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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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For the past 3 years Kasia and I have attended Mindvalley University. A personal development conference held in different beautiful tourism hot spots each summer for 1 month.

After Barcelona and Tallinn, 2019 was to be in Pula, Croatia.

Having never been to Croatia we were excited but also aware of the challenges a new place brings. The flight is always challenging on the day, but to arrange is a known entity by now. However the transport, accommodation, care and general access would need researching.

Luckily some of the Mindvalley tribe members were from Pula and knew of some disability contacts.

Katarina and Paula helped us find an adapted vehicle for the airport transfers. None of the private hire taxis were accessible there. We were able to get the public bus to and from the Mindvalley hub and our accommodation. As the last bus was at 9.30pm Igor kindly drove us in the adapted vehicle to the final party and home late.

Our Pula friends also connected us with a care agency. Kasia did most of my care, but having a PA come in every morning to get me up was gold dust. Leaving Kasia to swim with her family, before we all had breakfast together.

We found our accommodation together with Kasia’s family, who joined us from Poland. After a long search for accessibility, affordability and good location; we found Bi Village!

After contacting them for availability, they expressed an interest in promoting their accessibility through my visit. So in full disclosure, we were offered a free stay for our 2 weeks in Croatia. In return for my time and accessible tourism knowledge.

Bi Village is positioned 8km north of Pula. Hence the daily bus commute. It was full of campers and guests in apartments. Plus so many other holiday amenities.

Our temporary home was fully wheelchair accessible. It had 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. The adapted bathroom had a wet room shower and no awkward lips. There was also a kitchen, lounge and terrace for the lovely warm evenings.

Kasia’s mum, dad, brother, sister in law, niece and nephew enjoyed great moments with us. We had delicious meals and yummy ice creams. The kids loved the water park, tree climbing and many other child friendly activities.

The resort backed straight on to the beach. There was a wheelchair accessible ramp to the sea with an amphibian chair for swimming. The beach was more rocky than sandy, but that didn’t effect us negatively. I did burn my chest on the last day though. Ouch!

On the weekend away from the university commitments we had a bike ride to nearby Fazana, and a boat trip to the nearby islands.

The bikes were cheap to hire and I used my chair. The promenade was all accessible. It was nice looking around Fazana, and exploring the coast.

For the boat day I couldn’t take my chair. It’s too big and heavy. So I went on my shower chair with my Easy Travel Seat. It wasn’t so comfortable on my bum without my custom cushion, and being lifted on the boat and pushed around wasn’t ideal. However the views and experience was worth while.

Pula itself was surprisingly accessible. It’s an old Roman city with a beautiful collaseum. However the pavements had dropped kerbs and few cobbles. Result!

I’ll probably write an article about Mindvalley University another time, and there’s lots more to share about the Istria region. But for now, if you have any particular questions I’ve not addressed please let me know 🙂

You can also enjoy my daily video posts from Istria on my public Facebook page, my YouTube channel and my podcast channel. The dates were 7th to 21st July.

Martyn Sibley

– World Changer @ martynsibley.com.
– Author @ ‘Everything is Possible’ (on Amazon).
– Inclusion Captain @ disabilityhorizons.com.
– Presenter and Speaker @ visablepeople.com.
– Adviser @ Governments/Businesses/Charities.

Also @ Twitter | Facebook | Linked In | Google+

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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

Last time I checked in with you, I was heading down to Bognor Regis for a family trip to Butlins. This post will fill you in on my experience there. However, as swimming was a big part of the trip, I’ve opened it up a little broader. Enjoy!

Kasia and I set off 2 Monday mornings ago, packed for 4 nights and were excited like kids! With my manual hoist, shower chair and sunglasses in the car; I sped off with my thumb operated accelerator and handlebar steering to the south coast. I had been to the same Butlins as a teenager, but couldn’t remember much, and am physically weaker now. I’m always therefore a little nervous of the facilities on such a trip.

