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Peta Hooke: Travelling The World When You Have Cerebral Palsy

You're in for a treat! Peta is here to spill the tea on her unforgettable trip to Europe, and she's got a surprise for you! Get ready to meet Adelle Clements, a travel industry expert and Peta's close friend.

In this episode, we bring you an incredible conversation where Adelle delves into the unique experiences and challenges faced by her disabled friend travelling halfway across the world.

Connect with Adelle:

Instagram: @adellesnaps

Connect with Peta:

Instagram: @petahooke


Episode Transcript:

Travelling the world when you have CP working title 2.mp3

Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to the I Can't Stand Podcast. The podcast answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name's Peta. I have cerebral palsy and I'm your host, as you've probably gathered. This is a very special episode for the I Can't Stand podcast. I went to Europe surprise, surprise a few weeks ago and I really wanted to share with you my experiences as somebody who has cerebral palsy and what the challenges are travelling around the world when you have a disability. I thought it was best that someone interview me for a change. And very luckily, I had the perfect person in mind to do it. One of my very close friends, Adelle Clements, is a travel industry expert and the friend that I've had since university days. She was a perfect choice. So without any further ado, let's hand over to Adelle.

Adelle [00:01:13] My name's Adelle Clements. I'm a 34 year old woman. I'm the marketing manager for the world's largest small group to a company called G Adventures here in Australia. I'm living on beautiful Yugambeh, land in sunny Queensland. I am a proud aunty dog, mum and world traveller with a passion for sustainable and community based tourism.

Peta [00:01:37] I often search for the most amazing people through Instagram to find the right guests. But you, my friend, were very easy because you're at the top of my contacts list on my phone. We met at university and we both have a passion for travel. You're just smart enough to leverage it and make it a career.

Adelle [00:01:58] It's the basis of our friendship. I think, aside from the fabulous handbags that you would come to class with. We talk a lot about travel. I do really feel that travel changes people's lives, not just the travel out, but the people that you're engaging with. When you're in a community, the wildlife, the animals, the cultures and things like that, that you have the ability to have a really positive impact on when you are travelling as well as have an amazing experience for yourself. Why is trouble important to you?

Peta [00:02:34] I can never undervalue seeing something in a world that I never thought I could. So like, I was in the middle of a village in Bordeaux, and I saw a view and I stood there and I just burst into tears. I'm a very emotional, like person. I really value every experience I have, and I'm always chasing that emotional opportunity.

Adelle [00:03:01] I love that so much. I can say in your face right now, and I know this is an audio medium, so not ideal, but Peter is grinning from ear to ear. I love that video that you put up on Instagram where you just saying to your mom, I can't believe I'm here, Mom. I can't believe I'm here. Like, what's going to make me tear up again? You know, like, just I'm just so glad that you got to have these experiences.

Peta [00:03:29] It's so lovely to speak to someone who really understands and gets it, because I find sometimes and maybe it's just my own in a reflection or my own vulnerability to feel a bit frivolous when I talk about my love for travel and like I'm so aware of the cost of living crisis that we're all having at the moment, not to mention the global impact that tourism has on the environment. But it is just something that I can't stop doing. It is totally addictive. It does something to my brain where I feel most like myself away from home. I jokingly say now travels like my abusive relationship that I love too much and I can't get out of, you know, because it's so difficult and sometimes traumatic. And also from an environmental perspective, I don't have as many options as everybody else. When you have a disability. So sort of balancing all that can be a lot of pressure to make sure that you're also being a good citizen. One of the big I won't say secrets, but one of the big things that I haven't really revealed and I've been a bit quiet on my Instagram about is how I got around to each place. I did go on a cruise ship. And cruising from an environmental perspective can be really problematic. But from an accessibility point of view, from my perspective in the way the system works at the moment, it was the most efficient and effective and safe way for me to travel to so many destinations.

