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How My Rare Condition Inspired a Journey Beyond Borders

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Shani_Dhanda. Credit Sebastian Böttcher.jpg 3

“Life deals you a hand of cards, but you always have choices; the courage to make them defines you.”

Shani Dhanda

From Dreams to Passports Filled with Stamps

Travel has always been my escape and my confrontation with reality. Diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, I was never certain what my health would allow me to do tomorrow. That uncertainty fueled my desire to see the world sooner rather than later. From the age of 16, I hustled—not for a hefty bank account, but for a passport rich with stamps. I chose memories over material, and even today, I hold no regrets for the roads I took and those I didn’t.

Facing Challenges with a Suitcase in Hand

Why rush life? For me, the answer was simple yet profound. I wanted to roam freely while I still could, knowing that my physical condition might one day impose boundaries far stricter than passport control. Many envied the life I portrayed online, yet knew little of the challenges faced by a 3’10” traveler. This is the stark reality of living with a rare condition in an Asian community where disability is not only a significant stigma but also perceived negatively in broader society.

These experiences have shaped my mission. As the founder of Diversability, the Asian Woman Festival, and the Asian Disability Network, I challenge these societal norms and work towards a world where inclusivity is the standard, not the exception. Through these platforms, I advocate for changes that extend beyond picturesque landscapes and smiling selfies, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and transforming the challenges into channels for empowerment and advocacy.

Shifting Gears: Advocacy Over Itinerary

As my twenties waned, my focus shifted from personal achievements to broader societal impact. Initially, I aimed to visit 30 countries by the age of 30—a milestone I proudly hit at 31. This personal goal, however, transitioned into a larger quest for global accessibility and inclusion. My travels became not just about places, but about faces and spaces advocating for change. 

My speaking engagements, including sharing stages with global leaders like Michelle Obama and being featured in major media outlets like Vogue and CNN, have amplified my voice in the disability advocacy arena. My mission extends beyond my travels, influencing policies and fostering a more inclusive society.

A New Chapter: Travel as a Tool for Change

Now, in my thirties, my life has taken an unexpected yet exhilarating turn. Travel is no longer just a personal indulgence but a professional mandate. With 44 countries under my belt, I now travel for work, engaging with communities and driving the conversation on disability rights globally. This transformation from a personal traveler to a global advocate has been nothing short of revolutionary.

Who would have thought that a few years later, I’d be exploring the globe professionally? I am now not only witnessing change but am a part of it, inspiring people with disabilities worldwide to explore without limits.

Join the Journey

As I journey with Journeyable, I invite you to join me. Follow my travels and the stories that unfold at each stop. Together, we can break barriers and forge paths for an inclusive future. 

Keep up with my adventures on Instagram and see where the world can take us when we dare to defy the odds. Here’s to making every trip unforgettable—and to the many roads yet to be traveled.

* The blog featured image description: Shani Dhanda sits outside at sunset on a white step, smiling and looking into the distance off-camera. Shani is a South Asian short-stature woman in her mid-thirties with long brown hair. She wears a silver sparkly dress with nude heels.

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