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Archive for October, 2012

We are in the last minute frenzy of packing (well Wendy is) and the clock is ticking rapidly to our day of departure. I thought I would share our itinerary with you and a few pictures as well. I am so excited about this entire trip! And to put the icing on the cake, I have been asked to read a portion of Scripture and briefly speak when we are at Corinth.

Traveling around the Mediterranean and visiting cities and cultures that are thousands of years old is such an amazing thought. I will keep journal entries at each place and take plenty of pictures to share. I am hoping to be able to post from the ship when I am over there. But if for some reason that should not work, I will make sure and catch everyone up when we return.

Just a couple of last minute details before the itinerary. For people in wheelchairs, you may want to make room in your packing for a few wheelchair parts. I always bring an extra seat cushion with me (in case mine should pop) and an extra set of tubes for my tires. This is much easier than trying to find the necessary parts in an emergency. Also you should make copies of your passport and credit cards. Keep one copy with you and leave one copy at home. We have never lost our passports or credit cards, but once again, plan for the possibility.

Here are the details of our room which is accessible with an ocean view balcony. Two twin beds (can convert into queen-size) with open bed frames, wider entry door, turning spaces, private balcony, sitting area with lowered vanity, closet rods, and safe, and a private bathroom with a wider door, roll-in shower, grab bars, fold-down shower bench, hand-held shower head, raised toilet, and a lowered sink. (275 sq. ft., balcony 42 sq. ft.)

Brochure details provided by Educational Opportunities.

October 18 Depart USA Our pilgrimage begins as we depart the USA.

October 19 Rome Arrive in Rome, and time permitting, take a panoramic tour of this beautiful city.

October 20 Ancient Rome History is woven through the streets and neighborhoods of Rome as in no other city. Today we’ll explore the many wonders of ancient Rome when we visit the magnificent Colosseum. From the most sacred hill of ancient Rome, Campidoglio, we’ll view the Forum. You’ll also view the Circus Maximus, Mamertine Prison, the Arch of Titus, the famous Baths of Caracalla and the Arch of Constantine. We’ll see the Victor Emanuel Monument and the Monti Region, Rome’s most ancient neighborhood, which spreads over three of her seven hills. Board the beautiful Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas.

October 21 & 22 At Sea

October 23 & 24 Alexandria & Cairo, Egypt Dock in Alexandria, founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great. See the site of the ancient library, lighthouse, and Pompey’s Pillar during your tour of Alexandria. Visit the catacombs and enjoy time to explore the old city. Travel to Cairo, the capital city of Egypt which means “The Vanquisher” or “The Triumphant.” Cairo is the most populated metropolitan area in Africa. See the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Egypt Museum, and the King Tut Treasures.

October 25 & 26 Joppa, Caesarea, & Jerusalem, Israel Drive through Biblical Joppa, now the port city of Jaffa. Jonah sailed from here, and Peter raised Dorcas from the dead while staying with Simon the Tanner. Visit Caesarea and see the impressive theater and aqueduct. Here Cornelius became the first gentile convert and Paul was later imprisoned before being sent to Rome. Travel to Jerusalem and visit the Upper Room, the traditional site of the Last Supper. Visit the House of the High Priest Caiaphas, where Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin. Stand upon the Mount of Olives and view the city as Jesus did. Wander among the olive trees of the Garden of Gethsemane. Enter the Old City and visit the Pool of Bethesda. We’ll walk along the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

October 27 The Galilee, Israel Travel inland to the Sea of Galilee. We’ll stand on the Mount of the Beatitudes where Jesus gave his most well known sermon (Luke 6:12‐49). At Tabgha, the traditional location for the calling of the disciples and the feeding of the 5000, you’ll visit the Church of the Fish and the Loaves (Luke 9:10‐17). Visit the Chapel of the Primacy where three times Peter professed his devotion to the risen Christ (John 21). Travel to the shore town of Capernaum where Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, John (Matt 4:13) and later Matthew.

