Tag Archives: accessible travel

Cyprus with Seable and VICTA

For this week’s blog, we are sharing a blog by Elin, a young visually impaired blogger who had been on holiday with Seable to Cyprus. Below is Elin’s experience.

 

Cyprus with Seable and VICTA

 

I was recently lucky enough to spend the week in Cyprus on a trip organised by VICTA Children and Seable Holidays. Along with nine other visually impaired people and four sighted guides, I spent a week making the most of everything Cyprus has to offer; from sun bathing to pottery making we did it all!

 

The trip

 

Though it could appear daunting to go on holiday with a group of people you may never have even met before, I can say from personal experience that VICTA and Seable are so welcoming and friendly that the atmosphere of their trips are great from the get go. The ethos of VICTA trips is to encourage as much independence as possible, so while sighted volunteers are on hand to guide where needed, they also encourage us to help ourselves and each other as much as possible.

 

Upon arriving in sunny Cyprus after a stress free flight, we made our way to the hotel and spent the rest of that day orienting ourselves around the building, our rooms and most importantly the pool, before having dinner at a local restaurant.

 

Our first full day in Cyprus was our chance to try some arts and crafts. We visited a local centre where we learned from local artists all about glass making, tapestry, mosaics and much more. We also were able to try our hands at a bit of pottery and magnet making ourselves. Personally, the pottery instructor told me that he’d never met anybody as terrible at pottery as me, so I won’t be taking up that career any time soon but I’m glad to say that others in the group had better luck. We finished off the day with an afternoon on the beach and more wonderful food.

 

The next day was all about Paphos, as we explored the archaeological park in the morning and roamed the harbor in the afternoon. This was personally one of my favourite days of the trip as I was just blown away learning about the history of the ancient ruins and local mythology. The House of Dionysus, one of the ruins we visited, was extremely accessible having braille information and small scale tactile representations of the mosaics. That evening myself and a few others decided to sample the local delicacy of maze, which consists of lots of small dishes being brought out to share among the table. The food was stunning, though I think we were all more than full by the end. I believe we got up to ten courses all in all!

 

The following morning we waved goodbye to Paphos and made our way to Troodos where we’d spend the rest of the week,not forgetting to stop for a wine tasting on the way. The afternoon was spent hiking on Troodos mountain lead by a local guide. The weather was fantastic and the nature beautiful, the views weren’t half bad either so I’m told 😉

 

For our last full day in Cyprus we visited a local botanical garden, a sweets factory and rose factory. The botanical gardens were again beautiful, full of all sorts of fantastic wildlife. The sweets shop was a sweet-tooth heaven; jams, marmalade and sweets of all kind, all home made and made from local produce. And of course the rose factory was fascinating. Not only did it smell beautiful, but the owner who came to speak with us about her business was obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about her work and was extremely accommodating in letting us feel and sample all of the different products they produce. I just couldn’t resist spending my remaining euros in their gift shop and I got some lovely suveneers.

 

All in all it was a very relaxed trip, full of fun and laughter. I can definitely say that I’ve come away from the week with great memories and really good friends. I would absolutely recommend VICTA and Seable to anyone for their services, information about which I’ll post below.

 

Who are VICTA and Seable?

 

VICTA (Visually Impaired Children Taking Action) are a national charity serving visually impaired children and young adults and their families. They organise residential weekends and international trips throughout the year that are intended to raise the independence and confidence of young VI people. I’ve been attending VICTA events since I was around 15 and have made countless friends and made fantastic memories through the experiences I’ve had with them. They plan activities for a range of age-groups, from family weekends for young children and their families to international trips for 18 to 30 years old like the one I attended to Cyprus. Check out their website for more information: http://www.victa.org.uk

 

Seable is an award winning social enterprise organising accessible and active holidays for individuals, couples, families and small groups. They can arrange trips to a number of locations including Sicily, Slovenia and Roam and will tailor your holiday to your spesific access needs. They are an invaluable service for those of us who have disabilities but who also want to see the world by going on fun, interactive and relaxed trips where your disability won’t stop you from doing anything. So far I’ve attended two Seable trips including the recent one to Cyprus, but fully intend to go on many more and would recommend anyone who likes to travel and who has a disability to consider them before booking your next holiday because I promise you won’t regret it. Click on the link below to check out their website: http://www.seable.co.uk

By Elin

https://seemyway.org/

You can get in touch with Elin @ williamselin5@gmail.com. When emailing, please put ‘See My Way’ in the subject line which will help her respond to you sooner.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

For this week’s blog, we have asked VICTA to tell us about their latest trip with SEABLE, when we explored the REAL Cyprus. Here’s the account of their experience:

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

 

For VICTA’s first international trip of 2017 we travelled to the beautiful island of Cyprus.  This was a dual location trip, with the first half spent on the coast in Paphos and the second half in the Troodos mountain range.

