Once in a while I talk to someone quite incredible, Jacqui is one of those people. In her early 60s, with very limited mobility, she is unstoppable. Her adventures while travelling rival any of mine. We talked about Bali, Belgium and Hong Kong, to list but a few places.
How to travel with a mobility scooter
Jacqui had polio as a child and has suffered its effects ever since, so today she is very dependent on her mobility scooter for getting around.
A few important facts about these scooters: they have gel batteries so are just fine for airlines to carry; you charge them up overnight using a plug, and they are swiftly put in a vehicle’s boot.
UK airport staff let passengers to drive their scooter to the aircraft steps and then load it. Sadly, at foreign airports less consideration is shown.
Jacqui encourages you stay with the scooter at all times, cover it in 'fragile' stickers and be certain that it's not thrown into cargo cages and smothered by heavy baggage. Her principle is to treat the scooter with utter respect always.
Tunbridge Wells, skiing and flying
And this leads us to an amusing tale. Recently Jacqui was visiting some hilly gardens in Tunbridge Wells, the gradient got rather too much for both her and her scooter, so she pushed it right up the slope (respect indeed), then rode back down again. Her recital of the event made me think of a wild bob sleigh ride, with neither herself nor the scooter in charge.
Her activities overseas are equally remarkable: she’s been water-skiing sitting on a large ski-board and paragliding in the Dominican Republic, taking off from the beach despite being terrified of heights.
She’s very glad she’s done both of these, but wouldn't want to do either again! Jacqui has also flown in a small aircraft - to much enjoyment - and a helicopter, which was not so good. Its floor was transparent, so the ground below was visible.
I asked Jacqui where her determination and bravery came from, as she throws herself into activities many able-bodied people would shy away from, and she was very direct: when she wants to do something, she will find a way, by hook or by steely crook.
Pavements, sand and ramps
Hong Kong was tricky. Jacqui was using sticks then, and holidayed for 3 weeks with her daughter. She found the boats, travelling to various islands and the subway tiring. She was undeterred, however, and would like to go back. The whirlwind activity and non-stop pace of life fascinated her.
I asked about Europe, and without drawing breath Jacqui told me that rural Belgium has the worst pavements in the world for her scooter: too high and very difficult.
Bulgaria also rates poorly for people with limited mobility: too many steps and very hilly. On the other hand, the Costa del Sol, where Jacqui first hired a scooter, is excellent - ramps are supplied in many places and everyone works hard to enable her independence.
It's absolutely vital to do some research in order to really be prepared and make sure your stay is successful, Jacqui says. On certain excursions (those involving sand mainly), she uses a wheel chair, because her scooter isn’t a great fan of beaches. Obviously, knowing a wheelchair is available when wanted is a great comfort.
A sales opportunity?
There are however places where mobility scooters are a completely new concept. Jacqui thinks she could have sold more than a dozen on her stay in Dubai. She was approached by many people in a large shopping mall, who were keen to know where they could find one. She told me how she seriously considered setting up a business exporting scooters to the Middle and Far East.
Much the same occurred in Bali, although people soon got used to seeing her around the resort. She said the hotel staff were amazing and did whatever they could to help her. Even the roads and pavements in Bali were a vast improvement to those in Belgium. No contest with regard to chocolate however.
We talked about future trips, and I asked where Jacqui and her scooter would explore next. Well, the answer is nowhere local. Jacqui's really keen to visit Tahiti and Fiji, because it’s a part of the world she’s not yet seen.
On a personal note, she'd like to visit New Zealand and see her father’s grave and perhaps find out about his life there.
Here at Silver Travel Advisor, we are keenly awaiting her photos and articles. I'm really pleased to have chatted with such a lively, determined, no-holds-barred traveller with scooter.
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