Claiming Her Place in the World: Meet Tanzila Khan, Our New Accessible Solo Travel Writer

by | Jul 3, 2023

Tanzila Khan cartoon image, World on Wheels
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Last updated on March 25th, 2024

Featured image: Tanzila Khan is ready to share her ambition of travelling solo with the JourneyWoman community | Photo by Ravesh PR 

Accessibility is a human right

By Tanzila Khan, Contributor, Solo Travel Disability Writer

My name is Tanzila Khan. I am from Pakistan. I was born with a deformity in my legs that made me a wheelchair user since birth. I am an entrepreneur, writer, activist, and travel enthusiast. I guess travelling on wheels is an expertise I have gained by accepting life’s adventures; this is my story of a solo traveller in a wheelchair.

A conversation that changed my life

In 2014, I was preparing for my BSC exams and would often visit the local library to study. One day during lunch break I sat in the café of that place when a lady requested to join me as the place was full. We both ordered burgers. She was at least 20 years my senior and upon my asking shared that she was unmarried, almost in her late 40s, a working nurse and lived with her married brother. I randomly asked her if she ever considered travelling solo. To which she responded that she had no reason to.

On the other side of the table, I sat there broke, disabled, dependent on my parents for finances and permission and with a deep desire to travel, see the beauty of the world and claim my space in it. I pointed out to her all the reasons she can and should travel because the only barrier in her life was her mind. She responded very positively and decided to travel by herself for the first time for the Islamic pilgrimage, Umrah. I felt I not just shared my table with her but also my ambition.

Tanzila Khan headshot

The beginning of an unexpected new passion

I initially made my first trips abroad for speaking engagements for disability rights chaperoned by my mother to countries like India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, USA, Brazil, Rwanda, China, Japan and more. I learned to navigate the inaccessible embassies because I needed Visa every time. I sensitized the staff over calls, emails and at times letters to make things accessible for me.

This effort continued with airlines, hotels and taxis. I learned to facilitate the world for my needs and also educate the travel industry about disabled travellers. This was an involuntary process but a fruitful one.

I slowly started pushing my boundaries and would stroll on empty streets on my own. I would look for activities that I could and could not do and would find out ways to do them with the organizer. Many times they had never seen a person in a wheelchair so excited to participate in activities.

Taking first solo flight

After gaining much confidence (and a bit of a fight), my parents allowed me to travel solo and I took my first solo trip to Istanbul, Turkey.

Sadly, there was a lockdown during those days but I made the best of my time by roaming in the empty streets. I was just too excited to see the world as my playground that even dragging my bag through the streets did not bug me.

Tanzila Khan next to a Ryan Air plane

Tanzila boarding a plane to Croatia  / Photo provided by Tanzila Khan

Tanzila Khan Swimming

Taking a dip in the lake in Uppsala / Photo provided by Tanzila Khan

The second trip was to Egypt with two other friends who were also wheelchair users. That trip opened my eyes to how much the hospitality industry needs to grow for disabled travellers and the best service we can give them is to travel more and travel solo.

I then made solo trips around Europe to Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Latvia, and Estonia on wheels and navigated accessibility on my own. I got stuck in train tracks, got wet in the rain, remained hungry for days, locked for accessible bathrooms and hotels and all of these were no less than an adventure for me.

I made friends in all of these places, waited for my wheelchair in the company of many elderly women and would strike up a conversation with them. That’s how I realised that accessibility is a human right.

Time to share the table once again

Today I may not share a burger and a table with all of you. But I will share my ambition of travelling solo and claiming your space in the world.

Whether you are on wheels or on foot, the world deserves to see your marks left behind as you all navigate the world guided by your soul.

Travelling made me realise how much love, empathy, support and technology there is that can take me to places and I am thrilled to join the JourneyWoman family to share my stories of accessibility, disability traveling, empathy and lots of fun!

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Read More on Accessible Travel

Tanzila Khan is an entrepreneur, activist, and public speaker from Pakistan. She was born with a deformity and has been a wheelchair user since then. She initially traveled for her disability advocacy, networking for business and speaking engagements but then learned cracking accessibility across the travel industry and helping companies become more accessible through feedback across 20 countries. She picked up the rucksack and became a solo traveler across the world to document and share stories and make the world more inclusive. Along with this, her other work includes an award-winning menstrual healthcare startup in Pakistan and a board game company in Sweden.


  1. Beverly Mah

    I was so pleased to learn about Tanzila! I’m a traveler, “older”, and a mom to a daughter who lives in a wheelchair too. I try to find ways to travel with her and reading about Tanzila was inspirational. Happy travels!

    • Tanzila Khan

      Thank you Beverly! I promise you that the world has been so kind and welcoming. I wish and pray you travel as much as you can with your daughter and you will find many accessible options and adventures. Much love!

  2. Gina Bisaillon

    You couldn’t find a handicapped person who didn’t belong to a religion that forces her to hide herself? Holy smoke, Please cancel my subscription.

    • Carolyn Ray

      Tanzila and I agreed to publish this disappointing and disrespectful comment in the spirit of transparency – because we know it is not representative of the majority of JourneyWoman readers. I have zero tolerance for women who don’t support other women and even more for these kinds of negative comments, which are in direct opposition to the values and beliefs that JourneyWoman has embodied for almost 30 years – respect, an open mind and kindness. We have removed this person from our mailing list (there is no cost to subscribe, by the way) and banned her from our Facebook group.

      • Elizabeth Jones

        Hi Carolyn,
        I could not agree, with you more. It’s been a very long time. Since I have written. MS has advanced, as it does. I’m turning 60 this summer. Was planning another trip to Sweden. But, it occurred to me, because I still use a rollator and now sometimes a wheelchair, travel is more difficult. Of course I thought I should check-in with JourneyWoman. I’m looking for an accessible luxury spa/resort in North America where I can easily spoil myself. Any ideas/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
        Warmest regards from NYC,

  3. Judy Peterson

    I am in my late 70’s, arthritis and age are my “disability”. I have noticed welcome improvements in access over the years. Not perfect by any means but at least in many places they are more aware of travellers with disabilities and more importantly they are acting on the awareness.

    I rate countries by the consideration they give to people with disabilities. Years ago, and I cannot remember which country I was in, they had a special line at the airport designated for seniors and those with disabilities. This year I was getting on a very crowded train and felt my self being propelled along by a stranger who knew where I could find a seat. These are the moments that give me hope for the world, these are the moments that keep me travelling.

    • Tanzila Khna

      Judy I am so glad to hear that you find hope in such moments and there will be plenty of moments where the younger generation will take inspiration from you to travel. While we keep pushing for a more accessible world, we also need more travelers like you to keep traveling so there is a strong visibility and we can build a case. Much love!

  4. Paula Sumber

    What a lovely article. I’m 73 and have slowed down. I thought travelling was over for me, but the author gives me hope. Thank you.


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