Are you playing with an idea of going somewhere for a great adventure? Perhaps you will be inspired by the amazing experience and unique practical information of this couple from the Czech Republic. Their pictures from wild Namibia or Botswana, colorful America, remarkable Japan, charming Iceland, or exotic Mexico are absolutely breathtaking…
I KNOW YOU HAVE TRAVELED TO LOTS OF INTERESTING PLACES IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC AND ABROAD. WHAT WAS THE IMPULSE TO GO ON YOUR FIRST ADVENTURE?
Winter and cold… to be honest. In January 1999, we thought of going some place where the sun shines. One travel agency had sent us their catalog. We thought of the Dominican Republic as it was popular destination at that time. The catalog dropped off our hands and opened at the page with elephants. "We'll go and see elephants," we both agreed.
Sri Lanka. The decision was spontaneous, but before buying a trip we asked many questions and the answer to each of them could ruin our plans. What about the political situation in Sri Lanka? At that time, clashes between government and Tamil Tigers escalated, and a bomb attack as well. We were 16 km away from the line.
The second important issue was the accessibility and also if the trip is suitable for the two of us with crutches. We went to the travel agency and talked to detail about our itinerary with their product manager. We accepted the fact that we would not go to see Anuradhapura and that we would not climb Sigiria. The travel agency provided us with accommodation on the ground floor for each destination, and we got assistants who carried us upstairs in New England. We managed the whole trip.
It was our first big trip to “the wild” meeting local people and right almost at the equator. After our arrival we got on the bus at the airport and during our way to the hotel it was like going through vast botanical garden with no boundaries.
Since then we have chosen trips according to different criteria, which, of course, always overlapped. We went to Mexico to see monuments and landscape, to Japan to meet local people and to see technology, but landscape, too.
WHAT DESTINATION WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO ANYONE WHO’S TRAVELING FOR THE FIRST TIME?
We would probably recommend the US West Coast parks, if we talk about travelers with mobility problems. If the travelers are able to drive a car and have time to prepare everything to details, nothing should surprise them. And perhaps, we wouldn't recommend starting with an individual safari trip in Africa. We experienced Kalahari desert with two very experienced travelers who were physically very fit, but during the trip we thought it would be safer to go with more people.
WHAT COUNTRY YOU LIKED THE MOST?
Every place we´ve been was chosen to bring us new experience and something different. The country closest to our hearts is Japan. We partly traveled kind of like being part of a relay race. We had agreed yet at home with friends and strangers from Japan that they´ll pick us up on a certain day, show us all the attractions and their surroundings, provide us with hospitality and in a few days later put us on shinkansen and send us to another family.
This way we got to places, which an ordinary tourist usually never visits. So we have a lot of friends in Japan now.
YOU HAVE VISITED LOTS OF PLACES. DO YOU HAVE A PLACE WHERE YOU LIKE TO RETURN?
We have been to Japan several times. And we also have visited the US West Coast twice, but our 2 month trip was planned in such a way that the only places which we visited twice was Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The rest of the places we explored in the US West Coast from north to south we visited only once.
We would like to return to each of the places again and perceive everything from the distance. But there is no time or money for that. Better to visit something new. And now probably only Europe and the Czech Republic.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OR OBSTACLES WHEN PLANNING A TRIP AS DISABLED IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC OR ABROAD?
In the Czech Republic, we can get familiar with things, while abroad it is unavailable. It is also easier with the language.
With accessibility, it is similar. In the Czech Republic, people often cannot think much about the different needs of a wheelchair user. We often come across the statement that "it is accessible, there are only two steps ...". But we cannot rely 100% on information abroad as well. In the US, it is quite common to order a wheelchair accessible room in which the toilet and bathroom are not accessible due to the very narrow door. We feel that wheelchair accessible rooms are often designed for people with reduced mobility who are not in a wheelchair and can walk a bit. Even the furniture arrangement does not allow movement on the wheelchair much. And Japan it´s the story of its own . The original buildings are constructed in such a way that a wheelchair user can hardly get in. And tatami and the crutches don´t get along easily.
Traveling abroad can also be complicated with transporting an powered wheelchair or limited battery charging possibilities.
IS IT BETTER FOR DISABLED PERSON TO GO ON A TRIP IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC BY CAR OR CAN YOU RELY ON TRAINS OR BUSSES AND LEAVE YOUR CAR AT HOME
In the Czech Republic, there are still few accessible buses and trains for wheelchairs and a limited number of accessible stations. A slightly different situation is for people who do not need a wheelchair to move around.
We took a train to Vienna just before Christmas 2018. Traveling was comfortable but quite expensive. One carrier offered us about one-third of the price, but only for manual wheelchairs up to 60 cm width, passengers with an powered wheelchair did not get on this train. We had to choose a state carrier, but at triple price.
YOU LIVE IN PRAGUE. IS THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT RELIABLE OR YOU HAVE TO HAVE YOUR FAMILY FRIENDS READY AS A BACK UP PLAN?
We plan to travel more by trains. However, it is difficult for us to get to train station by public transport.
Public transport is reliable, it runs regularly. But that's not what you meant, is it? For wheelchair users there is a problem with the metro, specifically the hard-to-reach metro A and B lines. Buses and trams are for the most part low-floor and accessible. It is worse with transfers. We always depend on whether the elevator and platforms work in the station and whether a bus or a tram arrives and there is enough space for us get in. In addition, some wheelchair transfers are very long and so difficult. Sometimes we think twice before we go to the center. And transport is not wheelchair accessible at night. We need to plan ahead.