Solo Traveling Around the World in a Wheelchair

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Sabine "Bean" Wagner from Germany traveled around the world in her wheelchair. "It's always been a life dream," Bean shared. "I always wanted to do something like that."

Paying for such an adventure was no easy feat, but Bean had a plan. She decided to spend 10 months not spending money on anything other than food for her and her dog, and one tank of gas a month. No material purchases, no coffee to go, no meals out- Bean said it was no picnic, but at the end of 10 months, she had what she needed to make her dream come true. "It was hard and it took some strength, but it also proved to me in the end that if you work hard you can make something happen," she said.


a woman in a wheelchair on a path in front of a sign that says klongkoi village

She began her trip with a stopover in Thailand for 6 days. "That was my first reality check, a smack in the face," she shared. She ended up in a tourist trap place and desperate for a new hotel, she hit her first hurdle of finding another wheelchair accessible hotel. She then moved onto Australia to visit her sister in the Outback. "I just wanted to travel low budget, but I learned within the first day that it wasn’t possible using a wheelchair." She had assumed she'd be able to find hostels, but found that even if the front entrance was wheelchair accessible, often times the rooms were on the second floor (with no elevator) or that the bathrooms were too small for her to navigate. She had traveled before for holidays in the past, but this was a different approach considering she was budgeting for months of travel.

Bean weighed in on the experience:

What is a highlight of your trip so far? 

I’ve never felt so close to mother nature as I did in the outback in Australia (aka the middle of nowhere). The moon and the stars were so beautiful, you felt like you could touch them. There’s so many cool spots in Australia and the wildlife was impressive. Snorkeling in Great Barrier Reef is a must! 

What has been the biggest challenge so far? 

Bali. Everyone who knows me knows I'm a very independent person- I do everything on my own. I live on my own, I drive my own car- and in Bali I was so trapped. I was only able to go a little down the street left or right. Even if you booked a private tour, nothing was doable as a wheelchair user. If you had the motor wheelchair it’d be even worse. I wouldn’t recommend any wheelchair person to go there- not because of culture or countryside or people- all of that was awesome- it was more the development and infrastructure that kept me from being able to do what I wanted to do. The feeling of not being independent was 100% the worst thing – people would run across the street to help me, I wasn’t left alone, it was just feeling that personally that I wasn’t able to do it.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to travel? 

Prepare. I was so naïve to believe “oh you can do it, you’ll figure out when you get there” like I usually do. Everything will work out, but it’s just different if you travel for months than a holiday.

I probably experience things differently now that I’m not in a hostel. If you’re in a hostel, you’re surrounded by people like you. I've always been very close to the culture because I wasn’t in hostels and because I was by myself. The hotel people in Bali knew me, invited me to parties and gave me a private cooking class in the hotel kitchen. I got to know the people more- if you’re interested in that, make an effort to get outside of a hostel. 

Eat local. Even if it’s crazy in the beginning, try to do it anyway because it’s worth the experience.

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