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I’ve been wanting to write more articles for a while. With some health challenges earlier in the year, and building the world’s biggest disability marketing agency, it’s been tricky finding time. However I’m currently in Poland and found some time to share how the trip went. With a plan to write about other topics after this accessible travel post.

My partner is from Poland and we’ve visited her parents here many times before the pandemic. Since everything kicked off in March 2020, like for many of us, my worldly adventures have been somewhat curtailed. I went to Norfolk a couple of times, and Barcelona in October last year. But Poland was to be the biggest trip in a long time.

We had some snags in the build up with our fluffy friend, Sunny the golden retriever. Bringing him in the car for two days of driving was a big challenge in 2018. So we decided to give him a doggy hotel staycation in the UK. Unfortunately there was a mix up over his vaccines and things looked a bit dicey in the run up to our departure. Luckily we were able to get a blood test showing he had the right antibodies without the jab (as it was too late to get it before we left).

With Sunny sorted, there was the usual packing to do. Beyond the normal bits people take for a 3 week trip, I needed my hoist, shower chair, slip sheet and various other disability related things. The car was packed to the rafters! The reason we drive is because if we flew I wouldn’t have an accessible vehicle to get around in Poland. We researched this a lot years ago to no avail, but I’m thinking to have another look again for next time.

On Sunday 5th June with my PA Aga and my better half Kasia, we headed to the tunnel in Folkestone. Staying in the car, partly as I couldn’t get out if I wanted to with everything packed behind me, we went under the channel to France. Then after a few more hours of driving we arrived at our mid way stop in Dortmund Germany. After a Just Eat delivery because the hotel restaurant was closed, and a great sleep, we did the second 7 hours of driving all the way to Kasia’s parents.

We were obviously jaded on arrival. Fourteen hours of driving, plus stops, over two days is a lot. But to be greeted by smiling faces, delicious food and cognac shots perked us up!

Since arriving I went to Poznan city to swap over my PAs. Chloe flying in from England and Aga getting the train to see her family in northern Poland. They will swap back a few days before our drive home on the 26th June. But not thinking about that yet 😂 Otherwise I’ve enjoyed catching up with my in laws. They’re really so much fun. We’ve been in the garden, to the nearby forest and by the beautiful lakes. Plus we had Kasia’s nieces communion on the weekend.

Over the years the in laws have helped make their place more accessible. I used to either be carried upstairs by Kasia’s dad for a bath or shower in the garden under an awning. Whilst using a homemade wooden ramp to get in the downstairs part of the house. Now there’s an amazing ramp to a terrace and in to the house. Plus a downstairs loo and shower has been built.

I’ve still been checking in with work and ran the company wide meeting yesterday. Big up remote working! But I’ve also been trying to switch off a bit from work and rejuvenate. My body keeps reminding me of the toll I’ve put on it in recent times. So with some sun, new experiences and needed rest, I’m planning to return home with a renewed energy. But until then, there’s more food and cognac to consume!

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I’m writing on a Sunday. A sunny August Sunday at Reading festival in fact. There’s so much going on at the moment it’s crazy! If you think I was in Spain till April, have been beginning a house move from London to Cambridge and was in Poland for 3 weeks; let alone my numerous work projects.

As I finish filming a festival video blog for later in the week, I’m having the first real digestion of my Poland trip and what it all meant. Here are my thoughts:

Poland intertwined a few occurrences. It was great to spend time with Kasia and her family. To have been involved in the ‘Dignity and Equality’ project was very important for my soul. Then to have been on stage at Woodstock in front of 500,000 people was something else. Please check out the video.

The things I enjoyed most were:

– meeting and hanging out with a great family

– trying and sometimes struggling with new food (not my strong point)

– learning bits of a new language and generally embracing yet another new culture

– fundraising and supporting disabled people in a worse political situation than the UK

– being interviewed live on national Polish radio

– going sailing and rolling in the forest

– meeting a psychic healer and trying out some new health supplements (this experience and thinking deserves a full post, so be patient and don’t judge, ok 😉 )

The aspects I began to miss about home were:

– comfort food
– my usual setup of hoist, shower chair and routine
– my bed

You can see how much I love travel, new projects and new people, but also coming home. I think this is very natural and typical for disabled travellers.

Every experience has a purpose. My next post will be on Reading festival, and then a very honest post of my John o Groats trip starting on September 4th. I’m nervous, but having survived many other ordeals I’m confident too. Plus excited of what may come.

Hope you’re all well. Do drop me an email by hitting reply or tweeting me on your summer adventures.

Best wishes

Martyn Sibley

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If you are in a hurry, please click on the fundraising page and donate just£10.

Do you remember my Epic European Disability Roadtrip last year? In October I travelled in my Motability car to my grandfathers homeland of Lithuania, down to Prague, back to the UK, and everywhere inbetween. I overcame personal barriers, met disabled people across Europe and spread a positive message.

On my first leg in Poland I met Boguslaw and Teresa. I learned about life in Poland with a disability: the lack of funding, lack of equipment, lack of care, their basic government disability policy and the negative attitudes of society.

