ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (Part 3)

Continuing on with our Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventures …

Day 5 – Belize Mayan Ruins

5 AM on Thursday … As the alarm clock started ringing Aaron and I groggily looked over on each other debating whether we should go explore some Mayan ruins in Belize or take the day to sleep. Cruises can be exhausting if you are always on the hop with different shore excursions. However, you must keep in mind that this was my first real vacation in 8 years without any of my family or caregivers. So, while we might’ve squeezed a few too many adventures into our 7 days, Aaron popped out of bed and made quick work of getting me ready to go explore thousands of years of history!

We arrived in Belize City early that morning, but were anchored offshore. We were anchored at what is called a tendered port. Essentially, you have to take small little dinghies seating anywhere between 50 to 80 people from the cruise ship over to the port of Belize. These little tendered ports are not for the faint of heart, especially in a wheelchair, because with the rocking ocean and trying to lift my manual chair onto this little boat presented its own unique set of challenges. Fortunately, the weather was quite calm so we were able to physically leave the ship, but there are days when they will not allow a wheelchair to maneuver onto the small vessels.

Ligia, our concierge attendant on Royal Caribbean, escorted us to the tendered boat as we skipped all the lines 🙂 I was decked out in sneakers, sports cloths, my manual chair, and ready to get bounced around! It took us about 30 minutes of rocking around on this boat, but we made it to the dock. I’d been to Belize nearly 10 years ago and from what I had recalled, which turned out to be exactly correct, Belize City is no joke from a dangerous perspective. It is not a city you want to go roaming around in alone as a tourist … and certainly not with an expensive wheelchair! It has a very high crime rate, poor infrastructure due to a hurricane hitting the city years prior, and not a very friendly crowd. When we arrived at the docks there was a small little area for tourists and tour guides to meet up with one another, make haste of getting into a van, and getting the heck out of the city!

Since I hired a private accessible tour company who partners with local tour companies who claim to be handicap accessible, and who would be able to show us the Belize Zoo in addition to some Mayan Ruins – I was pretty excited! We did have quite a bit of bother trying to find our tour guide due to many miscommunications, but we did eventually find him.  We were running behind schedule though. I wasn’t quite sure how far away our excursions were, but we literally had to be back to the boat in five hours.

Our tour guide, Ricky from Roam Belize Tour Company, greeted us with a smile and proceeded to show us the way to our “accessible” handicap van. Well, there was a van, and there was a ramp that you had to take out of the van to attach to the rear of the vehicle to push me up. I would say it was accessible, but not particularly accessible friendly if you know what I mean 🙂 Once I was loaded into the back of the van I was looking for straps to lock in my wheelchair. Ricky informed us that there were no straps as they were a tour company that was just getting up and running with providing accessible tours to folks in wheelchairs. The way the van seats were laid out, unless I was a paraplegic and could transfer my own, was not going to work to transfer me onto an actual van seat because Aaron could not lift me up with a height of the van.

I did call the company to confirm and I filled out many forms saying that I was paralyzed from the chest down, and that needed to stay in my wheelchair, but being a foreign country things get lost in translation sometimes. No big deal we thought!

We decided to just keep me in my chair and sit next to Aaron. What I did not realize was that the roads in Belize were half paved at best. The moment we started driving down the road my chair fell backward and I thought I was going over. Fortunately, Aaron caught me and we figured for the rest of the way to the ruins he was going to have to weave his legs inside my wheelchair and hold on to me for dear life. We bounced around like two yo-yos for the better part of an hour and learned that it would take an hour to get to the ruins, then another hour to get to the Belize zoo, and then yet. another hour to get back to the port of Belize. Thinking critically about our time constraints we decided to give up the Belize Zoo and see the Mayan ruins in a relaxed manner, and stop somewhere locally for lunch.

One challenge with cruise ship excursions is that you can’t venture off too far in order to make it back to the ship on time. In Belize, the best ruins are at least 3 to 4 hours into the jungle, which was not particularly feasible in our case. So, we were only able to go see the smaller of the Mayan ruins, but thousands of years of history was awaiting us none-the-less. When we arrived we could see multiple buses from the cruise ships pulling in to the ruins as well.  We decided to hurry so we would beat the crowds as we had a private tour with our own tour guide. Aaron had never been to any kind of ancient Mayan Ruin before as I had on my previous trip to Belize 10 years ago. I knew what was in store for us, but the look on his face of pure joy and excitement when he saw these magnificent structures was absolutely priceless – perhaps the most memorable moment on the entire trip!

