Man with muscular dystrophy plans backpacking trip through Europe
Kevan Chandler, a man with muscular dystrophy, has dreams of backpacking through Europe, despite being wheelchair bound and having limited use of his arms. Now, thanks to four great friends, Chandler hopes to embark on his trip this summer - with one exception.
Instead of carrying a backpack, Chandler will be the backpack.
Chandler, 29, has never had full use of his legs, but always knew his dreams were as valid as anyone else's. His friends used to tell him: "Your parents forgot to tell you you were disabled."
The first time he realized he wasn't completely limited to his wheelchair was four or five years ago, when he lived in North Carolina and was invited to join his friends in weekly potlucks.
"We went to a different house each week, some were up several flights of stairs," Chandler told InsideEdition.com. "My friends decided early on that it wasn't going to stop us from hanging out. They started carrying me up the stairs."
One day, his friends were inspired to take a trip to explore the local sewers, and knew they wanted Chandler to come along for the ride. They then came up with a plan to strap the 65-pound man to the frame of a hiking backpack, and walked through the sewers with Chandler on their backs.
"I always knew adventure was out there," Chandler said. "After [the sewers] I thought, 'Maybe we could do this.'"
Chandler started brainstorming places where he wanted to travel. He told InsideEdition.com that the first place he wanted to see was Samois-sur-Seine, in France. The village was once a temporary home to a traveling musician, Django Reinhardt, who was able to produce beautiful music despite paralysis in some fingers.
"To go somewhere [Reinhardt] considered a sanctuary is really important to me," Chandler said.
Another of his highlights will include Skellig Michael, an island in Ireland. Chandler told IE.com that his former college roommate had once scaled the mountain that housed a 6th century monastery at the top of the vertical climb. "He said, 'I don't know how, but you have to experience it yourself.'"
The catch was that none of these places were wheelchair accessible.
So, Chandler enlisted the help of his friends, hoping they would lend a hand through his trip: "They were on board right away."
While Chandler plans to experience most of the trip on the backs of his friends, they plan to bring his wheelchair anyway, "just to give the guys a break."
On their trip, Chandler plans to write a book chronicling his experiences. His friend, Luke Thomas, will film their 20-day journey to use in a documentary, as stated in his GoFundMe page.
"We're hoping to inspire people that are limited to know they really aren't limited. They can live their dream -- it might juts be a little more difficult," Chandler said.
"I convey to those who are not as disabled the aspect of self sacrifice, and carrying one another. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually through this life."