Adelle [00:05:17] Yeah, you're right. Cruising definitely gets a rep and again, I'll put my hand up as one of those people that I do feel if there's an alternative way to travel, then I would probably prefer that people do that. As for one, the environment. For two, the impact on local communities when they're visiting, often, you know, a lot of money stays on the cruise ships in the cruise industry because you're eating your meals on this or you're not eating at local restaurants. You know, there are negative impacts of cruising, and that is just a fact. But there's definitely a place for cruising for elderly people as well, for, like you say, people with disabilities, for people who are time poor and want to hit 30 countries in. I don't know how long it would take on a cruise ship, maybe 50 days. You know, like that gives you the ability to see the world in a way that you wouldn't be able to see it otherwise. And there are a lot of cruise ships doing a lot of good. You know, they've identified that they do have issues with the environment. They're bringing on different policies around getting rid of their rubbish and and balancing out the environmental impact that they're having.

Peta [00:06:31] I wish that I didn't have to get on a cruise ship and do all the things that you said. But on the other hand, it was one of the most amazing experiences that I've ever had. And I'm very keen for you to ask questions and dig in because I know that a lot of people will be listening to this purely for the sticky, opaque nature and maybe to learn a thing or two On how someone with cerebral palsy travels the world.

Adelle [00:07:01] Maybe should we start with talking about where you went on your travels?

Peta [00:07:07] To break the fourth wall for a moment. This is me recording in post because I realised I completely stuffed up my answer to Adele. You'd think the most simple question of where did you go would be easy for me to answer. But it turns out no. My parents and I. And we get into why I travel with my parents a little bit further on in the episode. But my parents and I travelled to Madrid via Dubai. We flew into Madrid, had five days in Madrid and then took a train to Barcelona. We had a few days in Barcelona and then we got on the ship. We had a total of seven destinations in Spain that we went to on the ship one day in Gibraltar, which is a British principality on the tip of Spain, to destinations in Morocco to destinations in Portugal. Then we had four days in France in total, including three days in Bordeaux. Then we went to an island that actually a British island called Guernsey after Guernsey. We arrived in Southampton, where the cruise was now over for us, and we took a train directly from Southampton to London and spent five days in London and then flew home via Dubai, again directly into Melbourne.

Adelle [00:08:34] What sort of accessibility did you factor in when making a decision around the destinations that you would visit? So Europe, I suppose. When I think Europe, I think cobblestones, massive hills, tiny cars, bikes everywhere. Thousands of tourists in the way. So I'm really curious to hear sort of how you landed in some of the oldest cities in the world.

Peta [00:08:59] To be honest, most cities in the world are hard. So, like even Melbourne can be really difficult. So I sort of blindly ignore how difficult places can be if I can physically get that through a flight that I only have to have one stopover, then it is possible. When I look at a destination, I have to before I pick it, I have to check other flights. Are there accessible accommodations? And that can mean emailing each hotel and getting physical photos. And then based on those emails, I then start to play to where I want to go.

Adelle [00:09:41] Is there a technology platform or website or app or equivalent of or something like that that does bring all of the hotels that have accessibility, accessible rooms or anything like that together that can sort of make it easier?

Peta [00:10:03] There are still blogs that are run by disabled people who go and review certain hotels. But just from a logistical point of view, I just used and then just emailed the bill individually. When a hotel says that they have accessibility, that term is very great. So accessibility, does that mean I can get in the front door? Can I get in the lobby? How big is the lift? How was the door to the hotel room? Is the carpet how tools the bed of the floor? Is there an accessible bathroom? Is there enough room around the toilets? Is there an accessible rolling shower? If there's a balcony. Can I get out onto it? All those things.

Adelle [00:10:56] Yeah. Well, and then on that like sorry to stay on this topic, but it is really interesting when you're contacting those hotels, are they quite responsive? Obviously like there's language barriers and, and stuff like that as well in mind, do you find that people are responsive and helpful with those questions?

Peta [00:11:17] Honestly, it depends on the person that you're dealing with. So it can really, really vary on people's understanding of accessibility. And that's why I insist on getting photos, because photos can't be misrepresented. You know, language can be a barrier, particularly if I'm speaking English and I'm speaking to someone whose first language is Spanish, for example, can be a little bit tricky. But I do find certain chains of hotels tend to be better at it than others. But often there's this perception that wheelchair or accessible rooms aren't going to be used by the hotel. So a lot of the time they're in the shittiest part of the hotel they're overlooking. I'm not kidding the beans or the water plant or something. So it can always be really challenging to not only find the correct location for the hotel, the accessibility. Then it then is the view. I really try and find hotels that have good public transport systems. So because taxis are so difficult and Uber's on a thing, for me, that's not something that's accessible to me because there's no wheel tracks as well. Avis in the world. To my knowledge at least. So I had to make sure we could get around. I've probably between my parents and myself, we were probably looking at like four years worth of plebe.

