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Wheelies Around The World, Part Four

April 10, 2017

With spring break underway and summer on the horizon, travel lovers are planning their next big adventure. Craig Grad, Alysia Kezerian shares her experience traveling around Europe after her spinal cord injury. Follow along over the next month as she shares her story in a four-part travel blog series "Wheelies Around the World." In this entry, Alysia shares how she got out of her comfort zone and strengthened her independence during her first solo trip to Como, Italy. Read her story for tips on how to overcome obstacles and be resourceful while traveling.

During the entirety of my eight weeks abroad, I always had at least a few people traveling around with me. However, while staying in Lugano, knowing that Italy was only a short train ride away, I had this itch to get out and check another country off my list – even if it meant going by myself.

The weather was terrible that morning so Bri and I put exploring Lugano on hold. Bri had already been to Italy so she decided to opt out of being soaking wet while I packed some things for the day and headed to the train station. My Italian isn’t all that great, especially since my Italian is just speaking Spanish with an Italian accent, but I made it work. I purchased my ticket to the nearest city in Italy, and boarded the train to Como, Italy.

The Swiss, Germans, and Austrians have accessibility down pat, but the Italians? I had no idea. So, I was heading into the unknown yet again, and this time, alone. Needless to say, when I left a text to my mom saying, “I’m headed to Italy alone right now, wish you were with me!” she wasn’t too pleased. But I wasn’t worried. I had spent the last five weeks traveling around almost seamlessly and even when there were obstacles, I always figured out a way to adapt. Keep in mind that if issues arise while traveling, it’s not the end of the world. Be resourceful and ask for help – the world is much kinder than we all accredit it to be. I, personally, have no problem spontaneously hopping on a train into the unknown and dealing with my problems as they come, but if you aren’t like that, research the place you are heading to as much as possible beforehand, and you’ll feel a lot better. What I’m trying to say is, no matter what kind of traveler you are, it’s all possible. Don’t let your fears stop you from making it happen.

Fast forward a little bit, and I'm on a (very accessible) train to Lake Como, chatting with a very kind family from Milan who had just spent their holiday in Como. They gave me lots of great advice on what to do during the day and made me feel a lot better about traveling through an old, small city in Italy. Traveling in bigger cities is always easier because they tend to be more equipped for accessibility. Smaller cities don’t always go as smoothly as we are used to in the United States, but this family assured me there would still be plenty of activities I could access.

Once I arrived, I hailed a taxi to head to the city center. The rain cleared immediately after I got out of the taxi and the sun shined for the rest of the day, so I spent my time exploring the Cathedral, shops, small museums, and chatted with some of the locals. Everyone was incredibly kind and so willing to help when I needed it. One shop owner was very impressed with my ability to wheelie up the step into her shop. We started chatting and she told me how she had never seen anyone in a wheelchair come into her shop before and asked about my accident. Before leaving, she said she was going to work on making her shop more accessible and even called her husband telling him he needed to get to work on building a ramp for her store entrance!

After going into a few more shops, two cappuccinos, and one bowl of pasta later, I had lost all hope that I was going to run into George Clooney so I was ready to head back to Lugano.

Ok, so maybe it was only a day trip, but it was still a day trip by myself, and one that I will never forget. Traveling alone is something everyone should try at least once. You learn a lot about yourself, your independence, what you’re capable of, and how to be more resourceful. If it’s out of your comfort zone, start small like I did – take a day trip and see how you like it! That day in Como instilled a confidence in me that I did not have before. It gave me hope that there would be more days like this one in my future.

--Alysia Kezerian

Keep up with all Alysia's adventures on Instagram!