I am J David Garnett, I was born with spina bifida, in north Wales, during the 1960s and have always lived there. I have been a wheelchair user for over 50 years and enjoy travelling.
My first overseas trip was to Lourdes at Easter in 1977, in the following two years I went on school exchange trips to Bayeux in France and then Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, or Holland as we called it. It was then a few more years before I travelled overseas again to Esbjerg in Denmark (1985), Katowice in Poland (1986), Eindhoven in the Netherlands (1987) and West Berlin in West Germany (1987). These were all group trips.
In 1990 I decided to take my first solo overseas trip and chose Sunny Beach (Слънчев бряг) in Bulgaria where I spent three weeks at this seaside resort. I returned there each summer from 1991 to 1995 for holidays ranging from two weeks to six weeks. In 1993 I also spent Christmas week in Disneyland Paris.
In 1995 I decided I wanted more from travelling than just visiting a beach resort so I decided to learn to scuba dive. Back then it was not easy to find anyone willing to teach a disabled person to scuba dive but I eventually found a group of people that later became the Scuba Trust. I did two trips with them to Sharm el Sheikh on the Egyptian Red Sea coast and completed the British Sub Aqua Club’s certification to become a Club Diver.
1996 then saw my summer travels change from Bulgaria to İçmeler near to Marmaris in Turkey. I visited Turkey each year between 1996 and 2001 and spent up to 7 weeks each summer scuba diving in İçmeler and Fethiye with the European Diving Center and also on a liveaboard with Seahorse Holidays run by Mehmet and Jane Avcu. During these trips I gained my Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification, first as an Advanced Open Water Diver, and then I completed 5 specialty’s and Rescue Diver to become a Master Scuba Diver. Most of this training was under the guidance of my instructor Ryby Stonehouse who went on to own Blue Ocean Diving based in Maidstone, Kent. Meanwhile, under the guidance of Mehmet Avcu, I completed the CMAS 3*** rating of the Turkish Diving Federation.
2002 saw me being really adventurous with a trip to Vietnam. I flew to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) via Paris and Bangkok. On arrival I got a taxi to the railway station and took the sleeper train up to the coastal city of Nha Trang where I found a hotel and booked two weeks of scuba diving with Jeremy Stein’s Rainbow Divers. During this trip I gained my PADI Enriched Air Diver certification.
2003 and I returned to Turkey. On arrival in Istanbul I took a further flight to spend a week in Beirut in the Lebanon. Here I did a few days diving with the National Institute of Scuba Diving. Also on one morning I got up very early and took a coach across the border in to Syria where I hired a taxi and toured Damascus for the day.
In 2004 the focus of my travels became Thailand. Here I did my final scuba dive and met a lady who I went on to marry (and later become separated from.) My travels in Thailand took me to Chonburi, Bangkok (where I spent more than 8 weeks between November 2010 and January 2011, my longest overseas trip), Ayutthaya, and the Isaan (north-eastern) region. On my 6 visits to Thailand I flew a different route each time. I had stopovers in Amsterdam (Netherlands), Moscow (Russia), Amman (Jordan), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Abu Dhabi and Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Hong Kong. They ranged from the very brief (Abu Dhabi) when my inbound flight was delayed and it was a mad dash to make my connection, to 12 hours plus in Sri Lanka and Jordan both of where I was sent to local hotels.
Shortly after my return home in 2011 I became ill and rarely left the house for nearly 12 months until I was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with renal failure. Having to have dialysis every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the local hospital I thought that my travelling days were over. Soon, though, I began making trips to heritage railways to photograph steam trains.
Later trips included going to Cardiff to see rugby matches at the Millennium Stadium. After a rugby trip to Edinburgh, where I flew again for the first time in over five years, and a daytrip “overseas” with my sister to the Isle of Man, I felt I had the confidence to travel overseas again and in April 2018 took a weekend break to Barcelona in Spain. That was last month and from that trip the idea for this blog was born. Because most of my travelling is now done at the weekends, as that is the only time I can get two days away, it seemed natural to call my blog Weekender.
I hope I didn’t bore you with all that information and that you will find my future posts about wheelchair accessible travel interesting and of use. Let me know in the comments section below.