Contiki traveller Mike has traveled to 45 countries and counting, all on crutches
Mike is a 27-year-old travel junkie from New York. He was born with a disease called arthrogryposis, which means he cannot gain any muscle mass below his keens. Yet whilst he needs crutches to walk anywhere, don’t for a second think this has stopped his dreams of travelling the world.
Mike grew up supported by parents who refused to let his disability stop him from living the life he wanted. And with 15 weeks studying abroad in Rome, 6 Contiki trips and 45 countries under his belt, it seems Mike has done just that.
Tell me a little bit about your disability – has this ever made you hesitant to travel?
Due to a cognitional disease which affects my lower body, I use crutches to walk. After taking a few international trips when I was younger, I knew I wanted to study abroad during my time in college. I wouldn’t say I was hesitant to study abroad, but I was a bit nervous to live in a country that was not as accessible as America. I knew I would be able to get by, but I thrived. During my 15 weeks studying abroad in Rome, I travelled to 10 countries & 28 cities. I definitely caught the travel bug & have never looked back!
What made you decide to travel with Contiki?
After I graduated college, I decided to go back to Europe to see a few cities that I’d already visited but wished I had more time to explore, and I also wanted to visit a few places in Eastern Europe I hadn’t previously been able to cross off my bucket list. I knew that I wanted to see Budapest, Vienna, Warsaw & Krakow and came across the Eastern Road itinerary on Contiki’s website. It seemed like the perfect way to see as much as possible and meet great people along the way. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions of my life!
How was your experience with Contiki and how has it benefited you?
Contiki has been amazing. Before I was bitten by the wanderlust bug in my early twenties, I didn’t even know about half of the places that I’ve seen with Contiki. As a person who only gets four weeks of vacation a year, I find that Contiki is the best way to see the best parts of the world in a short period of time. Contiki carefully curates their itineraries to ensure that you can see everything you want to see (including a few things you didn’t even think of seeing) and really maximizes your time abroad. I have also made lifelong friends from around the world over the course of my six trips with Contiki – I keep in touch with some of them on a daily basis & meet up with them when they visit New York or I visit their home. The Contiki Trip Managers are also wonderful – they are great people who are passionate about what they do & always go above and beyond to make sure each person has the trip of a lifetime.
What’s the most positive thing you’ve taken away from your travels?
In addition to the obviously amazing experience of seeing beautiful cities across the world, the most positive thing I take away from my travels is the friendships. As I mentioned, I still keep in touch with people from my trips, some of them on a daily basis. When I get back from a trip, I call McDonald’s “Maccas”, my sweatshirt a “jumper” & sandals “thongs”. The intercultural friendships I have had the opportunity to cultivate through Contiki continue to encourage me to travel even more & it is great to know that I will always have a friend wherever I am in the world.
Is there any advice you’d give to people in a similar position to you?
Don’t wait to travel. You never know when you won’t be able to, so travel while you are young & while you can. Many people say that they’ll travel when they retire or when they have more money, but you never know what your future has in store for you so, if you can afford it, travel now & don’t look back and regret you didn’t.
What are you most proud of about your travel experiences?
So far, I have travelled to 45 countries on 5 different continents. I hope to travel to every continent by the time I turn 30 in 3 years. The thing I am most proud of is that I didn’t let my disability slow me down or get in my way. Just because I can’t walk without crutches, doesn’t mean I can’t achieve my goal of seeing the world and fulfil the never-ending wanderlust that seems to be ingrained in my DNA. Does it mean that I may not be the first one up the mountain? Maybe! But it doesn’t mean I won’t climb that mountain just like everyone else. I may have to take a different path, but I guarantee that I will get there.
Want to hear more from Mike? Follow his adventures over on his blog Gimpy Globetrotters.