Alysia Kezerian says her love for traveling is hereditary as she grew up traveling all over her home state of California with her parents and younger sister. She writes, “My parents instilled a sense of adventure into me and my sister. Not just in terms of traveling far and wide, but treating every single day as if it were one.” In college, Alysia and a friend traveled to Smith Rock State Park, one of ‘Seven Wonders of Oregon’. During the expedition, Alysia was involved in a bouldering accident. She sustained a spinal cord injury and became a full-time wheelchair user. However, Alysia’s love for traveling never dwindled. She shares her story of recovery and how she continues her traveling adventures on four wheels.
Alysia remembers thinking how beautiful the scenery was as she was slid down the side of the mountain to make it back to the ambulance. “If I can still find this place so beautiful then this is going to be okay,” she told herself. Through her recovery process, Alysia learned that everyone copes in different ways and it is important to find a way that works for you.
“Some people don’t accept what’s happened to them at first, and I don’t know why I so easily accepted it. I just decided that this was my new normal.”
Alysia was encouraged by her support system to continue doing the things she loved. So, Alysia visited the Denver Airport with a few other patients while still in rehab at Craig Hospital. The group learned how to get into the airport, hold a bag, get assistance, and transfer from their wheelchair to the aisle chair to board the plane. Alysia proclaims, “that day gave me the confidence I needed to travel again.” Since leaving rehab, Alysia has studied abroad in Vienna and visited more than ten different countries.
“We’re very spoiled in the U.S. when it comes to accessibility—at least in the cities that I’ve been to so far—and visiting a place where accessibility laws are different can be incredibly daunting at first. But there’s no amount of effort I’m not willing to put in to see the things that I want to see.”
Alysia says her favorite trip so far has been traveling to London by herself to visit her cousin. “Looking back, one of the best days of my entire life was when I rolled 11 miles all over London in my wheelchair. I stopped at everything from museums to Brick Lane, and I realized that traveling alone can actually be quite beautiful. That day, I felt, well, if I can do this, then I just need to continue to believe in myself. It was on that trip that I came to peace with everything and realized that I may not know where my life is going—there is a lot of ambiguity that comes with spinal cord injuries—but that’s okay.”
Alysia started an Instagram page called Wheelies Around The World. She started the page to share her own story and advice on how she travels as someone who uses a wheelchair. The page began to grow after Alysia posted just a few pictures. She started receiving submissions from other travelers who used wheelchairs and the page blossomed into a community of support.
“As I was making the account, I thought of myself when I was in hospital, worrying about not being able to travel, of not being able to do the things I love again. I made Wheelies Around the World for the woman I was then.”
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