Karla Baker is an adventure lover, travel blogger, a caravanner, a bookworm, and a wheelchair user. With companion Stephen by her side and a ‘never say never’ attitude, she is proving through her travels that being in a wheelchair is no restriction towards fulfilling one's dreams, aspirations and most importantly, wanderlust. The very attitude resonates throughout the conversation that we had with her.
Tell us something about yourself.
Where do I start? I’m 25 years old and have a genetic condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which makes all of my muscles weaken- because of this I use an electric wheelchair. But I never let this stop me and love nothing more than going on adventures and exploring.
How did you get into traveling in the first place and how many countries have you and your partner Stephen covered so far?
It started with the excitement of family holidays when I was a child, we visited lots of places around the UK and Europe. But, in recent years Stephen and I have bought and adapted a caravan and away on road trips most months! We just love the freedom of caravanning.
Alright, so should I assume you have only explored the UK and Europe up until now?
Yes, so far we have done England, Wales and a stunning 2885 mile tour of Scotland and we have big plans to explore Europe in the near future.
PC- Karla Baker
At what point did the two of you decide on shifting to the caravan Travel lifestyle?
Stephen caravanned as a child but he knew I would love it too. It just felt natural for us because we love being outdoors, it can be a relatively cheap way to travel, it’s great for spontaneous getaways and we love knowing that wherever we travel, our accommodation will be as accessible as we’ve made it!
Did you always carry the “Screw it, I’m gonna do this anyway!” attitude?
I am lucky that I was brought up by parents who never let me think I was incapable of things, and this attitude has continued into adult life. If there is a way to work around things, I will come up with it! It’s always funny to see people’s faces when I do something unexpected. One example is when Stephen and I were going up a steep hill to a viewpoint and someone said: “Oh you’ll never get a wheelchair up there”... our response? “We already did!”
“Where there's Wheels, there’s a Way!”
PC- Karla Baker
Hats off to your positive outlook! However, there must be difficulties. Which among them is major when it comes to accessible travel?
One that stands out most is accommodation. Your average hotel is often far from suitable for people with disabilities, even their “accessible” rooms! I know one person who had to unscrew the bathroom door just so she could get her wheelchair in.
Do you think that accessible tourism has improved on a global scale, over the years?
I think overall everywhere is slowly improving with their accessibility but there is still a way to go. Years ago a wheelchair user wouldn’t have been able to ride on a gondola in Venice, but now they’ve made one wheelchair accessible (I fully intend to try it out).
I definitely hope that you do! What is your travel dream beyond the UK & Europe?
There is so much to be explored within Europe for now but our dream is to pop our car and caravan in a shipping container and do a massive road trip across the USA.
PC- Karla Baker
Many might wonder, “what happens if something goes wrong?” Strictly talking about accessible travel, how do plan & deal with mishaps along the way? Also, how do you deal with naysayers?
We’re lucky to have not had anything too badly go wrong (so far) but it’s a lot about planning and being prepared. We always take more supplies than we need, both ordinary items like clothing, and specialist medical equipment. If my vital respiratory equipment breaks, I know I always have a backup. But I’d say the most important thing in the event of something going wrong is try not to stress or panic, you need a clear mind to think logically and find solutions. With regards to the naysayers, I get great pleasure in proving them wrong.
Are there countries which you'd not keep in your bucket list?
I don’t think there are any countries I CAN’T go to, but perhaps some I’d choose not to, because of their lack of accessibility and understanding of disability.
What would be the 3 tips that you'd give a fellow wheelchair user with a dream to travel?
Firstly, Research and forward plan. It’s important to know that the place you are going is suitable for your needs ahead of arriving there. Secondly, Respect your limits. We’ve suffered from trying to do too much in too little time and that makes it less enjoyable. And finally, ENJOY IT!
What according to is the essence of traveling?
Travelling is having the freedom to explore new places, see amazing scenery and meet wonderful people. It’s where the best memories are made.
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