October 28 At Sea

October 29 Ephesus, Turkey Journey to Ephesus, the marble city where Paul spent three years of his ministry. The ruins of Ephesus have been restored much like the city was in Paul’s time. You will visit the ancient Agora and view the Great Theater

October 30 Athens & Corinth, Greece Travel to Corinth, a city that inspired St. Paul’s most familiar letters. You will visit the Archaeological Museum, the Market Place, and Temples. Walk among the ruins and stand on the Bema where Paul stood. The architectural splendors of the ancient city of Athens are as magnificent as ever. Visit the world renowned Acropolis, the Propylaea, and the Parthenon. View Mars Hill where Paul debated with the intellectual community of his day. Time permitting, walk among the ruins of the Agora, the ancient market place and center of Athenian public life. You will view the Olympic Stadium, birthplace of the modern Olympics.

October 31 Chania, Crete Dock in Crete, Paul set sail from Crete on his voyage which ended in shipwreck. Chania is known for the Venetian Harbour, the old port, the narrow shopping streets and waterfront restaurants. Much of the Chania you will want to see is clustered close to the harbor ‐ see the Byzantine Museum, Naval Museum, or perhaps take a trip ouside of Chania to one of the several surrounding monasteries such as Samaria Gorge.

November 1 At Sea

November 2 Return to the USA Dock in Civitavecchia, Italy. Transfer to the Rome airport. Return to the U.S. with memories to share.

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The worst part of traveling, to me at least, is the packing. Now I will probably get in trouble for saying this, but, the stress of packing comes from my wife. Wendy is very methodical and has the tendency to over-think things. While at home I very much appreciate her efficiency and she keeps our home running smoothly at all times. Packing however throws her into a panic because of her fear of the unknown I guess. She packs by the “what if” method. What if we need…what if we run out of…what if…and the list goes on.

You see the suitcases and such in the picture I took? We have been packing now for two weeks and we don’t leave until October 18th! So I have learned over the years to let Wendy do her thing, and I toss something into the pile when I think of it.

Since my injury, I now have to pack a lot of extra medical supplies that I never had to deal with in the past. If I should forget to bring the right amount of underwear with me, I’m not overly concerned. I can make due. But if I forget to bring certain necessary medical supplies, then I have a problem that is difficult to deal with overseas. Medical supply businesses can be readily found in the USA, but overseas might be a different story. As a remedy for me forgetting anything, I have a list and can keep a bag packed at all times. Sort of like a mobility bag in the military. Always packed and ready to grab as I roll out the door.

IMPORTANT: One nice thing to mention here about packing for disabled people is to put all of your medical supplies into one suitcase. There are no baggage charges for medical supplies as long as those are the only things in the bag. That is a very nice savings. Another thing that we do is to mark all of our things so that they are easily recognized when we are getting our luggage. In our case I use fluorescent duck tape on everything. Many people have taken to doing this so you may want to come up with your own creative idea for marking your luggage.

Like most people, I have my favorite clothes that I tend to wear the most. I have my clothes bag packed with all my favorites, and this week I get to explore things hanging in the back of my closet or tucked away in the bottom of my dresser drawers that rarely see the light of day. I also just leave a suitcase open, and as the days progress, I toss in things I think of as I roll by.

My style of packing can really annoy Wendy because we think quite differently. But after 29 years of wedded bliss, we just let each other do our own thing in order to maintain the bliss part of wedded.

My last piece of advice here for disabled travelers is to allow PLENTY of time at the airport. The last thing I need is to be rushed and stressed out at the airport. So arrive early, check in early, get frisked early and relax at your terminal while you “people watch.” Who knows, you may even see me watching you!

