Tips for Traveling with Limb Loss or Limb Difference
Are you longing for an adventure this summer? Don’t let limb loss or limb difference hold you back from visiting friends and family or exploring new places. Hanger Clinic Community Care Coordinator and triple amputee Cameron Clapp and double above-knee amputee Matthew Brewer share everything you need to know to make your travel dreams a reality and address challenges you may face along the way. Learn more about their passion for travel, valuable traveling tips, overcoming hurdles, and why it’s all worth it in the end.
There are many reasons to travel—business, pleasure, special occasions to celebrate—and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. But there’s another reason Matthew Brewer is so passionate about it.
“Traveling builds confidence. It is a big reason why travel is so important to me,” he says. “It wasn’t always easy, so now I travel because I can.”
Matthew finds it rewarding to reconnect with those he hasn’t seen in a long time and to enjoy the beauty of nature he finds in America’s National Parks.
Cameron Clapp agrees and hits the road whenever he can.
“Regardless of the challenges, it is awesome to actually get to your destination and get to meet people.”
Reasons to Travel
- Build confidence and develop new skills
- Achieve a sense of accomplishment
- Connect with people and places
- See, taste, and try new things
- Explore new surroundings and engage with new people
Hitting the Road
For Cameron, road trips are the ideal way to travel. He enjoys taking in the scenery along the way while being alone with his thoughts or having in-depth conversations with his passengers in the comfort of his own car.
“I love going on road trips,” he says. “I pack up my car with all my gear and just hit the road.”
The benefits include the freedom to stop whenever he feels like it to stretch, get some fresh air, and grab a cup of coffee. Cameron, who is a bilateral above-knee amputee and a below-elbow amputee, is able to drive himself, thanks to his devices.
“I use my prostheses for driving,” he explains. “To do that, I need to put them in a second programmable mode so I can drive the car with my prosthetic foot on the corresponding pedals.”
Matthew, a bilateral above-knee amputee, prefers driving with hand controls to driving with his prostheses.
“I opted to have hand controls installed in my car, and now I have the freedom to take my legs off on drives,” he notes. “It is a way for me to feel as safe and as in control as possible.”
Benefits to Hitting the Road
- Bypass security waits, lines, and security checks
- Freedom to stop, stretch, and get some fresh air
- Discover hidden gems along the way
- Explore the country side
- Opportunity to put down your phone
- Time to think and feel gratitude
Taking to the Skies
Sometimes flying is a better option than driving due to time constraints or distance, and Cameron and Matthew have learned how to ensure a smooth experience through trial and error.
First, it’s critical that those traveling with limb loss or limb difference get to the airport very early to allow ample time to go through the security checkpoint and get to your gate. Moving sidewalks, escalators, and other common airport features may take longer to navigate safely, and you don’t want to feel rushed.
In addition to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents scanning your electronics and carryon luggage, they will need to check out any prostheses or orthoses you may be traveling with, which means you’ll need to remove your devices and run them through the security scanner.
You may also be pulled aside for additional security checks.
“It can be uncomfortable to get patted down by someone you don’t know,” notes Cameron. “In these situations, some recommendations I have would be to refocus your attention on something positive, like when I get to where I’m going, I get to go to this wedding, graduation, birthday.”
For Cameron, the benefits of going through these awkward moments outweigh the costs. Still, if you feel overwhelmed by the process, he suggests pausing to take some deep breaths, counting backwards or going to a happy place in your mind to get through it.
Always looking on the bright side, he views the inconveniences airports may present as opportunities to get stronger and improve balance and endurance.
“We have to think about navigating all the various terrain we can encounter in airports—moving sidewalks, escalators, elevators—there are so many things in airport,” says Cameron. “It’s a great place to do rehab.”
Benefits to Traveling by Plane
- Less travel time when going long distances
- Can use travel time for work or leisure activities while in flight
- Enables visits to far away countries
- Opportunity to explore other cultures
Additional Travel Tips
Looking for additional travel tips? Here are 12 tips to help you feel prepared traveling with prosthetic technology.
Overcoming the Inevitable Challenges
Although both Cameron and Matthew are seasoned travelers now, they learned some difficult lessons along the way.
The first time Matthew traveled after getting his prosthetic legs was to attend one of Hanger Clinic’s BAKA Bootcamps.
“I signed on not really considereing the fact that I would have to travel to get there,” he admits. “I remember sending my sister a text message asking will you go with me. With the loving support of my sister, we headed to LAX.”
Unfortunately for Matthew, the airport was experiencing a power outage that day that shut down access to the elevators and escalators.
“I was in a wheelchair with new legs, and I didn’t know how to use them yet,” he explains.
He had to remove his prosthetic legs and scoot down the stairs on his backside to get to the gate. It was difficult, but with the help of his sister and a bystander, he made his flight.
When he landed, “It was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “Cameron comes walking up totally unassisted, and I’m just sitting there in baggage claim like a wet puppy dog. Cameron was right there to show me what was possible.”
After that confidence-boosting weekend, Matthew pushed his wheelchair through the airport, loaded it up, and never rode it again.
“Now I travel any chance I can get,” he says.
Cameron has faced his own obstacles, too, including the time he lost his balance with his luggage on an escalator, toppling onto the people below him.
“It was OK – we have to think about these things as comical,” he says. “Each chance you get to fall down and be uncomfortable, there is growth.”
Traveling as an Amputee
Watch the OABU episode with Cameron Clapp and Matthew Brewer sharing tips for traveling as an amputee.
Why It’s Worth It
Besides the obvious benefits of enjoying a getaway or seeing loved ones, for Cameron there is so much more beyond that. Travel broadens his world.
“A lot of people have perceived notions or fears around travel,” he acknowledges. “I know you have to put yourself in some uncomfortable situations. But it really opens up a lot of opportunities too.”
Matthew is glad he put himself out there on his first flight to Oklahoma because it showed him his prostheses didn’t mean the end of travel and the joy it can bring. His advice to those with limb loss or limb difference contemplating a trip?
“Sign up and go. You’ll be so happy,” he says. “It’s just another opportunity to adapt and overcome.”
Request a Free Evaluation
If you or someone you love is looking for personalized care following amputation, get in touch with a board-certified prosthetist at a Hanger Clinic near you.
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