We’ve always believed in keeping it real on Have Wheelchair Will Travel. I have never wanted our HWWT community to think that life is picture perfect for us. I think it’s easy in a world of Insta-worthy photos and social media to only see the world through the highlight reel of people’s lives and assume that everything is easy. It can plant seeds of discontentment when you see other people’s supposedly perfect lives. I hope that despite the travel photos and big smiles on our faces you realise we are human and have good and bad days when we are at home and when we are travelling.
I thought I’d share a bit about what it’s really like writing about accessible travel, the pressures associated with taking trips with Braeden and of course the lovely perks.
Most of you know that we started Have Wheelchair Will Travel in 2012 (it will be our 10 year anniversary in December) after we’d had two unbelievable trips to the USA. My travel background meant I’d researched every tiny detail to ensure we had a smooth trip and when we did, I was so excited I wanted to share the information with others. It wasn’t easy to find accessibility information and it seemed a waste not to share it. Thus, Have Wheelchair Will Travel was launched. It was always supposed to be a small side project and of course it grew into so much more. Now, thanks to our HWWT community I am armed with knowledge about the various needs of people with a disability and use this to educate and inform others in the tourism industry. I very much see HWWT as a collaborative project, our readers continue to open our eyes and we hopefully provide information that assists you to make decisions about travel.
Back to what it’s like for us to travel. Sometimes our travels are a holiday we are taking just because it’s somewhere we want to go and at other times we are invited to a destination, or we are asked to review a hotel. Our recent trip to the Gold Coast was by invitation.
I’ll start with the positive that everyone talks about and that’s receiving “free travel”. Nothing in life is truly free, people provide us with travel because they want to promote or highlight something about their destination. We acknowledge we are extremely fortunate to have our stays in many hotels hosted and we often receive free entry to attractions for the purposes of reviewing them. As a family we get to do things we may not otherwise afford. I won’t accept an experience or a stay if I don’t feel I can write about it in a positive light. It needs to be accessible or inclusive in some way to our readers and obviously our family. We love travelling and sharing these experiences with you all.
It doesn’t seem like there could possibly be any challenges to this gig, right? Well, the top one for me is that I just can’t tune out from looking for access and inclusion everywhere I go. Whether I am at a park, the airport or even a bathroom, I’m always “on”. It’s so inbuilt in me I can’t just observe, I usually need to write about it, ask for more details or research it when I see something. Sometimes I wish I could just enjoy something in a more relaxed manner. I also spend a lot of time contacting businesses and giving feedback, both positive and the things they could do to improve. After each hosted stay I privately give feedback to the hotel on staff who were exceptional and on anything that needs improving accessibility wise.
When I asked the family for what they would include in a story about the reality of writing about accessible travel and travelling with Braeden they added the following.
It’s a pain to arrive at a hotel and not be able to use the toilet or put the bags into the room before I’ve photographed everything and taken two videos (one in horizontal orientation for youTube and one in portrait orientation for TikTok and Instagram stories).
Everything has to be measured for hotel reviews.
We often take a million photos to get the one good one that can go with the story or review.
Often our photos are used without our permission. Even when I watermark the images, people crop out the watermark and use them as if Braeden is a paid model or that they have permission to use the photos. One of our HWWT readers recently alerted us to someone using Braeden’s image as their Facebook profile picture! The internet really is a creepy place at times.
Below I’m sharing two photos that you probably wouldn’t take a second glance at in a review but this is a great example of the time we take to get things right. I wanted to show the height of the buffet breakfast bar at Novotel Surfers Paradise so I had Hubby and Braeden pose for the pic. I took nine shots before I was happy with the photo below. Then I reviewed it again and thought it would look much better if Hubby wasn’t wearing the mask. So, I asked Hubby and Braeden to do it again. Another half a dozen photos and I was happy. It will appear in a review which is coming next week so keep an eye out for our hotel review.
The family would also tell you that when we sit down to eat everyone sits back while I take a photo of their food. They are a good bunch, they understand the rules, even if their food is going cold or they are ravenously hungry.
Having so much luggage because one bag literally has Braeden’s portable toilet in it.
Sometimes we are given an itinerary and we need to stick to the timings on the itinerary which can be hard if you want to spend longer at one spot or if you want to do something else instead.
Occasionally a staff member at an attraction stays with us for the duration of the experience. While it’s lovely to be treated like a VIP we don’t interact as a family in the same way with a stranger (as lovely as they are) tagging along. But, at times this has also been a highlight.
We want to represent an authentic experience at locations and want to know what it is like for a traveller who isn’t writing about it. While it’s lovely to receive the VIP treatment we always ask if what we experience is the same as what everyone else would get when they book. There’s no point in us sharing something that isn’t real and that’s something we express to those providing experiences.
Obviously, when we get back from a trip my work really begins with writing up the details, editing photos and sharing. I’m always super keen to do this because if we’ve found fantastic accessible and inclusive places, I want you to all know about it. Often, I am frustrated that regular day-to-day life means it takes me a while to do this. There is an expectation from whoever has provided our accommodation or the attractions to see the stories ASAP. Life is busy in Casa Jones so it can be a background pressure to get it done. The amount of time I spend on HWWT I could actually do a casual job but I think this is way more rewarding.
We love what we do and although sometimes I’m sure the kids get frustrated with me ducking off to take photos of a toilet or a ramp, we wouldn’t change it. We do love returning to Port Macquarie as we’ve been there so many times it is the place where we can most relax as I’ve written everything I can about it as a destination. Unless of course something new opens, then I can’t help myself.
Finishing off on the highlights of our travels. The first one is when I hear from you, our readers, that you’ve used our information to feel more empowered or that you’ve been somewhere we’ve suggested and it’s worked well for you. That is the number one reward for me. Secondly, the people we meet along the way. Braeden thrives on the interactions we have and there’s something quite different about travel interactions to those we have day to day. I’m not sure if everyone is more open and relaxed or if it’s the result of shared experiences and people feeling they have a way of relating to Braeden. Whatever it is, it is special. Travel is a privilege and that is never lost on us.
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You may also like to read about Braeden’s first flight in 3 years here.