Since I started working in the travel industry, I’ve met many other remarkable bloggers and one of them is Carrie-Ann Lightley. She lives in the UK and frequently blogs about her accessible travel adventures. Her blog is fascinating and I’ve become a big fan of hers in the past couple years. I recently had the chance to interview her for my ongoing Wheelie Inspiring Interview Series, and I learned more about Carrie-Ann and her travel experiences. Check out what she had to say –
Please tell us about yourself and what you do.
I live in the Lake District, UK with my husband Darren and our little dog, Poppy. I love to travel, to the next town or somewhere far away. I’m an organiser, a planner, and a list maker. Researching new places to go is what I love to do, and it’s also been part of my role as Information Service Manager at Tourism for All for the last 12 years. I have Cerebral Palsy, which means I use a wheelchair. I was brought up to believe that there is nothing I absolutely cannot do – there is always a way. I launched my blog www.carrieannlightley.com as my way of sharing that belief with the world, and celebrating accessible businesses that go above and beyond to make sure that everybody enjoys their holidays and travels.
How did your passion for adventure begin?
For most of my childhood and teenage years I travelled ‘mainstream’ – booking hotels through a high street travel agent, hobbling on to transfer coaches, rearranging furniture in the room to accommodate my wheelchair. It wasn’t until I started working for Tourism for All that I realised travel can be made easier. Overall, the thing I love most about travelling is the sense of independence. Travelling alone or with my husband, managing it all, and sometimes struggling but pushing myself to carry on, gives me a huge sense of achievement. Sometimes it’s a harsh wake-up call going somewhere new and having that comfort taken away, but isn’t that what travelling is all about? Going to new places, seeing things with fresh eyes, taking in new experiences. Sometimes it can be a little more difficult for me, but that’s not going to stop me any time soon!
What is the most wheelchair friendly place you have been to?
Barcelona is without a doubt the most accessible place I’ve travelled to. The city’s Olympic legacy means that accessibility just is a part of every day life, and I had no issues at all accessing accommodation, transport, attractions, beaches, and places to eat and drink.
What is the least accessible place you have visited?
The least accessible place that I’ve travelled to would be Tunisia. Though ramps are provided in places, they are too steep for a wheelchair user to use independently. Curb drops are also huge, and accessible toilets difficult to find.
What kind of problems have you came across while traveling in a wheelchair? How did you overcome them?
A couple of months ago I stayed in Pisa, Italy. My husband and I have a wedding anniversary pact – we don’t buy presents or cards, but each year we take a trip together on our anniversary. I spent a long time researching and putting together an itinerary to include day trips to Florence and Lucca. The hotel confirmed an accessible room with wheel in shower, which is really all I need… or so I thought. On arrival I discovered a large step at the hotel entrance, and no ramp. My husband bumped my chair up and once we’d checked into our room we found it was very small, with no thought to accessibility other than a wet-room style bathroom. After a discussion with the hotel’s management we found an alternative entrance with ramp (it was a fire exit and used for transporting luggage, but whatever works, right?!). Once the hotel understood that although I’d prefer a wheel in shower, I could manage with a bath tub and what I really needed was extra space and grab bars for safety, they moved us to a more suitable room.
What are some of the top items on your bucket list?
Since my first taste of the Spanish city Barcelona back in 2013, I’ve been in love with the European city break. I have subsequently holidayed in Rome, Palma, and Pisa and next I’d love to try Milan. The idea for Milan came about after seeing a friend’s holiday snaps on Facebook. The photos were gorgeous and reminiscent of Rome, which immediately made me want to go there. I love Italian food, culture and history, and the people are so friendly. A quick Google search brought up the website www.milanopertutti.it, which provides details of access to nearly every sight in the city. Milan was even the winner of the EU Access City Award 2016. But thoughts of busy city sightseeing breaks aside, I’m yearning for a rest and relaxation sun holiday too. It’s been a few years since I’ve had this type of break – a sun lounger, a selection of books, bottomless cocktails and nothing to worry about but which meal to choose from the buffet next! I haven’t explored the Canary Islands, but hear great things about accessibility there (like at the Mar y Sol Hotel in Tenerife). I think it would be the perfect setting for a chill out holiday.
Do you have any tips for other wheelchair users that might think traveling is not possible?
Accessible travel isn’t always easy, it does require a lot of extra planning and sometimes there are surprises along the way. For me, that makes the beach sunsets, the rooftop city views, and the countryside landscapes even more beautiful. To have overcome what feels like a million extra obstacles and be able to say ‘I got here!’ is an amazing feeling. That’s why I have such a passion for the industry I work in; every day I help people to realise their accessible travel dreams, and help businesses to make those dreams possible.
Most importantly, where to next?
My dream destination is Perth, Western Australia. My best friend emigrated to Perth in 2014 and I’m desperate to visit. I am concerned about the length of the flight, so would probably break it up with a night in Dubai or Singapore on a stopover. My husband has a special birthday in December 2018, so we figure it’s the perfect way to celebrate!
Check out Carrie-Ann’s blog or stay in touch on her Facebook page!
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