As we roamed around the ruins and took some pictures I could see Aaron anxiously waiting to climb the ruins as Ricky was giving us some history lessons on the Ancient Mayans who thrived roughly around 200 A.D. or so.  Many of these ruins had been hidden away by nature with mounds of sand, dirt, and time covering them. .In the late 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s many archaeologists started to excavate this part of the country to unearth the incredible civilization of the Mayans. One notable advance the Mayans made, and they were many, was a contribution to astronomy. High up in the tall ruins many of the higher society scientists would gaze at the stars for years on end and estimated the days of the year down to the fourth decimal place! It is completely mind blowing to think about. I could write an entire blog on the numerous facts we learned about the Mayan culture, but I will leave it to your curiosity to poke around Google!

There was only one specific location you were technically allowed to climb up, but Aaron threw out the rulebook and started climbing like a monkey. When Ricky turned his head Aaron was practically halfway up the side of the Mayan Ruin. He told me that was illegal, but I told him to relax a little bit and look the other way … I do not think Aaron was harming anything with these large stone structures. While the other tourists were huffing and puffing up the side of the ruin, Aaron was running circles around them 🙂

When we were done with our adventure we still had several hours before we had to be back to the ship. We asked Ricky to take us to his favorite local spot to eat and then pull off on the side of the road somewhere so we could have a little bit of a picnic. He told us he knew this beautiful waterway that we could pull off to and we were pretty keen to check this out.

Unbeknownst to us, what Ricky meant by beautiful waterway was a tiny dirt patch of land next to some water off the highway. While slightly disappointing, it was all about the company and we were fascinated to get to investigate Ricky’s life story a little bit more. Ricky did tell us that this was the “Make out Spot” for young kids in Belize in order to evade detection from their parents 🙂 Anyway, we had a lovely time eating local chicken, beans and rice, and plantains. I always find it more interesting to get to know a little bit more about the local culture of places I travel to.

On our way back to Belize City Ricky offered to drop us off into the city to walk around, but Aaron and I looked at each other cautiously, and kindly turned down his offer to likely get mugged in the middle of the city and miss our ship departure!

While the day presented us with some challenges we got to experience some lovely people, learn about ancient culture, and get off the ship for a few hours. As you might expect we were completely knackered by the end of the day, but we mustered up some strength to get changed, and find some food on the ship. We generally kept going to the cafeteria area, called the Windjammer, that was open most of the day where they served an over the top buffet daily. It was relaxed, not rushed, and we had the chance to speak with some of our fellow cruise mates until about 8 PM when we retired for our next day’s adventure.

Day 6 – Costa Maya, Mexico

Friday was our last excursion day before having one more day on the ship and then ending our cruise. We decided not to plan any excursions as we were not quite sure how we would feel by the end of the week. We were quite pleased with this decision as we were teetering on sheer exhaustion by this point. We were told by Ligia that Costa Maya was not actually a specific destination in Mexico. I was curious because I had looked up this location online and couldn’t find anything on this area in Mexico. As it turns out, and I had been aware of this, many cruise ship lines get together and purchase a piece of land or an island, especially in the Caribbean + Bahamas, and construct what I can only describe as a giant tourist island theme park of sorts.

I grew up in Cat Island, Bahamas, which is a very out island in the Bahamas with many dirt roads. A tiny island to the right of us about a 30 minute boat ride away was always a favorite camping spot of mine when I grew up. About 10 years ago I took one of my friends by boat to go check out this little island and I was completely flabbergasted to find cruise ships on this teeny tiny little island with all kinds of outdoor activities. I had learned the cruise ship lines had purchased this island, and, unfortunately, completely destroyed it.

So, once I heard the story from Ligia that the cruise ships had made this little tourist theme park I was well aware of what we were in for. I told Aaron about them and told him to be prepared to have a completely corny tourist day, which made for some pretty fabulous photo ops. I’m pretty sure many of the passengers had no idea what was going on, but we were able to pull right up to the port, right into this “fantasy like” island tourist theme park, and play a game of how many tourist activities we could participate in in just a few hours! Honestly, it provided Mucho entertainment 🙂

“Giant pool bar, piña colada’s, ceviche, and strike a pose!”

