Wheelchair Backpacking: The Beginning

In Australia it’s almost tradition that by sometime in your twenties you are going quit your job and go backpacking around Europe for an extended period of time.

As a result a lot of my friends have done this and I found myself getting jealous and frustrated. Then one day I though why can’t I go backpacking around Europe solo? Surely even with my disability it’s something I could manage. Many people suggested joining a tour especially designed for people with disabilities – inclusive travel. However I decided I wanted to travel as “normally” as possible, I wanted to have that “backpacking solo” experience. As a result I wanted to stay in hostels, travel  using only public transport and be able to carry everything on their back.

The other thing I wanted to be able to do like my other able bodied travellers was to be as flexible as possible. A lot of people I spoke to and blogs I read advised against this as not having a plan means you don’t know about accessibility and get caught out later.

I ended up booking and planning the first 2 weeks of my journey and left the rest up to chance. I did however write down a general route, major cities I wanted to visit and generally how many days at each before I left. . I also emailed a couple of the bigger chain hostels to see which of their hostels in which cities were accessible and then made a list. As I was travelling in the off season (winter) I wasn’t too concerned about places being booked out. I also bought a 2 month Eurail pass (information on travelling by train in a future blog), so then I could buy the actual train tickets as I went.

I found not planning  too far ahead was very liberating as you could pick and choose where you wanted to go. There were some instances that there were no accessible hostels in the city I was staying and I had to stay in a hotel. However making a list of accessible hostels before I went was very handy.




  1. Divesh Bubber

    Wow. You’re an inspiration. I met with a car accident in May’11. spinal cord injury. Though I have travelled a lot since my injury but always with parents and not even friends. After reading your blog I too feel I can backpack by myself. I was 22 when I met with the accident hence losing the prime years of my life thinking where I was headed. Is it possible for me to get in touch with you and get some additional information regarding your travel.



    1. cdw_264@hotmail.com

      Hi Divesh,
      Yes please feel free to send me an email through the contact form page and I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.



  2. @1Rebone

    Hi Caitlin…

    @1Rebone in South Africa.

    I am interested in how you managed. Emotionally, and dealing with inconsiderate people?

    My my was wheelchair-bound for the last 5 years of her life and I was her primary carer till she passed on October last year.

    Thanks. You might inspire many.


    1. Caitlin

      Hi @1Rebone.
      Luckily most the countries that I travelled to didn’t speak English so I didn’t encounter ignorant people asking stupid questions (ie what’s wrong with you, you need a horn for that thing) like I do back home so that was a nice change.
      I didn’t incounter many unhelpful people but when I did it helped to think it was just the language barrier that was making it more difficult and not the fact they were just being rude.
      The backpacking community is so laid back and lovely so I didn’t find many inconsiderate people there.
      dealing with rude, ignorant people can be a bit of a drain so I like to try and keep a positive attitude and I find getting out there helps spread disability awareness and changes people’s perceptions of wheelchair users.
      Thanks for the comment


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *