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Spinning the Globe
By: Sylvia Longmire | November 28th 2017, 11:06 am
Sylvia Longmire

Sylvia is an accessible travel blogger for Spin the Globe, and owns her own accessible travel agency, Spin the Globe / Travel. She is a service-disabled veteran and the former Ms. Wheelchair USA 2016. Sylvia is also the President of The PreJax Foundation, a nonprofit that provides college scholarships to students who have MS or a parent with MS. You can follow her on Facebook at @spintheglobeonwheels and enjoy her travel photography on Instagram at @sylvia_longmire.

Traveling these days can be pretty frustrating. Traveling for people with physical disabilities can sometimes be downright impossible. I’m one of those people who takes that circumstance as a personal challenge. You see, I’m a professional accessible travel blogger, and these days I visit places just because I can.

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I wasn’t always a travel blogger, as is usually the case. I went on active duty in the Air Force out of college, and worked as a Special Agent for 8 1/2 years. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2005 and medically retired shortly thereafter. I had just gotten married, and moved to Northern California with my then-husband. There I started working as an analyst and expert on Mexico’s drug war and border security, which would become my full-time career to this day. If you Google me, that’s the first thing that will pop up. For now.

I started traveling as a small child with my parents, and had visited half a dozen countries and 22 states by the time I was a teenager. While I was on active duty, I was very fortunate that I never had to deploy to the Middle East. However, I did get the opportunity to visit Panama, Paraguay, Japan, and England while either on active duty or doing work for the Air Force afterwards as a civilian. I also went on my first solo international trip during this time, living my longtime dream of finally visiting Europe.

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After my MS diagnosis, I still occasionally traveled domestically for work. My ex-husband lost interest in travel after we had children, so my passport started collecting dust. As my consulting career started to gain momentum, I started experimenting with blogging as a way to document my experience as a military wife, mother, and author/consultant with a chronic disease. When I started using a walker and bringing it with me on work trips, I wrote about that experience.

I was using a power wheelchair full-time by 2014, and had to travel with an electric scooter. I moved across the country from Arizona to Florida after my divorce in July 2015, where I would be living by myself. My first post-divorce plan was a solo road trip through Arizona and Utah that November. I was still able to take a few steps, which meant I could rent a regular car with hand controls and take apart my scooter to put it in the trunk. I started in Phoenix, worked my way up through Sedona then over to Monument Valley and farther east to Four Corners. Then I headed north to Moab for Canyonlands and Arches, west through the San Rafael Swell, then up to Salt Lake City. It was the most emotionally draining and spiritually uplifting trip I had ever taken. And I wrote about it. That trip really helped build my confidence that I could travel alone and be okay — not just physically, but mentally.

That was when things started to get crazy.

In February 2016, I booked my ticket that December for my first international trip as a full-time wheelchair user to Dubai in February 2016. That trip unleashed a monster. I had been to the top of the tallest building in the world! I had ridden a camel! I had gone dune bashing in a Middle Eastern desert! Not in a formal evening gown, mind you, but I did it. And I wrote about it. A cruise to Alaska with my best friend followed that May. Then a solo trip to Reykjavík that September. Then a solo trip to Sydney that November. And I wrote about it.

That November. That was when something pivoted in my life. I had flown 16 hours to the east by myself and a combined 18 hours to the west by myself—being completely unable to walk, and relying 100 percent on an electric scooter for mobility. Mind you, I was far from being a pioneer in this respect. I have found other accessible travel bloggers from whom I derive much courage and inspiration, and I continually ask myself, if they can do it, why can’t I? And not just the accessible travel; I wanted to make a living as a travel writer.

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Today, I’m not only one of the very few female accessible (and solo) travel bloggers out there. I’m also a trained and licensed accessible travel agent, and I opened my own travel agency this past August. I thought, if I can arrange all of these amazing travel experiences for myself, why can’t I make those dreams come true for other wheelchair users (and get paid for it)? I’m in the unique position of being able to tell my clients that I have stayed in accessible hotel rooms, taken accessible tours, and asked all the questions for them that they would have. I can serve their needs in a way that an able-bodied agent can’t, simply because I’ve been there.

But writing is my biggest passion. I still write about the drug war because, hey, something needs to fund my habit — and I’m really good at it. My love for photography has been an enduring companion on this ride, and on November 22 I published an accessible travel photography book called The View from Down Here. I’m donating all of the proceeds to my nonprofit The PreJax Foundation, which provides college scholarships to students to either have MS or a parent with MS.

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For now, I will continue to travel as long as my body lets me. I will accept the curious stares and weird looks, and respond to them with a smile. I will both passively and actively demonstrate to those around me that wheelchair users can travel just like everybody else; we just do it a bit differently. And I will continue to write about all of it.

Sylvia is an accessible travel blogger for Spin the Globe, and owns her own accessible travel agency, Spin the Globe / Travel. She is a service-disabled veteran and the former Ms. Wheelchair USA 2016. Sylvia is also the President of The PreJax Foundation, a nonprofit that provides college scholarships to students who have MS or a parent with MS. You can follow her on Facebook at @spintheglobeonwheels and enjoy her travel photography on Instagram at @sylvia_longmire.

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