It’s no secret that summer is the perfect time for vacations and travel. Getting out of your regular environment is so beneficial. It can allow for a period of de-stressing, experiencing new cultures, getting the ultimate relaxation, or exploring a fun new town; however, this summer looks a little different for everyone. This year we are social distancing, our regular vacation destinations aren’t safe to visit, and we’re all doing our best to continuously flatten the curve as well as remain safe ourselves.
I have found myself dreaming of travel. Seeing only the walls of my house have become daunting, I even find myself simply sitting outside as a “vacation.” If I could travel one place, right this second, it would be to the beach. I don’t particularly care where, as long as there is sand, sun and water. I’ve been dreaming of being enveloped in sunshine, smelling sunscreen, hearing others laugh and splash in the waves, enjoying the view of the water – I would give anything to experience this. I have loved the beach as long as I can remember. When I was young I loved to build sandcastles and boogie board (because surfing was way too difficult). As I’ve gotten older, I still love the beach, even after my injury I love to sit in a beach chair and feel the sun on my skin. My injury encouraged me to try surfing, even though I was not the best at it, adaptive surfing was such a cool experience. I still love watching the waves crash along the shore.
I’ve also been dreaming of international travel. Being only 20, I haven’t experienced all this world has to offer, and I know it offers a lot. My international travel bucket list has grown substantially but hasn’t been getting crossed off. If we were not in quarantine, the first international place I would visit is Greece. These past few weeks I’ve found myself Googling pictures of the too perfect skyline showing off staggered rows of gorgeous houses. My laptop background has been changed to a picture of the water that is clear enough to see the ocean floor. Virtually touring Greece isn’t my wish, but I’ll take it for now! My second dream destination would be Sevilla, Spain. A few of my friends traveled to Sevilla for their study abroad in college and the stories they came back with had the ability to mentally transport you directly to the streets of Spain. They described the way of life there as so much slower than the U.S. I think we could all benefit from that slowed pace, both physically and mentally.
The last dream I’ve had while staring at the same few walls of my house is one of increased accessibility. When I first think of travel it’s exciting, but then I remember all of the extra steps we have to go through to simply enjoy the same experiences that able-bodied people do. I am sure we’ve all dealt with hardships in finding accessible activities and excursions, as well as difficulties with the drive or flight to our destinations. My dreams of the beach are interrupted by wondering if it offers free beach wheelchairs, or if there is an accessible path to the sand. My dreams of international travel are halted due to the inaccessibility of countries without laws like the ADA. I wish that we didn’t have to plan every second of our supposedly relaxing, de-stressing get away; I wish we could live in spontaneity. My hope is that it does change. As more activists share their voices and their stories, accessibility can be the “norm,” we just have to be loud enough for long enough.
Wherever you all find yourselves this summer, whether it be in your backyards enjoying some sun, or at a beach practicing social distancing, I hope that you remain safe and that you experience a true mental health rejuvenation – we all desperately need that this year.
My name is Madisyn Hess and I am 20 years old. I am currently a junior at Christopher Newport University. I am completing my undergraduate degree in Psychology and I hope to pursue a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. I am a T-10 paraplegic, and I have an adorable service dog named Oxford. In my limited free time, I love to watch movies or TV shows, occasionally “bingeing” them (whoops), and I enjoy trying new restaurants as well as new types of food. You can find me dancing, singing, or trying any adaptive sport I can!