There are many of us who wish to travel…and of this lot, many find an excuse to mask their dream to travel. Today’s interview is with Renee of Wheels Travels the World. Even if travel if not high on your priority list, I would urge you to read this post as a story that exemplifies an individual’s spirit to fight against the odds and live her dream.
Renee dreams to see the world …on her wheelchair. She started using a wheelchair at the age of seven due to a genetic skeletal disorder and has travelled to over 28 countries and all 50 states in the United States of America on her wheels. From the Great Wall of China to the penguins at the South Pole….all the wonders make it to her list!
Inspired already? Read on to the complete story…
When were you bitten by wanderlust?
Wanderlust struck me at a very young age. I was studying geography in the third grade when my fascination with the many states of the US began. I came home and told my mom all about them and that I wanted to visit them all. She thought it was a great idea and told me to make it my lifetime goal. Every summer from there on out, I would help her plan our family vacations, always making sure we would visit at least two or three new states. By the time I was 16, I had accomplished my “lifetime” goal of visiting all 50 states.
How has it been traveling on wheels? What works and what does not?
Traveling on wheels is more of a mindset than anything. I’ve always surrounded myself with people who think I can versus those that tell me I can’t. I have such a strong desire to see and experience the world that this is what has gotten me to the most unique areas of our world.
I’ve become very good at telling myself, ahead of time, that there may be a part of the tour or an area of the country that I might not physically be able to do. This has helped with not allowing myself to become disappointed. I will plan out another activity to do while the others I’m traveling with embark on the more physically demanding journey. And sometimes the most rewarding moments of my trips have been the alone time I’ve had with my cup of coffee on the side of the street in the middle of a strange land. It’s really all about your perception.
Which countries have been in your favourite list? Which have been the most comfortable to travel on wheels (to help our user who want to explore the world on wheels)?
My most favourite countries have not necessarily been the most accessible. I loved Istanbul, Turkey, and to this day it is probably my favorite place. But it is hilly. And the sidewalks are constructed out of old cobblestones (not suitable for a wheelchair). I also loved Tunisia. But there are no ramps in their buildings. And their bathrooms are less than accessible.
Most modern cities in Europe – Amsterdam, Munich, Barcelona, etc. – are all very accessible with nice sidewalks and ramps. Hong Kong, to my surprise, has been the most accessible country I’ve ever been to, more so than the United States.
But regardless of the sidewalks, ramps, or bathrooms, it’s really the people that make it accessible. In Hong Kong, we wouldn’t go for more than an hour without someone offering to help me up a curb or help me onto the train. And the Europeans are more than willing to grab ahold of the chair and carry me up a flight of stairs. In South America, I rode on my tour guides back over a rope bridge. It’s really the kindness of other people, and perhaps their cultures, that make a place accessible or not.
You have been an adventure junkie as well. What’s been your biggest dare? What are your fears?
My biggest dare, and the time I was most afraid, was my skydiving adventure. I had wanted to do it for years but was so afraid of taking the jump. I’ve since learned that with every fear comes an incredible reward. The adrenaline rush of jumping out of a plane and free-falling through the sky is phenomenal.
My biggest fear is that something will happen to my health and I won’t be able to travel anymore. I am fortunate that my disability has not been as limiting as some are, and I don’t want to take for granted my abilities to do the things I can. You never know when your health can vanish and life comes to a screeching halt.
How frequently do you travel? Do you have a regular job as well?
I’ve gotten to point in my life where I’m able to comfortably take three to four international trips a year and always try to visit someplace new. I work full-time as an insurance broker in San Francisco.
Do you have a partner in crime? What’s your travel style – budget, hoteling, luxury?
I have always traveled with the same group of friends – Julie, Matt, and Mike. In recent years, my boyfriend, Tony, has become another addition to my travel group. Sometimes other friends and family will join as well. I’ve dreamed of traveling alone internationally. I’m sure someday I will.
Since I’m usually traveling with a group, it’s just as affordable to get a hotel versus a hostel (and most times a little nicer). I watch for travel deals on various travel websites and often pick my destination based on what the “hot” deal is that month. Once I’m in a location, I spend very little on anything else. I’m not into souvenirs or fancy meals as the pictures and memories are the most prized piece of my trips.
What’s on your bucket list? Any timelines? Any plans for 2015?
Everything’s on my bucket list! It’s hard for me to say no to a new adventure, and I rarely do. I would love to take a year off of work and travel around the world. This is on my bucket list and I’m hoping to check that one off in a few years.
In 2015, I plan to visit Dubai, Eastern Europe (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungry, and Croatia), and either Brazil or Iceland.
Many thanks for Renee for sharing her travel stories with us. She can be reached on:
Blog address: Wheels Travel the World