ability to say “I’m going to do this...”.
I am so incredibly lucky to have such an amazing PA who back in November said “where would you like to go on holiday?”. No one has ever asked me this question before, which goes back to what I was just saying about fitting in with other people - I’ve always had to holiday with my parents and wherever they wanted to go. Of course, when you’re a child this is the norm, but since around the age of 18 or so, I’ve watched my able-bodied peers jet off to destinations of their choice whilst I’ve been stuck with English holidays with my parents. This probably sounds like I’m being incredibly ungrateful, I know! I don’t really know how to get it across without sounding spoiled if I’m being honest. I think what I’m trying to say is all the Ibiza and Maluguf photos coming up on Facebook among some other destinations around the world from my able-bodied peers has made me long for a slice of what I would probably be doing if I was able-bodied! Just to stress, I am not ungrateful at all for the holidays I have with my parents, but it doesn’t make my frustration any less - especially with my naturally adventurous and independent personality, I love to visit new countries and I like to do things that I’ve planned! (That sounds like I’m a control freak, but you know what I mean!)
So, when my PA asked me where I wanted to go, I was like a child at a theme park! After years of dreaming, there was only one place for me really and that was... New York, New York! The day I booked it, I just stared at the holiday brochure in bed that evening - I couldn’t quite believe it! Things like this didn’t happen to me.
Even when I was on the aeroplane there, I was like “this still isn’t going to happen...!”. But it did, and I loved every moment. Although jet lag and Cerebral Palsy is quite a combination, haha! But it was well worth it. I always say that if you really want to do something, you’ll just find a way to deal with whatever might make it difficult, which in this case was jet lag. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired in my life but I really couldn’t care less because I had the best time. The jet lag and the extra effects for me is just a small price to pay I feel.
(First photo is an aeroplane bed!)
New York is actually a really accessible city. The majority of kerbs are flat unlike here in England. I don’t think we visited anywhere that didn’t have a lift. I used my wheelchair virtually everywhere we went and people were literally falling over themselves to open doors for us. Also, when we went into restaurants, although I prefer to not sit in my chair they automatically moved the restaurant chair so I could have wheeled right under the table if I had wanted to. We took my walker to an ice hockey game and a show - in England there would be nowhere to store it (I would have probably been told that I should have booked wheelchair seating if I have mobility equipment) but in New York it was absolutely no problem. There were areas to store it and a member of staff would take it away once I was seated if necessary. Furthermore, there was no need to ring ahead and tell them we were coming/book it in. They may be behind in their language in America (I was ‘handicapped’ for the week, haha! Not that this personally bothers me but I know it does bother a lot of people) but they’re definitely ahead in terms of accommodating people with disabilities.
I loved everything about New York after the initial 24 hours. For the first 24 hours, it was a bit overwhelming - I didn’t know where to look and my body didn’t know what on earth was going on with the jet lag/time difference. Once this had settled down and we had got our bearings a bit, I started to fall in love with New York!
We did all the sights and touristy things including the Statue of Liberty, Bloomingdales, Broadway, Ground Zero etc. My absolute favourite thing was the Empire State Building - we went to the top at night. Oh my gosh, I have never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. It didn’t even look real! It was a bit like I had gone onto Google images and typed in ‘New York skyline’ and found the most photoshopped photo! I don’t think I’ll ever see anything quite like it again... unless I’m ever lucky enough to go back to New York one day and go back up the Empire State Building!
The food... wow! I don’t know what I would do if I lived there because after 7 days I was kind of sick of food! But it is mind blowing. The first day we were there we went out for breakfast and the menu totally blew my mind. I can remember thinking this is meal number one and this is only breakfast! The overall winner for me was the blue cheese dressing that they serve in most restaurants. It is nothing like the blue cheese dressing we get over here in the UK - I don’t really know how best to describe it but it was amazing!
I also can’t remember the last time I totally switched off from everyday life. This was amazing! In the taxi back to the airport we even said what a lovely ‘bubble’ we had been in during our time there. As I said, I can’t remember the last time I just totally switched off from everything going on in my everyday life, so this was a great feeling. Not so great upon landing back in Heathrow though, haha!
So, to put it simply, New York was incredible and I can't quite believe I have been! I would definitely love to go back one day. This was my third trip outside of the UK in a year too. This has given me the confidence to do something quite 'radical'... I have just booked to go to Tenerife for 8 days in August - 'alone'! I say 'alone', but one of my best friends who I met through CP Teens UK is coming with me and we're going with Limitless Travel (give it a Google!). But, what I mean is there'll be no Jess (PA), no parents etc. there - just me to look after me (with a little help and backup from Limitless Travel!). I don't know whether to be excited or terrified! But, I think this will be so good for me to do - I am 25 this year, and my next significant birthday is 30, so I need to 'woman up' and get on that flight!
I also booked the holiday entirely by myself over the telephone. No, I can't believe I've just typed that either, haha. I went from actively avoiding using the telephone ... to booking a 'solo' holiday?! Nothing like chucking yourself in at the deep end Ellie, haha! I was so smug when I put the phone down - ignore the blooming holiday booking, I've just used the telephone, haha!
It made me realise though that if I really want something/I really need to do something, if I put my mind to it I really can do it (within reason - obviously not going to be cooking up a Michelin star meal anytime soon, haha). Sometimes, it really is just a case of mind over matter. I'm already thinking what my next 'mind over matter adventure' could be! Tenerife will definitely be a 'mind over matter adventure'. I think sometimes I even forget that I am an adult, and I don't mean that in a big-headed 'I know everything' way, because I definitely don't. But, I think I'm so used to pretty much having another adult with me a lot of the time that I forget that I can actually adult myself! And then it's building the confidence to do that.
I'm already very much looking forward to blogging about my Tenerife adventure. I know that if I enjoy it, that'll be it and there'll be no stopping me! But, as someone who is desperate to see the world and having Cerebral Palsy, this freedom to think 'I've got a free couple of weeks, what are Limitless Travel offering?" would be incredible. Obviously my first choice would to be go with Jess (don't worry Jess, hahaha!), but I think it's amazing that potentially there's also a travel company who can assist me with my travels too - I'm excited to investigate it further out in Tenerife!