When I first discussed going abroad with my family and friends, their first comment was: “That’s wonderful, but how are you going to travel alone in a wheelchair, in a power wheelchair no less?” When I added that my destination was not Canada or Europe, but rather a developing country in South America, this seemed to further solidify their view that it would be impossible for me to travel in a power wheelchair.
After volunteering and studying in South America, Northern Africa, South Asia and a few places in between, I realize that that, yes, my family and friends were right — globe-trotting exclusively in a power wheelchair is near impossible, but who says we need to be exclusive?
Just like able-bodied, intrepid travelers who have crisscrossed the globe, I too have traveled by plane, taxi, bus, train, horse, donkey, camel, yak and well…man.
As a fellow disabled exchange alumnus said at a conference, “As people with disabilities, we are accustomed to living life creatively, negotiating barriers and successfully living in a ‘able-bodied' world.” So why shouldn’t we travel creatively?
To be honest, before going to Nepal, I also doubted that I would be able to trek for seven days in the Himalayas as a wheelchair user. Well, I ended up not using my wheelchair—instead, I hired a Sherpa to carry me up the mountain.
In my opinion, creativity is a vital tool for any traveler, disabled or non-disabled, but as people with disabilities, we live in a not-so-accommodating world. This simply means that we have a leg up, so to speak, on traversing the world creatively!