There is nothing particularly outstanding about taking a selfie at the top of the Acropolis in Athens – tourists do this every day. However it becomes a different story when it is achieved by two wheelchair users.
A hot day, paths of cobbled stones, steep long ramps leading to the accessible stair lifts, a cage lift up the side of the cliff and staff not being allowed to assist you (expectations you would have a carer). Climbing to the top of the Acropolis was a challenge to say the least, but Michelina and her friend Mel are stubborn and they succeeded at what many believed would be impossible.
International travel as a paraplegic can be daunting but it is achievable. Michelina Pelosi is a PBF Injury Prevention Road Presenter based in Sydney, and she has recently returned to Australia after a year of extensive travel. The Royal Rehab host a travel night every couple of months for their patients, and call on past clients and friends to come in and share their experiences. A few weeks ago Michelina had a wonderful night discussing the ins and outs of travelling in Europe using a wheelchair.
Her trip was quite extensive and covered multiple countries including Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Amsterdam, Italy, Greece, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and a cruise on the Mediterranean. Even though Michelina was travelling solo, her adventures involved catching up with friends and family for special events, and a week with the Global Youth Leadership Academy (GYLA).
Whilst in Berlin Michelina met up with staff from the Global Youth Leadership Academy (GYLA). They invited her to travel with 32 high school students (from around the world) to Dresden then onto Prague. The idea behind the program is to expose the students to leadership principles. As part of the program, Michelina shared her personal life story. The entire experience was very rewarding for all involved, with the students changing over the week and forming special bonds.
As you can imagine the challenges of travelling in a wheelchair as a paraplegic are many and varied. Michelina encountered difficulties such as trying to find accessible toilets, explaining that shuttle buses with only 2 steps are still not accessible, and learning to be very specific with ground staff at airports.
Some of the most important lessons were learnt by Michelina herself. Like learning to accept that you cannot always be in control all of the time, and to change her focus to living in the moment and not planning too far ahead. Michelina’s travel experiences taught her that it is ok to let other people help you, it is not a sign of weakness.
If you would like to find out more about our amazing PBF Presenters you can do so here.