$20 ceviche… Coming right up :-)”

“Bargaining like a Tourist”

 

There were Mexicans flying through the air, swimming with dolphins, a fake snorkeling pool, restaurants galore, real and fake (Chinese made) Mexican trinkets to bargain for on every corner, a giant pool bar, and a treehouse bird sanctuary to name a few. I’ve included some pictures below which should require no explanation. Suffice to say… We were two giant children in a playground sipping piña colada’s and going from venue to venue!

“Behind us is a tree house type bird sanctuary and a dolphin swimming pool”

“Look… We found a shark!”

“Of course I had to take a picture with the giant fake fish”

“Flamingos… Naturally”

We were set to depart mid-afternoon back to Tampa Florida. We had the entire day on Saturday to roam the ship on our cruise day back.

Day 6 – Cruise Day

Honestly, I don’t think I took any pictures that day, we slept in a little bit, roamed around the ship some more, took a nap, took a shower, and packed up the room for an early departure at 8:30 AM the next morning. Most folks were packed in by the pool and soaking up in their last day. I actually found it quite chilly on the ships, so I was unable to really bask in the sun with the wind. We had to pack all of our luggage and put it outside the door the night before, and Ligia would meet us the very next morning to personally escort us off the ship!

We did manage to sneak in a beautiful specialty dinner at their Steak restaurant where Aaron ordered Rack of lamb with mint jelly, and I ordered a mediocre salmon. I have to admit Aaron’s rack of lamb was pretty much close to perfection!

Again, an early night for us as our adventures were about to come to an end!

Day 7 – Goodbye

We were up bright and early and, as promised, Ligia escorted us off the ship, through customs, through the thousands of people trying to scurry to find their luggage, and directly to our van parked a few blocks away. If that is not one-on-one service I don’t know what is!

If you don’t have some sort of VIP service or you are not in a wheelchair, you may want to think very carefully if you are claustrophobic about taking a cruise 🙂 The waves of people pushing one another, cutting lines, trying to be polite, but impatient at the same time, as they tried to debark the ship to perhaps make a flight was not the best representation of humanity I’ve ever seen!

Now, I’ve got one more blog to go to sum up my overall experience with taking a cruise in a wheelchair, so stay tuned for my Lessons Learned Next Week 🙂

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (Part 2)

Continuing on with our Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventures …

We spent the first night, Sunday night, on the ship a little later than we planned dancing the night away. On Monday morning we docked in Key West, Florida for our first day’s adventure.

DAY 2 – Key West, Florida

We docked right in the center of the city of the island of Key West. For those of you not familiar with Key West, it is the coolest little funky island, and is the farthest South Island on the chain of the Florida Keys. It takes about 3 ½ hours to drive there on one road from Miami, Florida. It is filled with eclectic bars, unique restaurants with their own personalities, 1 million little shops with fabulous trinkets, and a group of folks who are so unbelievably laid-back. Most of the locals on Key West are the kind of people you just want to hang out with with the beer by the water, and hear their life adventures.

“The Port of Key West”

I’ve been to Key West many times before as I previously lived in Miami for about 10 years. On one of my adventures down to Key West with one of my great friends from college we ventured down to the island for something called Fantasy Fest. Fantasy Fest is kind of like a Mardi Gras down in the keys. Thousands of folks drive down, dress up in the most wonderfully outrageous costumes, walk the streets, and party the night away. When I was 21 we headed down to Key West, but we forgot to book a hotel. So, we took my sisters truck and decided we would find a parking lot, and sleep in the back cab.

I was unbelievably surprised at the copious amounts of folks strolling around in giant penis costumes, body paint, and a ridiculous amount of other fun filled costumes. Of course we got ourselves into all kinds of devious trouble, met cute boys, partied the night away, and by 3 AM in the morning we ventured back to a church parking lot where we paid $70 to park our car for the night. When we woke up in the morning we were sleeping in the back of the pickup truck with our little feet hanging out the back side. We woke up to some strange folks tickling our feet… I’m not kidding. It was disturbing and hilarious all at the same time.

