LuAnn Kleemeyer, a right above-knee amputee who uses a cane, loves to see the world. She has visited more than 20 countries and various cities across the nation.
Following is our interview with Kleemeyer about her experiences.
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO TRAVEL AGAIN AFTER YOUR AMPUTATION?
My dad was in the hospital, and I was trying not to be depressed. I needed something to look forward to, so I googled “vacations for the disabled.” The rest is history.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ASPECTS OF TRAVELING FOR YOU?
The history. Many of the places I have traveled have such beautiful history. Most of Europe centers around the church, and I love to just go and sit and pray—and feel the prayers and people from the past.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY BAD EXPERIENCES?
Yes, but not many. During a trip to Africa, airplane problems made me miss my connecting flight. I got to Nairobi a day late, just in time to eat and get in the safari vehicle. I also had a blister on my leg because of the length of time I had my prosthetic device on. I did the whole safari on crutches.
Also, when I tried to put my computerized knee back on at the end of the trip, it didn’t work. I was staying in London a few days, so I had to wear it anyway. I mastered the bus system and saw Wicked and visited all the museums. I made it work. Really, I just make the best of most issues that come up.
WHAT ARE THE WORST ASPECTS OF TRAVELING FOR YOU?
That I can’t walk well enough to see it all or take a trail to a beautiful place by a stream or in the woods. I also get tired so easily. Walking as an amputee takes a lot of energy.
Another problem is that there are not enough accessible rooms at hotels or on cruise ships.
Based on experience, I decided that traveling alone is not wise when you leave the country, so I now find someone to travel with.
DOES IT HELP TO WORK WITH A TRAVEL AGENCY OR TOURING SERVICE THAT HAS EXPERIENCE WITH DISABILITIES?
If you are not confident in making your arrangements, consider using a travel agency. Booking multiple flights from different cities and hotels can be daunting for some. If you are short on time, using a touring agency is helpful. I have had good experience with them. They can be economical and show you a lot in a short time.
Today, more companies and trips are available for people with disabilities. You should, however, read reviews on the companies to make sure they are legit and even contact some of the reviewers. Companies can help you with any questions.
HOW CAN TOURING SERVICES HELP AMPUTEES?
They will have everything for one price usually, except your flights, and some of the meals may be included, [which takes out] guesswork regarding the cost of the trip. You may even be traveling with other people with disabilities, and that can make the trip better. I have traveled with quite a few people with disabilities, and we have become and remain friends.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE TRAVEL TIPS FOR AMPUTEES?
1. Dress and pack smart. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that allow you to get to your devices. Be prepared for skin breakdowns if you are moving a lot, and always keep first aid items with you.
2. Don’t get frustrated easily. It will take you longer to get through airport screening, so if you need help, ask for it. Don’t wear yourself out before you arrive somewhere. Save your energy for the fun times.
3. Don’t pack anything you can’t live without in your checked baggage. Chargers for your prosthesis, medication, and items required for putting your devices on should stay with you. If your checked baggage is lost, it may be days before you get it back—if ever.
READY TO TRAVEL?
Consider Getting a Little Help From the Experts
Some people are able to jump on a plane or ship and travel the world with little stress and high confidence in their ability to handle any problems they encounter. Others shut down with fear just thinking about booking a flight. Having any kind of disability can increase the stress exponentially.
While traveling as an amputee can be a challenge, many who do so say that it’s well worth the effort. Experiencing new places, learning about other cultures, trying the world’s great foods, and more can be fun, educational, and rewarding in many ways.
One way to simplify the planning is to work with a travel agency or touring service that has experience helping people with disabilities, especially one that has worked with a lot of amputees.
Such companies are more aware of what’s available to you and how to access it. They keep up with the industry and know how to get things done. Knowledge and experience matter, and they may be able to give you some tips that will save you a lot of trouble.
They may also be invaluable if you have problems during your trip. Although companies will differ in the assistance they offer and the knowledge they bring to the table, it may be worthwhile to check out a few.
FOLLOWING IS A SAMPLING OF COMPANIES THAT WORK WITH PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. THESE SITES ALSO CONTAIN HELPFUL TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH A DISABILITY.
EASY ACCESS TRAVEL
UNCHARTED DREAMS TRAVEL
Editor’s note: Check out travel agencies and touring services carefully to make sure you trust them and you know exactly what they are agreeing to provide.