Driving Through Europe With My Thumb

27/06/2016 15:21 | Updated 27 June 2016


At the end of April, Kasia and I left the United Kingdom on a big adventure. Due to my disability the vehicle we took had a ramp for access and hand controls for me to drive. The car was packed with my disability equipment too (hoist and shower chair). We sailed from Plymouth to Santander with lots of excitement.

Our first stop in Spain was an accessible tourism project in San Sebastian. Here we tried out sports that were adapted for disabled people, stayed in a fantastic hotel for wheelchair users (explained in my next blog), and we had an amazing time in the Basque country.

Before we had even blinked, we were on the road again to Barcelona. This time for a whole month. We should have been tired from the late nights and early mornings in San Sebastian, but the adventure kept us healthy and energised. Of course, the Barcelona sun that welcomed us was also great!

In this second amazing northern Spanish city we settled into our apartment, MIC Sant Jordi, and the buzz of the culture. Our main objective was to collaborate with the Spanish version of Disability Horizons. However we also enjoyed the tourism attractions and particularly the picturesque beaches.

(Kasia and I cycled a lot through the Barcelona bike lanes. In this video we met Borja from BJAdaptions at the iconic Sagrada Familia. Enjoy the shots we took! :-) )

After one beautiful month Kasia's parents, Tedi and Ewa, flew from Poland to join our big upcoming roadtrip. We started with a final goodbye to Barcelona with a boat cruise in the port. Then we spent 2 nights further north on the Costs Brava enjoying the Greek ruins of Empuries. Then the real test began.

(We visited Empuries twice. This video is from our first visit with Isabel Godoy from Costa Brava tourism.)

Our next stop was Turin in Italy. I drove us 11 hours non stop with my hands. It was really challenging, but I enjoyed testing myself - and winning. In Turin we saw the shroud of Jesus and learned so much about the history and culture. Filled with pizza and great wine from the previous night, the next destination was Lake Garda and Venice.

The 'accessible' accommodation we'd booked was not suitable for my 150kg electric wheelchair. After driving around, we found a better hotel. The views over Lake Garda and the food was 'bella' (beautiful). With a spontaneous night out in Lido de Jesolo (after Lake Garda) it was time for an accessible gondola ride the following morning.

The concept of an adapted gondola sounds impossible. A contradiction some might say. Nonetheless the guys from Gondolas4all managed to install an expensive lift for wheelchair users to enjoy the sights of Venice - the traditional way. Kasia and I were in heaven with the experience. Something I would recommend to everyone.


Finally I drove us through the Austrian mountains, where we spent one fine evening eating and talking about the world. Then onto Karla Vary in the Czech Republic for another night. Almost finished, we were not without a small drama from being stopped twice by the police for routine checks on the borders. You should have seen their faces upon noticing how I drive!

Then we arrived in tranquil and picturesque Poland. This trip will be remembered by us all forever. The singing together in the car. The warm nights in many different cities. The difficulties and challenges we all faced. The feeling that we did something very special. Plus the fact we did it together. What a trip :-)

Martyn Sibley