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Sharing your stories online is a powerful way to inspire others, to educate and showcase your abilities. Many individuals with disabilities may feel limited in the experiences they can have and places they can go. For this reason, in this article we are going to share four disability influencers who go against this narrative and are living life to the fullest.
We have interviewed them, asking about their life experiences and advice for those who want to travel as well. Their stories are not just about the travels and adventures, but also of resilience, passion, and overcoming the obstacles in front of them. The four of them recently travelled to Costa Rica with us at Wheel the World and our local partners, Essential Costa Rica.
They highlight their experiences and for some of them—their firsts.
Costa Rica is one of the best destinations for wheelchair users, especially for those travelling for the first time or who are nervous to do so. It is an accessible destination with one of the most welcoming cultures you can experience.
Following a bike accident in 2009 resulting in injury, Kirk has been living in a wheelchair. Up until that point, he had been an avid traveller, explorer and adventurer. To this day, 14 years later, Kirk continues this lifestyle despite being in a wheelchair. However, it was a work in progress to get to the point of regaining his independence. “Travelling has always been one of the most fulfilling things for me. To see and interact with other cultures and their way of life was dear to my heart before I was in a chair,” Kirk told us. “I never thought I’d be able to travel again when I first broke my neck. It has taken me many years to fully regain my independence. Getting in and out of bed on my own was the real victory of the day. But I was able to progressively push that boundary. Then being able to go Burning Man, scuba diving, and go on a safari in Kenya was a powerful message for myself and others to know that I can still do these things.”
Independence has been his biggest goal since leaving the hospital in 2009. Since then, Kirk has built a custom wheelchair-accessible van for himself and has done multi-month roadtrips all around the U.S. He’s also been to 13 different countries. Being in a wheelchair hasn’t stopped him from doing the things he loves the most. Website: impactoverland.com
Kevin is a YouTuber, wheelchair advocate, and Air Force veteran who has been living in a wheelchair for the past 11 years. He’s amassed a significant following on both YouTube and Instagram, combining for over 200k followers. For the past 10 years, Kevin has been travelling the world and creating content. His primary reason for sharing his life online is to inspire other wheelchair users to get out there and live. It wasn’t always like that, though. For the first few years of being a wheelchair user, Kevin rarely got out of bed. Now, he’s sharing his life that inspires thousands of people around the world.
“There’s a lot of people around the world that need to see the message I have. If I can do it, you can do it too.”
It’s not just about travelling. Kevin shares tips and insights on how wheelchair users can live a comfortable life.
Kerry is a wellness coach, disability advocate and avid traveller. After an accident about a year and a half ago that caused a spinal cord injury, she has been a wheelchair user. Regardless, she has maintained her adventurous spirit and strives to travel, have new experiences and push the boundaries.
When asked what she loves about travel despite the difficulties that often arise as a wheelchair user, she says, “Whether you have a disability or not, adventure is something we should all strive for. To be courageous, brave and try new things is what travel means to me, breaking through barriers and going for it no matter what abilities or disabilities I have.” The first handful of years can often be the most difficult as you adjust to living as a wheelchair user. As someone who is relatively new to this, Kerry provides advice for those who may be afraid to travel: to remember that typically people in other cities and countries want to help you and want you to have a good experience. “People in other countries don’t want you to come to their home and leave with a bad taste in your mouth,” Kerry states, “people want to show up for you. Don’t be scared to ask for help or to speak up for yourself. Have the courage to speak up and take that first step.”
Kelcie is a social entrepreneur, content creator and traveller. She has been a wheelchair user for four years and started creating content to help others in the community. “I love the sense of community in the disability space. What I needed when I first got a wheelchair is now something I can give to others in the same situation.” Growing up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Kelcie has always had a love for the outdoors and experiencing new places. Being immersed in a totally new environment is what draws her to travel and exploring.
“Being surrounded by new and different people, seeing what the locals are doing and experiencing a new culture, these are things that haven’t changed since being in a wheelchair.” She advises, “Life doesn’t have to stop. You can still continue exploring the world. There are so many accessible places around the world waiting for us to travel to.”