On arrival we were greeted by friendly staff who guided us to the right room. After checking in over at the main tent, it was helpful having a family crew of 10 to assist us with all my gear. We have managed alone, but its tiring. Plus my 2 nieces even helped out!

The room caused a bit of a stir. We all paid £200 each for rooms, breakfast and dinner, plus entertainment etc. Having an adapted room meant being away from the others, but in relative luxury. The others literally had a room and loo. We had a room, huge accessible shower, lounge with tv and kitchen with everything you need. Sometimes its good to be disabled 😉

With all my equipment there, a good accessible room and my family too; it was time to have fun. The first day was best weather wise. I enjoyed giving my eldest niece a wheelchair ride along the beach front and chasing the youngest from causing trouble. They are 6 and almost 2. Unfortunately the weather tailed off, and so we just chilled within the complex, swam, ate and chatted the other days. In the evenings we saw a Katy Perry and Jessie J act, plus the Jacksons and the famous redcoats of Butlins.

All of the complex was wheelchair accessible, with lifts, toilets and helpful staff. Depending on your disability, you can access some of the fairground rides too.

So, swimming. I used to swim loads as a child. I learnt to swim without armbands aged 4 in Florida, I was in the local newspaper with the prime ministers wife for a charity swim I did, and generally thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I had my spinal fusion surgery in 2000 and lost the ability to swim for a long time. A couple of years back I started going again, found it more stressful, but healthy and fulfilling.

It had been a while since I had last swum, when we were in Butlins. I had the luxury of all my familys support, including 3 strong blokes in the crew. Having sussed out the situation with the staff, I was happy to go for it. Planning ahead, I had my swim shorts on under my trousers already. Once undressed, I was lifted onto their pool chair and rolled to the water, whilst having my head held. The chair rolled into the sloped pool floor, so access was easy. I was held during the crazy wave machine, but managed to bob about with a float otherwise. Afterwards I was placed back on the chair, used the accessible shower with the help of mum, kasia, my sister in law and niece (I know, I’m high maintenance!) and was lifted onto a slightly uncomfortable changing bench. Once dried and dressed I was lifted back to the safety of my wheelchair!

Enlightened by the exercise, healthy action and fun; I wanted to go again. Being in Cambridge this week, I researched local pools on the Internet, read up on access and phoned about. In the end I was surprised how many could cater for me. I ended up going to Chesterton sports centre last night. This was awesome! They had a hoist to get me from my chair, to the pool chair, to the changing bed and so on. The pool hoist was great, the lifeguards were super helpful, PAs goes free,  and the changing bed was soft, wide and water proof for showering. More importantly I enjoyed the swim, felt shattered after (in an unusual way) and feel great today.

If you have a disability and feel worried about swimming; I urge you to give it a go! If you already swim, I’d love to hear from you on your experiences good and bad.

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Hola Amigos. Quick ‘update on life’ article here:

The articles about my Vodafone award, accessible tourism presenter role, accessible marketing in tourism toolkit, and activism in Poland project are on their way still, I promise!

Otherwise life has been ticking along.

– I’m trying to get my health in check with newer foods and seeking physio support. Being sat down all day does take its toll physically. Do you find this a problem too?

– My car had another glitch, where the ramp wouldn’t open and close. Fortunately Andys Kars in Bar Hill, Cambridge sorted it. He said my car is one of the most travelled Motability cars!

– Workwise, I’ve been catching up with our Disability Horizons partners, planning our 2 year anniversary summit and continuing my consultancy for Lero in Tenerife.

The reason I’m quickly writing a catch up post is I’m off tomorrow for an amazing family week away. We are off to Butlins in Bognor Regis! 🙂 It’s even more exciting as it’s the first time in years the whole family is going away together – that’s my mum, step dad, sister, 2 step brothers, beautiful nieces, and other halves.

Follow me on Twitter (@martynsibley) for any live updates, lol. I’m hoping to go swimming there, so wish me luck and I’ll check in again soon 🙂

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Hello and welcome back to a written blog – by me!

