Chasing Dreams and Defying Limits: 117 Countries with a Wheelchair

11 June, 2023 | Blog, Interviews

Renee Bruns is a disabled, female traveler who has been to 117 countries, all 7 continents, and all 50 states in the USA. In May of 2022, she left her executive role at a Fortune 500, stating burnout as the reason. She has been traveling full-time since then and recently received a Guinness World Record for ‘most countries visited in one year using a wheelchair.’

Renee has not only traveled around the world as a solo, female, disabled traveler, she has been on numerous adventures that many wouldn’t expect out of her, such as skydiving and paragliding. Renee often says that her disability is the silver lining in her life, and without her disability, she might never have ignited her adventurous spirit.

Her story is refreshing and inspiring for anyone who wants to change their life path and experience the world to its fullest potential. Renee shares her story in her memoir “Chasing Dreams and Defying Limits: 117 Countries with a Wheelchair.”

Chasing Dreams and Defying Limits: 117 Countries with a Wheelchair

My name is Renee, and I have been to 117 countries, all 7 continents, and all 50 states in the USA. Oh, and I’ve done this using a wheelchair due to my permanent skeletal disorder.

Renne’s map on her NomadMania profile

I was born in a rural part of Ohio in the USA. When I was born, my parents had no idea what was wrong with my legs or how my skeletal disorder would impact my life. We spent the first few years of my life traveling outside of the small town I grew up in to see specialists around the country.

When I was five years old, we took a trip to New York City for a doctor’s visit, which was the first time I remember flying on an airplane. At five years old, New York City was a completely different world than what I was used to, and that trip sparked a very curious and adventurous part of my spirit. I accredit that trip to igniting my travel bug and often say that having a disability was the silver lining in my life.

Renee (left) with her sister Julie

In third grade, after studying United States geography, I went home and told my mom that I wanted to see all 50 states someday. Without consciously knowing it, my family and I started visiting new states each summer on our family vacations, and by the time I graduated high school, I had been to every state in the USA.

In my early twenties, I started traveling internationally with friends and family. I had graduated with an undergraduate degree and was working towards an MBA. As my career progressed, I continued to travel internationally two to three times a year, always being sure to bump my vacations up against a US holiday to capitalise on the number of days I could be away.

My career continued to progress and by the time I was in my mid-thirties, I was an executive at a Fortune 500 company, managing over 250 people across the country. In May of 2022, after leading a team through the pandemic and the events that followed, I lost my steam for a big career in corporate America.

Burnout became a very real thing for me, and I knew I needed time to reevaluate my life and reignite what excited me. I put in my resignation and booked a one-way ticket to Indonesia. I was committed to taking a year to travel and experience some adventure, but more than anything, after years of discrimination and challenges of navigating the world using a wheelchair, I needed to refresh my views of humanity.

In Kyrgyzstan

When I left for Indonesia, I had been to 68 countries. I had always had a goal to visit all 195 countries, and still do today. I didn’t know where I was going or how many countries I would see in the next year, I just knew that I wanted to ‘see the world.’

A few weeks into my trip, as I was doing research on various places for solo, disabled travelers, it occurred to me that I might be the only one, or one of few, doing something like this. This was the first time I had traveled internationally without friends or family, so I had no one to lean on but myself, complete strangers, and the internet. I had a difficult time finding resources for solo, disabled travelers and thought there might be an opportunity for me to get a Guinness World Record.

I inquired through the Guinness World Record portal, and for the following few weeks I went back and forth with Guinness about what record opportunities I might have. In the end, we agreed that I would attempt the record for ‘most countries visited in one year using a wheelchair.’ In February of 2023, I officially received the record, by traveling to 55 countries in my wheelchair.

Receiving her Guinness World Record in February of 2023

While it was a true honour to receive the record, which I still smile about when I think back to receiving it, it was never the intent of my trip. When I left for my trip, my number one goal was to see the world and experience the people. Through interacting with people across the globe, I’ve been exposed to new perspectives that have grounded me in my own life.

Like all of the travellers reading this, the stories are endless, and the interactions are life changing. I’ve not only seen the world, but I’ve also experienced it too. Despite using a wheelchair, I’ve been skydiving, parasailing, paragliding, windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking, and micro-flighting.

In Antarctica

It’s been just over a year since I left corporate America, and I’m striving to develop a life with frequent travel. For the first time, it feels like I’m living my life and not just watching time pass me by. My next adventure will be in South America, where I’ll move slowly, immerse myself in new cultures, and perfect my Spanish language skills.

Despite the challenges that come with traveling and using a wheelchair, I won’t let my disability hold me back. Over the next ten years, I plan to become the first person to visit every country in the world using a wheelchair. I know that my situation is unique to people with disabilities, but I believe that my story is applicable to all people.

At some point in all of our lives, we’ll have to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles that stand in the way of our dreams. Let my story be evidence that even the most challenging of obstacles can be overcome. Who would have thought that a woman on a wheelchair could embark on a journey to visit every country in the world?

For more information on Renee or to follow along on her journey, please visit and follow Renee on instagram.

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