Although this blog usually deals with the nuts and bolts of accessible travel, I thought I’d veer off the track a bit today and talk about simple communication. It’s essentail, especailly if you are traveling with someone who is a slow walker.
Case and point is this story about my friend — I’ll just call her Jane – and her recent family trip to France. Jane — who had never visited Europe before — had a great time, except for one small incident.
Jane’s brother rented a villa near Avignon, so the whole family could vacation together. From the get-go, Jane was concerned about her elderly mom, who can’t walk far or do stairs because of some medical issues. But all seemed to be going well, until the whole group decided to visit Avignon.
They took two cars, and mom initially rode with Jane. At one point mom was tired and she decided to sit out a walking tour. Mom was OK with that, as she knows her limits. At the same time, Jane’s brother, (who drove the second car to Avignon) had to leave the group early to take someone to the rail station. It all gets a little fuzzy after that, depending on whose version of the story you hear; but basically Jane thought that mom went with her brother, and her brother thought that mom went with Jane.
Later that afternoon, when everyone (or so they thought) was back at the villa, Jane asked her brother where mom was. That’s when the proverbial excrement hit the oscillating rotary device. They realized that neither of them brought mom back. Yep, that’s right — they left mom in Avignon, which was about an hour away.
Horrified, Jane’s brother hopped in the car and sped off to Avignon.
Meanwhile Jane’s mom realized she had been left, and enlisted the help of a bilingual tourist, several shopkeepers and the local police.
But the story has a happy ending. Jane’s brother called the Avignon police and subsequently located mom and took her back to the villa. Mom was amused and thought it was all a great adventure, and thanks to some kindly shopkeepers her health wasn’t affected at all by the incident..
The moral of the story is, if you travel in a large group, close communication is essential in order to make sure nobody is left behind. This goes double if you are traveling with anyone with a disability or a medical condition. Both Jane and her brother had cell phones, and if either one of them had called the other to make sure that someone had mom, everyone would have been a much calmer afternoon.
But I can hardly fault Jane or her brother. After all I lost my mom in China once.
But that’s a story for another day.