By Michele Herrmann, Regular Contributor
This post is part of Jessie on a Journey’s Inspiring Travelers series.
Cory Lee was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of two, but that certainly has not diminished his desire to travel — wheelchair and all. He has been everywhere from Australia to Iceland, and he blogs about his accessible (and sometimes not so accessible) travel adventures on his inspiring website, Curb Free With Cory Lee.
Cory has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Huffington Post, making him one of the leading experts on traveling with a disability. Cory hopes to inspire others to break out of their comfort zones and start rolling around the world, literally.
Jessie on a Journey caught up with Cory to learn more about his exciting journeys, and pick his brain on how to successfully conquer accessible travel.
1) What sparked your passion for travel?
My passion for traveling started at a young age. My mom was a teacher, so she was off for three months every summer. We used this time to explore locally and took frequent trips along the east coast. We would visit places like Walt Disney World, Washington, D.C., and New York City, but when I was 15 we took our first international trip to the Bahamas. I knew immediately that I was hooked and I wanted to see much more of this world.
2) How did your passion encourage you to start your blog?
In my last year of college, I noticed that there wasn’t much information about accessible travel online. There were only one or two websites that focused on accessibility then, and they didn’t have information about places I had already been and some places that I wanted to go. I thought that if I could provide that information, hopefully it would inspire other wheelchair users to get out there and start traveling.Would you be brave enough to #travel w/ a #wheelchair? @coryleetweets proves it's possible! #inspiration Click To Tweet
3) How have you overcome any doubts about traveling with a disability? Has it impacted your travels in any sense?
I think that some people believe that wheelchair users just stay at home all the time and can’t really do much, so when I’m out hot air ballooning over Israel or rock climbing in Utah, it may come as a shock to the other people there. Every time someone looks at me, like “Oh, good for him,” it just fuels my desire to keep traveling and breaking boundaries. I do have to be realistic though about the places I visit. I can’t just go gallivanting off to Mount Everest, but with enough preparation — and a lot of determination — almost anything is possible.
4) Based on your travels, what destinations have you found to be wheelchair friendly and which have not?
There are definitely destinations that are more wheelchair friendly than others. Anywhere modern tends to be better, so it’s pretty easy to travel in most of the United States or Australia, for example. Sydney is the most accessible city in the world in my opinion. All of the transportation, attractions and shops are accessible, so it was a stress free trip. Much of Europe is great also if you organize your trip months in advance. There are many accessible tour operators and some European countries even have laws in place for accessibility.
Paris was definitely the hardest destination for me to visit though, because of a lack of accessible transportation. There was only one wheelchair taxi in the entire city, and it cost $650 per day! Since there was no other way for me to get around, we had to just fork over the cash. I thought that since Paris is one of the most popular cities in the world, there would be more access in place for wheelchair users, but apparently not.
5) In terms of writing about traveling with a disability, what resources have you been finding for fellow travelers?
I think that blogs are really the best resource when it comes to accessible travel. Aside from my own travel blog, there are many other fantastic ones out there on the Internet. Travel blogs show a first-hand perspective of that person’s time in a destination. Being able to read about a destination by someone who uses a wheelchair just like me is invaluable and comforting. Another wonderful resource is Lonely Planet‘s Accessible Travel and Online Resources, which is fairly new. It has information about accessible tour companies, accessible travel blogs, and much more.Here's how to #travel the world in a wheelchair. @coryleetweets shares his #epic #adventures! Click To Tweet
6) What kinds of concerns do you have on the road?
I’ve had my fair share of issues while on the road. The first time that I ever went to Europe, I tried to plug my motorized wheelchair into the wall (even with a converter and an adapter) and it blew up. Sparks were flying and the power in the entire hotel went out for about 15 minutes. It was stressful, but I quickly went online and found a wheelchair repair shop in the area that sold wheelchair chargers.
This is just one example, but through situations like this I’ve learned to just remain calm and try to figure out a solution. I also try to be as prepared as possible to prevent situations like this from happening. I research wheelchair repair shops at my destination before I go and start planning my trips about six-plus months in advance. Traveling as a wheelchair user comes with its obstacles, but is completely worth every bit of the hassle.
7) What advice do you have for others traveling with a disability?
I would say to just book that ticket! Once your flights are booked, you’re officially going. Then, you can start planning all the details. The first step is the hardest.
Do you have any advice to add on traveling with a disability? Please share in the comments below!
Don’t Hit The Road Without These Travel Essentials [Blog Inspiration]
Clever Travel Companion Pickpocket-Proof Garments [Travel Safety]
Air Travel for Wheelchair Users by Cory Lee [Great Reads]