- Date : 02/05/2019
- Read: 5 mins
Once the travel bug bites, you will be able to overcome any challenge, believes Parvinder Chawla.
An undying spirit, wanderlust, and the courage to overcome all hurdles encouraged Parvinder Chawla to travel to 30 countries – alone! She wants to travel to every country in the world and is relentless in her pursuit.
Here she talks about the challenges she’s faced, her learnings along the journey, seeing the beauty in the world, and becoming a happier person.
What is your response to people who ask, “Isn’t it difficult to travel in a wheelchair?”
I always tell them that it is only when you travel that you will know. It is not difficult at all; it is all in your mind. The beauty of seeing new places and meeting new people makes it worth any challenges that may come your way.
After all these years of travel, what still comes as a challenge?
Every trip is unique and brings with it a new set of challenges. I try to learn from each one of them and try to do better in my next trip. If I have to pinpoint one, I would say travelling light is my biggest hurdle. My trips are budget trips, so I cannot travel with a lot of luggage. Also, being confined to a wheelchair means I cannot lug around too many bags. I have to play it smart when packing for a trip. Another challenge is being on a budget travelling on buses metros, staying in hostels, etc.
What is your favourite place/country on earth and why?
I have been to 30 countries so far but India is the best. The natural beauty of our country makes it a winner beyond doubt. There are places in India at par with Switzerland, Niagara Falls, Scotland, and other such exotic places. We have everything in India. Unfortunately, we do not have the infrastructure and facilities to get to these places. When you travel abroad, they charge you hundreds of dollars to see very uninspiring things. We have so much more to offer here. If we can only get our transportation and logistics right, we can earn millions and millions of dollars via tourism and boost our economy.
If I have to choose my favourite wheelchair-friendly country, I would pick Dubai. There is actually not much to see in Dubai, but it is 90% accessible to physically challenged people. The credit for this goes to a non-profit entity called Wings of Angelz, who I am proud to be a part of, it works towards creating awareness about wheelchair accessibility. Next on my list of travel destinations is Melbourne, a stunning city that has fully wheelchair-friendly public transport and one can spend days exploring cities beauty.
Is it difficult to fund your trips?
I run an Airbnb at home. I also have some income from my catering business and rentals from properties. But at the same time, it is not a lot. Which is why all my trips are budget trips.
How have you changed as a person since you began travelling?
I was always a friendly person but travelling has made me even more bold and confident. Physically, it has made me fitter; and mentally, a much happier person. When travelling alone, I know whatever the situation, I have to deal with it myself. It has strengthened my belief in myself and in God. I know I am able to do the things I do only with His grace.
Do you believe travelling solo is more liberating?
Definitely! But it is more liberating only if you are open-minded and willing to experience new things. People are always very kind, sympathetic towards me. There have been so many instances where people have gone out of their way to help me and ensure I am taken care of. You just need to have faith.
Do you think one has to be rich to travel the world?
I don’t think you need to be rich in monetary terms to have rich experiences in your life. My own life is an example of this. You need to be rich in your thinking and your heart to embrace new experiences and new cultures.
What are some tips you would like to share about travelling on a budget?
Above all, travel light.
Use public transport wherever you can. Download this app called ‘Moovit’; it tells you everything you need to know about trains, buses, etc. in different countries.
Carry snacks – energy bars, dates, muesli, etc. – with you to cut down on food expenses.
Buy a Matrix SIM card, especially if you are travelling to a country where language might be an issue and you need to be connected to the internet to use the apps for help.
Trip Advisor/Google Maps - it helps to prioritise your choices. I have been trying my best to update all the places that I visit about their accessibility under my display name of wheelchairandeye.
Don’t carry a lot of cash; use a travel card instead as it is far safer and more convenient.
What advice would you like to give people who want to travel but feel constrained due to physical limitations?
If you are physically challenged, start out with simpler, wheelchair-friendly places. Visit a destination that makes you feel alive, so you are not demoralised if things get tough. Do a short trip to get over your fear. Once the travel bug bites, you will be able to overcome any challenge!
Visit wheelchairandeye to read more inspiring stories of her.
What is next on the agenda for you?
Apart from my pursuit to see new places, I want to work on improving travel for the physically challenged. I want to bring awareness to the day-to-day challenges that we face. I want to join social groups that work towards enriching lives of people. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, we will have the equivalent of Dubai’s Wings of Angelz here in India. I would love to be part of it, and other social groups where I can share my experiences to better public transport access in India for physically challenged as well as the elderly.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article by Parvinder Chawla are her own, and do not necessarily reflect those of TomorrowMakers.com or its owners.