At a restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa, my handsome guide, Johann, cuts my meat for me. After dinner, Johann opens the sugar packets for my coffee.

I wonder if I’m getting special treatment, or if he’s this attentive with all of his clients. I hope the former, although I’d better be prepared for the latter. Either way, I appreciate the help. See, I have rheumatoid arthritis, or RA. It forces me to walk with a cane, and often confines me to a wheelchair. Simple tasks, like opening sugar packets, can prove difficult for me.

But I don’t have time to dwell on all that. It had always been a dream of mine to safari in Africa, and I did it. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as choosing my travel dates, booking the trip and then heading to the airport.

The logistics of going to Africa in a wheelchair left me treading water in a worrisome sea of what if? What if the expenses of the trip would leave me reeling for years? What if I couldn’t keep up with the tour group? Or worse, what if I couldn’t even find a group that would accept someone with my condition? What if I had to go it alone?

I have no control over this debilitating disease that attacks my joints. I want to be “normal,” but I’m just not. Still, I always try to remember to accept my situation, to remind myself that I am who I am. I may not be able to move the way healthier people do, but it doesn’t keep me from experiencing the joys of travel. In my life I’ve been to Israel, Australia and Europe, all of them by myself. Each of these experiences has been gratifying and fulfilling, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

After checking my financial status again and again (and again) and discussing options with my bank, I decided that I could afford my safari. But just barely – I’m on a fixed income.

Much of which would have to go to the next month’s phone bill, for I began to call every African tour group I could find and asking them, Will you take someone who has difficulty traveling and is often confined to a wheelchair? The answer, across the board, was a resounding, ‘Yes.’ Provided, of course, that I bring my own caregiver. Well, I don’t have any caregivers stashed away in my house. And even if I did, there is no way I could afford to pay for another person’s travel. I could barely pay for my own.

My safari was doomed, I thought.