 

After a very early morning and a long day travelling, our group were thrilled to spend a relaxing afternoon by the pool in the sun. This was a great chance for the group to carry on getting to know each other, and catch up with old friends. In the evening we went out for a traditional meze style dinner. We were able to sample all the classic Cypriot dishes, including halloumi, lamb stews and moussaka.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

Trying our hands at traditional pottery making

 

 

For our first full day in Cyprus, we visited ‘The Place’, a traditional Cypriot art and craft workshop. Here, we are able to meet some local crafters and have a look at what they produce. One item of particular interest was a traditional weaving loom. Participants were able to feel the thread and the shape and size of the loom, to get an idea of how weaved items are created.

 

After exploring the workshop, we were able to have a go at making our own mosaic fridge magnets. This was a really fun activity and resulted in a very personal memento of the trip. Then it was time to meet the potter’s wheel! This was a first for most of the group, and resulted in a lot of laughter and some very nice looking pots. The afternoon provided more opportunities for leisurely Cypriot gastronomic delights, and soaking up the lovely Mediterranean sunshine.

 

For our last day in Paphos we visited the Paphos Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We spent several hours exploring the site, learning about the Roman Mosaics and remains of Roman Villas. One member of the group even did a short performance for us in the ancient Odeon! After a delicious lunch (seafood of course), we enjoyed a wonder around the old harbour and had a chance to do some souvenir shopping.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

Paphos Archaeological Park

 

On Saturday we set off for Troodos, calling in at a winery, where it would have been rude to turn down the complimentary Commandaria tasting. After lunch, we went for an energetic hike through the beautiful Troodos mountain range, experiencing new sights, smells and sounds.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

Hiking high in the Troodos Mountains

 

The following morning we set off to Troodos Botanical Gardens to learn more about the geographical significance of the area. There were plenty more plants to feel and smell, and it made for an interesting comparison to botanic gardens in the UK. In the afternoon we visited a rose factory, and discovered more uses for rose oil than we could have ever imagined! This of course led on to another retail therapy opportunity.

 

All too soon the trip was over and it was time to go home. For half of the group this was their first VICTA international, and for one of those it was his first time ever on an aeroplane! It was great to explore this fabulous country together, and to witness old connections being strengthened, and new friendships being created. Not long until we get to do it all over again in Sicily!

 

By Felicity Poulton
Lead Activities Coordinator VICTA

 

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

 

When Seable took on Thailand – Accessible Holidays for Blind and Visually Impaired – Part 3

Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.

The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca.  We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED.  I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.

So here is the third and final part of our trip to Thailand:

 

Day 8

 

After making eggs for breakfast we said our goodbyes to the owners who had made us feel so welcome and started the 3-half hour journey back to Chiang Mai. On the way, we stopped for food at a village restaurant and had local Thai dishes and watched the storm that was happening outside.  It was a great day for ravelling as it rained all day. We eventually arrived at our destination and had the afternoon free to explore the city of Chiang Mai.  It was a massive city with lots to explore including a blind Thai massage place.  This of course was something that we had to go to and it was brilliant.

 

 

Day 9

 

Picked up at 6.30am we went in a mini bus with the company Dumbo and we drove for 1 hour up into the mountains of Chiang Mai to see elephants.  It was my most favourite part of the trip, they were free and happy and it was an absolute privilege to get to be near such fantastic creatures.  It is something that we would absolutely love for our clients to experience. We did half a day trip, which we felt was more than enough time to get to see the elephants and they also provided a yummy lunch before they drove us back to our accommodation.

 

After packing up and freshening up we made our way to Chiang Mai train station and said bye to Jimi who was a brilliant tour guide.  He was so knowledgeable and attentive during the whole trip. We then boarded the overnight train back to Bangkok.

 

 

Day 10

 

Arriving early in the morning we were met by a member of Nutty adventures team who took us to the Hotel De’Moc which was a lovely surprise.  We had a free day to rest and then get ready to meet everybody to start the Southern part of the trip.

 

So, we spent the day resting by the beautiful hotel pool, getting excited to meet the group later that evening. We met them all at 6pm and they took us for a lovely local meal that evening and it was a great way for us all to get to know each other.  We all went to bed very excited knowing that the next day we get to explore southern Thailand.

 

 

Overall I think that Northern Thailand was fantastic with so much to offer to everybody.  It is very accessible in many ways and I can’t wait to bring clients to Thailand.  It was a trip of a lifetime and one that I believe many would find it hard to beat.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

When Seable took on Thailand – Accessible Holidays for Blind and Visually Impaired – Part 2

Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.

The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca.  We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED.  I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.

So here is the second part of our trip to Thailand:

Day 4

 

We woke at 6am to go a see a celebration with the monks in the local temple.  This was a very spiritual experience and something that I felt very lucky to be part of. We then went back to the home stay to have breakfast. After breakfast, we got picked up outside the house by a longtail boat and went on a boat cruise to the Island City of Ayutthaya.  The boat was great to feel the breeze and splashes of water on such a hot day and to also get to see the different houses all along the riverside.  After 30-minute boat trip we arrive at our day room, dropped our bags off and headed out on a cycling tour of the Historical Park.  Trust me when I say I was slightly anxious about cycling in 35 degrees but I am so glad that I did it.  It was such a great way to get to visit all the sights around the city.

