Hello! I’m Melanie. Welcome to Little Miss Turtle!
In 2015, I started this wheelchair travel blog as a hobby to provide helpful advice for other disabled travelers like me.
This blog is free of ads, and I put tons of effort and hours of work into it.
So, if you are looking for wheelchair-accessible travel inspiration, don’t go any further!
You’ll hopefully feel right at home here on the Little Miss Turtle Wheelchair Travel Blog!
WHAT'S THE BLOG ABOUT?
On Little Miss Turtle, I write about my accessible travel adventures as a wheelchair user. At the age of 4, I was diagnosed with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2I (known as LGMD2I/LGMDR9). I have used a wheelchair since I was 6. At first, only for longer distances and then also for shorter ones until I could no longer walk. It took me some time to process, but my wheelchair became my best friend over the years. This precious companion keeps me moving forward toward new experiences. I have a restless traveler's heart and love to discover new places around the world. At 15, it turned out that my LGMD started to affect both my cardiac and respiratory muscles. This background allowed me to realize at a young age how precious life is and that it may go by faster than we think. From this moment on, I had two priorities: Firstly, learning absolutely EVERYTHING about LGMD2I, and secondly, traveling the world as long as my health would allow it. Learn all about how and why I became an accessible travel blogger in the "Travel is Life" section further below.
WHAT'S LIMB-GIRDLE MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY?
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, or just LGMD, is an umbrella term for rare genetic muscular dystrophies. There are more than 30 known subtypes, each of them affecting a distinct gene. The disease varies in severity. Symptoms can appear from early childhood up to adult age. It first affects the proximal muscles (shoulders, hips, 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 can be affected. 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 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 that LGMD2I (recently renamed LGMDR9) would affect 4.5 people out of a million.
HOW DO I TRAVEL DESPITE MY DISABILITY?
Quite frankly, traveling wouldn't be possible for me without help. With this said, I always travel with my husband, who is not only my best travel buddy but also my full-time caregiver. My husband doesn't hesitate to piggyback me when encountering obstacles, like inaccessible buses or metro stations. I am more than thankful for his tremendous 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, progressive 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, I could walk. This "walking" of mine had always felt pretty natural and "normal" to me. Until one day, I realized 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. 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 its own world!
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 entirely something else when you learn that your heart and respiratory muscles are, too. Somewhere in accepting the severity of my disease, I decided to live in the present. That’s when I realized I had to be more careful about my priorities and choices.
The system forces us to believe in the concepts of ‘save now, spend later’ and ‘work hard now, live later’… But when exactly is “later?” A few years back, my next-door neighbor finally retired from an indeed ‘brilliant’ career. He worked very hard throughout his career. As a result, he earned a lot of money, allowing him to buy and possess much ‘wealth.’ But unfortunately, he died just a few months after retiring.
My point is not to convince anyone that working should be avoided. My point is that our future is absolutely uncertain. So why not create your own life strategy instead of falling into the trap of “copying/pasting” obsolete life concepts?
Step by step, year after year, my priorities became more evident. If my days are counted, then 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.
With this mindset, I started traveling, already using a wheelchair. I spent money on flying instead of make-up, clothes, or handbags. Paying for unforgettable life experiences became more important to me than gathering objects and owning things. What is better than travel memories in times of illness?
My first long-haul flight as a wheelchair user took me to the US West coast in 2011. At that time, I had no clue I would meet my adventurous husband soon after, so I thought this 21-day-long RV road trip would be the “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 have visited 14 different countries, each inspiring me to travel more, at least for as long as my health allows. But, unfortunately, every year, my body and heart get weaker. So in less than 3 to 4 years, I’ll probably switch from buying plane tickets to train & bus tickets.
The LMT Blog represents much work and energy for my husband and me. After learning how difficult it is to find valuable and reliable information for wheelchair travelers, I started my blog packed with accessible travel info. It has only one purpose:
To bring a minor contribution to benefit the wheelchair community wanting to travel.
