Occupation: Accessible Travel Writer and Consultant
What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
A planetary scientist.
What are some different jobs you’ve had in your life?
I was a bank teller in high school and college. After graduation, I was commissioned as an Air Force officer, and worked as a Special Agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for eight years until my medical retirement in 2005. Then I got a job as a contract Senior Intelligence Analyst, working on Mexican drug cartels and border security for the State of California. In 2009, I became a consultant, and still write analysis for American Military University. I got divorced in 2015, and started traveling again, but this time as a full-time wheelchair user. I started writing about those experiences, and my accessible travel blog was born. Two years later, I started my own travel agency.
What do you work toward in your spare time?
I don’t have any spare time! But seriously, I’m a workaholic who travels almost full-time. I have to make an effort to relax, spend time with friends, etc. I’m always looking for opportunities to advocate for disability rights and improved accessibility.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Definitely a night owl. I work better at night, and since I mostly live alone (my kids live with their dad during the school year), I like the adult-ness of staying up late just because I can.
What are you most proud of?
My two sons. I always carry around some guilt from saddling them with a disabled mom. But seeing how responsible, independent, helpful, and compassionate they are… I’d like to think I had something to do with that. They’re just amazing.
What are you known for?
Being gone all the time! Seriously, my friends are always shocked when they invite me to an event and I can actually attend.
Professionally, I’m known as a top drug war, border security, and accessible travel expert. That sounds so random and weird! It’s like I have this double life.
Personally, I’m known for being fair, rational, energetic, blunt, funny, and diplomatic. I’m also a pretty good karaoke singer.
What inspires you?
Strong, smart, fearless women who don’t put up with anyone’s BS.
Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.
I was right-handed for 42 years. Then about three years ago, I started losing the ability to hold things (pens, utensils, etc.) firmly in my right hand because of my MS. So, I trained myself to become left-handed.
Why did you apply to be an O Mag Insider?
First, I wanted to represent wheelchair users—especially women in wheelchairs—as integral members of society who have many amazing things to share and contribute. Second, I wanted to demonstrate to the world that we have dreams, goals, families, jobs, and lifestyles as interesting and diverse as everyone else.
How do you live your best life?
I live every day like it’s my last, and squeeze the last drop out of every destination I visit. Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease with no cure, so I may not be able to work, travel, or even get out of bed in five years, ten years…who knows?
I strive to be a good example for my children as a parent, as a woman, and as a citizen. By seeing the world in a wheelchair and meeting as many of its people as possible, I hope to keep learning and absorbing as many perspectives and points of view so I can pass on to my children a balanced and nuanced view of humanity.
What are you reading now?
Becoming by Michelle Obama
What’s a day in the life of Sylvia like?
It depends on whether I’m home or traveling.
If I’m on the road, my days usually start pretty early. If my goal is to take photos with no people in them, then I’m awake before dawn and heading to whatever place I want to capture. Otherwise, I grab a quick breakfast at my hotel and either meet up with a tour guide, or roll to my first museum or attraction at opening time. I roll all day, but usually I’m back at my hotel by sunset to eat, edit photos, and rest before repeating the same process the next day.
If I’m at home, I’m surgically attached to my laptop and cellphone. This past year I only had about a week or two between trips (sometimes only a day or two), so I spend my days doing a LOT of writing for my blog, catching up with my travel agency clients, going to medical appointments, and resting. Oh, and catching up on my TV shows on Hulu.
Make sure to check out Sylvia’s accessible travel blog at Spin the Globe!
Follow her social media channels:
This is part of an ongoing series, introducing you to the dynamic individuals who make up O, The Oprah Magazine’s Brand Ambassadors known as the O Mag Insiders. For more information on the program or to apply, click HERE.
Read the last O Mag Insider feature HERE!