Traveling as a wheelchair user is not always easy. I’ll be the first person to tell you that because I do have a good bit of experience. I’ve rolled around more than a dozen countries in my powered wheelchair and encountered plenty of obstacles along the way:
My wheelchair battery charger has blown up in Germany (and then again in England), I’ve been trapped on a burning bus in Washington, DC, and been stuck on the sixth floor of a hotel when the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night in Australia… just to name a few. Despite all of this, I continue traveling because I know that at the end of it all, the journey is always worth the effort. What makes travel in a wheelchair so spectacular? Let me give you a few reasons why you should start traveling, if you don’t already.
Problems can always be resolved[caption id="attachment_35725" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Ready for takeoff. Photo by Author.[/caption]
I run a popular website about accessible travel and get emails every day. The most popular question that I get is:
“What happens if something goes wrong on my trip?”
Almost any problem that you have on your trip can be resolved. If the airline damages your wheelchair during a flight, speak to an airline representative upon arrival and file a complaint. They will pay to have it fixed and may even give you a flight voucher for your troubles.
On the other hand, if something happens to your wheelchair while you are actually at your destination exploring, there will surely be someone that can repair it. When my wheelchair battery charger blew up in England, I got online and found a repair shop that sold wheelchair chargers. Sure, it was a couple hundred British pounds to purchase it, but I now use that 240 volt charger every time that I travel to Europe so it has come in handy. With a little research, most issues can be resolved and you can continue enjoying your vacation.
You’ll broaden your horizons[caption id="attachment_35723" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Exploring Munich. Photo by Author. [/caption]
The best part of traveling for me is being able to experience different cultures and meet new people. Whether you are a wheelchair user or not, this can be enough of a reason to travel for anyone. Everywhere that I travel, I try to make it a point to interact with the locals and learn something about the culture while I am there. Of course, you can learn by visiting museums (and I love visiting museums!), but I am a strong believer that the best way to learn about a country is through its people.
I remember being in the Bahamas when I was just 15 years old and rolling through Nassau’s Straw Market. I started talking to an elderly woman that worked there and made straw purses for a living. She told me that she had never left the island and had worked in the Straw Market since she was a teenager. She had a smile on her face the entire time and genuinely loved her job. In the half hour that I talked to her, it honestly made my trip. You can learn so much by just communicating with the locals, and it does not take long to realize how fortunate you are to be able to travel.
Wheels were made to GO![caption id="attachment_35726" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Rolling through Australia. Photo by Author. [/caption]
The first powered wheelchair was not invented until the early 1900s. It is bizarre to think that just 100 years ago, I would not be able to travel as freely as I can now. That’s something that I am not planning on taking for granted, and neither should you! Wheels were made to roll and there is really no reason why you should stay stagnant at home. In the 100 years since the first powered wheelchair was invented, accessibility around the world has changed dramatically. This is thanks to many disabled people before us and new laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It is now possible to visit most destinations around the world if you have enough determination!
As you can hopefully see, traveling as a wheelchair user is completely possible. There is no need for you to stay at home dreaming of destinations; just book that flight ticket and go! Make this the moment that you break out of your comfort zone, get out there, and start rolling around the world!