Anyway, I had the opportunity to take my power chair off the ship as Key West is relatively accessible. There is this one fabulous restaurant I’d remembered from years prior called Blue Heaven that was wildly eclectic with the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten, and a laid-back atmosphere that made you want to just sit in a hammock with the Corona, and drink the day away. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to dive into Key West, so I had to make a strict itinerary so we could see a few things before we headed back to the ship. We met one of Aaron’s long-term family friends who had retired in Key West for lunch at Blue Heaven. We laughed, drank, ate delicious food, and then strolled around the little eclectic streets of Key West for hours. Key West doesn’t have many hotels, but rather these old colonial Bed & Breakfasts, which are just precious historical gems I would recommend if you head down that way. Now, they are not particularly handicap accessible, but if you’ve a strong man who can carry you up the stairs … Go for it!

“This sign display had been up for the last 15 years… I had been dying to take a picture and pay someone to watch them shower for a while ;-)”

 

We ended the afternoon at a Tiki hut bar, my absolute favorite, right on the ocean with some reggae music watching the boats sail by, and enjoying the 80° weather while sipping on some lovely alcoholic beverages.

As the day ended we boarded our ship and we were met by our fabulous concierge, Ligia. Continue reading

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (PART 1)

Sorry for the hiatus in my blog writing over the last several weeks, but, as many of you know, I was off on an international adventure with my boyfriend on a Royal Caribbean seven-day cruise to the Western Caribbean. My boyfriend and I have been together for about two years now and we wanted to do something exciting with just the two of us to see how we would be able to handle 10 days alone with no help.

I did a copious amount of research on accessible vacations and I decided on taking a cruise as I read so much about how cruise ships are accessible. We decided on a seven-day cruise leaving out of the Port of Tampa, Florida going to Key West, then to Cozumel, Mexico, then to Belize, and then to Costa Maya, Mexico. I have so many stories so I will split this adventure up into several blogs, so you don’t have to read a novel all at once!

Needless-to-say I was pretty nervous at the prospect of going alone with one person on a vacation who would be responsible for all of my care. I wanted to plan a trip where I could stay in one location and take mini adventures from day-to-day. I’m going to save my conclusions of my overall experience after I dive into all of the exciting, challenging, and fun excursions we embarked on for the last blog.

I prepared for this trip for weeks. I created a document with an extensive packing list for everything I might need in case I got stuck in a foreign country for whatever reason. Considering I’m mildly neurotic about making sure I don’t forget anything, I think I packed the kitchen sink, and then some. As the old saying goes “I rather have it and not need it, then need it and not have it!” Most of my suitcases were dedicated to medical supplies and just a few items to clothing. I also decided to bring a big egg crate because I have the most sensitive skin in the world, and I was unsure of the mattress surfaces on the ship beds.  I also brought along my manual chair for excursions in foreign countries as I was fairly confident a power wheelchair would not get me far in countries where ADA compliance is not quite as strict.

Our cruise was set to depart on Sunday, April 15 from Tampa, Florida. We decided to leave on that Friday and drive 9 ½ hours from Raleigh to Tampa in order to have a day exploring downtown Tampa, and meeting up with a longtime friend whom I had not seen in about four years. I’m sure I could’ve flown down to Tampa had it not been for not with the ridiculous amount of gear we were carrying with us. The drive went pretty smoothly and we checked into a hotel in downtown Tampa. Before meeting up with a friend for the afternoon to go play, drink, and frolic about we first needed to give me a shower, and wash my hair before heading onto the ship. This was quite an endeavor because at home I usually do a type of bed bath and then stick my head in the sink to wash my hair. This was clearly not an option, and while we did get a roll in shower I did not bring a shower chair with me because I just couldn’t fit anymore gear into the car.

In the typical roll-in showers in hotels they usually have a small pulldown shower seat, which is quite dangerous, but it is all we had to work with at the time. Aaron put many towels on the shower seat for padding, picked me up like a princess, and strategically sat me down on the shower bench while I held on for dear life. He got in the shower with me while I wrapped my arms around his body as he washed my hair and body. It was dangerously comical, but we made it work. I definitely don’t suggest this method unless you have a very strong man who can lift you up and make sure you don’t fall flat on the floor 🙂 We were testing out this shower method as the ship had a similar set up for a roll-in shower, and I needed to make sure we were capable of getting me semi-clean every few days on the ship.