Adelle [00:12:55] Holy. Well, yeah, that's a lot. That's a lot. In that four years. Is there any sort of services or like travel agents or anyone that's qualified or has, I guess, in-depth knowledge of this type of travel that could assist you along the way or alleviate any of those pain points? Or was that all self research and self booked?

Peta [00:13:19] This time, I'm very pleased to say that I was able to gain a travel agent and hopefully he will come on the podcast in the next couple of weeks. So I had Daniel, who is the head of Access Spain Travel, and he is an accessible Spanish travel agent, and he does the whole of Spain. So when I first booked the cruise, I sort of thought, Oh, well, I might not be able to get off every time, but what sort of activities and excursions do the cruise offer? And unfortunately, it was really limited. We got our money back so he didn't have to pay for that part of the cruise, thankfully. It was very much like, We can get you there, but we can't offer you any excursions or excursions that they could offer with sort of help. How can I say this politely? How to more put a more like elderly motivation leaning to what they might want to do. They weren't going to be doing like we were doing every day, like ten kilometres every day walking around. That wasn't going to be a thing. So thankfully, Daniel was really helpful in planning each destination in spite. But I found one in Portugal as well. Access Portugal. They weren't as great. And also access Morocco that I found through Instagram.

Adelle [00:14:52] We'll go back to the beginning with with the air travel, because I know that's something that people find fascinating. I always find fascinating. I love your Instagram reels, especially showing you the the hoist on the plane and how you getting on and off because before I met you, it is not something that I had ever thought about or given consideration to. I've never been on a plane when someone's come on via the hoist or anything like that. And I know the troubles that you've had over the years with airports, with airlines letting you down, you know, giving you false promises about getting you on and off and bits and pieces like that. How did this journey go?

Peta [00:15:31] So each flight had its own little story, which I went full week for you with, but overall, it went really well. I fly primarily with Qantas, and that is because they have something called an Eagle Hoist. So for listeners at home who don't know what that is, it's a portable patient lifter that's been adapted to fit in an aircraft. It can fit down the aisles. So it's quite narrow. It lifts me from a wheelchair and they push me all the way while I'm hanging from the aisle all the way to a seat and then put me down. However, we flew with Emirates and Emirates don't do ego hoists. And I think this is probably a cultural difference where like manual handling is less of an issue. They just manually lifted me like and we wanted to fly to Madrid and Qantas don't fly to Madrid. So when it comes for me, the way I weigh out a decision is what's going to minimise my fatigue. How am I going to get there the quickest versus maybe the safest? I was just relieved every time I got on and off the plane uninjured. And that's just that's just the reality, you know? If this is the state of play, I'm not going to miss out.

Adelle [00:17:01] That's it. And that's what I love about you. You get shit done. It doesn't matter what barrier is in front of you, you'll find a way. And that's something else that I know is really difficult when you're taking these long flights, as well as accessibility to bathrooms and toilets along the way. How did you sort of handle one?

Peta [00:17:22] It was such an issue to the point where I actually went to my doctors and asked for anxiety medication because I was just so anxious, worried and stressed about not being able to access the loo and how I would do that. The two weeks before, every time anybody would message me that be like, Oh my God, it's finally happening. You must be so excited. And I'd be like, Not really like I am, but just get me there. As much as it was a really difficult process. I've now found a system that works for me. And yes, while it's probably not the most glamorous, I can do it. So. I'm personally not for incontinence products. It's not for me. So I had to figure out a way to do it. So if that meant peeing in a bottle under a blanket, I was going to do it.

Adelle [00:18:21] When you got to go, you've got to go. And that's just a fact of life.

