One hand, no legs and a wheelchair to rely on – you’d think this would stop you from travelling the world!
Consumed with wanderlust from a young age, John Morris thought his travelling days were over after a tragic car accident left him disabled.
6 years on, John’s travelled over 755,000 miles, flown on over 600 airplanes and visited over 30 different countries, with just his passport, one arm and a 400 pound wheelchair.
Read on to discover the story behind this inspiring globetrotter and why a disability shouldn’t hold you back from a life full of adventure.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m John. I am a burn survivor, triple amputee and power wheelchair user who happens to be consumed with wanderlust. I founded WheelchairTravel.org to prove that disability doesn’t have to keep people from traveling and exploring the world. With information on accessibility and the value of expert advice on traveling with a disability, I believe people of all abilities can open the world to themselves.
Where did the passion for travelling begin?
Curiosity. I have always had a thirst for knowledge and an interest in history. Seeing stories and events of the past come to life through travel awakened something inside of me. That desire to see and experience the world has only grown stronger with time, and I have no intention of slowing down in my pursuit of travel.
What do you think you would be doing now if you weren’t travelling?
This answer may disappoint some, but I don’t want to think about it. I have been a frequent flyer and regular traveller for as long as I can remember, so it is impossible for me to envision a life where I am stationary. And, the only memories I have of a time without travel – after my car accident, which endowed me with a disability – were not the best days of my life.
Where is one of the most wheelchair friendly places you have been?
I’ve just returned from a trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. While I had visited the city a few times before, this was my first time being there for an extended period of time as a wheelchair user. It is a fantastic city, with an abundance of history, great food, baseball and accessible infrastructure that continues to improve.
What has been your biggest challenge whilst travelling in a wheelchair?
I provide people with information about the accessibility of destinations all around the world, but in many cases I have been the first person to produce this type of content for travellers with disabilities. When travelling to a new destination, there are so many questions. Is public transportation accessible? Are there taxis capable of transporting my power wheelchair? Will the hotel meet my needs? Are the museums and attractions I want to visit wheelchair-friendly? Do the sidewalks have curb ramps for step-free access?
When I visit a new destination, I am often taking the trip without answers to these questions, or guided by information from unreliable sources. As the old adage goes, “knowledge is power,” and, in the case of travelling with a disability, knowledge is the cornerstone of possibility.
Does being a wheelchair user restrict you visiting certain destinations?
My wheelchair, which weighs 400 pounds, is not optional. It is my key to independence and mobility. Without it, I cannot move. Certain destinations are not as friendly to wheelchair use, whether the result of poor infrastructure or natural geography.
I do my best to show readers how to overcome these barriers through adaptations whenever possible. In Cambodia, I didn’t get around using a city bus or a taxi, but thanks to a wheelchair accessible tuk-tuk.
And, while the barriers to wheelchair travel are too great to overcome in many destinations today, the world is evolving – it is becoming more accessible every day. I am hopeful that, through the course of my life, I will never run out of accessible destinations to discover.
Worst travel experience…
Some years ago, I was flying from Florida to Las Vegas, with a connecting flight in Atlanta. When I got off the airplane in Atlanta, I was met with the unfortunate news that my power wheelchair had been dropped from the plane down onto the tarmac. The fall had totalled the wheelchair.
While it was a frustrating experience that forced me to cancel my trip, I understood that this was an accident. And, in the nearly 600 flights I have taken with a wheelchair, I’ve only had one wheelchair destroyed. Good odds, if you ask me.
3 things you can’t travel without…
I am a travel blogger, so this is simple – laptop, iPhone/camera and Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
Coolest travel experience…
One that continues to stand out was an unexpected meeting with the band Boston. They rolled up to my hotel, and set me up with tickets to their show in Huntsville, Alabama. I had an opportunity to meet the band again after the show, and they proved to be a great group of people. One of the things I love most about travel are the unexpected opportunities that present themselves.
Top 3 tips for other wheelchair users that might think travelling is not possible…
First and foremost, cultivate your passion for travel. Reexamine the bucket list you made years ago. I’ve fulfilled many of my bucket list dreams as a wheelchair user – from sitting atop the Great Wall of China to riding a camel around the Egyptian Pyramids. The possibilities are endless.
Second, seek out information on the accessibility of destinations you wish to visit. My website contains travel guides for more than 40 cities around the world, but there are many accessible travel resources provided by tourism bureaus, governments and disability organizations. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be to travel.
Lastly, understand that people with disabilities do have a right to equal treatment, especially when travelling on airplanes, trains and city buses, and also when staying in hotels or patronizing restaurants, museums, sporting venues, theatres and other tourist attractions. Research what those rights are and you’ll be prepared to take a trip and speak up for yourself (with authority) if necessary.
At Midgard Basecamp, we’re responsive to all our guest’s needs. With our wheelchair accessible room located on the ground floor, and wheelchair friendly restaurant and bar, you can be sure to have a relaxing stay at Midgard Bascamp.
If you have any more questions to ask our team or want to learn more about our South Iceland tours, please feel free to get in touch with us.