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At Mt. Fuji, Japan
This 32-year-old wheelchair-using nomad has visited 40 countries so far. He runs the blog, Geordie Travels, where he writes about his experiences on the road, giving some details about accessibility in various locations around the globe. Anthony also runs the Facebook group, The World is Accessible. Although he’d wanted to become the first wheelchair user to visit every country in the world, he now has a family to consider and getting up to go at the drop of a hat is no longer his priority. For now, he is happy to check off as many countries as possible from his bucket list. At the time of writing this, Anthony was in Brazil, exploring, highlighting the good and bad in terms of access, along the way.
Best and worst travel experiences
It’s tough for me to pick just one experience, but one memory which stands out is when I drove from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Romania, and then road-tripped with the accessible tour company Sano Touring. It was a really great feeling to know that everything was taken care of and that we could enjoy getting to know this vibrant and interesting country more intimately with a guide. We explored small towns, soaking up traditional Romanian culture and learning about the way of living there in the modern-day and in centuries gone by. It was an experience that I will always cherish, and one which I would highly recommend.
One of my worst experiences was when travelling on an evening bus in Vietnam, from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne, a journey that took just shy of 5 hrs. We made a rest-stop, however there was no disabled-friendly bathroom. The bus driver was unwilling to get my wheelchair out from the luggage hold, so a guy who was working on the bus carried me out on his back, plopped me down on the ground in front of the bus, and told me to just do my business there—in front of everyone. The driver didn’t even bother to turn the bus high beam lights off to protect my modesty!
Similarly, I once had to crawl up some steps to use a bathroom stall near Siem Reap, Cambodia. As I entered the busy restroom, on my hands and knees, I looked up to witness a man deliberately peeing all over the walls and floor, entirely missing the hole in the ground. It was a very unsavory sight, made worse by the knowledge that I was next to use his cubicle—with no possibility of me standing up to avoid direct contact with it. Grim.
This one’s easy as it’s consistently remained New Zealand since the day I left its shores. New Zealand, and in particular its capital Wellington, is a place where I felt truly at home, having spent six months there in 2016, living with two separate local families. It’s also where I first had the opportunity to work in the tertiary sector, managing a fundraising campaign for WWF—something I found both extremely motivating and enjoyable. The country itself is utterly breathtaking in its beauty. Never before had I experienced such a richly diverse biosphere, yet felt completely safe and secure, knowing that nothing lurking in their wildlife was actively trying to kill me.
Taking a road trip around the South Island was one of the highlights of my life. Sprawling, jaw-dropping scenes of snow-peaked mountains, crystal clear lakes, and powerful waterfalls, plucked right from Peter Jackson’s epic blockbuster Lord of the Rings, laid out ahead of me. With every new turn in the road came another view more mesmerizing than the last, and each demanding to be photographed.
Travel or equipment advice
I don’t travel with much in the way of equipment, other than the wheelchair that I use every day. I always travel as light as possible and would encourage others to do the same if they can, especially if travelling with greater mobility needs. The less stuff you have, the less you need to try and juggle when in a hurry or stuck in a tight spot. My advice would be to write a checklist of everything you think you might need, for any serious situation you might find yourself in. Consider extra medication in case you get stranded somewhere, a backup mobile phone in case yours gets lost or stolen, a tool kit for performing wheelchair repairs, or additional sanitary products for bathroom breaks. Speaking of bathrooms, hotels are your friend when it comes to trying to find an accessible bathroom. Reputable hotel chains, such as Hilton, Marriott, etc. are bound to have toilets which are suitable for most mobility needs.
Lastly, create a budget, and then add 50% on top. Better to have too much money saved than not enough. It’s amazing how many sticky situations can be gotten out of with just a little bit of backup cash on hand.
Advice to my younger self
Although the spontaneity of traveling with no plans can be fun and exciting, sometimes planning and organising a trip can be fun. It can also ensure that you better organise your time spent away to see and do much more. All too often I would opt for winging it; there have been countless times that I’ve arrived at my destination airport, and then opened my laptop at the arrivals hall to start looking for a place to stay. It’s hectic, chaotic and stressful. My advice to my younger self would be to avoid this in favour of a more well-thought-out route. Perhaps if I had adhered to this advice earlier in my life, I may have one or two less grey hairs now.
My other advice would just be to say yes to more experiences. Worry about catching up with sleep later, and just have the time of your life while you’re still able to.