Paraplegic Newbie Here

My grand children have dubbed me their ’ adventurous gramma" and with good reason. I am an Army vet who at first had a Middllin low back injury that only affected my legs, so I became a long haul trucker for about 16 years until my back decided that it was well and truly tired of the abuse.

Funny thing though, I was born to be a nomad. Military brat joins the military and then becomes a trucker? My retirement was doomed from the beginning!

My feet were itching and I needed to figure out how to be able to travel and also, how to do so when you can only walk 2 blocks at a time while using a cane?

A boat!!!

I bought a gutted out, 38ft Dafour, spent a year refurbishing her and took off into the briney deep. Oh, and I taught myself how to sail on Youtube…lol

So yea, I took to sailing and had a wonderful time of it. I saw Belize and got my PADI certification, wandered to Panama, Costa Rica as beautiful places in between. I cruised the DR and so many developed and empty islands up the Caribbean. But eventually I had to make land and do boat maintenance so I chose one of the middle Keys.

It was there, in Marathon Fl that I decided that I was going to sail the Pacific next and perhaps around the world so I started work on expanding my power supply. Two 350 watt solar panels, a cool wind generator, the mother of all battery banks and a watermaker.

But, my trip was never to be.

I slipped down the galley steps and that little 3 step fall caused my left arm to burn as if my nerves were on fire so I took a trip up to the Miami VA and boy o boy was that a huge mistake. After CT scans, being poked , prodded and tormented, I was locked in a small room with the evil head of neurosurgery, may he burn in the very depths!

His Evilness told me that if I didn’t allow them to fuse c3-c7 I would wake up one day, paralyzed from the neck down and if it happened while I was alone at sea, I would die. Yea, pressured.

So, I had c-spine surgery and my 2-6 weeks of downtime turned into an 18month stay in the Spinal Cord Injury unit. I had woken up from my surgery, paralyzed from the chest up due to spinal cord shock and swelling. I threatened that surgeon with bodily harm every time he came to see me too because, well, how was I going to sail now?!

I gave my baby away for $1 to a lisveaboard sailor who lost her home/boat to Hurricane Maria. So, now my life is over, I’m living at home with my daughter and she decided to snap me out of my depression by presenting me with a lovely rocking chair for the front porch.

Oh hell no!

6 weeks later I had researched Hostels in Europe as well as the Eurorail system and I found out that IcelandAir had the best tickets leaving out of JFK for less than $400. found trip.
So, with a 3 month rail ticket, an awesome Deiter backpack mounted on my chair, I was off to backpack 3 months all by myself. Oh, I guess I should point out that my type of paralysis is really weird. I can move my hands and arms but a toddler has more strength and too much movement causes spasticity BUT, I can care for myself, I just do it differently. Also, I can use my hands and even have a strong grip as long as my concentration is on doing it but I don’t feel my fingers if I can’t see them. Weird, right?

Anyway, I wandered through Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and then my 3 months was up so I went home to reset my visa time, then flew into Madrid and wandered France, Portugal and Spain…tapas!!! Oh! pro backing too for gimps, wheelchair users get into museums for free in Europe. I wore out my welcome in the Louve. hehehe!

Anyway, I’m back home and finding that I’m losing more use of my right arm so I’ve been forced to promise the kids that I will stay on this side of the pond.

Now, that’s not to say that I won’t indulge my need to wander, it just means that I need to do my wheeling on wheels!

Cue, my nigh on obsessive research into van builds and skoolies!

Until now, I had 2 journals worth of notes on a customized mid-sized skoolie build with a wheelchair lift in back and a wet room bathroom so that I could sit while showering… But now, I might get to throw out all of those extensive notes and work on a build in either a Promaster extended or a Sprinter. How you might ask?

(Dancing a Shimmy!!)

In 3 weeks I’m being sent down to the main SCI unit for Fl in Tampa to have a baclafen pump inserted. (crossing fingers) if it works it will relieve the spasticity in my chest, upper back and arms. I’ll be able to hold my upper body up on my own and it’s goodbye monster-sized powerchair and hello upwalker!

Oh yea baby baby…

Either way, I’ll be out and about, rolling down the open road and continuing my life as an unapologetic nomad!


Greetings & Welcome!

I like your spirit!

Keep us posted.


"Stay home, stay safe, and remember social distancing." ~ Van_Dweller


I will. The wait is going to send me around the bend though. LOL

A amazing journey, Nothing hasn’t stop u before, nothing will stop u now keep going strong…Hope our path meet day.

Hello Najla!

My name is Kyle and I’m also a disabled Veteran. I was a Marine and I received a lower back injury during my time in Afghanistan, so I know exactly how you feel. I won’t let it keep me down either, I’ll fight it until the end! Haha.

I’ve actually been hoping to meet other like-minded individuals in the community to maybe form some sort of travel caravan or something if you’d be interested. Both for safety, as well as sanity, I just think a small group could be kind nice. I’d especially be interested in a Veteran caravan, just because most Vets seem to be cut from similar cloth, not that I wouldn’t be open to people from all walks of life.

But if you ever think you might like a travel buddy, even just for a bit, hit me up! I’m not on the road just yet, but if all goes well, I should have my Shuttle Bus ready and be out there come the end of June or the beginning of August.


Traveling with friends can certainly be nice.


"Stay home, stay safe, and remember social distancing." ~ Van_Dweller

Hi Najla Zalif!

Glad to meet another woman wheeler! I haven’t come across too many of us. Feel free to reach out to chat.

I’m looking at converting a van since I can navigate without the chair in such a small environment. I’m thinking a Medium roof Ford Transit, though my heart goes pitter-patter over Sprinters!

Be well!

1 Like

I’ve been away due to a death in the family ( expected), so I forgot to take a glance at the forum.

I’m looking at a van on tuesday!! I’m so excited!

I think that I have all of my ducks in a row.

I want a 2020 Ford Transit, 158wb flexfuel or diesel , front wheel drive, midroof (I’m only 5" tall) rear backup camera, cruise control, telescope steering wheel. I can’t think of anything else I might need to specify.

I’ve also found a wheelchair carrier that can be mounted on the back, so it doesn’t take away from the interior space.

Being a “rare butterfly” paraplegic, I can walk the distance from the driver’s door to the back in order to get my chair. I’m just anxiously waiting for this Covid-Mess in Florida to burn out! The VA finally decided to give me the Baclofen Pump!! Wheee!
No more raging spasticity means longer sustained driving periods. I’m super super stoked about this week.

Hey WheelieWoman.
I’ve seen tons of women on youtube and they have the Women’s RTR event, as well as a Women’s Caravan forum. I can’t remember the way I found the caravans but if I find it again, I will send it to you.

Hey Rydel
I will be here until at least, Summer 2021. I was so close to my Tampa date but the VA says NOPE because if the Covid surge…grrr!

Anyway, traveling with a group of vets might be cool, I would only ask that any people in the group be “social drinkers”. My PTSD won’t allow for people who are drunk or drugged.

It’s a situational thing. It puts me on high alert when people around me are too unpredictable and drunk&high= unpredictable. Truth?

Thanks! Definitely send any info my way.

Hey Najla,

Yeah I definitely agree, and that is the one thing holding me back from really trying to put a group together is working out how to avoid drama / issues like that. I stopped drinking about 11 years ago now and just don’t have the tolerance for those that go overboard as I once did.

Once I figure that out I’ll post something to the forums, I’m considering a few different routes at the moment so we’ll see if any of them pan out.