As a former travel consultant, Julie Jones of Sydney, Australia, hoped to instill her sense of wanderlust in her future children.
Sometimes I think you have things in your life that you always imagine you're going to do. One of those was showing the kids the world and to continue travel so I just blissfully thought that when my kids were born that we would continue to do that. And then life threw us a bit of a curveball."
That curveball was her son's diagnosis with cerebral palsy -- a disorder that leaves him with limited mobility and unable to verbally communicate -- at the age of five months.
Uncertainty loomed for the Jones family, who only wanted their son Braeden to reach his full potential. Consecutive therapies and doctor's appointments made Julie long for some sense of normalcy. So she and her husband Mark responded the only way they knew how. They packed their bags when Braeden was two years old and scheduled a much needed family vacation --a temporary escape from their new reality.
After years of local trips, Julie and Mark became more confident in their ability to travel with Braeden, despite his physical limitations. That confidence peaked after the Jones family successfully traveled to Disneyland from Australia -- a roughly 15-hour flight. Julie told Circa the trip left her feeling "liberated," realizing that, with a bit of extra planning and awareness, she would be able to introduce Braeden and her daughter Amelia to a world outside of their hometown.
Braeden may be only 22 years old, but his passport reflects the experiences of a well-seasoned, intrepid traveler. He's hang-glided in Tasmania, trekked Dorrigo National Park, visited the indigenous community in Uluru, snapped photos in front of the Statue of Liberty, and even strolled along San Diego's Legoland, just to name a few.
"We really try to mix it up for him and really give him a broad range of experiences," Julie said.
It was those experiences, Julie added, that helped cultivate a special bond between Braeden and Amelia, who are nearly seven years apart.
"I think the travel really bonds them because they're doing experiences together. She takes great pride and joy in seeing him have so much fun."
It hasn't been all easy sailing, though. Julie extensively researched every inch of a location before her family embarked on a trip, ensuring that it would be disability-friendly. After their first successful international trip, Julie said she felt inspired to share her wealth of knowledge with a broader community, knowing that there were plenty of parents like her with similar concerns. Her website "Have Wheelchair Will Travel" boasts a host of travel advice and accommodation reviews.
Though the website is geared towards families similar to hers, she also hopes to break down barriers about the disabled community. Julie found value in sharing videos of Braeden participating in activities that many would have deemed impossible.
We're finding the imagery of social media so powerful. You can show a photo of Braeden doing something that people just don't expect and that breaks down those perceptions and that a wonderful thing because an image speaks volumes instantly."