Editor’s Note: As the son of a military man and the daughter of a merchant seaman, both Bill and Joanne Hogan learned early on in life to adapt to frequent moves and ever-changing surroundings. As adults, they each chose careers that often required traveling to all corners of the world. Bill, following in his father’s footsteps, joined the military at a young age and was soon after sent to Vietnam. After three tours at war, he was retired from the Marine Corps and went on to a long career as a police officer. However, as with many Vietnam veterans, his time there would have lasting effects resulting in various afflictions including cancer, nerve damage, and kidney failure. But even as an electric wheelchair using dialysis patient, California residents Bill and Joanne continue to travel to destinations near and far in search of adventure. Wheel:Life writer Betsy Bailey talked to the couple of nearly 40 years about their recent trip to Scotland and Ireland and how Travel for All helped make it happen.
Why did you choose Travel for All to plan your trip?
Joanne: Traveling with an electric wheelchair is a challenge. We love to travel, but I knew that with Bill’s disability, I’d better get somebody who is really good at their job. I found Travel for All through an advertisement in New Mobility magazine. I looked up ratings, and they sounded perfect. Tarita, the founder, definitely knows her stuff and is really responsive.
Tell me about your trip to Scotland and Ireland.
Joanne: In Scotland, we enjoyed Edinburgh Castle. They had special transport for Bill to get him up to the top of the castle. When we got off, the woman asked us what we wanted to see, and then took us on a private tour. Everybody else had to wait in line for two hours, but we just rolled up and got right in. We also went to the memorial chapel in Edinburgh.
Ireland was our favorite because we had an amazing tour operator there. We had one guide the whole time we were there, and that was the best thing we could have done. He would tell us what time he was going to pick us up, what we were going to do for the day, and make suggestions along the way where we might want to stop and look at other sites beyond the touristy stuff.
We’d go back to Ireland in a heartbeat; we had such a wonderful time there.
Our hotel was in Dublin, and we went on day trips from there. One day, we went to Belfast and did the Titanic experience. We also went to Waterford Crystal Factory.
My favorite part of the whole trip was the fish and chips. I’m not usually a fish fan, but every afternoon, I had fish and chips for dinner. I’ve never tasted such good fish!
What destinations are next on your list?
Joanne: Next year, we’re doing a cruise up to Vancouver. I’ve been there before and love it there. The following year, we want to take a ship from California to Australia and New Zealand because the flight would just be too long for Bill.
Why do you choose to travel despite having to deal with the obstacles that come along with traveling in a wheelchair?
Joanne: We’re not going to let people say, “no, you can’t do that.” You can sit around at home, or you can go out and have an adventure. My husband and I like to have adventures, even if it’s just driving three hours down to Monterrey for the day.
Travel gives us something to look forward to and takes our minds off the little stuff.
Yet, the Scotland and Ireland trip was a really hard on Bill because of his mobility issues. People don’t seem to understand what it’s like to be traveling in a wheelchair. But, let’s have an adventure anyway and not get bored with life.
Travel has given us a sense of normalcy and the feeling that life hasn’t stopped just because Bill’s body won’t perform. He has dealt with PTSD, and travel helps him realize he doesn’t have to sit around all day long and just wait to die. This trip was hard on me as his caregiver as well, but I thought, “If I don’t give him this, he’ll feel like his life isn’t worth going on.” And that’s not an option.
What advice would you give to other wheelchair travelers?
Joanne: Traveling in a wheelchair is difficult, but it is well worth doing. Just keep rolling along. Having a good travel companion is key. Find someone who is willing to do things for you and travel at your pace.
Bill, what do you enjoy most about traveling?
Bill: I’m from a military family. We moved a lot when I was a kid and also during my 13 years in the Marine Corps. I just enjoy meeting people and seeing things.
Regardless of my disability, I still like to go out and meet people.
We’ve been to Hawaii, New Zealand, England, and all over the US and Canada. Both of our families have Irish origins, so we decided to do some genealogy and site seeing together on this trip.
As a wheelchair traveler who also brings along a dialysis machine, what would you tell other globetrotters in your situation?
Bill: You have to be prepared for the unexpected, the expected, and especially the ignorance of the people you deal with at the airlines. Also, don’t be afraid. This is what life is all about. You can be handicapped, blind, or an amputee, but you can still go and do. There are many places out there around the world that will assist you. You just have to find them.
How did Travel for All help you have an unforgettable trip?
Bill: Tarita had everything planned out for us — taxis, sightseeing, hotels, everything.
Joanne: I’m grateful that I found an agency like Travel for All. I really am because Tarita understands what traveling with a disability is all about.
“Bill & Joanne are more than ‘clients’ now…they are our friends!” -Tarita Davenock, Founder, Travel for All
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All information in this article was extracted from an interview with Joanne and Bill Hogan. The content has been edited for clarity and length.
About Travel For All
Travel for All is Canada’s Premiere Accessible Travel Agency! We customize vacations and specialize in helping travelers with various disabilities.
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Give us a call at 1-888-993-9295 and let us help you plan the perfect trip. We’re specialists in the small details so your trip goes smoothly. Want to know more? Visit Travel for all at www.travel-for-all.com.
Betsy Bailey has a diverse background including experience in marketing research at American Express, business operations and client relations with 601am, travel and culinary writing with VegDining, and playing volleyball professionally overseas.
Betsy is excited to get back into writing, something she’s adored since childhood, and thoroughly enjoys the process of getting to know her interviewees. On top of her work with Wheel:Life, she also teaches students learning English as a second language, speaks French fluently, and travels any chance she gets!