When we headed to downtown Tampa to meet up with one of my great friends Jill. We absolutely fell in love with the town. We went to a famous area called Ybor city that has a Cuban influence where we watched cigars being rolled, smoked cigars, bounced around from one cool Cuban spot to another, and reminisced the night away with Jill. We decided that Tampa was worth a trip in and of itself one day as there are so many little gems the city has to offer in addition to the entire West Coast of Florida. I spent over 12 years in Miami, but somehow never managed to get out West.

On Sunday morning we packed up our gear at 5 AM in the morning in order to arrive down to the port of Tampa to board our Royal Caribbean ship, Rhapsody of Seas. Continue reading

Let’s Talk about Sex Baby

I mean really, who doesn’t love sex? I suppose it is one of those taboo topics that you don’t talk about at the dinner table like politics or money, but it is such a natural act – I’m not quite sure why we are so weary to talk about the subject publicly.

Before my accident I thoroughly enjoyed sex, exploring my sexuality, and engaging in as much sex as I could 🙂 Admittedly, I probably had sex too young, but as the saying goes “curiosity killed the cat,” “curiosity killed my virginity.” I was a young teenager and I simply had to know what all the fuss was about. I even let a guy convince me that I could not go to high school a virgin because I would be the odd man out. How gullible we are as young teenagers!

For several years I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about as I don’t think I was doing it quite right … Not that many teenagers, in my opinion, know how to enjoy sex anyway. I finally met a guy when I was living in the Bahamas one summer who was several years older than I was and he really taught me about the enjoyment of sex. I mean we literally had sex classes on a daily basis with respect to experimenting with what felt good to me, what felt good to him, trying different positions, oral sex, etc. It was also new and exciting to me, and by the time our lessons had completed at the end of the summer I felt like I had earned a degree in sexual pleasure … Probably not something most parents want to learn about their children as teenagers 😉

“Partying in my young 20’s with my sister”

Over the next 10 years before my accident I had multiple partners and I was not ashamed of it either. Naturally, I think I was called several “not so nice names” by women around me, but I simply didn’t care. I was a completely free spirit and enjoyed sex just as much as I did hiking in the wilderness. I wanted to keep a diary for the future of all of my “Sexcapades” because in my mind I thought one day I would always write a book about sex. At that time Chelsea Lately was one of my role models and she had a brilliant book called “One Night Stands.” While I did have some more thoughtful and influential mentors, she was definitely my sex mentor. I decided to keep a little black book with all of the men I had slept with over the years. Honestly, sometimes I couldn’t remember their names, but I remembered where I met them, what they were wearing, what they looked like, what we did, etc. I will spare you the hot and juicy details, but after my accident I completely forgot about this book.

When I broke my neck the concept of sex completely flew out the window for me. I considered myself “A sexual” at that time and figured sex was behind me, which did not make me very sad because I certainly had my fair share of fun for 27 years before my accident in 2010. However, years later amongst all of my things I found multiple pieces of paper stapled together with all of my sexual exploits in a box. I must admit I was laughing my ass off because I had forgotten about many of these gentlemen. I decided to take the time and type several pages of stapled paper into a digital black book of sorts. I still have it to this day and I think that is what probably prompted me to finally start dating five years after my accident. A funny inspiration, but my personal story none-the-less.

Post-Accident Sex Continue reading

The Ancient Philosophers were on to Something – Overcoming Negative Emotions

There are periods in anyone’s life, but especially in a quadriplegics life, that can be filled with darkness, despair, and hopelessness. It is in these desperate times that one has to dig deep to find some sort of meaning or purpose to keep going. Throughout my spinal cord career over the last 7 ½ years I’ve gone through several periods where I just couldn’t find a reason to keep going.

I happen to be going through one of these periods right now and I thought it timely to talk about what I’m going through, how I am working towards finding direction again, and strategies I am employing in my personal life to find small joys in every day.

Read the rest on Push Living Magazine at:  https://pushliving.com/the-ancient-philosophers-were-on-to-something-overcoming-negative-emotions/

 

New Zealand Wilderness Survival Trip (Part 2)

The Viking Adventure

As I wrote about in my previous blog our instructors did not let us know what adventure we would be partaking in until several hours before we headed out on an adventure. One of our first endeavors was taking a several day trip in these large wooden old-fashioned sailboats called Cutters.

