Renee’s Been in a Wheelchair Since 7, but It Didn’t Stop Her From Traveling Around 117 Countries and Setting a Guinness World Record

Many people dream of traveling, but they think it’s something very complex. But some tourists prove that sometimes you just have to start. Renee Bruns is in a wheelchair, but she doesn’t let her disability stop her from discovering the world. She’s been to 117 countries and is not going to stop.

Renee Bruns was born with an undiagnosed condition, which caused her to use a wheelchair since the age of 7. In her childhood, she and her mother traveled to different states in search of the best doctors. It was then that Renee developed a love for traveling and a desire to see the world. By the age of 16, she had visited all the states, and in the meantime, she was diagnosed with skeletal dysplasia. However, Renee refused to let this condition worsen her life.

“I think it’s one of the silver linings of having a disability, I started to see the world from a different perspective.”

Renee has traveled to 70 countries and pursued a career as a successful insurance manager. But one day she experienced burnout. She decided to make a change and took a break. She decided to take a year of active travel for herself. In the past, she had traveled with family members or with a significant other. But this time, Renee decided to challenge herself and go alone. In May 2022, she bought a one-way ticket to Bali and started a new life. She honestly admits that she was extremely scared at first, but she was able to overcome it.

“This has always been a dream of mine. I love traveling, but I think it’s more than that for me. It’s about conquering something that most people would think I can’t do.”

Before visiting a new country, Renee prepares for about a month. She needs to make sure she can safely get to her accommodation. She studies maps and contacts hotels to make sure there is an elevator or ramp. But she sometimes discovers that the conditions are not there upon arrival. In the past, she might have been scared of this, but now she knows that other people will come to her aid. According to her, she has been carried on someone’s back many times. Someone would come up and help her and carry her wheelchair. However, it was still disappointing when, after a difficult day, all she wanted was to get to her room and go to sleep.

Rene sees how the world is changing, how it is becoming more inclusive, and how her opportunities are increasing. However, she still regularly encounters places that are inaccessible to her, such as buildings without elevators or narrow bathroom doors. The woman constantly reminds herself that she won’t be able to reach all the sights. But even if she just goes to a city and walks around, she still feels luckier than many other people in the world.

Some opportunities still remain inaccessible to her. Renee sometimes looks at travelers with longing as they climb mountains, cross deserts, and sleep in tents. But Bruns doesn’t let it get her down. Wherever she can find new experiences, she seeks them out — scuba diving in Honduras, the ocean in the Maldives, camping under the stars in Antarctica.

“My absolute favorite memory in Antarctica was kayaking... I cannot explain how surreal it is to be floating on the Southern Ocean in a small piece of plastic, knowing that there could be whales and seals living their lives right below the water’s surface.”

This world is designed for people who move on two legs, and it can be very difficult for Renee to navigate. Yet, at this moment, she has visited 117 countries and set a Guinness World Record for the most countries visited by a person in a wheelchair in one year. Her plan for the next decade is to visit every country in the world.

Rene has learned a lot during her travels, but the most important acquisition for her has been confidence. When she sets out on her own, she handles all issues and overcomes obstacles herself. The brave traveler recommends that anyone who dreams of traveling should just do it. With her example, she proves that most limitations are only in our minds.

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