Money is not the only thing that stops people from traveling. Sometimes, there are physical limitations that make travel difficult.
I believe that, more than anything, being able to travel is about believing that it can be done.
I hope today’s interview with Kirsten (a.k.a. Globetrotter in a Wheelchair) drives that point home. Despite her handicap, Kirsten has been to almost 80 countries.
Check out how she does it in the following interview.
You’ve been to many, many countries, starting from before you even turned one. Did you get your love of travel from your parents?
I think I grew my love for traveling when I was a child. My father was a sales person and with his job we traveled to different countries in Europe. It was like doing a road trip. Besides that, we did travel on shorter vacations.
On your blog, you say that you and your husband travel slowly. How long do you usually stay in one place?
It may vary from a couple of days to a month or so; it all depends.
Occasionally we rent an apartment and stay there for a long time, so we have a base and do trips to nearby destinations.
You can never turn every stone on your way. But if a place seems nice it’s fantastic to just stay there, try to blend in; be part of the town. Of course you’ll never get to be local but it’s possible to get a pretty good feeling of how life is like in that particular place.
Do you travel full time or do you just get long vacations?
We do long vacations. How long depends on a lot of different things. The shortest trip we’ve taken was one week and the longest one was almost two years.
Are both you and your husband self-employed and is this why you can take such long vacations?
If you have a physical handicap in Denmark, you can hire a personal assistant and the government will pay their salary. I’ve hired my husband Dieter to work for me.
In Denmark, everybody has five weeks of paid vacation, so I can bring my personal assistant for five weeks per year — in my case, Dieter is paid. The rest of the time we travel, Dieter is not paid.
I am a self-employed artist and lecturer. But because of a lot of illnesses for some years now, I haven’t put a lot of effort in my art and almost next to nothing to my paid lectures.
Please tell me more about your art and lectures.
I work as an artist (check out KesterArt.com) and have exhibitions around the world. My income from sold art pieces goes mainly to buy new art materials and traveling.
When I travel, I mostly give free lectures in third-world countries especially; quite often I give lectures to people who are less fortunate or who have handicaps. Having a handicap in third-world countries is often regarded as a taboo. I try to encourage these people to fight for their rights as human beings, and at the same time to look at themselves with respect.
It can be very difficult living in a country where you are regarded as a non-member of the community because you have a handicap. So I also try to influence the community to open up their hearts to include the handicapped into the community, with respect for each and every one.
When in Denmark, I charge for lectures. I’ve also given lectures abroad in exchange for something else, for instance accommodation.
Do you mind sharing more details, like how much pension you earn or how your income is distributed between the pension, art sales and lectures in Denmark?
I get the standard Danish pension plus supplement because of my handicap. And because of my illnesses, I get most of my income from pension and right now hardly any from art and lectures.
What are some of your tricks to afford travel?
- We tend to travel in the low season, which makes the journey less expensive.
- For many years, we have rented out our apartment to get extra income.
- When we are on the road, we often stay with people to save money. It can be with people we meet or through AirBnB or Servas (which is free) and other cheap accommodation options.
- Another thing is, when you travel slow and focus on one destination, you avoid buying a lot of plane tickets, hence you can save some money.
- And like everyone else, we save up and don’t buy new things all the time.
We used hostels a lot. We rented furnished apartments, camper van and cabins. A few times we stayed in our own tent or we rented pre-erected tents.
If you rent a hotel room for a longer period of time, you can usually get it cheaper.
Can you tell me more about the apartment that you rent out for extra income? Is this your home that you only rent out when you travel? Do you own or rent? How do you find tenants?
Some years back we had our own house, but now we have a rental apartment.
The house was only rented out when we were traveling.
With the apartment, we rent out a room for longer periods or sublet the apartment when we’re traveling — keeping a spare room for personal stuff and some furniture.
We live in a university city, so finding tenants is easy. We also rent out to friends of friends.
It seems like you manage to do some pretty crazy stuff — I especially love the photo of you on a bamboo raft. What are some of the challenges of traveling in a wheelchair?
Accessibility is the hardest part when traveling in a wheelchair.
The world is full of stairs, steep entrances and narrow doors. You have to think creatively and not be afraid of asking for help.
It’s definitely easier to travel in a wheelchair when you’re young and don’t concern yourself so much. When you get more experienced and somehow wiser, you might think, what to do if the raft tipped over and the wheelchair ended up 10 meters down on the bottom of the river?
But fortunately you don’t think like that when you are young. You go for a carefree life — and journey!