Photo Credit: Eve Clark
How Traveler Eve Clark Navigates The World With Multiple Sclerosis
It has been 25 years since Eve Clark was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system. But eight years ago she had a major exacerbation of her illness which led the Illinois native to seriously contemplate the future. Clark knew she needed to make some changes, starting with her job as a general contractor and owner of a small construction company.
“I knew then that I needed to speed up my retirement and I needed to go somewhere maybe out of the country where I could live a much slower lifestyle and a much more economical lifestyle also,” Clark told Travel Noire about her thought process. “I started planning my life, so I could maybe still work a little. Instead of building the whole building, I could work as a project manager remotely if I wanted to, or I could not work at all.”
Clark and her husband decided on a permanent move abroad, selecting Costa Rica as their expat destination. One very important reason for their pick was the Central American country’s highly touted multiple sclerosis treatment. Flight-wise, it was also in proximity to her home in Texas. But before settling down in Costa Rica, Clark wanted to rack up a few more miles and travel the world.
Her first stop — Southeast Asia, where in Thailand she knew she would receive excellent healthcare if necessary. And it was. Clark was hospitalized during her stay and was well cared for. The healthcare system is just one of her primary concerns while traveling with a disability.
“When I’m traveling, I think in terms of one, how long am I going to be gone? Am I taking some meds with me? Are medicines easily accessible? How are the hospitals there? I also look at mobility. Is it easy to access either public transportation, or are taxis or cabs easy to get to? Or things like Uber, Grab, or Lyft. How easy is it to get around?”
While Thailand checked all her boxes, other countries have not been as accommodating. Clark points to Vietnam as one of the most inaccessible countries.
“It’s one of the worst places I’ve ever been for mobility,” she admitted. “I walk with a cane, or sometimes I even have to use a wheelchair. Vietnam was horrific in terms of touring. I love going to Vietnam, but it wasn’t very friendly to my legs in terms of entering and exiting buildings and hotels, I hated it there. I love the country, but I hated trying to get in and out of hotels there.”
Europe is often categorized as inaccessible, particularly for wheelchair users, with its abundance of cobblestone streets and Old World buildings that are lift and ramp free. But some have made a few modifications which have been helpful for people like Clark to take in more of places like Greece, Paris, and London. She wishes that more people, even those in your inner circle, would be more mindful of the challenges facing those with disabilities while traveling.
“People don’t always think about that when they’re traveling, and they’re able-bodied,” shared Clark. “Same thing when you’re traveling with a group of friends. They don’t always think about the fact that they might have a person with them that has mobility issues in terms of where they book hotels. When you’re booking an Airbnb with a group of friends, these are things that I have to think about. I took a Jack Daniel’s tour that wasn’t necessarily mobility-friendly. I made it happen, but these are things that happen along the way that I have to deal with that other people in our travels aren’t necessarily thinking about.”
She added, “And even though travel is the new hip thing in the urban community, you don’t necessarily see representation in terms of people with disabilities, how they’re out there traveling or things that are for us or people that have different types of mobility issues.”
Despite these issues and other hiccups along the way, Clark continues to make her way across the world. So far, she’s been to 47 countries and five continents. Bucket list wishes include Antarctica, Brazil, and Peru. She is currently on a road trip with her husband, where she ensures she plans her stops and gets lots of rest. At the end of July, they will set off for a six-month trip through Africa. She is particularly keen on visiting Rwanda, Morocco, Senegal, and Ghana. The two travel together often, or sometimes she will vacation with friends. A strong support system is critical to her mobility.
“My friends have pushed me through the Vatican, and my friends have pushed me in wheelchairs in Jordan. All over the world. I make sure I have good travel buddies. It’s definitely important if you are a disabled individual to make sure that you have good friends with you that understand your limitations as well, so you don’t feel like a burden.”