 

 

After freshening up back in the day room and picked up our bags we headed to the train station-picking up food from the street stalls on the way-we waited for our overnight train to Chiang Mai.  This is where Nun said her goodbyes and saw us off on the train for our 13-hour journey.  She was a fantastic tour guide with great knowledge of the city and we thoroughly enjoyed having her as our tour guide.

 

I have never been on an overnight train before and was unsure as to what to expect but it over exceeded my expectations.  It was new and very clean, with surprisingly comfy beds. I had a great night’s sleep.

 

 

Day 5

 

Arriving in Chiang Mai at half 7 in the morning we were greeted by our next tour guide Jimi.  He then drove us for 3 and half hours to Chiang Khum, stopping on the way to visit local sites.  We went to Amphoe Wang Nuea waterfall and the local hot springs, Mae Kahjan Geyser.  When we arrived at Chiang Khum, went to the local guesthouse where we would be staying that evening, dropped our bags off and headed out to go and visit the local temple and experience the ‘Tai Lue’ culture and way of life.

 

That evening we went to a local’s home and had a traditional ‘kantok’ dinner which is a traditional northern dinner at Baan Tha Sop Van.

 

 

Day 6

 

We woke at 6am and walked into the local village to go and see how the villages work in the morning.  We got to help a woman make her local rice crackers, which I thoroughly enjoyed-albeit I was not very good at it but she was so friendly and smiled through the whole experience. We then walked through the rest of the little village and visited a small local market where we tried sticky rice that had been cooked in bamboo and was Damiano’s favourite from then on.

 

Back at the local guesthouse we had a ‘American breakfast’ and then went back to the house where we had the meal the evening before.  She had invited us back as she asked if she could dress us up in traditional clothing for the ‘Tai Lue’ culture.  This will be something that I will never forget-we were dresses up in the beautiful clothing and I also got some fantastic jewellery place d on me, which was very exciting.  Many locals were there and it then felt like a photo shoot, with us standing, sitting to then us sitting on the bed to being in the kitchen pretending to cook dinner.  Not only was it something that was a once in a life time experience but it was funny.  I felt incredibly lucky to be stood there and with the opportunity we were given.

 

Once we were changed we went downstairs of this wonderful home and they did weaving to make clothing and bags plus much more.  So we got the chance to see how they made the clothes that we had the opportunity to try on.

 

 

Saying good bye to the wonderful people we got in the car and drove up into the mountains to go and visit the Buddha images carved into the cliffs at a cave temple.  This was fantastic and would be brilliant for our clients as it was all touchable and very tactile.

 

We drove to our next home for the evening in Baan Dok Bua, which was a very modern homestay owned by a doctor and a nurse from the local hospital.  They were wonderful friendly people who made us feel right at home.  We quickly got freshened up and changed ready to go on a sunset Gondola cruise on Payao Lake.

 

 

Day 7

 

We woke early for a walk around the local village and we saw a 500 year old tree, which is very special to the village.  After our walk we had breakfast and then set off for a tractor tour of the community and it was a great way for us to see how the village has come to win national awards for the best self-sufficient village economy.  It was clear to see why, from the farmer fields, a family that produced gas from the rice shells and basket weaving.  With the tractor, they then took us up into the mountain and we went on a jungle walk.  The noises from all the insects was incredibly loud.  With hundreds of insects all around, it was a moment where you must take a minute to realise where you are and take it all in.  It was so dense and green and I loved every second.  It would also be such an amazing thing or our clients as the noises of the jungle were just incredible.

 

We had a picnic in the forest which was made by one of the locals for us and we instantly added it onto the list of things for our clients to do.  Fantastic. We then slowly made our way back to the homestay where we cooked dinner together with the owners.  She gave us a basket and some scissors and took her into her garden, where we picked some vegetables and used then in our dinner.  It was so fresh and tasty and amazing to see how they are so self-sufficient.  We had and early night as the next day we were to make our way back to Chiang Mai.

 

 

To be continued…..

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

When Seable took on Thailand – Accessible Holidays for Blind and Visually Impaired

Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.

 

The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca.  We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMAPIRED.  I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.

 

ASo here is our story of our trip to Thailand:

 

DAY 1

 

Arriving at Heathrow airport, we sat and went through the incredible itinerary that Nutty adventures had sent us.  They are the fantastic company that are going to show Seable what Thailand had to offer as an accessible destination.

 

ABOUT NUTTY’S ADVENTURE

 

nutty’s adventures

 

Nutty’s Adventures brings together a mixture of high-quality cycling tours, mountain treks and river-based adventures throughout Southeast Asia.

 

Their philosophy is to minimize the environmental and social impact of tourism activities, whilst providing opportunities for visitors to responsibly contribute to the well-being of the local communities.

 

Nutty’s Adventures is a new style of tour operator and a specialist in CBT, Community-Based Tourism. Nutty‘s Adventures offers all types of responsible travel, green eco-adventure activities and volunteer work holidays.

 

Specialize in Community-Based Travel (CBT) that allows tourists to have a closer connection to local people while directly experiencing their lifestyles and cultural traditions.

