7 continents, 1 wheelchair: Cory Lee's adventures show travel has no boundaries

(CNN)Going to Antarctica is a bucket list goal for many, but for Cory Lee, it was that and much more.

Exploring the world on his wheelchair and blogging about it since 2013, Lee visited the White Continent in February -- just before Covid-19 upended travel plans for so many. The trip accomplished Lee's goal of traveling to all 7 continents, a first for a powered wheelchair user, he believes.
"I remember the moment we arrived," Lee told CNN, "I immediately just started crying. It was such an emotional moment for me, because I had worked so long and so hard to get to that point."
      Cory Lee visiting Antarctica
      The sights in Antarctica "completely blew me away," Lee said. He traveled aboard a cruise ship, after thoroughly researching every detail for two years before departure.
        "To finally be there and see the whales, the penguins, the seals and the icebergs was totally surreal."

          Thrilling experiences

          At the age of two, Lee was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy. He started using a wheelchair full-time when he was 4 years old.
          That didn't stop Lee from visiting 37 countries, including Morocco, Australia, India, Costa Rica, Finland, and many more.
          Cory Lee riding a camel in Morocco
          In his international adventures, Lee actively seeks out what he calls "thrilling experiences."
          He has flown on wheelchair accessible hot air balloons over Las Vegas, and in Israel and Spain. He went ziplining at Gatorland in Orlando, Florida, using a special sling.
          In Morocco, Lee rode a camel using a specially designed seat. "It had a full back rest, and it was basically like I was sitting in a chair, but on top of the camel," he explained.
          "That was an experience I never thought I would be able to have as a wheelchair user," Lee added. "It was incredible."

          Doing the research

          Planning trips as a wheelchair user requires a lot of research, and through his blog "Curb Free with Cory Lee," he has been sharing his tips on what to look for and where to go to have the best time.
          He starts researching each trip six to 12 months in advance, looking for accessible transportation options and attractions, and calling hotels or rental homes ahead of time to request pictures and verify that they are truly accessible to him, something he recommends others do too.
          In his early traveling days, Lee said he would arrive in hotels that promised to have accessible rooms, only to find that yes, he could take an elevator to the room, but his wheelchair couldn't fit in the doorway.
          "The word accessible means something different to every person just depending on your own individual needs. So, If you really want it to be accessible for you, then you really have to ask all the questions," Lee said.

          Most and least accessible places

          Lee says that even from the time he started blogging 7 years ago, there have been huge improvements in accessible options for disabled travelers around the world. Some destinations are ahead of the curve.
          "Places like Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, those are some I keep going back to time and time again because they are so accessible," Lee said. "The people are incredibly friendly, the food is good, and it's easy to get around with a wheelchair."
          Sydney, Australia gets the cake for most accessible city in Lee's experience.
          He visited Sydney in 2014. "It was really the first time that I'd ever traveled somewhere and felt completely independent," Lee said. Getting on ferries, buses or taxis as a wheelchair user was very easy, and Lee was able to eat in any restaurant without issues.
          "I really never had to worry about accessibility," he added.
          His most challenging trip was to a city beloved by so many: Paris, France.
          He was there in 2013.
          "I tried to use the Metro and it was not accessible at all. So, I finally found a wheelchair accessible taxi, but it was 650 euros per day," Lee said.
          Accessible transportation is a crucial part of being able to plan a successful trip: "If they don't have wheelchair accessible taxis or public transportation, then I'm pretty much just stuck at the airport," Lee told CNN.
          Even before arriving at a destination, the hardest part of traveling as a wheelchair user is still taking a plane, Lee said.
          He has to be lifted out of his wheelchair and into airplane seats, and once seated, it's difficult for him to access the bathroom.
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