Hallo Melanie, wunderbarer blog, so positiv, interessant und einfach herzerwärmend! Du bist eine so starke Persönlichkeit, Hut ab und danke, dass Du dies mit anderen Menschen teilst! Freue mich, mehr von Dir zu lesen! Schade, dass alles nur auf englisch ist – warum nur? Liebe Grüße Claudia
Hallo Claudia! Dankeschön für deinen wunderbaren Kommentar :-)! Ich freue mich sehr, dass dir der Blog gefällt! Ich schreibe auf Englisch, um meine Erlebnisse mit möglichst vielen Menschen weltweit zu teilen. Liebe Grüße zurück, Melanie
ich finde deinen Blog megastark, weil er genau diese Lebensfreude und Kreativität von dir widerspiegelt! Es war und ist ein riesengroßes Glück, dass ich so einen tollen und starken Menschen wie dich zu meinen allerliebsten Freunden zählen kann! Du bist einfach wunderbar! ich freu mich sehr auf unser Wiedersehen! Deine Martini
Your blog is fully inspired and well organized. Thank you for being an inspiration
Hi Melanie, So happy to have found your travel blog. Like you, I have LGMD (mine is 2L) diagnosed 40+ years ago while in college. Unlike yours, mine resembles turtle-like progression so am still able to walk short distances with Canadian Crutches but use a scooter more and more. My wife and I love to travel like you but have confined our travel to the US so far. Looking forward to reading your posts and following you travels. Thanks for being there. RM
Thank you so much! I really appreciate your comment. It’s great to hear that your progression is turtle-like :-)!!
Let’s keep in touch!
I’ve been in a Powerchair for a little over a year. Before that I had a walker. Before that, a cane. I just discovered you and would like to know more about the manual chair in the South Africa post from today.
I had the privilege of hearing you speak this past weekend in Chicago. You and many others I met this weekend are truly inspirational. I applaud your attitude and fortitude for making your life the best it can possibly be despite possessing this incurable disease. Here’s to many more years of travel and a cure for LGMD in the near future!
Wow, Melanie, what a wonderful blog for those who travel with a wheelchair in tow – an all-around inspiring website! Thanks for sharing your experiences with such detailed information about your destinations.
My adult daughter, who has disabilities and will live with my wife and me until we can no longer care for her, LOVES to travel. While I can’t see us ever being able to take her overseas (we live in the US), your information on Banff/Jasper and Chicago will be helpful when we plan some trips there in the future.
May you enjoy your future travels and have happiness always.
Hello! I have a slow progressing LGMD type 2B and I love to travel! I don’t have a blog but I have traveled in Ladakh, India, Las Vegas,US and Puerto Rico with my limited and now decreasing mobility. I am so happy to have come across your blog. I take inspiration from you to do many more travels! Thank you
Hi Melanie. I stumbled across your blog when researching accessible travel to Japan. We have a 20 year old son with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and while his strength is declining slower than average, which of course we are very grateful for, we are conscious of ‘seizing the moment’ and creating as many awesome memories as possible. So, for our next adventure, we are thinking of Japan, and I am encouraged reading your blog, as I did wonder how accessible it would be? One of my big questions is accommodation, as our son needs a roll in shower now, and from what I have read so far, it doesn’t seem as though these sorts of rooms are plentiful? Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for the informative info on Japan and I will be sure to read about all of the other destinations also! Best Regards, Maree (from New Zealand)
Hi Maree. Thank you for your comment! Japan has done much to improve wheelchair accessibility. Having been there often, I can definitely say that it is easy to get around as a wheelchair user. But like you mentioned, a big Manko is the lack of hotels with roll-in-showers for wheelchair users. In more expensive hotel chains, you will often find a separate bathroom with a shower and a bathtub. In addition, some hotels have shower chairs for guests with disabilities. This was the case at the ANA Crowne Plaza Osaka. The only hotel I visited with an actual roll-in shower was “the b Asakusa” in Tokyo. Unfortunately, this hotel has been permanently closed since the pandemic. A wheelchair user of the web forum “TabiFolk” stayed at the Centurion Hotel Grand Akasaka in Tokyo, which has a small roll-in shower. Barrier-free rooms for wheelchair users are called “Universal rooms” in Japan. Sometimes you can directly find and book these rooms through the hotel website or Booking.com. Other times you have to contact the hotel directly and ask for a universal room. Feel free to ask if you have further questions.
Have a good time in Japan!
I discovered your website when researching Japan. It will be our first trip in May 2023. My husband uses a manual wheelchair and we will also take a carer to help us. I have learned lots from your info. Many thanks! Sandie, UK.