How is it to travel the World when you depend on a wheelchair and the help of others? In April 2024, we had the pleasure of hosting Tiffany Gambill, a 34-year-old adventurous wheelchair traveler from Massachusetts, USA. Tiffany is not your typical guest because, due to an incurable disorder, she is a wheelchair user and needs the help of others to do activities. 


Torres del Paine W trek: How to get there?

When Tiffany contacted us about staying with us and her family, it required some planning and understanding of the disorder to prevent any inconvenience. Everything went smoothly, and we were all impressed with how Tiffany and her family chose to travel to the end of the World, where things are not always easy, especially if you have a disability. Therefore, we asked Tiffany if she could share her story and experience in Patagonia.



Friedreich’s Ataxia and how it affects Tiffany´s life

Tiffany had an everyday life without using a wheelchair until she was diagnosed with a disorder that affects her whole body functionality:

 “When I was 15, I was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA). It’s a neuromuscular disorder that progressively weakens my muscles. I’m in a wheelchair, and recently, I started a travel blog to show other people with disabilities that they can travel the World, too! My passion is traveling the World and seeing how other people live. 

Friedreich’s Ataxia is a muscle disorder that slowly shuts down all of my muscles, including my heart. My speech is my biggest insecurity because it’s slurred and slow. I work out at the gym to keep my muscles as good as possible. Feeling the progression of my disability and the worsening of my muscles is very frustrating and cruel. When I was first diagnosed with FA, the life expectancy was early to mid-30s. There is no cure for FA, and this makes keeping hope hard.

Another common symptom is cardiomyopathy, which I have. Still, my heart hasn’t deteriorated as much as others, so two years ago in New York City, I was the first FA person to get gene therapy for the heart in Friedreich’s Ataxia. Maybe it will not make much of a difference for me, but maybe there can be a better outcome for children with Friedreich’s Ataxia."


Tiffany: "I work part-time and have many doctor’s appointments. My free time usually goes to writing the blog because typing is extremely hard for me. I am slow, and I can’t do speech-to-text. It (the machine, red.) never understands me. So my blog is always behind.

We have left a link to Tiffany's blog and social media at the end of this article for those interested in learning more about her.


Why do you consider yourself a wheelchair travel influencer? What is your influencer goal, and how do you achieve it?

“I don’t know how good I am at influencing other disabled people to travel, but I’m trying. I have TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook all showing my travels to anyone that wants to look. I am also a follower of AccessibleGo, which reaches over 40,000 people with disabilities, mainly in the US. We talk about international trips that we have been on, trips we are planning, accessible hotel recommendations, travel questions, and transportation. My goal is to show people, no matter what level of mobility, where they can travel and what they can do. I try to travel to the not-so-touristy cities that many disabled travelers already go to”. 



What kind of travel do you prefer? 

“This is a hard question because there are so many different types of travel. I’d say I am a little bit of an adventurous traveler, but I also like to learn things. I love History, especially the History of the places where I go. I’m not a traveler who goes to a beach and sits there all day. I don’t travel just to relax; my travels are very busy. I do not stop and relax, but that’s how I like it.”


What should be considered when traveling with disabilities, and what should you look for when researching your destination? 

“Living in the US, I do not have to worry as much about flying, but not all countries protect those with disabilities in the air. One important thing I look for is whether I am flying or traveling by train, subway, bus, taxi, or boat. Then I look for a wheelchair-accessible hotel with a roll-in shower, usually in an old town or an area I like so I can walk to everything. I also look up if they have a lot of activities and sites that are wheelchair accessible nearby”.


How can a destination make it easier for people with disabilities to travel there? 

“I’d say to be more physically accessible. Think of it: if you were in a rolling desk chair, would you be able to do it, like get up a ramp, into that bathroom stall, or in that shower? Or go somewhere? Are there any steps, or is there braille for the blind? To make something accessible, you have to make it for all the different types of disability”.

In October 2022, we wrote about Álvaro Silberstein, who made History by being the first person in a wheelchair to reach Cerro Paine. Read more about this adventure in our blog post "History was made! First ascent of Cerro Paine with a wheelchair user."


How did you learn about EcoCamp, and what was your experience there? 

“Honestly, I knew my sister wanted to go to Patagonia. I didn’t even know where it was, but I googled Patagonia in a wheelchair, and that led me to a video of World on Wheels using a Joelette Chair in Torres del Paines at EcoCamp”. 

At EcoCamp, we did a video back in 2018 about Álvaro Silberstein, the first person in a wheelchair to do the multiday W trek. He did it in the Joelette Chair, which was donated by Wheel the World.

Tiffany: “I didn’t know much about it, so I emailed them and booked it through Cascada Expediciones. When I went there (to EcoCamp, red.) I discovered they had composting toilets. That was new to me and very unenjoyable, but it is eco-friendly, and I understand why they use them. Other than the toilets, I loved everything! It was eco-friendly luxury glamping.

The food was out of this World—it was really like five-star dining! I loved that you had vegan and vegetarian choices. The vegetarian lasagna was my favorite. My guides were the best. They were knowledgeable, super kind, and always willing to help! There were six porters, and they were great, too. Every trail we went on was unforgettable”.

Tiffany participated in the Wildlife Safari program with her sister and her sister´s husband. The activity was chosen according to their interests and what was possible and safe with the wheelchair. 


What is the next destination you are planning? 

“Cape Cod, a península en Massachusetts, is my next destination. I camp there every July with my family. It’s definitely not glamping, and the food isn’t included, but it’s a family tradition, and we do it every year. No Pumas, just Great White Sharks!.”

We thank Tiffany for trusting in us, and we appreciate all the feedback so we can be more inclusive of people with disabilities. We believe that nature should be accessible to everyone.

If you want to learn more about Tiffany and follow her life, please find her website or on her Instagram @tiffschariot 


Do you have a disability and want to know what activities suit you? Please email, and we will help you fulfill your dreams as best we can! 


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