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Trading Wheelchair for Backpack

Wheelchair for Backpack
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We are on our way to Machu Picchu with Janis McDavid. Without his wheelchair. Janis is travelling across the Peruvian Andes in a backpack on his friends’ backs.  Or in a saddle. Or on a zip line. Can this possibly end well?

Will they reach their destination? In any case they still have to overcome several ups and downs. Let us follow the extraordinarily barrier-free travel group on the last stage of their trip.

Part 3, From hitting rock bottom to flying high towards the peak of emotions

Would you like to read the story from the beginning? No problem: Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the adventure trip with Janis McDavid.

King of the jungle

Yesterday I was still able to gaze at the mountain panorama with its snow-covered peaks from inside my warm down jacket. Today, change of scenery: On the second day of our trekking tour we arrive at our accommodation in the middle of dense rainforest. I immerse myself in the endless green, but on day three I realize that I am experiencing a mental downward spiral. For the first time it is getting really tough on me. To my surprise: Hiking through rain forest at a height of 2,700 meters means hiking in the rain for the entire day.

Wheelchair for Backpack

The motto (shirt) suits me, doesn’t it? I really feel wild and free during my adventure in the Amazon.

Wild and free

Why on earth do I always do such crazy things? Do I need these extreme experiences to feel in what areas I still can “outgrow” myself? In everyday life I love structure and the latest technologies. I even drive a digitally networked smart electric wheelchair. On the other hand, I don’t want to be restricted in any way. I want to be wild and free like the rampant rainforest.

As a motivational speaker, when I talk about “pushing boundaries”, is it not necessary for me to experience this phenomenon myself time and again – preferably voluntarily?

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Mission possible

Against expectation, getting rocked through the cold and damp rainforest for hours has freed my mind. Like the fog that lifts at the end of our day trip I see my mission clearly in front of me. I want to point out to people the possibilities they have to push their own boundaries: I’m not saying everybody should go hiking, but everybody should create experiences that are unforgettable. Experiences that encourage you to reflect and feel, to curiously explore your own existence and creatively deal with environmental influences.

Wheelchair for Backpack

Thanks to a special construction attached to the zip line, I will now get the pleasure of learning to overcome my fear of heights.

 With a little help from my friends

How does courage arise? We always say, “Face your fears!”. I, for example, have been suffering from extreme vertigo since I was a child. And then: 4,600 metres above sea level. Did you notice?

After all, the best comes last. In this case it comes to overcoming my fear of heights in the form of a self-imposed radical therapy. At this point I can only recommend zip lining in the jungle, hundreds of meters above the precipice. Seriously: I was terrified – for almost a kilometre. Let me add here that, for safety-related reasons, in the beginning it was totally unsure whether I was allowed to “fly” at all.

For a long time, we worked together on a solution to properly secure me. In the end we laced my body in a type of climbing harness. The fact that the tour operator gave me his full support in my effort to live this extreme experience was incredibly helpful. Thus, after a short testing distance of 5 meters in his office I finally crossed a total of seven zip lines hanging on the rope in a tandem. The tandem enabled me to sit upright and use the brakes by myself.

To defeat your worst enemy – the fear of heights in my case – triggers a feeling of unbelievable happiness. What an adrenaline rush! Hours later I was still totally dazzled.

Wheelchair for Backpack

Yes, you can! I made it, and thanks to the help of my friends and all those who have supported me on my crazy way here I have arrived at the legendary Machu Picchu.

At the peak of emotions

If I just felt as if I was born again, now I am feeling like an old soul. We made it, I am standing at Machu Picchu. One of the most mysterious stories of human civilization is lifting slowly in the mystical mist. This place, what was it? A high culture’s place of worship? A heavily guarded shrine of the Incas who cultivated this rough land in such a wise way? A sublime feeling is creeping upon me. On me, the just about a meter-tall Janis. Life is a great challenge.


Authors: Janis McDavid / Claudia Poguntke

Photos: Sven Hasse

About Janis McDavid

Janis McDavid is a motivational speaker, author of books and globetrotter. With untamed optimism he has been standing up for years for the overcoming of inner and outer boundaries. The fact that he was born in 1991 with no arms and no legs doesn’t change anything.

In his speeches he motivates his audience to seize opportunities even under the most adverse conditions. His experiences give a refreshingly optimistic view of the development opportunities in an open and “including” society.

Janis McDavid is an ambassador of the “Yes you can“ movement and a testimonial for the new smart generation of Invacare electric wheelchairs with the innovative LiNX technology.

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