 

They are a tour operator situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, and their well-trained English-speaking guides will provide you with remarkable experiences that you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life. Nutty’s Adventures offers a wide variety of 3-day excursions and we also love the challenge of organizing unique tailor-made tours for the individual needs of families, charities, businesses and tour groups.

 

So, as you can see in the last sentence, ‘they love the challenge of organising unique tailor-made tours’ and here at Seable we love everything unique tailor-made for our clients.  We set off on our 13-hour flight with anticipation of what was to come over the next three weeks.  We flew with Malaysia air and we both thought the flight was fantastic.  Comfy seats, great food and a brilliant entertainment system including so many audio books/films, the 13 hours flew by-literally.

 

Arriving in Bangkok, it was 9pm there time and we were excited to drop our bags off and see what the city centre had to offer; and it did not disappoint.  The atmosphere was electric with many people fully enjoying what the street food had to offer.  As did we, and we probably got carried away with wanting to try something from every stall. After tasting each delicacy, finally, our bodies were feeling the effects of travelling and we set off to our hotel to get some rest.  We were staying in the Hotel De’Moc and it was lovely, big accessible rooms with a great balcony. Excited with the knowledge that the next day we started our adventure with Nutty and the team we said goodnight.

 

DAY 2

 

Waking up full of excitement we planned our day ready to meet a member of the team at 6pm.  Breakfast in the hotel was great.

 

We wanted to check out Bangkok city in the day time, to see if it is something we can include into our trip for our clients.  It did not disappoint-under the sunshine the little streets were wonderful, the smells of the food cooking in all the little street food stalls mixed with the sound of the street vendors, was something you must experience.  There were also many stalls selling fantastic clothing for super prices and as a girl I can say that I took advantage of this situation and bought some lovely things, including some amazing trousers for only 100 baht-about £2.50.

 

We set off back to the hotel and waited eagerly to meet the team. Nun was the lady who would be spending the next 2 days with us. She went through what we would be doing for the next couple of days and told us what was a must-see in our last evening in Bangkok.  We said bye and set off to Chinatown and personally it was my favourite evening in Bangkok. The atmosphere was electric with lots of people walking around the many streets of Chinatown.  As we walked along, we tried food from as many stalls as we could and it was all so yummy.  After we had eaten way too much food, we got a tuk tuk back to the hotel.  Tuk tuk’s are fantastic for getting around the city quickly, inexpensive and a great experience.

 

 

 

DAY 3

 

Meeting Nun at 8am we had breakfast and then made our way to Bangkok train station.  After a short wait, we boarded to train to Ayutthaya.  The train was a typical Thai train, with big old seats, fans in the ceiling and had many people walking up and down the aisles selling food.  We bought some mango and watched Bangkok pass up by as we travelled for 1 half hours to central Thailand.

 

 

Arriving in Ayutthaya we got in a traditional Tuk Tuk and went to visit Bang Pa-In Summer Palace. The whole place felt incredibly peaceful, with classical music being played through speakers throughout the grounds, birds singing and the sound of the water.

 

After the Palace, we took the tuk tuk to Baan Koh Kerd and had a village tour, trying out local delicacies and meeting the community.  It was amazing to get to experience their way of life.

 

Seable Thailand Blind Visually Impaired Holiday

 

That evening we stayed in a Homestay that was located on the river.  It was a very traditional house on stilts, that had basic amenities but was perfect for what we needed.  The owner of the home made us a wonderful traditional dinner and we ate it on the terrace overlooking the river.

 

To be continued…..

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Discover Accessible Munich

Make Way For Munich: The Most Accessible City in Europe?

Now is the perfect time of year to take a European city break: the lull between Christmas and spring tends to be one of the quietest times for tourists to travel overseas, and the chilly weather is perfect for wrapping up warm, exploring those famous sites, and drinking hot chocolate on bustling promenades. Thinking of taking a last-minute city break this winter but unsure of where you want to go? You may be lured by the romance of Paris, but its old and dated metro system is an accessibility nightmare (the same can sadly be said for London’s underground) and the cobbled streets of Rome are a nightmare if you are travelling in a heavy electric wheelchair. That doesn’t mean that these cities aren’t accessible with a little planning, but they might not be the ideal first choice for a last minute break. For an easy and hassle free accessible break, why not discover accessible Munich? Its old world charm is coupled with the kind of German efficiency that makes accessible travel here a breeze:

 

Accessible Public Transport

Discover Accessible Munich

Discover Munich’s accessible bus

 

Unlike most other European cities, most than 90% of the underground system in Munich is completely accessible, with access to the stations being entirely barrier free. Whilst the system isn’t extensive (comprising of two lines: the U Bahn (urban line) or S Bahn (suburban line) it goes to all of the major sites you would wish to visit and is a perfectly adequate and affordable way of getting around for a long weekend. If you wish to travel somewhere that is not accessible via the underground trains then the Munich public transport system also features buses and trams. All of the buses in the city are accessible via ramps to the rear doors. The tram system is currently undergoing a modernisation process, so not all of the trams are accessible, but approximately 50% of them are (so far) so if you need to get somewhere on a tram route then it is possible, if slightly inconvenient, to just wait until an accessible tram arrives. Getting around in Munich is perfectly possible then, but where should you be getting around to?