Think of those old primitive wooden boats with giant oars that the Vikings used to row with. Well, somehow Outward Bound had constructed some of these boats with a very primitive sail. We packed up a minimal amount of gear and food into some dry bags, and were told to swim with our gear fully loaded to get out to the boat. I didn’t think this was a particularly brilliant idea because we were going to be soaking wet and freezing to start our adventure. I suppose this not only tested our physical endurance, but mental as well. We hoisted our shivering bodies into this old boat and listened to our instructors as they taught us how to navigate the waters in front of us. Fortunately I knew how to sail, so I was eager help my teammates learn how to how to a sail, understand wind direction, and navigate the oceans.

What we did not count on was no wind at all. We were not moving anywhere – we were simply drifting out to sea.  Continue reading

New Zealand Wilderness Survival Trip (Part 1)

After receiving a slew of emails regarding my last blog on my wilderness survival trip in Australia I was asked to write another blog on one of my many wild wilderness adventures. So, today I will diving into my Outward Bound wilderness survival trip in New Zealand in 2000. My recollection of this trip came back to me when one of my old teachers from high school sent me a 5 page email I sent him and the family after my voyage giving a detailed account of all of my adventures. It was wild to read something I had written 18 years ago. Quite frankly I was appalled at my grammar, lack of spelling, misuse of commas, and poor grasp of the English language. 🙂

Regardless, after reading the email it took me back to this trip like I was there yesterday. There was only one surviving photograph from my trip 18 years ago (see below) … The rest of the photos I found pretty similar photos from other folks who participated in this New Zealand Outward Bound Trip over the years.

“The 17-year-old “Ali” with a look of utter joy upon completion of the trip”

Growing up in Europe and then transferring to school in the United States I ended up graduating early from high school. I decided to take some time off before heading to Occidental College in Pasadena, Los Angeles. I decided to embark on a life-changing experience to Beijing, China. However, when I graduated I had several months to spare before heading over to Asia and I couldn’t quite figure out what to do with my summer. I had been on previous adventure trips in my early teens, but none of them really offered me a test of my endurance and will.

I rigorously started researching different outdoor survival programs and came across Outward Bound. Outward Bound was originally founded to help troubled teenagers using trips into the wilderness to teach them responsibility, leadership, accountability, etc. Initially I had hesitations as I did not consider myself conventionally troubled, but I really liked the idea of a challenge. I went on their website, but you must remember in 2000 websites were still quite primitive, so I did not have that much information to go on, but I signed up for a trip as far away as I could possibly go. New Zealand was the winner!

When I graduated high school I went back home to the Bahamas for several weeks to start training because I read that there was a physical fitness test one had to pass upon arriving in New Zealand. Every morning the Bahamas I would wake up at the crack of dawn, run several miles in 90° heat, stripped down to my bathing suit into the crystal-clear Bahamian waters and swim for hours, do an ungodly amount of sit ups, push-ups, and whatever else I could think of. I was 17 years old and the time had come to fly 27 hours to the other side of the world. I wasn’t quite sure what gear I had to pack, so I packed light, and I was told what I needed would be provided for me when I reached my destination. Continue reading

AUSTRALIAN WILDERNESS SURVIVAL ADVENTURE

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I’m often asked what keeps me going during those dark times, seemingly insurmountable challenges I constantly face with spinal cord injury, and how I remain determined to try and live a life that does not consume me with anger for everything I have been through. I must admit there are times when I do feel like giving up, but there’s something inside me that keeps telling me to push forward just a little bit more each day. I’m sure everyone who has dealt with tragedy in their life have their own coping techniques, but I attribute much of what I’ve accomplished to who I was before the accident.

You must remember I had 27 years of my life before I broke my neck and only 7 ½ years of being paralyzed. My parents raised me to always be curious, challenge the unknown, explore life beyond your comfort zone, and above all be kind to others. I was an extremely mischievous teenager, to say the least, but somehow I always managed to get myself out of uniquely perplexing situations before things went south. I like to think that I was “Responsibly Irresponsible.” I would plan out an adventure, write down all of the things that could possibly go wrong, how I would fix them, and then hope for the best.

