07/19/2024

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Cory Lee’s travels have taken him to 39 countries and all seven continents. He is also a power wheelchair user who has dedicated his life to helping others with disabilities see the world, thanks in part to his blog, Curb Free With Cory Lee.

Lee was diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy at age 2 and took memorable trips to Disney World and the Bahamas as a child – which only fueled his travel addiction.

“Before I actually traveled abroad, I just assumed wheelchair users couldn’t access most of the world,” Lee told Yahoo Life. “But when I actually got out and started traveling, I realized that, you know, a lot of the world is actually even better [in terms of accessibility] than some places in the United States.”

Now, Lee travels more than 100 days a year. Some favorite destinations include national parks such as the Great Smoky Mountains, Key West, Florida, and Australia, the last of which inspired him to start blogging. He even checked Antarctica off his travel bucket list just shy of his 30th birthday.

“I think growing up as a wheelchair user and traveling and realizing that a lot of the world is accessible really made me want to show other people how much I can do as a wheelchair user and how much other wheelchair users can do,” Lee says. “I think there’s a huge misconception that wheelchair users just stay at home and that they don’t have money to spend on travel or can’t travel anywhere because the world is inaccessible. I really wanted to completely break that perception and just show what’s possible and how much we can do.”

The most recent trip that took Lee by surprise was his 2018 adventure in Morocco. A tour company that specializes in accessible travel in the country asked Lee to organize a group trip. It sold out in six hours.

“My favorite memory was probably in the Sahara Desert. We spent the night in a tent, on the beach,” he recalls. “The tour company we went with, Morocco Accessible Travel Advisors, built an adaptive camel saddle …… so I was able to sit comfortably on the camel and not fall over. It was a cool experience that I had always wanted to do but never thought it would be in Morocco.”

Since that trip, Lee has taken an annual group trip with Curb Free, which includes adventures to places like Costa Rica and Iceland.

“We’ll be heading to Chile and Patagonia in South America soon,” he says.

Lee, who was born in the same year the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, explains that while travel is certainly an option for people with disabilities, the world still has a long way to go to make these things truly usable. For one thing, he can’t use the bathroom on the plane.

“I had to start dehydrating myself and stop eating two days before the flight to be able to [fly on the plane],” Lee explained.

The pandemic also proved to be a challenge because of Lee’s low immune function. However, while COVID-19 changed his travel plans, he says it also helped him get creative in how he sees more of the world.

“I’ve been doing a lot more road trips,” he shares. “I even went to an alpaca farm in North Carolina that I probably wouldn’t have gone to if it hadn’t been a pandemic. But it’s been one of my favorite trips of the past few years.”

Lee also offers advice for people with disabilities who want to become more confident travelers: “If you want to try traveling but don’t want to travel around the world on your first trip, plan locally,” he says. “Plan an accommodation somewhere nearby. It will teach you what to look for when you travel later. It will teach you how to book accessible hotel rooms, what questions to ask, how to navigate public transportation.”

He adds, “Starting locally will build your confidence so you can hopefully travel abroad.”

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