To put it mildly, 2016 was a bitch!
The year started with so much promise, it went pear shaped in the middle, looked like it was going to get better, but ended up with a bout of pleurisy and a diagnosis of Angina?
For us, the constant theme throughout 2016 was poor health. No matter how many plans I made, or how many contingencies I had, I just couldn’t control or predict our poor health and it drove us mad.
In one respect, 2016 was a good year for accessible tourism. The year saw a whole host of commercial and social enterprises joining the party, which to my mind is a good thing and bodes well for the future.
But, on a personal level, 2016 was an absolute bitch!
And, if you’ll excuse the Americanism, I need closure. I want and need to move forward to a healthier and more productive 2017.
So, in an attempt to do just that, let’s take a look back at the highs and lows of 2016 … and a look forward to the year ahead.
2016 Month by Month
Like all good travel bloggers, I created my 2016 bucket list. To be fair, it wasn’t an ambitious list and under normal circumstances easily achievable. But, disability doesn’t do normal and that was proven for 7 months during the year.
All of our summer plans had to be put on hold when Bridget’s Rheumatoid Arthritis went into overdrive. Despite that, we did manage to knock a few destinations off our bucket list.
We didn’t travel in February, the main reason was Bridget’s health started showing signs of getting worse (if that’s possible) so we mainly rested. We did start talking to Lisa from Dartmoor Accommodation about a trip to Dartmoor for Disabled Access Day.
March was a busy month travel wise, we did spend Disabled Access Day in Dartmoor. We toured around Dartmoor, stayed in a couple of great properties, took a ride on a vintage steam train and did our first ever radio interview.
April was the month we visited our first ever travel blogging conference in Cardiff. Traverse is an annual travel bloggers event which brings together bloggers to learn, network and be merry.
It was slightly overwhelming, but very useful, not least because we got to meet the wonderful Monica from The Travel Hack, Monica really did inspire me to up the ante on The Bimblers.
We used the trip to Cardiff as an opportunity to take a mini road trip on the welsh coast. We took in Aberystwyth, St Davids and Little Haven.
If you get the chance to bimble along this section of the Wales coastline I’d recommend it, it’s spectacular.
Bridget’s health got steadily worse and the month was full of hospital visits, admissions and copious amounts of steroids.
I used the downtime to catch up on writing posts about our trips in March and April.
Brexit – what else can you say?
We’d already written July off because it was GCSE time. Our two apprentice bimblers were working hard on an unbelievable amount of exams and we wanted to be there for them.
I can report they both did brilliant (no thanks to us).
Bridget’s health continued to be unpredictable and we became sick of the sight of hospitals. Oh, and I think this was the month we got stuck in the lift…
I mentioned Monica from The Travel Hack earlier, in July I enrolled on her 12-week blogging course, the idea being to make me a better blogger, only time will tell if it works.
What I can say is that the course is well structured, informative, in-depth, easy to follow and delivered in Monica’s casual yet professional style – I thought it was great!
Bridget’s health carried on being a nightmare and I just bimbled along publishing the odd blog post.
I’m not going to lie, with the absence of travel and the niggling thought that travelling was detrimental to Bridget’s health, I did question whether The Bimblers could continue.
But, it passed and Bridget forcefully reminded me that’s why we started The Bimblers in the first place.
September was all about getting the kids back to school and uni. We did manage a quick trip to Hull which is the city of culture 2017.
I’m pretty sure we’ll be back again this year, although the hotel prices will probably double given the demand for hotel rooms in Hull’s important year – check out our Holiday Inn review.
I turned 50 in October, to some it’s just a number, given the way I treat my temple it was an achievement. I’m not big on celebrations so we just had a nice family meal and lots of stodgy cake.
October was also the month I started talking to Martyn Sibley about joining him on his project Accessible Traveller.
By November it was time to get back on the horse or in our case the train.
We teamed up with Virgin Trains to review their first class service and test using a wheelchair on a train (review coming soon).
We attended World Travel Market at the Excel Centre in London, tried out the UberWav service and reviewed the Travelodge Hotel at London City Airport.
It was all looking up in December, we’d survived London and were both excited about our trip to Scotland. We had a great itinerary planned and some pretty special accommodation to stay in, what could possibly go wrong… haha?
You may remember the last time we tried to visit Edinburgh, we both got sick and had to cancel the trip, here’s a reminder: Edinburgh Will Wait – Our Health Won’t
This time, we were determined to make it to Edinburgh and guess what, it beat us again… well, sort of!
I’ll tell you more about it in future posts, for now, the castle beat us because it was too busy to drive up to and too steep to push the wheelchair up to the front door. Edinburgh Christmas Market is world famous and it was rammed, in the end, I decided it was too busy to push Bridget around – gutted.
But, on a positive note, we used the extra time to visit the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. I’m glad we did because we had the best ever shortbread and cheese toastie…. every cloud has a silver lining :-)
We also popped in to see The Kelpies in Falkirk…. what can you say about these, nothing can prepare you for them.
We were actually staying at two wonderful accessible properties in Fife – Homelands and The Rings. Both exceeded our expectations and both were VERY accessible and in stunning locations. And, the icing on the cake is that they are run by truly beautiful people who are passionate about accessible tourism.
I can’t do either property justice here, and I will be publishing full reviews soon. In the meantime, let me extend our heartfelt thanks to Jan and Kitty at Homelands for the bacon butties and Moira at The Rings for our crash course in raising chickens and egg production :-)
I’ll be writing a full report about our trip to Fife in the next couple of weeks, I’m a bit behind on my schedule at the moment. Hopefully, you’ll understand why if you read on…
What Does 2017 Hold?
So, here we are in January 2017, and I’ll be brutally honest, we are two weeks in and it’s been a bastard!
