2019 September Featured Journalist of the Month: Cory Lee
Monday, September 16, 2019 08:00 AM
Cory Lee

After being diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of two, Cory Lee's thirst for adventure never ceased. He went on many trips around the US when he was younger, and then started taking things internationally when he turned fifteen. Since then, Cory has traveled across 6 continents, all while managing to run his travel blog curbfreewithcorylee.com, where he shares his accessible, and sometimes not so accessible, travel adventures with others.

Cory’s blog has received the prestigious 2019 Webby Award for Best Personal Blog and the Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Blog in 2017. He was also named New Mobility Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year. Cory has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Travel, Forbes, USA Today, in a nationwide segment for CBS News, Lonely Planet, and many others. He hopes to inspire other wheelchair users to roll out of their comfort zone and see all of the beauty that the world has to offer.

Cory's Q&A:

What got you into travel writing? 

 Back in 2013, I was planning my college graduation trip to Australia and as I started researching, I quickly realized that there wasn’t a lot of accessibility information online. I needed to know which attractions, restaurants, hotels, and transportation were wheelchair friendly, but that information was impossible to find without calling... and trust me, phone calls from the U.S. to Australia weren’t cheap. It was then that I decided to launch my travel blog, as a way to help other wheelchair users find that information a bit easier. 

 

What’s the most challenging part of travel writing for you? 

 As a travel blogger, I think one of the most challenging things for me is always adapting to the new social media trends. When I was starting out, Twitter was King. Now, Twitter is nearly dead and Pinterest is King. It seems like social media is constantly changing and it’s extremely important to keep up and stay on top of algorithm changes. I spend a lot of time studying social media, posting, seeing what others in my niche are posting, and it’s definitely worth it because it’s a great way for me to reach new people and engage with my audience. 

 

What is the one thing you can’t go without on the road? 

 The obvious answer is my wheelchair, which is extremely important, but another (less obvious) one is a jacket. I literally ALWAYS have a jacket with me in my backpack, whether it’s 40° or 110°. I never want to be cold. 

 

What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?

 This is going to sound like a totally fake story, but I promise that it’s (unfortunately) real. I visited South Africa a couple years ago and had the opportunity to meet Jessica the Hippo. She’s a famous hippo that was raised by humans and visitors can meet and feed her. When it was my turn to feed her a sweet potato, Jessica lunged up out of the water, grabbed the side of my wheelchair with her massive teeth, and started pulling me into the water. I completely blacked out. Right before I became her lunch for the day, her human “dad” ran over and yelled at her to stop. Luckily, she listened and let go of me/my chair. It was absolutely terrifying and I really thought that was the end of my traveling days, but in the end, it made for a unique blog post so thanks Jess! 

 

How did you learn about NATJA, and why did you join? 

 Early in my travel blogging career, I was searching for reputable organizations in the travel writing industry. NATJA was the first one that I saw and started reading about. I admired some of the members listed on the site and thought that it would certainly be worth becoming a member. I think that decision has definitely paid off. In my email signature, I list that I’m a member of NATJA and I also put it on my media kit. When potential clients see that I’m a member, I think it adds some clout to my resume. 

 

What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist? 

 Stick with it, even when it gets tough. When I was starting out, it seemed like I was writing for an audience of no one. Some days I would think “What’s the point?!”, but I stuck with it and kept writing. Eventually, I started having more readers and getting invited to speak at conferences. I was thrilled and still am every time that I get an exciting email. I truly believe that we, as travel writers, have the best job in the world, but sometimes we need to be reminded of that.  

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