 

Interesting and Enjoyable Attractions

Augustiner – Keller. Discover Accessible Munich

 

Munich is an ancient city at the heart of Germany, and one with a rich history, meaning that there are plenty of tourist attractions worth visiting. The famous BMW museum and factory makes for a fascinating visit, and is proud to be fully accessible, as is the Olympic Park: host of the 1972 Olympic games which were sadly largely overshadowed by what is now known as the Munich Massacre.  If you are interested in exploring the darker period of German history, under Nazi rule, then you can reach the Dachau concentration camp (the first camp the Nazi’s built) via accessible transportation, and the historic site is also largely accessible when you arrive. Less interested in history and more interested in fun? Munich is infamous for being home to over 400 different beerhalls, and the vast majority of these are proud to be fully accessible. For ease and convenience, why not try the Augustinekeller, which is situated right next door to the central station, and is fully accessible.

 

Perfectly Practical Considerations

Discover Accessible Munich

E111 Card

 

Of course, disabled travellers also need to consider the practical aspects of their breaks, including the availability of decent healthcare, should something go wrong, and the accessibility of the airport. The healthcare in Germany is highly regarded as being amongst the best in the world, and whilst it is always recommended that you travel with your own health insurance (particularly when you have pre-existing conditions) our membership of the European Union (for as long as that lasts) means that with a valid E111 card, your treatment here is free.  And as for the airport? Well it’s time to think of that clichéd German efficiency again, because Munich airport is fully accessible and boasts a wide array of excellent transport links into the city, making it easy for travellers with accessibility concerns  to take a last minute trip without having to spend hours worrying about how they will get from A to B. So, Discover Accessible Munich!
“This is an article sent in by Sally Dacre”

Trip to Iceland for Visually Impaired

Holidays for partially sighted and blind travellers.

We have just returned from one of the best trip of the year and possibly in the history of Seable.

Let’s hear it from the participants:

Stacey: I had such an amazing time in Iceland. Did amazing things, saw amazing sights and met amazing people! Thanks for making a great time lovelies ❤️.

Warren: Last week I had an absolutely fantastic time in Iceland, a really beautiful, unique and strange country, on a Victa Milton Keynes trip with a group of people who gelled fantastically well, it was a pleasure spending the week with them. I have had so many unforgettable experience is, being absolutely drenched and freezing cold on Europe’s largest glacier, on a day when most other ttreks were cancelled, visiting some spectacular scenery and landscapes such as going behind a waterfall, visiting what must be the worlds largest warm, outdoor bath, the blue lagoon, smelling lots of smelly sulphur pits, seeing some active geysers, going to The worlds largest penis museum that did not disappoint me and much more. I was lucky enough to try some unique food, the fermented shark tasted like blue cheese but 100 times more intense, puffin, reindeer burger and much more. It is definitely a country I want to go back to and I went with a group of people I want to keep in touch with

Lucy: My Icelandic adventure with the most amazing people! Can’t thank Victa Milton Keynes and Seable Disabled Holidays enough for this amazing trip! Will never forget some of the beautiful things i’ve seen!

Rachel: Iceland was amazing with the best people <3

Alex: I’m jotting this down in the car on the way back at the airport. It’s been an amazing week in Iceland and seems a shame be over. We’ve seen some of the most amazing sights, and experienced unbelievable adventures. But the thing that’s made this trip is the group we were with. I was asked the other day is it hard to volunteer and when your out with people like this never!
Thank you for having me and letting me join in the fun!

Some shots of the trip:
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tactile map of iceland

tactile map of iceland

Stress Awareness Month: Happiness, Health and Holidays

April is Stress Awareness Month, and on reading that some of you are probably internally screaming “so what!? I already know I’m stressed, my awareness is part of the problem!” If that is you then the real reason for Stress Awareness Month is even more important, because it’s not just about being aware of stress, but being aware of the impact that stress has on your health and wellbeing.

Damiano wrote about this briefly in his latest Huffington Post blog, and but we thought we’d add to that with a special Stress Awareness Month blog. One that outlines the negative effects stress can have on your health, how stress can be a particular problem for disabled people, and the positive effect holidays and breaks can have in reducing stress and improving your health.

 

The Impact of Stress

The study of stress begins in the 1930’s with Hans Selye, a scientist who realised that most different diseases, restrictions and situations all produced similar symptoms of illness. This adverse response your body has to being put under physical and mental tension became known as stress.

A diagram showing the effects that stress can have on the body

This general description has expanded over the years and we now know that stress can impact numerous different bodily functions. Psychology Today recently wrote about the impact stress can have on the body’s “ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and even ability to avoid injury”, and that it can “make you ill, impact your arteries, disrupt your sleep and even alter your genetic material.”

