Learning to travel : a journey! 

Learning to travel : a journey! 

A blog by Natalie McCaughey (on the right of the picture, standing alongside ambassador Katrina at our February 2022 club night at ATIK)

How would you describe using the bus/train in a few words?

I would say ‘daunting’, ‘scary’ and ‘’ – especially if it’s your first time using them or travelling on your own. However, it’s also ‘worthwhile’ because I’m getting to meet new people, and having confidence to travel on my own further than I’ve ever been. I am learning more each time about how to make travelling work best for me.

What is the most stressful part?

My experience of the train station was confusing because to me it seemed massive with so many different parts. It’s loud and noisy and busy with lots of people rushing past you and going in different directions.  There’s bright lights and loads of sounds which can be overwhelming. It can be a lot to think about at once! 

I’ve realized now that there is so much that I didn’t plan for or expect would happen. In the future if I’m going to travel, I need to plan everything out in detail so I know exactly:

What I’m doing

Where I’m going

How to handle different situations

Where I can go if I need help

What has been the most exciting part?

The destination and being in a new place and having new experiences. The sense of achievement and being able to say ‘I did that! I can’t believe it!’ You think if I can do it once, I can do it again and keep doing it’ because I don’t want it to be scary. I want to be able to enjoy it. 

Can you tell us about a challenging situation which was a valuable learning experience? 

After attending the Monday Magic meal, I headed to Haymarket station which I hadn’t been to before. It was a sunny day and I felt a bit more confident than the last few times I had travelled to Edinburgh. It had also been a really lovely day and I even worked up the courage to ask a member of staff at the station to show me which train to get on. 

However, the platform was really busy and kept getting busier. The train came and I thought that it was the right one to head to Glasgow, so I got on it. After the train had left I realised that the train looked different to all the other trains that I had gotten on in the past. I panicked and stood at the doors to the train and had a bit of a cry. I spoke to my get2gether friends Mairi and Lauren because I thought I was heading to London. They helped calm me down and told me not to worry and not to get off the train. 

It had turned out that it was going to Glasgow but just a different station in Glasgow taking a longer route. From this experience, I learned to try not to instantly panic, because you will always find your way home eventually and there will always be people around to help you out. Always ask for help! I also have communication cards that explain to people that I am autistic and when I am overwhelmed I need space to calm myself down. These are also valuable in these kinds of situations!

I also find it really useful to have a community around me from whom I can learn from. Knowing I can ask John questions during his skill share session is really valuable and helps me to think about stuff I might not have already.

What does the future hold for you and self-travelling?

I want to keep traveling using the buses and trains. I don’t want to let bad experiences put me off and I have traveled back to Edinburgh since, and I stayed in a hotel! It was just as scary but it didn’t end badly. I know it’s not going to just become easy overnight and I need to keep practicing. I need to try and come up with a way of working around this because train stations will always be busy and they will always be noisy. Hopefully I can find ways that makes it easier to cope with. 

For planning accessible travel, you can also try Scotrail’s website!

Do you want to tell your story? Give Rosy or Ella a shout! We always want to hear from you!

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