Spotlight on Disability Culture: Armchair Travel

Being at home most of the time and/or having limited capacity to get out in the world is a significant challenge; one that is not new to many people with disabilities. We know that sheltering in place is emotionally tricky even without a pandemic going on. Though it often feels confining and isolating to be at home the disability community’s ability to make the most of difficult circumstances is limitless. That is why this week’s disability culture recommendation is armchair travel. Though not necessarily the invention of people with disabilities it is one than many of us have perfected out of necessity. Certainly, it is something that has given me a lot of comfort throughout various indoor phases of life.

If you are new to armchair travel – a fancy way of saying reading books or watching shows that take you around the world no matter where you are – here are a few recommendations to get you started. Currently I am rereading The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux while simultaneously streaming either a waterfall, campfire, or train ride to level up the atmosphere. This is one of my favorite travel books because Theroux shares his experience of taking trains from Boston all the way to the southern tip of South America. It’s especially entertaining while sheltering in place because he is sort of a grouch the whole time despite the amazing places he travels and the interesting people he meets along the way. If you would rather watch TV, 10 seasons of Rick Steves’ Europe are online and can be watched for free at the PBS website. Steves has been traveling for decades and by now there is an episode for nearly anywhere in Europe that you might want to visit. Steves is a bit of a giant nerd in a gentle Mr. Rogers meets your enthusiastic high school science teacher way; to me this makes his show especially comforting.

By staying home, we are doing the critical work of protecting ourselves and our communities. Armchair travel is a way that people with disabilities have been taking care of our mental health while staying at home likely ever since Homer wrote the Odyssey. If you are feeling trapped and stressed, or even just kind of bored, I urge you to give it a try.

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