The reasons for this are varied, for example stress diminishes the ability to fight inflammation as it makes immune cells less sensitive to the hormone that “turns off” inflammation. Stress can also kill neurons and stops neurogenesis – the creation of new brain cells – in the hippocampus. This is why being stressed can impact your memory and creativity. It also impacts sleep as stressed minds don’t shut down to sleep properly, and amongst those who experience ongoing stress, each additional stressor increases the risk of insomnia by 19%. This can become a vicious cycle – you’re stressed so you don’t sleep and your lack of sleep makes you more stressed.

 

Increasing Stress In Society

a diagram highlighting stress in the workplace

These health problems are particularly worrying considering there are numerous studies that suggest levels of anxiety and worry are increasing in our society. For example Dr. David Strayer, a professor of Cognition and Neural Science, claims “Modern multitasking overtaxes brain areas that are involved in suppressing distractions, thinking creatively, and developing a sense of identity.”

This can be seen in the fact that the number of work-related stress incidents in the UK in the year to April 2015 was 440,000, or 1,380 per 100,000 people. In 2014/15 a diagnosis of stress accounted for 35% of all work-related ill health and 43% of all working days lost due to illness, yet 66% of British employees also said people at their work would be “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to reveal that they were experiencing stress-related illness.

It’s not just adult workers either. Stress is infectious and babies can be stressed from birth, and even be stressed prenatally. Toddlers become stressed with too much TV and not enough play, children sit too many exams at a young age, and teenagers are suffering a new, constant anxiety through social media. Students are also increasingly stressed with increased fees and a struggling job market, with some institutions reporting a 50% increase in students requesting counselling.

 

Disability and Stress

There are also numerous studies that highlight an increase in stress amongst people with disabilities. For example an American survey found that 75% of people experienced ‘extreme’ or ‘significant’ stress during the process of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance. They also reported that seeking appeals when a request is denied can be extremely stressful.

This is being replicated in the UK, with a recent investigation by The Independent finding the government’s reforms to disability benefits are “causing a huge amount of stress and anxiety” to thousands of vulnerable and disabled people. They found that almost a quarter of all people applying for disability benefits encounter serious difficulties, including delays, unfair dismissal of claims and confusion over eligibility.

Austerity has been hitting disabled people particularly hard, but the whole policy has been stressful for a large part of the population. The group Psychologists Against Austerity argue there are five stress-related ‘austerity ailments’ (humiliation and shame, instability and insecurity, isolation and loneliness, being trapped or feeling powerless, and fear and distrust) and cite recent research that suggests a link between the nation’s worsening mental health and the onset of austerity.

Parents of disabled children also report worryingly high levels of stress, with nearly half (47%) of parents of disabled children having to see their GP due to stress and worry, and nearly nine in ten (86%) find it hard to talk about how they are feeling.

 

Holidays and Stress Reduction

two people are having a barbecue in a wooded area. holidays and active breaks in nature have been proven to reduce stress

Psychology Today outline the health benefits of holidays, stating they allow us to “break into the stress cycle, gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines”. Academic Scott McCabe has also done extensive research into the health benefits of social tourism and has argued that the health and psychological benefits of holidays are so great that families should be given financial assistance if they are unable to afford holidays on their own.

These health benefits can be quite extensive. For example an American study of 13,000 middle-aged men found that those who skipped holidays for five years were 30% more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year. Even missing one year’s vacation was associated with a higher risk of heart disease. A separate study also found that women who took a holiday once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.

The type of holiday can also be impactful as a Canadian study found that “active” leisure pursuits and active holidays helped alleviate job stress more than “passive” activities (so our scuba diving and volcano climbing trips are actually better for you than a week by the pool!). This is backed up by Dr. Strayer’s research, as he discovered that just four days backpacking in nature improved people’s creativity by 50%. Furthermore, simply planning a holiday and looking forward to it can help! Researchers from the Netherlands found that most people gain the most pleasure — an eight-week positive mood increase — simply from planning their trip and knowing they have a break coming up.

Some people argue that the health benefits of holidays have been overstated as the positive effects often wear off after a few weeks back in work, and this is true. However this takes a too short term view. Jessica de Bloom, a researcher in health psychology, says  “although the beneficial effects fade out quickly, not having any holidays/vacations would probably be very problematic because the strain would accumulate over time” – and this is supported by the American research into heart disease. Jessica continues that this emphasises we should go on holiday “more frequently in order to keep our levels of health and well-being high”.

Finally taking a break from work can also actually help with productivity. You come back from vacations well rested and able to think creatively and non-linearly, which is when you do your best problem solving. This is emphasised by this Psychology Today article which tells people just returning from holiday to “think carefully about what you are going to put your fresh, valuable mind to”.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Six Accessible Travel Blogs You Need To Read

We’re quite proud of our blog and we love writing it. It’s a great way to connect with our audience, share stories and helpful information, and stay up to date with everything in the world of accessible travel. However, as much as we would like it to, one blog can’t cover everything! And even researching one blog post requires regularly reading numerous accessible travel blogs.

We’re also a big fan of sharing the love here so we’re going to outline our favourite accessible travel blogs for you (blogging about blogs! Meta, we know!). Each one also has a slightly different perspective or area of expertise, whether that be industry knowledge, travel experience or a personal journey. So without any more blogging about blogs, here are the six accessible travel blogs that you need to read!