Apologies for the bad language, but Pleurisy and possibly Angina make you feel that way.
I have been ill since before Christmas, at first, I thought it was the flu, but it just kept getting worse and worse. Being a Pleurisy veteran, I soon recognised the symptoms and had it confirmed by the GP.
Then she hit me with the bombshell… “I want you to start using this spray under your tongue”.
I immediately knew what that was for (Angina), and to be fair, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I wouldn’t be surprised because I smoke, eat crap and have ignored chest pains for a while.
I was sent to the hospital which produced a not so healthy ECG, but I’ll have to wait a few days for a definitive diagnosis – I’ll let you know how that pans out.
Update: Yes, I have been diagnosed with Angina, the GP said “you have significant heart disease and you mustn’t get stressed” am I the only one who can see the irony in that? Also, I think you have Fibromyalgia! Read this: What is Wrong With Me – Can it Really Be Fibromyalgia?
I’m upset I have been diagnosed with Angina, but I’ll be devastated if it impacts on my ability to bimble. Pushing a wheelchair is hard enough with Asthma, if we throw Angina and Fibromyalgia into the mix it might need some rethinking.
One thing is for sure, I need to start paying more attention to my own health because too many people rely on me.
Anyway, it is what it is…. back to my plans for 2017
Planning, Travel and Blogging
I’m going to do things differently this year, instead of planning too far ahead, I’m going to go with the flow.
I have a small bucket list in my head, it’ll develop throughout the year, there are currently 5 items on the list:
- A trip around the Cornish coastline
- A couple of visits to the Scottish highlands
- A couple of trips to Northern Ireland including Belfast and a coastal road trip
- A couple of road trips on the Wild Atlantic way
- A drive and stay holiday on the Isle of man, ideally do the whole island
Also, starting from now, I want to change the tone of the way I write. I didn’t realise it, but I’ve become a miserable, moaning, cantankerous old git and it’s not me.
In my defence, I come from a background of writing technical and legal reports and it’s a tough habit to break.
I need to start treating the blog like a business. As much as I love bimbling about, some would say winging it, I need to be more organised and accountable.
Let’s be honest, I’ve been writing this blog for 2 years and have only published 88 posts, that’s 44 posts a year or less than 1 a week.
In blogging terms, that’s pretty crap, you deserve more from me, you reward me by visiting the blog so the least I can do is make more of an effort and be accountable to you.
On that subject, if there is something you want me to write about, tell me in the comments below and I’ll try my best to oblige.
You’ll notice I’ve added a couple of new sections to the blog – “In our Backyard” and “Travel Blogging”.
In our backyard is all about accessible Liverpool, I was thinking about starting another blog all about access in Liverpool (where we live) but decided there’s no point duplicating my efforts. The inside information I have about our wonderful city sits nicely here on The Bimblers.
Also, even though I’m not a prolific travel blogger, I know enough to share some tips and advice to those of you who fancy starting your own travel blog, therefore I will develop Travel Blogging for Beginners as we go along.
I will continue to write posts for Disability Horizons and Accomable. I have also agreed to write regular posts about the business side of accessible travel on Tourism is for Everybody, the first post will be published this month.
If you’re not already, sign up for our monthly newsletter and you’ll be notified when I publish new posts.
On the subject of writing, I’ve developed an interest in the art of copywriting and that’s a genre I want to pursue, which leads me onto the next point.
Another aspect of being accountable is money. Mr Visa and Mr Mastercard have been my best friends over the last couple of years, but they’re not a bottomless pot of cash, sooner or later they want it back ( spoilsports).
So, this year, I need to start thinking about The Bimblers as a small business, it needs to earn its keep. I won’t pimp myself and I will never tell lies for money, but I do need to start seeing some kind of financial reward for my efforts.
Don’t worry, I’m not turning the blog into a bazaar. I’ll probably just step up the freelance writing side of being a blogger (copywriting) and charge for my services – watch this space!
I’m also working on two exciting new projects with Martyn Sibley.
The first is the Accessible Holiday Club which is a natural progression on from Accessible Traveller. Across our individual platforms we share as much access information as we can, but we’re light on saving you money.
The Accessible Holiday Club will be open for business soon, it’s specifically designed to help you travel further, safer and for less!
The holiday club free waiting list is open already so head on over there and register.
The second project; aptly named The Accessible Travel Mob is more of a professional endeavour, I can’t say too much about it just yet.
What I can say is, if you are an accessible tourism blogger, travel industry supplier or destination marketer it might be worth you emailing me to see if it’s an opportunity I can make available to you.
As you can see, it’s going to be a busy year and it doesn’t necessarily rely on travelling.
If you’re reading this and you want to work with us this year, I recommend you get in touch soon because the calendar will fill up.
That said, here’s what’s in the diary so far for 2017.
- January – Calvert Trust Kielder in Northumberland (had to cancel)
- March – Naidex and Travel and Tourism Show in Birmingham
- March – Disabled Access Day in the Peak District
- May – Lincolnshire
Thank You for Sticking With us
On a personal level, 2016 was a bitch. On a professional level, it’s been our best year so far. The blog has gone from strength to strength, we’ve met some wonderful people throughout the year and we’re confident the foundations for 2017 have been firmly planted.
Yes, we struggle travelling, yes we get fed up and yes we often question whether The Bimblers is worth the effort. But, when we’re feeling like this, we know we can reach out to you (our friends) and you’ll inspire us to carry on.
Every comment you leave us, every blog post you share for us and every kind word you offer really do help us to keep going when things get tough.
Please know this, we would never take your commitment to us for granted, every day we’re humbled by your continued support and grateful for it – thank you :-)
Happy Travels in 2017
Bridget and Rob