In the summer of 2016, six friends joined me in the adventure of a lifetime. We left my wheelchair behind at the Atlanta airport and made our way to Europe, where we spent three weeks exploring places commonly deemed *inaccessible*. Two of the guys filmed the experience as the other four carried me in a specially designed backpack. We danced in the streets of Paris, hiked through the English countryside, and scaled the monastic island of Skellig Michael, off the coast of Ireland. Around every corner, we were faced with the wonderful reality that when we are courageous and get creative together, the world becomes accessible.
Two years after our initial trip to Europe, we had the amazing opportunity to visit China. We began in the mountainous countryside of Guilin, where we fished, explored, and shared meals with our translator’s grandfather, who hosted us. This was a great way to begin our adventure, being fully submersed into the rural side of Chinese culture and resting in the company of family.
Next, we found ourselves enjoying the company of the good people at Maria’s Big House of Hope in Luoyang, a Care Center for orphans with special needs. We played with the kids, ate with the staff, and in the evenings meandered through the marketplaces of this old walled city. And finally, we wrapped our experience at a similar Care Center in Beijing, as well as speaking to students at the Western Academy of Beijing.
While at the Care Center, both in Luoyang and Beijing, we had the great joy of leaving with them some of our special backpacks, to be used for carrying the kids on outings and adventures of their own. Of course, we also took some day trips of our own, visiting historic locales like the Shaolin Temple and the Great Wall. Once again, we were encouraged by the enormous, beautiful potential that friendship and creativity can bring to otherwise limiting circumstances.