Q & A with Ashley Lyn Olson Author, travel enthusiast, blogger
Q: Tell us about your writing.
I grew up wanting to be a writer although never thought it would be possible. Writing jobs are few far between, and there aren’t many Stephen Kings in the world. So, I used my skills in PR and marketing. When I started traveling a lot, I documented it, so If I wanted to go back to a locale, I knew which hotel was accessible and good. Soon I realized I had to share this, to help other people and to raise awareness.
I started wheelchairtraveling.com because I can’t go on every single trail, and I can’t visit every country. For the past seven years it’s picked up speed. It feels good that the site is creating change and inspiring people to share information. I encourage others to create their own blogs. We have to get that information out there, to make the world a more accepting place for people with disabilities. Mainstream media doesn’t have this information and most able-bodied people don’t think about these issues. When you go to a beach, you probably don’t wonder if there are beach wheelchairs or an accessible pathway.
Q: Blogging isn’t the only writing you do, is it?
I’ve always written poetry. My first poem, circa Grade 3, Rapping Roger Wheelworm, was a Dr. Seuss kind of poem about the life of a worm who was a rapper. I had planned to incorporate poetry into the story of my pressure sore, plus talk about what I had gone through in the beginning stages of being paralyzed. It would have been a big book! But when the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 happened, I felt the need to push the book forward, to get it out there.
Q: Tell us about the resulting book.
Due to surgery for a pressure sore, I was confined to a bed 24 hours a day for eight weeks. Add to that the harrowing six months leading up to the surgery, it opened my eyes to this world we have inside. Confined to Align came about because, ironically, being confined to bed allowed me to align my well-being more than I had ever done or ever imagined. I thought that the experience was going to be horrific. Long before the surgery, I got into meditation and read lots of books and was looking to go on a short retreat. Then the pressure sore happened. It was like God said, “Oh, no, you wanted this. You really want to know what it’s like, you want to really learn something?” I got to do it the hard way, got to see the whole picture, find the internal core of life. It had to be difficult on the outside for me to be able to find it on the inside. I knew I needed to document it, write it all down even if I wasn’t having a good day. I didn’t want to say, this is a horrible situation, but I did it and you can too! I needed to say that I had a hard time, that there was struggle, there were mental and physical things I had to go through to align my internal well-being.
Q: We were struck by the poem Summer Umbrella. What’s its significance?
That was inspired when I returned to the place where my family had the car accident. It’s in the middle of the desert so it’s hard to pinpoint the exact spot but to me it was very clear. I got emotional thinking about how far I’d come since the accident. I’d used an umbrella to take a photo on this trip—it was super-hot with no shade, so I used the umbrella to take pictures. Then I realized it was a symbol for inner strength and our connection with God. The poem was also for my father who protects me too.
Q; How often do you travel, and do you always go alone?
I travel five to seven times a year. I have traveled in groups, with my boyfriend or with friends and I loved it, but I also love traveling by myself. I never feel alone. I’ll be in the car listening to a book on tape that I’ve been wanting to listen to for ages but haven’t had time. It’s wonderful to be able to do my own thing, stop when I want, eat when I want. I don’t have to keep tabs on everybody. There’s a lot of freedom and I can cover a lot of ground when I’m by myself. A solo driving trip is therapeutic—the quietness of the road, watching the horizon, it’s very peaceful.
Q: What advice would you like to share?
Get out and see the world. We’re here on this journey, our spirits are on this plane to experience it. I want people to have the confidence to take on those challenges and be okay with exploring and expanding their own. Also, learn to accept what is technically and physically possible in this time in space.