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Travel with a Purpose

Travelers-people who go somewhere with the purpose experiencing the spirit and essence of that place-know travel to be a life-changing experience. All of it: the good, the bad, the bizarre, the mundane, the friendships, even the loneliness. This is just as true for travelers with disabilities. For 20 years, Mobility International USA (MIUSA) has worked to promote the involvement of people with disabilities in the wide range of international educational and experiential exchange opportunities described in Transitions Abroad. Here are some MIUSA favorites:

Susan Sygall, MIUSA's director, is a wheelchair rider and a long-time international traveler. She recommends becoming a citizen diplomat through Rotary International's varied academic and nonacademic programs. Susan received a full graduate scholarship to spend a year at the Univ. of Queensland in Australia. The experience had a profound impact on her life. In fact, it inspired her to co-found MIUSA.

Another excellent way to spend a couple of weeks in another country is to work with others in international community service. For a small fee, a volunteer becomes part of a team of people from around the world who work with community members on a community-initiated project. Susan volunteered on such a project in Finland where she helped restore a majestic stone building into a youth center. With Susan's guidance, they also made it wheelchair accessible.

One should not overlook the value and pleasure of simply taking a few months off and seeing where the road leads, as Clay has described. Susan traveled throughout Europe one summer without an itinerary. Her goal was to connect with disability organizations and get to know individuals with disabilities. Having spent time with them in their homes, she came away with a deeper understanding of the connection between people with disabilities across borders and an appreciation of the many ways people are working together for equality and full participation. Traveling solo can be exhilarating and also lonely at times, but the roller coaster is well worth the growth and sense of human connection that one gains from an unplanned yet purposeful journey.

In order to encourage more disabled people to take advantage of international exchange experiences, MIUSA established the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE). Visit MIUSA's extensive web site (www.miusa.org) or call 541-343-1284 (voice/TTY).

Pamela Houston
Disability Travel Editor

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