To understand a little bit more about my nature I’d like to tell you a tale of one of my many adventures that would always bring me back to a path of serenity and focus when things were not going my way in life. I’ve always traveled around the world, much of it on my own, and I would find myself getting bogged down in life’s drama, people, the stresses of self-expectations I would constantly put on myself with respect to what I was hoping to accomplish by what age, etc. With this in mind, I started embarking on wilderness survival adventures around the world as a young teenager. As the years progressed I would find different wilderness adventure companies that challenged me physically, mentally, and really tested my strength of will in the wilderness for months on end.

At 23 years old I had just graduated from the University of Miami, could not find a job because, frankly, I was much too cocky for my own good, I started to get into drugs, and I just could not see a way out of life. Eventually, I made a decision to sign up for a very intense several month wilderness survival course in Western Australia, specifically the Kimberly Mountains.

On this trip I would be accompanied by 10 to 12 fellow hikers and one instructor. On these trips you learn to navigate the rough terrains of the Australian outback in degrees sweltering over 100° per day, carrying a 60-80lb pack on your back, hiking from water source to water source, sometimes killing your own food, navigating topographical maps with only a compass and no GPS, building leadership skills, and running into whatever dangers might be headed your way that day. I had already been on several wilderness adventures, but this was going to be by far the most challenging for me mentally and physically.

I purchased all of my necessary gear, did my research, and flew over 25 hours to reach my destination in Boone, Australia, which was located on the West Coast of the continent. I didn’t know what I was in for at that time, but I was eager to get my head on straight so I could find some clarity in life at 23 years old. I might’ve been having a midlife crisis of 23… Who knows 🙂 I arrived at a hostile the night before I was set to meet my team, and wrote in my journal about how I was feeling at that moment. I was feeling like a failure, low, curious as to how I was going to get my life going, I just broken up with a very serious boyfriend, and I had no idea where life was about to lead me.

 

Our Group on Day 1 before the Adventures Begin

I woke up bright and early at the crack of dawn the next morning, and met my team at the designated location at 6 AM in the morning. We went through a several hour orientation, were ordered to get rid of most of the things we had prepared to bring, and instructed to only pack what we were comfortable to carry for over eight hours a day. The packs normally ranged between 60 to 80lbs. There were, of course, a few items I stuck in my pack because I simply could not do without them. I was wearing contact lenses at the time, so I clearly needed to bring my contact solution, a little mirror, and antibacterial solution for my fingers. I refused to wear glasses … I don’t know why. I also snuck in a couple extra pairs of clean socks and underwear, and biodegradable baby wipes. We were supposed to dig holes in the wilderness when we had to use the bathroom and wipe our bums with leaves. I had done this on one of my prior wilderness survival trips, and let me tell you the amount of poison ivy I got in places where the sun does not shine was no joke! So, I stuck these little babies in when no one was looking 🙂 Continue reading

Moving Mountains Paralyzed: An Insurance Battle to Remember!

When I think of Moving Mountains Paralyzed Insurance Companies the analogy of a Goat herder comes to mind. The Goatherder will watch out for its flock as long as it produces enough fur for the season for the goat herder to line his financial pockets. The moment the goat gets out of line or stops growing fur, the herder will slaughter the goat, and eat it for dinner.

Similarly to insurance companies … As long as you pay your premium and don’t step out of line an insurance company will offer you basic protection. However, if you start creating a commotion, appealing everything, and asking for more — insurance companies will find some way to slap you with financial bills that seem unimaginable.
Since my accident 7 ½ years ago I’ve been a goat that has been slaughtered by insurance companies and I have also been a goat that has managed to break free. Navigating the waters of insurance companies to get what you need, especially when you are paralyzed, requires voracious tenacity, extreme dedication, a lot of hard work, patience, and knowledge of how to work within grey areas.

Read the rest on Push living magazine at:

https://pushliving.com/moving-mountains-paralyzed-quirky-quad-guide-winning-w-insurance/

SEX & MEDITATION

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I will preface this blog by saying for family and friends who do not want to know too much about my intimate sexual life you may want to skip the second half of this blog 😉

However, considering my blog is about Sex, sass and Spinal Cord Injury Adventures … I would be remiss not stay true to topic!

