Cory Lee is a power wheelchair user who is a pioneer in accessible travel and has shown that anyone can explore the world without limits, regardless of physical abilities. Cory's passion for accessible travel has not only transformed his own life but has also inspired countless individuals around the globe to embrace their wanderlust and explore the world. Through his distinguished travel blog, Cory has become a trusted voice in the accessible community by sharing his travel experiences, tips, and insights for those with disabilities.
He recently hosted a group tour to Spain with Wheel the World. We had the opportunity to interview him about his experiences, favorite destinations, and some insider tips on traveling with a wheelchair.
A huge thank you to Cory for taking the time to answer some questions, and for hosting a wonderful group tour!
Can you introduce yourself?
I am Cory Lee and I run the travel blog called Curb Free with Cory Lee which I started back in December of 2013. Since then, I have visited 43 countries and all seven continents. I became the first powered wheelchair-user to visit all seven continents, so it has become a whirlwind of a journey.
What are your top three favorite destinations you've traveled to?
- My number one would be India. That had been a place I wanted to visit ever since I was little but it unfortunately wasn’t very accessible, up until a few years ago. I absolutely loved India and it was better than I could have ever dreamed of.
- My second favorite would be Morocco. I was able to go to Marrakesh, Casablanca, Fes, and out into the Sahara desert – I even had the opportunity to ride a camel that had an adaptive camel saddle, which was an awesome experience.
- Number three is Barcelona, or even Spain overall. It is a very inclusive destination especially for Europe. Often times Europe can be a difficult place to find accessible cities, but Barcelona and Spain in general has been ahead of the game in terms of accessibility.
What is the craziest thing you've done?
I was in Switzerland just a few weeks ago and did adaptive paragliding. We jumped off a mountain and paraglided over the Swiss Alps. It was completely adaptive and accessible - that was probably the most exciting activity I have ever done.
How has traveling as a wheelchair user shaped you as a person?
Traveling as a wheelchair user has definitely taught me to have patience. When anyone is traveling, whether in a wheelchair or not, something is bound to go wrong. No trip is going to be 100% perfect, but if you have a positive attitude that you carry with you during your travels, you’ll have a good experience no matter what happens. Especially when traveling with a power-wheelchair which is very, very difficult. I don’t want to give out a false perception that it’s easy, but it is pretty difficult a lot of the times. But if you stay positive and know that for every problem you face, there is a solution, then you can still have a really good trip.
As a power wheelchair user – what is one of the most common issues you face when staying at hotels?
Booking the hotel in general can be really difficult in my experience. When I go online and try to find an accessible hotel, for example, they often don’t include accessible information on their website. Knowing if the bed is the right height, or if a Hoyer lift can roll under the bed, or if there is a good roll-in shower in the room. That has been very difficult for me to find online, so the booking process is probably the hardest part for me. Aside from that, when I am actually at the hotel, the roll-in shower is by far the most important thing for me. A lot of them will have a really small step to get in, or some sort of lip that makes it super difficult.
How was your experience traveling to Egypt?
Egypt was amazing. I have wanted to go since I was little, and I never thought that it would be accessible for me. There are still many ways that Egypt could improve accessibility and it was one of the more difficult trips for me, especially compared to others that I’ve done. However, it is very possible to go there and have a good trip with the right attitude and if you’re willing to break out of your comfort zone.
I was able to see the pyramids up close, we went to the markets, and had really good Egyptian food which was really tasty. I didn’t get to ride a camel in Egypt, but I did get to kiss one!
Given that this is your second group tour, how has your overall experience been traveling with Wheel the World?
When traveling with a group of other wheelchair users, it really gives us a chance to interact with one another and learn from each other’s experiences. There is that common bond that we all share having a disability and being in a wheelchair, so being able to spend a week here in Catalonia, Spain with other wheelchair users has been a remarkable experience.
What do you enjoy most about traveling with Wheel the World?
The best thing about traveling with Wheel the World is that they take all of the planning away from myself and all the others in the group – with an excellently planned itinerary and very accessible hotels. All of the hotels have been perfect and I’ve had zero complaints about any of them. Also, the transportation aspect has been really convenient to not have to worry about getting an accessible taxi, or finding out if the public transportation is accessible. The fact that Wheel the World takes care of all the small details that often takes me a lot of time to plan is invaluable.
"The fact that Wheel the World takes care of all the small details that often takes me a lot of time to plan is invaluable." - Cory Lee
We know you’ve experienced many challenges during flights, how do you overcome these challenges and what advice would you give to a traveler that is afraid to fly?
Flying with a wheelchair is by far the most difficult part about traveling for me. However, there are things that you can do to make the process a little bit better. I try to only stick to non-top flights because when you have a layover and need to change planes, there is more room for things to go wrong. Also, preparing my wheelchair for the flight is very helpful. I usually use bubble wrap to protect it and i take off as many parts of my wheelchair that I can and store them in my carry-on. The fewer parts there are on the wheelchair the better, because fewer parts can potentially be damaged. If you’re traveling with a wheelchair, that is super important.
What would you say to the Wheel the World community and to any person with a disability who wants to travel the world?
Traveling as wheelchair user is going to come with obstacles, but it is totally possible to do it. I promise you it is worth it! I mean, I’ve been to 43 countries and I don’t regret traveling – ever. I think travel teaches us empathy and makes us better humans overall, and that’s the greatest thing you can learn. Getting out there, breaking outside of your comfort zone, and trying to see the world will allow you to learn so much more than you ever would just sitting at home.
How was your experience traveling to Costa Rica? How was accessibility in terms of activities and the destination overall?
I love Costa Rica! I have actually been there twice and did a group trip there a few years ago. It’s unlike any other place in the world, and the fact that you can go to the rain forest, and see all of the animals and insects. Best part, it’s fully accessible. There were paved trails through the rain forests and I was able to stay in my wheelchair and enjoy all of it. I would have never expected the rain forest of Costa Rica to be accessible. If you love the outdoors and are a wheelchair user, I think Costa Rica is a perfect destination for you.
When did you start hosting your group tours and why did you decide to build them?
Our first ever group tour was in 2018 and it was to Morocco. So far, we’ve done Morocco, Iceland, Costa Rica, Patagonia, and now Catalonia, Spain. I did them to start meeting followers and readers of my blog, and to just be able to travel with other wheelchair users. It’s such a unique experience. When I’m traveling with my family or friends where I’m the only wheelchair user, it’s such a different experience. But when I am able to meet other wheelchair users, share these special bonds, and make new friends, it makes the whole experience that much better. Every year, the group trips have consistently been my favorite ones. I usually only do one group trip per year, but I would love to start doing two or three.
A massive thank you to Cory for taking the time to interview and for sharing your experiences and insights with us. To learn more about him, be sure to check out his blog.
Group tours are an exceptional way to explore the world, connect with fellow travelers, and experience a destination alongside individuals who understand the unique challenges of living with a disability. Discover more about our group tour options and explore exciting destinations by clicking below.
Join our Accessible Travel Facebook Group
A community of over 4,500 members where you can discuss accessible travel, share tips, advice, and meet other travelers.