"The Journey of a Thousands Miles Begins with a Single Step"
On 5th November I travelled alone for the first time without a carer by my side, which I've never had the confidence to do before. Getting on a plane by myself and travelling alone was a huge step for me because I’ve always travelled with someone and felt that my disability and crutches got in the way and were a hindrance which always made me feel awkward.
This trip was especially important for me because I was travelling to Ireland to work with an amazing team of people for an event called Gallery Jam Session for the hair brand Sebastian Professional which took place at the Wella hair studio in Ireland, Dublin. The photo's throughout this blog are from the seminar that took place at the event.
Travelling and taking London Transport as a disabled person and using two crutches has always been very difficult for me and I’m sure a lot of mobility aid users can relate to this. In the past, I've found it difficult to manoeuvre on buses and trains because of my crutches, which has left me feeling very frustrated, but many experiences I've had with other people using London Transport has made me want to avoid taking this mode of transport.
When I was 10 years old, my leg fused straight and I couldn't bend it for about 9 months. This made taking the bus really hard for me because I could only sit in particular seats and found it difficult to climb the stairs. I've had many bus drivers drive off before I've even made it to a seat, other bus users who wouldn't give up their seats after being asked politely and I have been asked to give up my seat because I didn't look like I had a disability or purely because the person didn't see my crutches.
“Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things and grow in your experiences”
Over the years, I have built up so much anxiety around the thought of travelling by myself, so when the opportunity to work overseas presented itself, I was nervous but I felt excited because I knew it was a massive step for me and my life.
In all honesty, I was absolutely terrified of going to Ireland all by myself and I almost backed out a few times. I kept thinking of ways of having someone with me for the day because I felt like I couldn't do it alone. The night before, I only got 3 hours sleep so by the time I woke up I was shattered!
On the morning of my flight, I kept getting an overwhelming feeling of fear throughout my body that I couldn't control and I was even nervous to book my taxi because I knew there was no going back from there.
I most definitely knew travelling and getting on a plane solo would be a boost for my confidence, anxiety and personal goals so taking that step was definitely a surreal moment for me!
A few days leading up to Ireland, I spent time planning my journey and route where I decided to take a taxi to the airport as I knew this would be the easiest option for me. The journey from my house to the airport took about an hour and a half and I spent the journey mostly trying to calm my nerves lol.
When I arrived at Gatwick Airport I was a little confused as to where I should go, but someone pointed me in the direction of Special Assistance. For those reading that aren’t quite sure what Special Assistance is, It’s a service airports provide for passengers with a disability or reduced mobility to help them throughout the airport to ensure they have a less stressful journey. They help you from the minute you arrive, right up until the moment you get on the plane and they also provide you with a wheelchair so you don’t have to walk through the airport and security.
Without the Special Assistance service, I probably would’ve had a panic attack and freaked out because busy places make me really anxious simply due to the fact that I could get pushed and shoved. I always seem to over think small things like where I'm going to put my crutches once I get onto the plane, but luckily enough Special Assistance were there to help me.
I would definitely recommend this amazing service to anyone who struggles with their mobility or anyone who has a learning difficulty that finds it hard to navigate through busy places like airports.
After I was helped onto the plane by Special Assistance, my flight not long departed and I landed about an hour later. My flight was pleasant because it was very short and I never had as much discomfort in my leg as I have done on longer flights before.
Once landed, I waited for everyone to exit the plane and was then greeted by a lovely lady who was a part of the Special Assistance team in Dublin who wheeled me through the airport to collect my luggage where I then met with the rest of the team who I'd be working with for the day.
I spent the rest of the day located at the Wella Studio which was another great experience! The event finished at around 8pm. The team and I went out for dinner and drinks and then we all retreated back our hotel rooms to get a good nights rest before all of our early flights the next day.
Travelling back home was easier than travelling to Ireland because I knew what to expect and I was excited about doing the journey all over again as crazy as that may sound haha.
Travelling alone and taking a plane by myself was a huge deal for me and it was truly a life changing experience that I can't wait to do again. There was something really rewarding about accomplishing something like that by myself and I'm so grateful that I was given the opportunity to be taken out of my comfort zone.
Anxiety has been a big part of me not having the confidence to do something like this and I had to find a lot of strength. Just remember you're not alone and anxiety doesn't make you weak... Turning up and doing things with anxiety takes a lot of strength and courage most will never know.
"Don't be afraid to do something you think is impossible"