Peta [00:18:25] It is true. And as much as I can hang on, I knew that 26 hours of flying, which is what we did, is just impossible. And I was just going to enjoy myself when we got there. So, yes, while I might have been able to hang on, I wasn't going to probably be able to have a holiday for like a week.

Adelle [00:18:46] Well, that's going a compromise your house upon arrival and have a UTI or something like that and medical attention. So. And what sort of care and support do you need when travelling? You mentioned that you went away with your folks that are both amazing humans and so much fun. So I would take a trip with your parents, but yeah, you bet. You mentioned that you went away with them and I guess in terms of support when travelling, how does that differ to support that's needed when you're at home? Well, it.

Peta [00:19:17] Starts from the time that we get to the airport. Really? So when you arrive at the airport, if you travel with a wheelchair, I have to have documentation to prove that my wheelchair is safe to go on the plane. And then once we gained that approval port, my hoist through oversized baggage. Dad has to then undo the wheelchair when we get to the bridge, Fold it up for the ground crew. And then when I get on the plane, they just have to hand me bits and pieces because I literally cannot move.

Adelle [00:19:55] Does the chair under? Yes. Yeah. So it's not anxiety provoking because I know, you know, lots of luggage is stressful and happening a lot at the moment. Do you have an airtag or something? What? Not on the chair.

Peta [00:20:10] Airtags were so good for my anxiety. Like, so good. When we got to Madrid. It took about half an hour for the wheelchair to come out, and I think I would have just about lost the plot after 26 hours of flying if I wasn't able to look on my phone and be like, It's here somewhere. It's at the airport. It's here somewhere. And yes, damage to wheelchairs is a real reality. A real, real reality. Not only that, damage to my portable hoist is a real reality. So not only could I lose my ability to move, but my ability to go to the toilet, have a shower or go to bed.

Adelle [00:20:53] I am so stressed for you.

Peta [00:20:57] And it looks like I've got every single outfit in my wardrobe that it's just all equipment and unfortunately I can't really push any of it. So I do need a lot of support and a lot of help when it comes to that as well. Through Dubai. I didn't see my wheelchair at all. I went straight through, which is always my preference personally, because I always worry that it might get left. And then what do you do? So we just get pushed through customs by a member of airport staff, and then once we arrive at our final destination, they push us. And then once we get to the baggage carousel, they say goodbye.

Adelle [00:21:45] And then I guess. Yeah. So you continued your journeys with with your parents. Was there any other care or support workers that you lost along the way?

Peta [00:21:55] We didn't use any support workers except there's a there's an Asterix to that, which I will get to. But when I travel because I don't have a ceiling hoists like I do in my home, I have a portable hoist. But that means that I can't go to the toilet independently. So every time I need to go to the toilet, have a shower, go to bed. Mum and Dad are pushing me.

Adelle [00:22:25] Yeah, I bet that would have been a massive adjustment because you live independently right now and do everything on your own. And overall, how was travelling with your folks? And I know you also got to meet up with one of your or your best friend as well when you're over there.

Peta [00:22:41] Yeah. So that was the Asterix. I was talking to that. So I guess I did travel with my parents the whole time. And while they are in their seventies, which they both hate me saying, but it's the reality of life. They're both in their seventies. They are actually fantastic to travel with though very game. I had them on all sorts of public transport daily. Charlie went everywhere I wanted to go. It was amazing.

Adelle [00:23:10] Okay, Well, let's talk about the Asterix.

Peta [00:23:14] The very fun Asterix, that is Megan. So Megan and I met in kindergarten when we were four. Making herself doesn't have a disability. She lives in the UK now. Much to my annoyance. Because I'm a single person and cruising isn't great while it comes to being single. You have to pay for two people in your cabin regardless of whether we have two people or not. So there was the opportunity there for Megan to come for a week. It was already paid for. So why not?

Adelle [00:23:54] Oh, it's always good to have a new person come in, breathe a bit of fresh air into a group or doors, just bringing that new energy, different personality and perspective.

Peta [00:24:03] I think I also underestimated how much Meaghan would understand, like because of her nursing background. Like, often, I wouldn't even have to say anything. She would just automatically do it, whether it be to go find out whether the restaurant is accessible or whether there was a ramp, or she would just automatically hold my wheelchair if I was going down a hill like I never had to really worry. So that was really great.