For those who’ve followed my posts the past 4 years, you’ll know the following:

– I’m always working on something
– I’m always planning the next big thing
– In summer I work hard and play hard, and am physically stronger
– In winter I’m tired, weaker, wary of illness and more reflective/philosophical

One thing that is for sure – my brain and mouth never stop! 🙂

This winter was one of my best: I was strong healthwise, very enjoyable time in Spain and I was productive with the access project. However, I was struggling to capture these months and moments on my blog.

But why?

My message to disabled people has always been grab life and never say ‘never’. My message to non disabled people is question your views on disability, act to help if appropriate and grab life more too. I realise now my problem was I was trying to be more cutting edge, innovative and new in how I achieved this.

When I wrote down more specifically who I think reads my blog, I came up with this list:

– parents of disabled children, looking for information on a more positive future for their child
– disabled teenagers, needing a little inspiration and belief in their own future
– disabled adults, looking for some tips on how to break out from traditional service provision and go for their life goals
– people working in the disability field, looking for a cool case study to share
– everyday people, interested in the life of a disabled person and using my achievements as a nice kick up the bum

It’s therefore impossible to tailor a post for all of these people, and in a new original way. Now I see that this is not important. I know just by telling my story, one of millions in the world, it has and will be of use to you awesome people, however simple. The difference is just me and my antics.

So, as I head out of winter reflection mode into summer action mode, I have pledged to act more (however small it seems) and think less.

Right now, I’m feeling good, seeing my loved ones lots, enjoying an evening glass of vino and excited about life!

Stay tuned for some exciting new projects! I will be telling you about my job as presenter and an award I won with Vodafone.

Please comment here or tweet me on your news, plans and thoughts. I’d love to hear from you…

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Following on from a very open and honest blog post last week, I want to bring things back to a more positive here and now vibe. I’ve been less descriptive of my time in Spain, partly with my low energy, but also as things took a while to take shape. Here is a better catch up on what I have been up to…

Having arrived in Aviles in Asturias mid January, I settled back into general life quickly. As I had stayed in the same hostel and on a similar project last year; I already knew my temporary home, project expectations and local amenities/people. The differences were my care assistants and fellow volunteers, who are now also very much a part of my life here too. Nonetheless, I had still struggled to work out what I could do to make this year even cooler than the last.

Thus far I have done 2 very specific things.

Firstly, I have taught English to a group of around 12 young adults every Friday. We play games, translate songs, make up stories and have a great time. It is interesting teaching something so simple as your native language to a group of people it matters so much to to know. Furthermore to who it is a big struggle for to learn. I am going to miss this crew a lot. I have also taught English, with Kasia,r to my project coordinators brother (you follow that?). He is called Jairo and has a disability too.

My other regular project activity has been running a fortnightly radio show with Kasia too. We have completed 3 altogether: one on our drive through France here, one on music and its importance, and lastly all about ‘destiny’. You can listen to all of our ‘sunnier days’ radio shows here. I have really enjoyed both the planning and making of the radio show. Who knows whether there’s a future there 😉

Beyond the projects I have had visits from my sister Claire, my best friend Billy and Mum & Stepdad. It was cool to show them around, but unfortunately the weather isn’t so good here, therefore coffees and drinks were our main entertainment. I also treated mum to a handmade mothers day card yesterday (as it’s in May in Spain), a scarf and a broach. There’s been a fair few parties with the other volunteers and local massive. To be honest, as I creep up on 30 this year, I am a bit over the constant boozing and instead planning a few weeks of project work and good health. Plus the Spanish go out so late here, that really is harder for me than in the UK. I have also visited some cool places around Asturias, such as Gijon, Leon and the mountains.

In 3 weeks Kasia and I leave for Tenerife – part holiday and part work. I am doing some videos for Lero and giving a talk for the Mar y Sol hotel guests. In the meantime I am still working on my projects here and back home, plus a belter of a workship in my last week. Following the making of this video, we have been busy subtitling it for our Spanish premier – with media, politicians and organisations. Wish me well!

Hope you are all staying well, continuing your 2013 plans and most importantly staying happy.

Martyn