There was a time I would be physically sick at the thought of public speaking, exams and other types of stressful endeavours.
In my late teens, having gone down to 4.5 stone in weight after my spinal fusion operation, I was forced to drink protein shakes to stay alive. They were disgusting in taste and bright pink in colour.
About 10 years ago, following a late night clubbing session at university, I turned up to my Economics’ maths class feeling rough. Upon hearing the news that we had an important test (that I’d forgot to revise for), my weak point hit me hard! My stomach churned, gag reflex kicked in, and an innocent lecturer gave his empty coffee cup for the pink gunk to fill it.
Not my sexiest tale for sure!
There was also a time when I thought driving a car was impossible. If it was possible, it sure sounded scary and exhausting.
Learning to drive took years of local community fundraising, help from Motability, months of adaptions and weeks of practice. Upon passing my test, I was scared to drive alone and the nearby shops seemed forever away. What if I lost my balance, or the technology failed or aliens came?
I remember in childhood thinking independent travel was as likely as Tottenham winning the Champions League.
At school going away for a night with my classmates filled me with fear. Only mum and dad could manage my hoisting, toileting, and turning at night. Not some Teaching Assistant. The first time I went away I spent every moment considering everything that could possibly go wrong, until fatigue sent me to sleep.
Since we left Spain about a month ago, I have achieved personal records with public speaking, driving and travel.
The apartment in L’Ametlla de Mar was left behind as we drove to Barcelona El Prat airport. With all my life belongings in the car, we parked safely in the parking area. Birmingham was the next destination. This is where my wheelchair light was unfortunately smashed (and later thankfully compensated by Monarch).
The next day I facilitated the youth workshop in Stratford upon Avon for the SMA support UK annual conference. Following a short trip home to see my lovely family and friends, we headed to London to arrange a hire car on our Visit Britain video shoot.
Then onto Plymouth, Exmoor and the New Forest; I presented over 5 days to camera about their accessibility and general tourism offerings. I visited museums, went on boats, up trees, along rocky coastal routes, and much more.
This was immediately followed by a flight from Gatwick to Barcelona. We hugged the car, our only constant in a ever changing life recently, and checked in at MIC Sant Jordi hotel. A super place for disabled visitors needing care and equipment in Barcelona.
After a weekend of emails, life admin and rest; I presented 2 more days for the Disability Horizons pilot of accessible tourism abroad. Here I saw more amazing museums, restaurants, went on a cable car, a hot air balloon and tasted Jean Leon’s wine from their vineyard.
On Wednesday 16th July I drove all the way from Barcelona to Cambridge for my MOT. After it passed successfully at Andys Kars and I saw family briefly, I drove us to Poland. Arriving Wednesday 23rd July I’d driven 3000km by hand.
Since then Kasia and I overcame access barriers for me to sleep, eat and shower comfortably. We’ve gone through forests and swam in lakes, enjoying the time with her absolutely lovely family. I’ve also pushed my business activities forward lots from my mobile internet in the garden. I heart technology!
It’s hard for me to do these weeks justice in words. They’ve been very special. I would say once in a lifetime, but I seem to be on an amazing roller coaster these days.
The point I’m making beyond a general update is this: People tell us that things are impossible. When we try, we often prove them and ourselves wrong. With planning, baby steps in the beginning, hard work, suffering setbacks and never giving up – everything is possible!
After you decide what you would like to just try out in life (whether location, work or leisure); invest time to learn how, train hard regularly and you will master it.
I’d love to hear your stories of struggle and achievements too. Please comment here or tweet @martynsibley.
See you somewhere soon 😉