Adelle [00:24:32] Just to get back about Morocco. Because that's a destination that fascinates me. I've never been and for a lot of people, especially women, it's a place that they think may be unsafe for them. You know, definitely as a queer woman, like there's concerns around safety for people. It's part of that community. How did you find Morocco? Did you ever feel threatened as a woman in a wheelchair?

Peta [00:25:03] So we used, as I said, Axis Morocco. So I felt really safe. So it was myself, my mom, my dad, a driver and a guide. So that was it. We went in a big group of people, so we weren't inconspicuous. I mean, we obviously look like tourists, but I think that really helped that we were with a local we live with. We were with a local company, so I knew the money was going back into the community. I didn't feel threatened, but it was actually interesting intensely. We were walking through and there was a beautiful door and my mom said, Oh, it looked like a business, but there was no sign at the front. My mom said, Oh, what's that like? It looks really beautiful. And the guy, like, sheepishly said, he's like, That's a private business for a particular group of people. And I'm like, Oh, so it was an LGBT friendly hotel. But because. Because I'm pretty sure it's illegal over there. No, it was very. Hotshots. So that was also something I was really cognisant of, to know that I was in a place that people that I love might not feel comfortable. Like. It's a really ethical question that I struggled with, but in the end I'm sitting here and I've done it. So whether that was the right decision or wrong decision, that was up to other people. And I have to say, there were quite a few gay couples, queer couples on the ship. So I think that was quite a safe way for them to travel. They had to is in groups that they might not necessarily I don't want to speak for them, but if I was in their position, I would feel much more comfortable sleeping on the ship than I would in a hotel.

Adelle [00:27:07] Yeah, that's actually a really good point about cruising I hadn't considered before. Yeah. Did you make any friends with all the passengers on the cruise ship? Because actually, when I was on a cruise on I guess it was an expedition a few years ago. The friend the person that I made best friends with was an 85 year old woman called Jane from Sydney because she had the youngest spirit, I think, of everyone on the ship. Was there anyone like that that you got to come across that you. Not necessarily that age, but that you built a connection with?

Peta [00:27:39] I have to say, all the staff were lovely. To the point where they started to nickname me Ferrari because I was fast and expensive.

Adelle [00:27:54] And your most memorable moment of the trip, if you could narrow it down.

Peta [00:27:59] This sounds very boujee and I apologise in advance to everyone. But we did go to a chateau and have lunch in Bordeaux, and we had such an issue with transport. We waited for almost 2 hours for a cab. I didn't think we were going to get there. So when we got there and we were in this little chateau and I was there with my best friend and my parents on a beautiful sunshine day.

Adelle [00:28:28] What was the two hour cap white about so.

Peta [00:28:31] Fun fact there are no accessible cabs in the area of France that we went to. So if you're in Paris, you're generally okay. As a rule from my experience. But anyway. Out of that. Not a thing. So I really struggle to find any transport. Like I tried for months, I couldn't find anything. The ship was very helpful, but we had to improvise. So to a point. We actually used an ambulance one day.

Adelle [00:29:06] Like in service, ambulance.

Peta [00:29:09] Like a patient. US. We used one day.

Adelle [00:29:12] Yeah. Is that sort of available to book and pay for all.

Peta [00:29:18] We obviously paid for it, but because we struggled so much, that was literally the only option to get to Mont St Michel.

Adelle [00:29:26] So do you call, like, the 000 to organise?

Peta [00:29:31] No, no, no. So the Cruiseline actually did that for us. We because I couldn't speak French and nobody could speak English that was able to help me. So I think they ended up ringing after all my research for months, months. They rang ten companies and they eventually got on to the. We didn't know until the the ambulance turned up and they're like, this is for, you know, like, oh. And I also should mention God help me when I edit this episode. But I also should mention that Spain doesn't really do public toilets like in general at all, culturally a thing. So if you need to go to the bathroom, you need to go to a restaurant. And there are quite a few restaurants that have accessible toilets. But a lot of the time I just hung on.

Adelle [00:30:24] So what surprised you during the trip?