Boguslaw was a national and international speedway champion. After an accident, he uses a wheelchair and is now invisible to his previously adoring public. He and Teresa shared with me their plan to ride around their country by wheelchair to raise awareness and to demand change.

The months have rolled by. As I’ve been working in Spain, nurturing Disability Horizons and so on; they have really pushed things along. The event is called ‘Dignity and Equality’, began on the 24th June, is running until the 4th August, and covers 2500 kilometres – all by wheelchair! Here’s their facebook page and blog.

The aims of the project are:

– Increase the government funding to disabled people and carers
– Implement full accessibility of public buildings
– Educate society on disability and the need for inclusivity
–  Specifically enhance the rehabilitation services following accidents and sports injuries

I love how life works out sometimes. I’ve recently been working with a company called Toda, based in Canada. I was introduced to them because my girlfriends dad, Tadeusz, is their representative in Poland. We are now the representatives in the UK, but more of this for another post. Toda is the main sponsor, and Tadeusz  is the main organiser of this amazing project. With him knowing my work and introducing me to the guys before; he asked me to take part.

You all know I’m always up for this kind of thing! So in one week we are driving to Poland, riding with the crew and supporting their great efforts. Amazingly, Woodstock Poland have taken the guys under their wing and promoting this project nationwide. On our penultimate day of riding (3rd August) we will be on stage, just before the Kaiser Chiefs!

This is why I’m writing to you all today. I’ve set up a crowd fundraising page to give them a boost of needed cash towards their costs. I’d love for any crazier wheelchair users reading to get out to Poland and support them too. For those who can’t make it, you can follow it through my eyes, online.

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One week in to the trip, and I’m sat in ‘coffee heaven’ in Gdansk on Friday 28th September 2012,with so many emotions writing this.

The effort, time and struggle to get to this point has been draining. The changing plans, dates and mode of transport wasn’t ideal. To have raised enough money towards my additional travel costs was brilliant, but rather last minute. Then the travel, visit to a Berlin hospital for a pressure sore, mosquito bites and bad cold are tiring. Needless to say the #EEDR isn’t all plain sailing…

However the ferry journey, seeing Amsterdam in its tamest sense, meeting disability groups in Leipzig and Gorzow, being interviewed on polish media and multiple other ‘firsts’ in life has been invigorating.

Beyond my personal challenges of access, attitudes, finance and fatigue; I’m here to work!

In seeing a variety of countries and disabled people living there, it has been eye opening. In some ways the challenges are the same (buildings with steps, transport, government policy and societal attitudes). In other ways the more east I’ve gone, the less provision there is and the more basic and fundamental their problems are.

Since I last checked in, I arrived at Kasias house. Her niece is being christened tomorrow so a few other family members were there too. We spent Wednesday enjoying their beautiful garden, visiting the gorgeous lake and played music around a camp fire at night. A real road trippers day! I’d brought my harmonica and blagged it the whole way…

Then yesterday we headed to the media conference for Bogdans disability organisation (much more of this legend soon). They had a political party supporting the petition for accessible buses in Gorzow.

You can see on the video how much attention it received.

I was asked to join the conference and contribute too. This was definitely a first professionally.

Afterwards I interviewed the ex speedway champ about his life and becoming disabled in Poland. This will be posted soon after.

I’m still digesting what he said!

I’m also hot on the case of booking my hotels for the next week. The route and concept is still stable, but the finer details are ever changing.

I’ve got some great interviews lined up, especially when I visit my grandfathers birthplace of Vilnius tomorrow.

The trip is starting to attract media attention in Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic and back home.

I’m meeting Tom from the Polish charity Integraja in Warsaw next week. I also did a phone interview back to the UK yesterday.

Finally, I’m starting to consider the big ‘end use’ for #EEDR. I never doubted the blogs, videos and media attention would be great. I’m now seeing a use of my findings and an appetite from politicians, Brussels (EU parliament) and other organisations to use them. Awesome.

This can and will be shaped better on my return.

In terms of Gdansk. It was great to see Gabi and meet her boyfriend who I’d heard lots about. We arrived late last night, ate fajitas, drank a couple of mojitos (yes I’m in Poland not Mexico) and caught up.

Today I’ve been resting for my cold, then running around like a headless chicken for WiFi and getting plans in order.

I did however manage a brief roll in the town centre. We saw the town hall and then headed to this coffee bar. There’s a few accessibility issues with cafes and the inevitable ‘stare’. Hey ho.

Without bringing the tone down, the most striking part of Gdansk are the girls. I’ve never seen so many beautiful and friendly women in one town! I’ll leave that one there…

So, as my WiFi has stopped the video from uploading; I’m off to sort that.

Follow my daily instagram photos on Twitter (@martynsibley), comment on the blog, hit reply (if you receive this by email subscription) or email martyn@martynsibley.com.

Still 10 days to go, 5 countries to visit and more potential for great things to happen.

Please be a part of it with me.