A majority of folks who sustain a spinal cord injury suffer from extreme chronic pain in many forms after their accident. Before I broke my neck I would look at somebody in a wheelchair and wonder what they felt? … I thought they couldn’t feel their legs or their stomach, etc. Boy was I wrong on so many accounts!

Many of us suffer from something called Neuropathic Pain. Essentially, it is nerve pain that manifests itself in different ways throughout the body 24/7. It’s almost like a cruel joke to be paralyzed and feel pain from the inside out. Regardless, this pain can result in feelings of pins and needles, burning fire, glass cutting you from the inside out, etc. It is different for every person.

Regardless, this chronic pain never goes away and can affect our daily lives with respect to productivity, quality of life, focus, and so much more. I find being paralyzed quite easy at this point in my SCI career, but you never quite get used to the chronic pain.

Personally, I suffer from 4 serious chronic pains at the same time, which can completely throw me off my game on certain days.

  1. Neuropathic Pain from the chest down and in my arms – feels like burning pins and needles day and night
  2. Hypersensitivity on my hands and forearms – feels like little shards of glass cutting me at all times
  3. Neck Pain – from multiple surgeries I have scar tissue damage that prevents me from sitting up in my chair too long, and feels like someone is slowly cutting me with a butter knife on the back of my neck
  4. Shoulder Pain – I suppose due to overuse it is a combination of nerve damage, musculoskeletal damage, myofascial pain, and soft tissue damage

Since my accident 7 ½ years ago I have always been on the mission to reduce my pain as opposed to finding a cure with respect to stem cell therapy for walking. I have tried so many techniques, of which two I find to be the most successful. However, the pain is always with me no matter what I do – although pain is just a signal from the brain, so I am convinced that if I keep trying I will be able to reduce it greatly on a permanent level one day!

I have tried:

  1. Opioids – definitely not recommended as opioids just make you drown out life and they don’t actually work on the right receptors in the brain for nerve pain
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Electrical Stimulation Acupuncture
  4. Neural Muscular Massage
  5. Meditation/Hypnosis
  6. Physical Therapy
  7. Lithium Protocol – this one nearly killed me as it can be very dangerous
  8. Sex
  9. Distraction
  10. Cold Laser Therapy

I’m sure there are few more I am forgetting, but I’m constantly trying to find new ways to reduce pain. The two most successful methods I’ve found in my life are Meditation/Hypnosis and Sex. I will dive into these two a little bit further.

 

MEDITATION / HYPNOSIS

Considering pain is just a signal from the brain hypnosis and meditation can be very effective, but only if you practice regularly, and are disciplined in your efforts.

I worked with a hypnosis instructor who helped me for over a year creating guided visualizations for me to listen to at 30 minute increments. Meditation is more challenging for me because when I sit quietly all of the feelings of pain are in the forefront of my mind. With hypnosis I find with gentle music in the background and guided instructions I use my mind to enter a world I created to reduce pain. It is kind of like a special room where enter through a red door and inside that room is a beautiful lake and ocean with clouds, beaches, and floaty toys.  I’ve taught myself to look down at my body and leave my pain floating above. I know it sounds peculiar, but with years of practice it really helps reduce the pain on the days where the pain just seems unbearable.

Admittedly, I should practice every day, which I don’t do religiously anymore, but it is one of my 2018 resolutions to continue to rigorously get back into it.

I go into a dark closet, tilt my chair back, and listen to the recording. The burning feeling of pins and needles changes to a cool and relaxing feeling. It is hard to describe unless you practice this on your own, and it may be hard to believe that this actually works.

In the beginning I could barely sit still for five minutes, but that’s how you have to start. Try meditation or hypnosis for one minute, then work up to two, then three, etc. There are so many recordings online that you can download for free, and you have to find a voice that is soothing to you, which can relax you.

 

SEXUAL INTERCOURSE

The second most effective technique for reducing my pain, if you can believe it, is
SEX.  Sex is a natural pain reliever — Sex causes increased production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone.” Before orgasm, oxytocin, released from the brain, surges and is accompanied by the release of endorphins, our natural pain-killing hormones.

When you are paralyzed from the chest down the feeling of sex is quite different than what used to be … It is not “Normal” in the sense of the way things feel. While I cannot orgasm in the traditional sense I still have my own type of feeling from sexual intercourse. Continue reading