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From Sky To Sea with Jaimen Hudson

A motorbike accident in his teens left Jaimen Hudson a quadriplegic but a wheelchair hasn’t prevented him from soaring in a career as an aerial photographer.

Jaimen Hudson’s stunning aerial photography fills Instagram feeds of his many admirers around the world. Daydreamers, wildlife lovers and those with a wanderlust spirit enthusiastically comment in awe of his photos and videos. Western Australia has never had a better (unofficial) tourism ambassador with the majority of Jaimen’s drone photography and videos captured in his coastal hometown of Esperance. White sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters and plentiful wildlife makes Esperance a photographer’s playground and has seen Jaimen’s video footage used in documentaries and films globally.

Looking at his success, you could be mistaken in thinking that this is the career he had always dreamed about and pursued. In fact, Jaimen only took up drone photography as a hobby when a motorbike accident, at the age of 17, left him a quadriplegic and dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. 

Jaimen exudes positivity, and this has no doubt helped him adapt and combine his love of the ocean with his limitations. His younger years were filled with sporting activities which included riding dirt bikes, skateboarding and scuba diving. Growing up in an ocean-loving family, where diving was a way of life, Jaimen learned to scuba dive when he was ten years old. His love of the ocean meant if he wasn’t immersed in the water, he was near it.

Overhead view of whale and calf swimming in still blue water
Jaimen’s drone photography keeps him close to the ocean. Credit: Jaimen Hudson

After his accident he experienced a huge void left by his inability to be in the ocean. Jaimen says, “drone photography is the next best thing to getting into the water” and through his photography he says he has again “developed a connection with the sea from the sky”.

Fortunate to have always travelled with his family, Jaimen has been lucky to continue to travel extensively since his accident, too. He says he’s travelled “far more than I dreamed was possible” in those early days post-diagnosis. He credits his mother with encouraging him to do so by booking him a holiday to Bali a year after his motorbike accident. Jaimen didn’t share his mother’s confidence and wouldn’t let her book more than a week’s stay.

Travelling into town from the airport on his arrival into Bali he continued to feel uneasy. As he looked out the window at the uneven pavements and surrounds and wondered, even with the help of his accompanying friends, how he’d manage in his wheelchair. By the end of his holiday, he wished he could have stayed longer and the following year he returned to Bali for two weeks.

Jaimen Hudson in his wheelchair holding a camera on a white sand beach with blue water behind him
Jaimen has travelled ‘more than he thought possible’ since his accident. Credit: Jaimen Hudson

Since then, he’s travelled to Las Vegas, Canada, Dubai, England and many other overseas destinations. Again, Jaimen credits the support of his mother and her partner Colin for making this possible due to his care needs.

That’s not to say that travel has been without its hiccups. Jaimen remembers a hotel in Vancouver where the “accessible room” he had booked had a bath located in front of the shower he needed to use. There has also been the challenge of booking an accessible room only to turn up at check-in to find that hotel staff had changed his room and looked upon his booking as a request only, not a necessity. 

Travelling with Jaimen

Now married to Jess, and with a two and a half year old son Captain, Jaimen enjoys travelling as a family in his hometown state of Western Australia, usually to Perth and Denmark. Like many people with a disability, Jaimen has found returning to the same destination has allowed him to use a familiar care service (At Home Care Perth) which has always provided well-trained and reliable support staff to assist in his care needs.

When asked what he feels needs changing in the tourism industry to make it easier for travellers with a disability, Jaimen has a good list of suggestions. He feels a greater conformity to accessible standards and “a uniform set of rules for accommodation providers” is important “so people can book with confidence”. Jaimen has learnt through his travels not to rely on booking accommodation through online platforms, but to phone and book direct and then to follow up a few days before arriving to reiterate his accommodation needs.

He also shares a few other travel tips, including keeping a packing checklist on his phone, hiring a hoist and shower chair at his destination rather than lugging his own and organising local support staff. 

Jaimen’s top Esperance travel tips

  • Take a cruise on the wheelchair accessible Esperance Island Cruise (Jaimen’s family business)
  • The foreshore of Esperance and the jetty are wheelchair accessible
  • Beach matting and a beach wheelchair are available at the Esperance foreshore, and they’re free to use
Silhouette of a man in a wheelchair operating a photography drone on a beach at sunset
Jaimen is advocating for change in the industry to make travel easier for people with disabilities. Credit: Jaimen Hudson

Jaimen’s persistence and tenacity will no doubt see him continue to succeed in his drone photography and in his personal pursuits. Jaimen’s story has been made into a fantastic documentary, From Sky to Sea which is currently available to rent or buy on iTunes and Google Movies. You can also follow Jaimen on Instagram. Jaimen also sells a calendar and his prints of his photos via his online store.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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