Q&A with Leanora Volpe
Leanora is currently training for the 2019 World Paraclimbing Championships in France after being diagnosed with a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome four years ago.
We caught up with Leanora to discuss paraclimbing, the World Paraclimbing Championships, travelling and being involved with Medical Travel Compared.
Leanora, can you tell us how you got into paraclimbing?
A few years ago, I had to give up running and for those few years I was unwell I really missed being involved in sport. I had a friend who took up climbing, so I tried it and liked it! I then realised I had the potential to be quite good at it so started competing. I won my first two paraclimbing competitions and placed second nationally last year
Tell us a bit about your condition and how it affects you when you travel
I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which is a genetic connective tissue disorder which causes ligaments and skin to be fragile and unsupported, leading to fatigue, pain and spinal instability. This means my brain stem has been damaged by my spine because of the way my skull sits on my neck. This affects my balance and causes neurological symptoms. It affects the way I travel because I get around with a wheelchair part-time, which can be a nightmare because airlines often damage wheelchairs, and a lot of places are inaccessible. I also have days where I’m not well enough to do what I have planned.
We hear you have some exciting travel plans for the year ahead for some big competitions, tell us more!
Yes, I do! I have two international competitions this summer. I am competing in the Paraclimbing Masters Cup on the 29th and 30th June in Austria, and then competing in the World Championships in the French Alps in July.
Can you tell us why you wanted to collaborate with Medical Travel Compared as a brand ambassador?
I hadn’t heard of Medical Travel Compared until recently, but once I learned all about the great service for people who have a pre-existing medical condition and want to travel – I knew I had to help spread the message about Medical Travel Compared. For many people with a health condition, insurance is essential because of the unpredictability of what could happen when abroad. But the expense can put people off travelling altogether. Medical Travel Compared makes it easy without being expensive, which is something that I support.
What is your experience of getting the right travel insurance cover for your medical condition in the past?
I never really purchased travel insurance as it is so expensive. I have a lot of different conditions and once you add them all in, it has come to as much as £500 for a ten-day trip to Canada in the past, which just isn’t worth it. It’s easier just to hope you’ll be ok. The other option was to not declare anything, but that can get you in trouble.
Which are your favourite travel destinations or cities?
That’s a tricky one! I’ve been to Canada three times – I love it there. I’m an outdoors person and I like to be outside and hike. I also like it around the Mediterranean, Croatia, Italy because these type of places are really tranquil.
What destinations are on your bucket list?
I really want to go to Bali! I also want to go to Japan and New Zealand. Basically, all the places that are really far away and I haven’t managed to get to yet. I’d also like to go to Iceland, but you need a car which makes it a bit trickier.
And finally, what advice do you have for anyone looking to get into paraclimbing?
Just go for it. The community is really welcoming and it’s more of an accessible sport than you might think. There are paraclimbing Facebook groups with people from all over the world and you can find paraclimbers to meet up with so they can show you the ropes, so to speak. The benefit is that everyone understands each other as everyone has a disability – so just do it!
If you'd like to find out more about Leanora's journey so far and how you can support this dream, then make sure you check out our full Hero Story.