 

The Geordie Traveller

accessible travel blogs: the geordie traveller

The Geordie Traveller is Anthony, a young man,  unsurprisingly, from Newcastle, who is attempting to visit every country in the world. He writes with real honesty and humour, and gives really interesting first hand accounts of what it is like to travel with a disability (he has a very rare genetic disability that affects every joint in his body), and also makes some very interesting points about the way different cultures treat disability. If you like personal writing then The Geordie Traveller is for you! He’s also running a competition for people to travel free with him, which is a pretty great incentive to read!

What he says:

“I have recently began an audacious mission to set foot (wheel) in every single country in the world – a feat which is rarely achieved by even the most intrepid of explorers, let alone somebody who uses a wheelchair day in, day out. I’m fairly certain this is a challenge which has never been conquered by someone who, in the eyes of society, is considered severely disabled. I’m here to show the world that in some ways disability is just a state of mind.”

 

WheelChairTravel.org

accessible travel blogs: wheelchair travel.org

WheelChairTravel.org is run by John Morris, a 26 year old man who became severely disabled after a car accident. This blog offers his traveling experiences and information about destinations, but what really sets WheelChairTravel apart is their travel resources. If you want to know the how to’s of travelling with a disability, navigating flights, planning, booking hotels etc., this is the place to start. They also have a really useful FAQ’s section and the website is very easy to use and navigate.

What he says:

“After my car accident, I was told that my disability would make travel impossible. That was three years ago, and I have since visited 19 countries and flown more than 300,000 miles – all with one hand, a passport and my power wheelchair!”

 

Martyn Sibley

Martyn Sibley is quite a well known name in the accessible travel industry. He founded Accomable and recently launched the successful Accessible Travel Week. It’s this experience and industry knowledge that sets Martyn’s apart from other accessible travel blogs, he has the business acumen to keep you up to date with all the new developments! It’s not all business though, he also talks about traveling and his own experiences.

What he says:

“I have a ‘live the dream’ message to encourage everyone to enjoy life. No matter how difficult it may be! I blog about my disability, loved ones, health, work, socialising, travelling and personal challenges. I try to capture my dreams, my worries, my progress and my love of life with articles, pictures and videos.”

 

The Bimblers

accessible travel blogs: the bimblers homepage

Bimbling means “travelling slowly, aimslessly and without purpose”, which to my mind also means The Bimblers have the best name out of all these accessible travel blogs. It’s run by Rob and Bridget – Bridget has RA and Rob is her carer – and the website looks great, is easy to navigate, and they write in a really accessible and friendly way. The Bimblers began as a personal journal and has become a blog “about travelling when you’re struggling to travel”. They’re also being on travelling in and around the UK, including things like day trip and restaurant reviews, so if you’re looking to travel a bit closer to home this is the blog for you!

What they say:

“Back in 2014 Bridget’s health deteriorated and I was forced to quit my job to become her full-time carer. Terrified by the thought of sitting at home for the rest of our lives, we developed a plan. The plan was loosely based on a long-held dream of travelling around the UK in a camper van. I say loosely because we don’t own a camper van!”

 

Curb Free With Cory Lee

accessible travel blogs: curb free with cory lee

Curb Free with Cory Lee is another great blog if you want to read stories about traveling the world with a disability. Cory is very well travelled and does some great write ups and guides of the cities he visits all over the world. What really makes him stand out from other accessible travel blogs is the ‘Wheelie Inspiring Interviews’ section (we all love a good pun). He interviews various disabled people from all walks of life, such as fellow travellers, travel company operators and mobility technology companies, to bring a variety of expert opinions and different perspectives to his blog.

What he says:

“I want to share my accessible (and to my dismay, sometimes not so accessible) adventures with you. My life goal is to visit every continent, even Antarctica. I am going to document all of my travels in this blog and hopefully I can inspire you to start rolling around the world.”

 

Hot Wheels Goes

Hot Wheels Goes is run by Amy, and it’s running The Bimblers close for the title of best name! Amy is another personal blogger, writing mainly about her own experiences of travelling. She is an exceptionally honest writer, unafraid of writing about the struggles and difficulties that come with travelling with a disability, including mental health issues. She also writes about her friends and family who help her travel which is another interesting angle!

What she says:

“I’ve got two goals with my blog: One is to regale you with the (sometimes ridiculous) stories of travelling with a disability. I hope that regardless of your experience with disability you’ll find some of these stories amusing, and perhaps that I might make you reconsider some of your views towards disability. My second goal is to try and put together some genuinely useful guides to the places I’ve been for travellers with disabilities.”

 

So those are our favourite accessible travel blogs. Hopefully each one should give you a slightly different angle on accessible travel, but what unites them all is their passion and knowledge. We just hope you don’t like them so much you forget about us!

Remember to share with all your friends who have a passion for accessible travel and do let us know if there are any great accessible travel blogs that we’ve missed!