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Be sure to get a copy of my book “Better to be Broken.” A great read for lasting hope and encouragement. It is availabe in paperback or kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Rick-Huntress/e/B008874896

STL-Distribution also has it available at http://www.stl-distribution.com/s3/?keyword=rick+huntress&search_only=&x=0&y=0

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You have your passport and your destination in mind–now you need to find a reliable tour company that is familiar with accessible travel. In my case, I have done my travels through a group that hosts numerous tours. The group is extremely detail oriented and works directly with the travel agency, so I have complete confidence that the standard travel arrangements will be faultless. With that being said, when I helped coordinate the accessible tour to Israel two years ago, I stayed very involved in the details since this was the first trip of its kind for this particular group. But after much planning and many meetings, the accessible piece of the pie went very smoothly.

I highly recommend getting connected with a tour group that promotes accessible travel, or with a group that is willing to listen and work with the many issues that a disabled traveler has to consider. For instance, if my flight has a layover, has enough time been allowed to get to my connecting flight? If I land in Concourse A, and my connecting flight is in Concourse D, I am going to need more time than the average bear to catch my next flight. I’m sure you have seen people running through the airport to catch connecting flights. Or people getting zipped across the airport in golf carts (which are not wheelchair accessible). Smaller airports are usually not a problem, but some of the larger airports I have to take a subway train from one concourse to the next. And what if I need a restroom break between flights? All of this takes extra time for me. So make sure the travel agency plans accordingly.

Parking at the airport is also something to look into. Some airports offer free or reduced rate parking for disabled people. Allow me to add a note of personal experience here. I contacted an airport once and asked about parking, getting a confirmation that parking was free for disabled individuals. The one thing they forgot to mention is that there was a time restriction of five days. We were there for six days and had to pay the full price. Live and learn.

And then there are the seat assignments on each flight to consider. You need to call in advance to confirm an appropriate seat that is not in an emergency exit and one that is accessible for a transfer. Be very specific in your request when asking about seats. Each plane is designed differently and the reservations people need to know and understand what you need. For instance, I found out (also the hard way), that the arm lift on the aisle seats raise up out of the way, allowing for a transfer, on only one side of some plane models. I was given a seat where the armrest did not raise up, so I had to throw my body up and over the armrest to get into my seat. Not the most graceful thing I have ever done. So be sure to ask reservations what model plane you are flying on and to have them place you on the correct side of the plane. If the customer service person you are talking to does not know, then ask for one that does. All of these questions can be asked politely, but they do need to be asked.

Hotel arrangements at your final destination need to be checked and rechecked. Just because a hotel claims to have an accessible room for you, does not make it so. A blue handicap sign on the door with a grab bar in the bathroom does not make it wheelchair accessible. I have actually requested reservations to measure door widths and available space in the room and bathroom to maneuver my wheelchair around. The tour company I use is familiar with what I need and is very good at making sure it will work for me.

Last but not least is ground transportation at your vacation spot/spots. I called three weeks ahead once for a car rental with hand controls. You guessed it. The wrong size car was waiting for us with no hand controls. Car rentals can be very tiresome. On the trip I made to Israel, we had a tour bus with a wheelchair lift which was wonderful. On our upcoming cruise, we will be making many port calls and the tour buses will not have wheelchair lifts. So a car and driver has been assigned to our group especially for me. I can easily transfer into and out of the car, and follow the rest of the group around on the bus. Yes there is an added expense to do this, but the money will be well spent to make our vacation an enjoyable one.

Once again, the tour company I use has done the bulk of what I talked about. But I still keep my finger on the pulse of everything. It is much better to deal with everything on the phone before we leave, than to get to Europe and find out there are problems that for a disabled traveler can quickly turn into a fiasco.

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Are you ready to go on a cruise? If so, then read my next several posts as Wendy and I prepare to go on a Mediterranean cruise. Our adventure starts on October 18 and there has been a great deal of preparation getting ready for that day. Travel of any sort has always been exciting for me. That is one reason why I loved being in the military. It gave me an incredible opportunity to see the world and personally experience other cultures.

To have an enjoyable and hassle-free vacation is my goal. Because I am in a wheelchair, there has to be some very detailed planning for that to happen.  Once upon a time the ideal vacation might have been traversing across Europe with a backpack, walking stick and a black Lab. Now I need accessible transportation, hotel rooms, knowledgeable tour guides of site accessibility, etc. This can become a logistical nightmare without months of advance planning.

