Where does an Inclusionista go when she needs a vacation? For me, the answer was an adventure trip with a non-profit that specializes in travel for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. This February, my husband and I traveled with Wilderness Inquiry to Belize and Guatemala on a trip that not only expanded my travel horizons, but also gave me the chance to experience the world as I want it to be.
The first thing you need to know is that, when it comes to travel, “adventure” is not my middle name. I have always called myself a “Four Seasons Camper”. By that I mean a luxury hotel, and that I will not sleep in a tent in the middle of winter (or, really, ever). So, I was a little nervous about this trip. While I have traveled widely, I don’t have much experience with developing countries, or with activities like inner tubing, snorkeling and jungle hiking. My biggest fear going in was that we would meet an actual jaguar at the jaguar preserve (it didn’t happen). But check out this picture of me with this fake jaguar.
Wilderness Inquiry was founded over 35 years ago with the idea that everyone, regardless of age, background or ability, can enjoy the outdoors. They use the Universal Program Participation model, which promotes natural, seamless inclusion. I am one of “those” inclusion people – with a deep need for ensuring people’s dignity; and much of what people promote as inclusion is, in my mind, not inclusive. Wilderness Inquiry, however, meets my very high standard of inclusive practice, and they do it by not overthinking it. The Universal Program Participation model seems to be, “Hey, we can all do this – let’s make it work.”
On a Wilderness Inquiry trip, your trail guide or leader is trained to facilitate inclusion. They model inclusive practices, and very quickly the participants catch on. In our work at KIT we call this “natural supports”, and this is what I experienced on my WI trip. On our trip we had five seniors (including one amazing woman who is weeks away from her 80th birthday), one 47-year-old man with a visual impairment and a traumatic brain injury affecting balance & mobility, and Will (my husband) and me. While we made accommodations like assisting with transfers in and out of the van and providing extra support on the steep, muddy hiking trails, we found that everyone on the trip really enhanced the experience of everyone else. The man with the most physical needs was also the person who was the biggest risk taker and the most outgoing when it came to asking smart, thoughtful questions of our local guides. I got much more out of the experience by having him on the trip. I was probably the participant that needed the most in the way of encouragement to try new things. This is what it is all about – meeting people where they are and helping them get the most out of the experience.
If you are looking for an adventure you will never forget, for you, for your family or for a group, I heartily recommend Wilderness Inquiry. If only every business was built the way WI is, with inclusion in its DNA, Kids Included Together would not need to exist.
Submitted by Torrie Dunlap, CEO, Kids Included Together
For more information on Wilderness Inquiry, click here.
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.