Kevan Chandler’s muscular dystrophy has left him wheelchair-bound, but that didn’t stop him making a three-week backpacking trip across Europe with three friend earlier this year. The tour included a stop at Skellig Michael, which is just off the County Kerry coast.
The 30-year-old from Fort Wayne, IN was born with Spinal Muscular Atropy, a genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness, People reports. Chandler was able to take the trip of a lifetime with the help of his friends, who took turns carrying him on their backs in a specially designed backpack.
“Most of it just felt like a great trip – a bunch of friends getting to backpack Europe,” Tom Troyer, who took the trip with Chandler, told Fox8 News.
His friends had to train before the trip to build up the strength needed to carry the 65-pound Chandler. Chandler also had to prepare to temporarily give up his motorized wheelchair.
"My wheelchair is definitely where I am most comfortable," he says. "But I realized that sometimes breaking out of your comfort zone is worth it."
The idea for the trip first took root in 2013 when a few of Chandler’s friends decided to explore the sewers in Greensboro, NC. Chandler could not access the sewers in a wheelchair so his friends threw together a makeshift backpack and carried him underground.
"After we survived that, we started wondering, what else we could do on a bigger scale?" he said.
He started thinking about Europe.
"It's just a magical place and I always had the desire to be there, I just never knew how to make it possible," he says.
Chandler started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the trip, which was to include stops in Ireland, England, and France.
"The group consists of teachers, musicians, photographers, and writers," Chandler wrote on the fundraising page. "We have little money of our own, but with your support, we will return with a story to share unlike the world has ever heard before."
In four months, the page raised $33,000, but Chandler also received a lot of encouraging support from people around the world. He has also served as an inspiration to others.
"People have been writing to us saying, 'I'm disabled and this is really encouraging me to look at life a little differently,'" he said.
In addition to the four friends, the travel party included two others who came along to document the trip for a film they plan to put out next year.
“I think we're all broken and disabled in some way. It's just less obvious for some people," said Chandler, who intends to write a book about his experiences. "So the idea that we have to be limited by our disabilities just really doesn't make sense to me. My message to people with extreme disabilities is if you have something you want to do, you can find a way to do it."
Read more about Chandler's advertures at the blog WeCarryKevan.com