You have seen the pre New York article, you attended the live webinar, you have seen the video and now its time to read the real deal. As much as I am proud of my life’s achievements; I only choose to share so many of them for a bigger reason – YOU. Sure, my family and friends would enjoy hearing about my travels, but I write this type of article to inspire, inform and change the world for disability! This article outlines the things we did, whilst part 2 from Srin explains more of the practicalities of disability travel.
On Monday 26thSeptember 2011, Srin, Bjorn, Toby, Kurtly, Lena and I set off for New York. A diverse bunch; we spanned disability, gender, religions and countries. Many of us had also not met each other before (namely the 3 PAs). I believe New York provides the perfect platform for changing mindsets and attitudes. I had visited in 1993 when the Twin Towers suffered a failed terrorist attack and I vaguely remember the snowy March views. Now aged 28 and having done a fair bit of travel, as mentioned before, it was time to go and do NYC properly. They say if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. I know Sinatra didn’t mean pop in for a week and go, or aimed this at disabled people, but it is very apt. There is something very satisfying and fulfilling about seeing NYC in ones life. It says to the world “I like a bloody good time and live a great life”.
With the usual sore bum after a long flight in my transit seat, we arrived to the hotel safely. Srin will outline the planning, prep and potential problems of the journey in another article later this week. Our hotel was situated between Times Square and Central Park, right in the thick of the action. On Tuesday we took the coolest boat trip ever out past the Statue of Liberty, looking back at Manhattan and under the 3 bridges of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg.
Srin, being the adrenaline junkie that he is, loved the adrenaline rush but I was a little more concerned of being tossed overboard! Fortunately, this did not happen, and we safely lived to tell this tale!
After the boat trip we cruised for ages around Lower Manhattan taking in a street performing snake, Wall Street, Ground Zero (very sad) and China Town. The pavements were generally very wheelchair accessible and thanks to Natasha Woods help we had an access guide for the Metro stations.
Other activities were visits to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the great views across NYC from the top of the Empire State Building, shopping in Times Square, coffee by Brooklyn Bridge and wandering through Central Park. I overcame my fear of Mickey Mouse from the age of 4 in Disney World when I thought he was going to eat me (see pic). We met some really cool people generally such as Willy, the homeless poet of Central Park and a 50 cent look-a-like who I almost got in a fight with. Damn me and vodka!
The evenings consisted of searching for affordable restaurants and hanging with the guys. Most of the restaurants and bars were generally accessible. My favourite meal was either the massive Panini one lunchtime or more so the Cuban food at Victors Cafe in Midtown. I am sure I have seen Victor on one of Gordon Ramseys programmes. One night Toby and I were quite tipsy on Sambucca and were racing through the ‘mean streets of New Yoik’ with Kurtly and Lena on the back of our wheelchairs. Oh how I love the looks of strangers!
It was such a good trip. Even delivering the webinar for work turned out amazingly well with Srin and Toby co-presenting with me from the hotel room. The breakdown of the hoist didn’t even manage to taint the experience and we fixed this issue in no time. New York is basically London on steroids! The views, the sounds, the smells, the food, the drink and the vibe is like no other place on earth – a truly sense stimulating experience! I would absolutely recommend a trip here to anyone!
One of the things I have learnt from you guys is that not everyone can or wants to do things such as travel. However, seeing things that seem impossible changes mindsets, raises the bar and gets you to ask the question: do I not want to do something bigger/better or do I think I cannot? I hope you realise it is always the latter and start a journey of your own. It might not be NYC, but it will be your own aspirational dream. So get planning, get preparing and get out there and do it. Srin, myself and the Horizons community are here to support you all the way.
By Martyn Sibley