The first thing to do is to get a passport. There are numerous forms to fill out and documents that you will need, especially if you are a first time applicant. You can go to http://travel.state.gov/passport/processing/processing_1740.html which will give you all of the information needed to apply for a passport. Make sure and do this early as it takes 4-6 weeks to get your passport. The process can be expedited to 2-3 weeks but there is an extra charge involved.

Depending on how adventurous you want to be will determine on where you want to go. If you are in a wheelchair and planning your first international travel experience, you may want to consider some place that is featured as an accessible travel venue. Or perhaps you want to start out by being the first person in a wheelchair to plant a flag on the top of Mt. Everest (Let me know how that goes).

Two years ago, for our first trip overseas after my injury, we went to Israel. Israel is an amazing place to visit, very accessible and the people were incredible with any assistance that I needed. This was a trip that I helped coordinate for people with disabilities. There were five of us in wheelchairs that went on this trip. Our tour host and I spent almost two years in the planning to make the trip as seamless as possible for people in wheelchairs. We had multiple meetings and discussed every detail of the trip right down to accessible restroom facilities across the country. Guides and bus-drivers were carefully chosen, appropriate hotel accommodations, and people to assist us at every tourist point we stopped at. But, even with such careful planning, we still encountered a few unexpected speed bumps when we were there. Key word here is flexibility. If you feel that your daily routine can never be altered at all, then you may want to reconsider traveling overseas.

The one thing that made the trip to Israel so successful was the use of a tour host that listened, had firsthand knowledge of the destination and a travel agency that knew about accessible travel. That is something that I would recommend for every trip and we are doing the same thing for our cruise. We will be flying to Rome and spending a couple of days there before we begin our cruise. Then we will travel to Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Greece and Crete. Being on the ship is going to be the easy part. The logistics that have gone into planning every detail, for every location, have been extensive. Many special arrangements have been made for me so that I will be able to participate in all of the tourist stops in each country.

Once again, I can’t stress enough for anyone to use a tour host and travel agency that are extremely familiar with accessibility concerns. I personally would not even attempt to do a trip of this magnitude on my own.

My next post is going to be all of the preparations and packing on my end that we are currently in the process of doing. Once again the key word is flexibility. Remember there is an entire world out there to see, taste, smell and experience. So put down the TV remote and start living life!

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This blog is very different from my usual posts about the daily aspects of living with a disability. I will be back on topic starting Saturday. I will be taking all of you along with me on a Mediterranean cruise! So consider this post a narrative interlude between living at home with a disability, and traveling with a disability.

But in the meantime, I’m sure that many of you do not know that I have recently had a book published. The name of the book is “Better to Be Broken.” Not only is it a journaling of my injury and the journey that has brought me to where I am now, it is also a very transparent look at Rick Huntress as a man. Yes my body is now broken, but there is also a spiritual brokenness that my book talks about. Both are important and both are good. You did not read that wrong. I said “both” are good.

So if I have piqued your curiosity at all, now is your golden opportunity to get a copy of “Better to Be Broken.”

Starting tomorrow, October 2nd, The Kindle Select edition of my book “Better to Be Broken” will be completely FREE for two days only. http://www.amazon.com/Better-to-Be-Broken-ebook/dp/B009C048Y8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1349122659&sr=8-2&keywords=rick+huntress

October 2-3 you will be able to download onto your Kindle my book. “But I don’t have a Kindle” you are saying. That is simple to correct–you can download the Kindle App for free also on your Android phone or tablet, iPad, iPhone, PC, Mac, Blackberry or Windows phone 7. Get your free app here http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

So if you, or someone you know, could use some encouragement and hope in life, now is your chance to find that hope in my book “Better to Be Broken for absolutely FREE!

But remember only for the next two days, October 2 and October 3.

So don’t miss out–download your free copy today!

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