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Good things come in threes for Cory Lee

They say ‘good things come in threes’ and Cory Lee took amazing memories away from each of these three - very different! - countries.

If you had to choose from a trio of destinations that were totally different from one another, then Hawaii, Switzerland and Egypt would certainly fit the bill. Beaches and volcanoes have little in common with paragliding over the Alps, and less still with ancient pyramids… or so we thought.  

All three of these were bucket list destinations for Cory Lee, a seasoned traveller and founder of Curb Free Cory Lee – and all three exceeded his expectations. 

“Since the pandemic, I’ve been wanting to break outside of my comfort zone even more, have more enriching travels and keep pushing myself,” says Cory, who has somehow found time between six months of travel per year to launch the Curb Free Foundation. The new not-for-profit provides travel grants sponsoring dream trips for wheelchair users.

“We so frequently may think that places are not accessible,” says Cory, “but the more I travel, I discover there is more accessibility out there than I had realised.”

Highlights in Hawaii

In December, Cory decided to travel within his homeland and visit Hawaii. It’s now his favourite U.S. destination.

“There is so much diversity in Hawaii,” Cory says. “I went to Hawaii expecting to enjoy the beach and have a really chill time, but there are so many activities that you can do. I was able to go to canyons, I was able to see waterfalls, I had really delicious food, I was able to view an active volcano.”

An active volcano, you ask? A visit to Mauna Loa on the Big Island coincided with an eruption of lava which Cory witnessed firsthand with a tour guide. 

The highlights didn’t stop there, with other stand-outs including a stunning helicopter ride over the Napali Coast of Kauai and the Paradise Cove luau on Oahu, complete with delicious food and dancing.

Cory Lee getting into a helicopter using a chair lift with assistance, and a circle overlaid with an image of Cory smiling in the helicopter with the water and islands visible through the window behind him
A helicopter ride was one of Cory’s Hawaii highlights.

In fact, Cory started his trip with a full week on Oahu, indulging his self-proclaimed Disney addiction with a stay at Disney Aulani Hawaii.

“It was probably the best resort I have ever stayed in,” says Cory. “It was completely accessible. The resort had beach wheelchairs available completely for free to use on their beaches. They had pool lifts where I could get in any of the pools easily as a wheelchair user.,” he says.

Cory then cruised Kauai, Maui and the Big Island for seven nights on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America. His room onboard was spacious with a big balcony, and he could disembark easily at each port of call.  

“All of those different islands gave me another chance to really dive into Hawaii,” says Cory. “It was a lot of fun.”

Hawaii Hot Tips
  1. Check out transportation in advance. Cory found that hiring a rental van was much easier than public transport for getting around the islands. He used Wheelers Accessible Van Rentals.
  1. While cruises are a great accessible option, their day trips might not be. Cory pre-arranged some short private excursions because only a few accessible ones were offered by the cruise company.
Cory Lee in his wheelchair wheeling along accessible matting on Waikiki beach
Cory can find accessible options for adventure all over Hawaii.

Switch it up in Switzerland

A more recent Swiss sojourn in May proved just as rewarding. 

“It was one of the best places I’ve been to in Europe in terms of accessibility,” says Cory, bringing up the multiple accessible public transport options.

But what really piqued our interest was the mention of adaptive paragliding over the Swiss Alps.

“It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” says Cory. “We were in the air for a total of 40 minutes… we had amazing views of the lakes and the Swiss Alps and all the little villages down below..”

“Paragliding is something I’ve always wanted to do but I never realistically knew if it would be possible for me as a wheelchair user. And then to go to Switzerland and be able to do that was completely mind-blowing to me.”

Cory Lee strapped into adaptive paragliding apparatus with his instructor kneeling beside him and giving a thumbs up
Adaptive paragliding in Switzerland was a mind-blowing experience for Cory.

Another lofty favourite was the Jungfraujoch, accessed by a cable car that transports you up into the Alps where you board the scenic train. 

“Once we were finally at the top, we had the most amazing views of the snow-covered Alps.”

Cory did mention that in some of the smaller towns he stopped in, there were steps up into some shops and restaurants. 

“There was still so much I could do that it didn’t dampen my trip at all,” he insists, recommending bigger cities like Zurich, Bern or Lucerne as safe bets access-wise. 

“If you’ve ever wanted to travel to Europe, I would say start in Switzerland because it is such an easy destination for a wheelchair user.”

Switzerland Selections
  • Accommodation: Hotel Bristol in Bern.
  • Must-do activity: Boat ride to Rhine Falls.
  • Tour company: Clare & George Accessible Switzerland arranged Cory’s trip, including the adaptive paragliding.
  • Timeline: Cory recommends one to two weeks as ideal
Cory in his wheelchair on a fenced boardwalk above the Swiss Alps
Cory can check ‘seeing the Swiss Alps’ off his bucket list.

Experience Egypt

We spoke about Egypt last, but it was definitely not least, having been on Cory’s wishlist since childhood.

“When I was little, I was obsessed with Ancient Egyptian history – learning about the mummies and the pharaohs,” he says. “It was amazing to go from reading about all that history to being there seeing it for myself.”

In June, Cory did just that, staying in Cairo for six days. 

Seeing King Tut’s golden burial mask at the Egyptian Museum Cairo, and following some accessible boardwalks in front of the Pyramids of Giza were definite highlights. So were the locals he encountered, who were “some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met in my travels” who “made it even more of a special experience.”

Cory Lee in an Eygptian museum in front of King Tut's golden throne
Seeing King Tut’s golden throne in Egypt was a childhood dream come true for Cory.

The visit was not without complications.

“It was honestly pretty difficult in a lot of ways,” says Cory. “I think it is totally possible, but you need to  mentally prepare yourself that it is not the easiest trip.”

Cory recommends avoiding public transport altogether, and being aware that many museums and attractions are not accessible. Many have steps at their entrances. 

A day trip to Alexandria ended up being cancelled by Cory’s tour company when they realised it would be too difficult to traverse with a wheelchair. The company also had to make some modifications to their adapted van, adding tie-downs on the second day to secure Cory’s wheelchair. At Cairo Airport, personal wheelchairs can only be collected at Baggage Claim instead of upon disembarking, so Cory had to make use of an airport wheelchair through Immigration and Customs. 

Nevertheless, it was certainly a trip that Cory views as worthwhile. An unexpected highlight occurred on his last night in Cairo, in the form of a sound and light show. 

“It happens every night. They play laser lights on the pyramids and on the Sphinx,” says Cory. “We had phenomenal views. It was like the grand finale of the trip!”

Cory’s Cairo
  1. For accommodation, try accessible rooms at Marriott Mena House, which has views of the pyramids, a range of international cuisines onsite and a spa to enjoy.
  2. Delay your trip until after the new Grand Egyptian Museum opens. This museum is projected to open in 2024 and will be the world’s biggest museum dedicated to just one civilisation. Cory’s sneak peek made him want to return for another visit!
  3. Travel with a private tour company specialising in accessibility.
  4. Most importantly, do a lot of research beforehand.
Cory in his wheelchair in front of the Egyptian pyramids and sphinx in the middle of the sound and light show
Cory recommends the sound and light show at the Great Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt.

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

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