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Blindfolded Tourism: 5 Attractions That Utilise The Other Senses

At Seable we’re all about proving that disabled and visually impaired people can experience the world in the same way able bodied people can. Scuba diving, off-road driving and climbing the largest active volcano in Europe – there’s no reason why any disabled or visually impaired person can’t do them all if they really want to! There is another type of tourism however that helps people experience something they thought they never would but in a different way. It’s called ‘blindfolded tourism’ and has been growing in popularity. It attempts to help able bodied people understand and experience the world in the way disabled and visually impaired people do.

Here are five blindfolded tourism attractions in Europe that utilise other senses and open people up to new experiences.

 

1. Blind Dining

Dark Dining isn’t a new concept, with the first dark restaurant being opened in Switzerland 1999. Blindekuh (which translates as ‘blind man’s bluff’) was started by a blind clergyman called Jorge Spielmann, who got the idea after guests who dined at his home blindfolded reported enjoying their food more because of it. This is the basic concept of dark dining; the removal of vision enhances the other senses and increases gastronomic pleasure.

Now there are dark dining restaurants all around the world, including one right here in London called Dans le Noir. Dans le Noir serves exquisitely prepared mystery menus inspired by french cuisine, and served in a completely darkened room by blind or visually impaired waiters and waitresses. They promise to take you on a ‘sensory journey’ that helps to re-evaluate our perception of taste and smell, and encourage ‘social conviviality’, where darkness kills shyness and brings an open-minded atmosphere.

 

2. An Invisible Exhibition

The Invisible Exhibition is a company that takes the concept of blind dining, that the removal of vision will enhance other sense, and apply it to more than just a culinary experience. They do still offer ‘invisible’ dining, but you can also try wine tasting and massage, as well as group activities that will test your ability to navigate, communicate and complete tasks as a team.

The various activities are led by visually impaired and blind people and include things like trying to cross a road or choose the right spices when cooking a meal. This sharing of experiences helps fully sighted people appreciate the difficulties of being a visually impaired person, but also recognise the techniques and skills people learn to adapt. The company also partners with local disabled charities and organisations. There are currently Invisible Exhibitions in Budapest, Prague and Warsaw, but they promise a UK edition is ‘coming soon’!

 

3. Castle Tours

If you’re ever in the wonderful city of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, a rather unique experience can be had in Křivoklát Castle. The castle itself was built in the thirteenth century as a large, monumental royal structure, but throughout its history it has been burned down and used as a prison. Now it serves as a museum, tourist destination and place for theatrical exhibitions, featuring collections of hunting weapons, Gothic paintings and historical books.

A woman with a blindfold touches an old stone door with a guide. Krivoklat Castle offers a unique blindfolded tourism experience

The castle also serves as a very innovative example of blindfolded tourism. You can choose to go on a unique double tour, once blindfolded and then once again sighted. The blindfolded tour promises to immerse you further than the visual stimuli through cold stone walls “which remember ages”, the “echoing sounds” of old castle halls, and tactile sculptures. The following sighted tour then serves to provide context to your initial sensory experience rather than the other way round, thereby allowing you to completely immerse yourself in the history and gravitas of the castle.

 

4. City Tours

It’s one thing to have a blindfolded tourism experience in a restaraunt or exhibition, or even a castle, but a tour of a whole city is different kettle of fish! That’s exactly what Sensorial Lisbon promises to do however, asking you to imagine what it’s like to ‘rediscover’ the famous and historical Amalfa region of the city; “the narrow streets, the smell of grilled sardines, the sound of a Fado that can be heard from afar and so many others sensorial adventures”.

The tours are run by a blind guide from the Portuguese Association for the Visually Impaired who shares his/her sensory experience, whilst there is also an official Lisbon Walker guide who provides historical context. The project has two main goals, “to provide a sensorial experience which aims to gather new knowledge of the surrounding space through the stimuli of the senses of smell, tact, taste and hearing”, and “to bring awareness to the universe of the visually impaired, not as a limitation but instead in a positive and stimulating note”.

A guide leads blindfolded people down a narrow Lisbon street as part of sensorial lisbon, an innovative blindfolded tourism experience

It’s been successful too, as Sensorial Lisbon made Springwise’s top ten international chart for new ideas for tourism services, which really shows the potential of blindfolded tourism. All the proceeds also go to the Portuguese Association for the Visually Impaired.

 

5. A Sign Language Bar

Okay, so this article did have the title blindfolded tourism, but we like to share the love around at Seable so we’re going to include this one too. The Deaf Lounge in Tottenham, London, is a unique bar where all the drinks and food are ordered in sign language. It was started by Paul Cripps, a man who has been deaf since birth and was tired of having negative experiences in pubs, clubs and bars.

In addition to the service staff, there are deaf security guards and a partially deaf DJ, with the sound system being set up so that deaf revellers can feel the vibrations of the music through the floor and dance. They also run salsa, zumba and DJ workshops where deaf people can learn to read beats and play instruments.

 

So that’s our introduction to blindfolded tourism and tourism that utilises other senses. Do let us know what you think of the idea, or if you’ve been to any exciting blindfolded tourism attractions in Europe or around the world. Don’t forget to share with anyone who’s interested in innovative travel and tourism!

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.


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