Peta [00:30:27] I think overall that I could still do it and how much my body can sort of take as far as manual handling because I had to get lifted off the ship most days. We're at dock most days, but if the water level was too low, there wasn't a gangway, those stairs. So the crew would literally lift me in a special chair down the steps and there were 38 of them I counted. But I was surprised by how inaccessible Barcelona was, because if you know when you're in the industry or you have a disability, they've won so many accessible awards. So I was quite shocked by how inaccessible it was overall.

Adelle [00:31:18] And what would you recommend, I guess, for people in that industry or people listening to this episode thinking, I want to make a difference? Or even for me who works in the industry and I have quite a voice and would would want to make an an influence in this space. Like what? What needs to happen first? What needs to change?

Peta [00:31:37] I think quite simply, more people in the industry need to be employed who have a disability. Like, I can't overstate how much karma I would pay if I met somebody at an airport that had a disability that was checking me because I know they understand the importance of a wheelchair or a walking stick or whatever accessibility need you have. There needs to be more opportunity for disabled people to help the tourism industry become more accessible. You need to think of the whole product being accessible and actually physically walking through and going, okay, if I was visually impaired, how am I going to go about getting through the hotel? What sort of things would they need? What's going to happen if there's a fire? All those sorts of things. The nondisabled people who are in those organisations get overwhelmed. They're like, We don't know how to do it. You don't want to upset the customer. You want to make sure that you're thinking about their needs and then wants and their desires. And that's where I would say, you guys don't have to be the experts. There's so many people in the disability community that want to help and want to be employed for their knowledge and their expertise. That's simply the answer. I would never go about that. I would think that I would understand what it would be like to be part of the queer or the LGBT community as far as providing a product for that part of the market, because I'm not part of that community. I would go to that community last for their help.

Adelle [00:33:22] Yeah, that's a really good point. I am part of the community and I wouldn't know where to start, you know?

Peta [00:33:30] And I think that also goes to the disability community. We are so varied and I need to really varied. But the more voices and the more diverse voices that are offering expertise to the tourism industry, it's going to work towards getting a better product. I'd say for more people, not just disabled people.

Adelle [00:33:56] It makes perfect sense. And like you've spoken about before, it could be such a lucrative part of the industry as well. You know, you're part of the biggest minority in the world. There's money to be spent there. People want to get to destinations. They want to have amazing experiences as the human right should be and allow them to do. It's just it's so frustrating that there's clearly just not that, I guess investment there from the industry that, you know, it feels that it's worth. I guess, investing in to to grow that space.

Peta [00:34:36] I really do think by being actually visible and taking part in different cultures and seeing different places, it makes people realise that disabled people actually want to travel because I think we can be perceived as this unseen portion of the community that doesn't travel and don't go out and unemployed and aren't intelligent and don't want to see the world. And that's simply not true. So by me and other people travelling and seeing the world shows to everyone that we actually want to be a part of it. And it would be really nice if we could make it a bit easier for us to do that. It also impacts all our family and friends who also travel. So I know that my friendship with you has impacted how you look at the world. So it's just the industry's got to think that, yes, accessibility might service one portion of the community, but there's lots of other portions of the community that want to see it, because it would be nice if you and I could go away.

Adelle [00:35:44] I was just going to say, you know, I was just going to say that I'm sure that we would have travelled multiple times together.

Peta [00:35:52] I would just simply like people to ask how many disabled people are involved in your organisation that have helped you understand how accessible your product is, whether that's a consultant. For a week or like a six month basis. Asking where the disabled people are is a good start because we're one in five. So we should be visible. And if we're not, why not? I hope you forgive me for going a little bit over time this week, and I hope you enjoyed the episode. If you did, can I encourage you to leave a writing interview on whatever platform you're listening on? Follow the show or share the show with someone you think might enjoy our conversation. If you have any further questions that Adele and I didn't touch on in this conversation, you can always contact me through my Instagram. My handle is at Peter Hook or by my email. I can't stand podcast at Thanks again, everyone. Thank you, Adele. But until next week. Have a good one, guys. Bye. I'd like to pay my respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, but especially to the pioneering people where this podcast was recorded.


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