My name is Melanie. I’m a 32 years old travel lover on wheels.
If you are looking for wheelchair-accessible travel inspiration, don’t go any further!
You’ll feel right at home, here on the Little Miss Turtle Wheelchair Accessible Travel Blog!
WHAT THIS BLOG IS ABOUT
On Little Miss Turtle, I write about my accessible travel adventures and life with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. At the age of 4, I was diagnosed with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2i (known as LGMD2i/LGMDR9) and got my first wheelchair around the age of 6. It took me some time to process, but over the years, my wheelchair became my best friend. This precious companion keeps me moving forward towards new experiences. I have a restless traveler’s heart and love to discover new places all around the world. At 15, it turned out that my LGMD started to affect both my cardiac and respiratory function. This background allowed me to realize at a young age that life is precious and that it may go by faster than we think. From this understanding, two priorities came along: Firstly, learning absolutely EVERYTHING about LGMD2i and secondly, traveling everywhere I could as long as my condition would allow it. Learn all about how and why I became an accessible travel blogger in the "Travel is Life" section further below.
WHAT LIMB-GIRDLE MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY IS
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, or just LGMD, is an umbrella term for a rare genetic muscular disorder with more than 30 known subtypes, each of them affecting a different gene. The disease varies in severity. Symptoms can appear from early childhood up to adult age. It first affects the proximal muscles (hips, shoulders, quads), but finally, muscles all over the body can be involved. LGMD causes mild to severe weakness and muscle wasting, which can eventually lead to a complete loss of function. In some subtypes, the heart and respiratory muscles may be affected (mildly or severely). In short, LGMD is a genetic disease affecting muscle cells only. Therefore it has no impact on the brain, the nervous system or other organs. Muscular Dystrophy (MD) is too often times mistaken for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is an autoimmune disease, which affects the central nervous system. Also, unlike MS, Muscular Dystrophies are classified as Rare Diseases. A mid-2019 scientific paper estimates, for example, that LGMD2i (recently renamed LGMDR9) would affect 4.5 people out of a million.
HOW I MANAGE TO TRAVEL DESPITE MY DISABILITY
Quite frankly, traveling just wouldn't be possible for me without help. With this being said, I always travel with my husband, who is not only my best travel buddy but also my full-time caregiver. We both are adventurous, and my husband doesn't hesitate to piggyback me when we encounter obstacles, like inaccessible buses or metro stations. I am more than thankful for his amazing support! You also need to know that I am a travel deal hunter and love to travel as budget-friendly as possible.
WHY "LITTLE MISS TURTLE"
Living with a rare degenerative disease such as limb-girdle muscular dystrophy is quite a challenging experience. Though I was never able to run or climb stairs, at some point in the progression of my illness, I could walk. This "walking" of mine had always felt pretty natural and "normal" to me until I one day realized that it was clearly not very "standard." Nevertheless, it got the job done and took me from point A to point B, slowly of course, but also pretty smoothly… just like a turtle, in some ways. Also, this animal has a friendly reputation, which served as an inspiration for the name of my blog. Not to mention that if you lose sight of a turtle for a few minutes, you might not see it again for a while… it's gone! Gone exploring it's "world"!
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TRAVEL IS LIFE!
Travel is (my) life
Earlier in my life, I pretty clearly understood the challenges and the outcomes of my physical condition. It is one thing to have a muscular disease affecting your limbs. However, it is quite something else when your respiratory system and heart are also severely affected.
At some point in my process of acknowledging the severity of my type of muscular dystrophy (LGMD), I figured I might as well ‘Live in the NOW’! That’s when I realized I had to be more careful about my priorities and choices.
Most of us are unfortunately too often forced to believe in the concepts of ‘save now, spend later’ and ‘work hard now, live later’… The question is: When is later? A few years back, my next door neighbor finally retired from an indeed ‘brilliant’ career. He worked very hard for a countless number of years. He earned a lot of money, allowing him to buy and possess much ‘wealth.’ Unfortunately, he passed just a few months after retiring.
My point is not to convince anyone that working should be avoided! No, my point is that ‘tomorrow’ is very much uncertain, so why not create your own ‘life strategy,’ instead of falling in the trap of ‘copy/pasting’ obsolete life-patterns.
Step by step, years after years, my priorities became more explicit. If my days were counted (more than average I mean), why not make them count?!
I was determined to live my most enjoyable life WITH (and not against) the cards I was handed and make something good come out of it (not knowing what at that time).
With this mindset, I started traveling, already using a wheelchair. I decided to spend money on traveling instead of spending it on savings (who would spend it for me when I’m gone). Paying for unforgettable life experiences started becoming way more important to me than gathering objects and owning things and properties.
My first long haul flight as a wheelchair user brought me to the US west coast in 2011. At that time I had no clue I would meet my crazy, adventurous husband soon and so I thought this 21 days long RV road trip would be my one and only trip of a lifetime. My travel buddy for this trip was my amazing stepdad who volunteered to come with me and be my caregiver for the whole journey.
Since then, I experienced 14 different countries, each one giving me the inspiration to always travel more… at least for as long as my condition still allows it. Every year, my body and heart get weaker. I know that in less than 3 to 4 years I’ll probably switch from buying plane tickets to train & bus tickets. This is why the destinations I choose to write about nowadays mostly include long-range flights.
One thing I rarely mention about my LMT Blog is that it represents a lot of work and energy (for both, my husband and me).
I started this blog because the more I got to travel, the more I noticed how difficult it was to find useful, helpful, and – most importantly – reliable information for wheelchair travelers. My presence online serves only one purpose: To bring a minor contribution to benefit the wheelchair community wishing to travel.
I don’t believe ‘destinations’ should be considered as trophies to brag about. However, to those of you continually asking me where I have traveled to already, you’ll find a complete list further below. I sometimes regret not having taken any notes before I launched the Little Miss Turtle Wheelchair Travel Blog. I would have loved to be able to share with you all of my (more or less) wheelchair accessible travel experiences from the beginning.
of the Countries I have experienced so far