Our year started off with so much promise but life threw us many curveballs in 2023. In looking at 2023 in review there were definitely some fabulous highlights thrown in between the tough stuff. I won’t be sorry to greet 2024 in the hope the year has better times ahead. It’s always good to look back at the year though and remember the good. I acknowledge that we are extremely lucky to have the highlights we do, I know that many families do not have the highs along with the lows. So here’s a brief wrap up of our year.
The Jones family’s 2023 in review
In January, Hubby, Amelia and I enjoyed some time in Europe. We rang in the New Year in Paris and what a gorgeous city it is. While we missed Braeden it was lovely to spend time with Amelia and tailor a trip to her interests. If you missed our trip you can catch up with this blog.
Braeden continued to try new things this year and we shared a week in his life in this blog.
One of our highlights was seeing Braeden improve each week with his gym sessions and I was absolutely thrilled to see him take to Frame Running. Despite being quick on his feet when we walk him at home I wasn’t sure if he’d like Frame Running. Holding the handles the way he needs to in the frame is quite unnatural for him. With encouragement and persistence he is slowly mastering it. You can read all about the Frame Runner and Braeden in this review.
That’s not the only hard work Braeden has been doing. He’s also worked hard with his support workers and his speech therapist to use his iPad in a meaningful way to communicate with others. Being so social Braeden craves interaction so we found a way for that to happen which created a lovely sense of community for him.
In April we launched Braeden’s preschool disability awareness program and throughout the year we were touched by how well Braeden was embraced by the children at the preschools he visited. It was so interesting to hear from the children as to what they enjoyed about Braeden’s visits with one class making a large heart shaped card with the children writing on it. It was a wonderful highlight of 2023 and you can catch up on the story in this post.
Throughout the year I continued to be frustrated with how undervalued carers are and wrote about it in this post.
Caring took a central position in our year with my parent’s needs increasing before an incident led to tough choices and change for us all. It took me a while to be able to share our experience but I did so in this story.
Caring for the family became quite a challenge when I was thrown from a horse and sustained spinal fractures in August and I eventually shared about my hospital visit and that scary time in this blog.
Travel in 2023
We have been quite limited in our travels as a family this year due to my caring for my parents but when an opportunity arose where my cousin could step in for me we took it.
Hubby and I had a trip by ourselves to the Gold Coast when I was invited to speak on a panel about accessible tourism for AITCAP. It was a rare couple’s weekend and not only did I love sharing my insights on accessible and inclusive travel with others but I also learnt so much. You can catch up on this blog in this post.
As a family we had a fantastic trip to the Gold Coast where we discovered new ways to explore the region. From a helicopter flight to a pontoon boat we enjoyed a winter escape north. Braeden also fulfilled his long-held desire to zip along the Gold Coast’s waterways on a jet-ski. Just look at that smile! It was such a good example of a tourism operator taking the time to make something happen. You can read about our jet-ski ride in this story.
We were also thrilled to review a two bedroom accessible apartment with ocean views and a pool with a hoist. I know, a total unicorn – but we found it. You can check out this apartment in Broadbeach in our hotel review.
Heading further up the coast still, we made it to Tropical North Queensland where we had a lovely time exploring Cairns, Port Douglas, Mission Beach and areas in between. We shared our trip with the Accessed That podcast, a series put together to highlight the many accessible ways to travel in Queensland. Each episode featuring people with lived experience of various disabilities. It was amazing to listen to the variety of guests talking about their travels, challenges and successes. If you haven’t had a chance to have a listen, I highly recommend it.
Braeden may have always dreamed of hitting the water on a jet-ski but I’ve always wanted to take to the skies in a private jet. Well, I kind of made that a reality by stepping on board a private jet in Sydney.
Sadly we didn’t take-off but I figure I’m one step closer to my dream and I can definitely say I’m ready for the lifestyle. It was also interesting to learn that Qatar do have a private jet which can take a wheelchair in the cabin. Read more in my review.
In late May I had the pleasure of visiting San Antonio Texas and Washington DC on a solo business trip to the US. An absolute highlight of my visit was a day at Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s most accessible theme park. If you want to know what an accessible theme park looks like, check out my review.
Washington DC proved an incredibly accessible destination and there were many highlights to my visit including my visit to the International Spy Museum, I was in my absolute element. Hotel Zena, Washington DC, is one of the most unique hotel’s I’ve had the pleasure to review. You can catch up on my stay in this post.
In late October the Disney Wonder cruised into town and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hop on board for the evening and take a look around. I was especially pleased when two of our readers cruised on the ship and shared their experiences. You can read it all here.
Amelia signed up for a volunteer program in Fiji which provided lots of great opportunities for her. While there she weathered a cyclone and had a trip to hospital for a stomach bug but she loved her time with the Fijian people and especially the children. I travelled with her to Fiji for a quick five night holiday before her volunteer work began. It was both lovely to have a break in an intense year and a good opportunity for some mother-daughter quality time.
Our final trip of the year was a trip to the Cook Islands. With all that was going on with my mum and dad we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to go until the week before departure. Really, until we were on the plane I didn’t feel like it would happen, but it did and it was fabulous. I have travelled to many beautiful places in the world but Aitutaki is the most stunning. Not only was the water the most gorgeous clear, clean blue but the pace of life was so much slower than anywhere else. It was just what I needed to decompress before Christmas. Sadly Covid would strike again for me a few days after our return but thankfully it was a mild dose.
My work (passion) update
During the year I worked hard on Travel Without Limits magazine and we gave the website a makeover. If you haven’t checked out Travel Without Limits online you must! There is an absolute wealth of information available for free and the website looks beautiful – even if I do say so myself. Our fortnightly newsletter is also a great way of staying up-to-date with accessible news in between issues of the magazine and it is also free. It’s also not too late to get a copy of our summer issue pictured below. You can subscribe online here. If you prefer a digital copy of Travel Without Limits magazine, then you can get it on any English speaking Amazon.
In 2023 I did quite a few panel talks on accessible tourism, I was interviewed for BBC Conversations and I did presentations for everyone from Berkeley College in the US (that required presenting at 4am our time) to Destination Gold Coast in Australia. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experiences and thoughts on caring and accessible and inclusive tourism.
We’ve had a few other upheavals that I won’t go into but I think you get the idea, 2023 had some lovely highs and a few too many lows. We are looking forward to saying a big “See ya!” to 2023 and a warm “Helllllooooooo 2024!”
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who follow along with our adventures, comment, share your experiences and embrace our family. Without you there would be no Have Wheelchair Will Travel. The feedback you provide, the questions you ask and the challenges you share continue to keep me fighting for good access and inclusion and better conditions for carers.
Happy New Year!