I think most people would assume that traveling South-East Asia with a man with no limbs wouldn’t exactly be easy, let alone practical, but that didn’t stop me asking quadruple amputee Chris Koch to go on a crazy adventure with me. Thankfully I did. Traveling with Chris was easily one of the most incredible and valuable experiences of my life.
You’re probably wondering how a limbless Canadian man ended up traveling Asia with a crazy Aussie photographer. Chris was doing a talk at my local high school, and conveniently for me, I got wind of his visit just hours before this unlikely visitor arrived in Coonabarabran, Australia, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. I invited myself along, spoke to Chris for about 15 minutes before his presentation. We talked about our dreams and inspiration and he told me about how he had always wanted to visit South East Asia. It was at the top of his long bucket list, which he was slowly chipping away at. We instantly connected and it felt like we were lifelong friends. I did some sleuthing to find him on Facebook and a day or two later I sent him a message, along the lines of “I promise you I’m not crazy, or a stalker… want to travel Asia with me?”
Why? I knew that not only could this be one of the most incredible experiences of my life but, more importantly, I could also help Chris do what he does best – inspire others. I didn’t think he’d ever reply, let alone say yes but I thought to myself, what was the worst that could happen? He could think I was a crazy stalker and ignore me, or flat out say no? I could handle that.
See Chris & I in action:
As you might have guessed, Chris said yes. Call it naivety or being brazen, but I never second-guessed my decision… until the day before we were due to fly. Everything that everyone had been telling me for months hit me at once. Would I have to “look after” him? Chris’ mode of transport is his trusty skateboard…What would the road conditions be like? Would we get robbed? As a tiny woman and a man, literally half her size, we’d have no chance if someone decided they wanted our stuff. In other words, would I get this man killed? Hopefully not. I pushed these thoughts aside and off we went.
What I found was actually the complete opposite. Traveling with Chris was easy. From the moment Chris rolled into the lobby of our hotel in Bangkok on his longboard, we received nothing but help and friendly smiles everywhere we went. In all my years of travel as a blonde female in Asia, I’ve never blended in but for the first time in my life, I was completely ignored. As a photographer, I absolutely loved it! All eyes were on Chris, intrigued by this man of unusual proportions.
We travelled through Asia for six weeks, from Thailand to Cambodia and ending in Nepal. We had so many awesome experiences and met so many incredible people, but if I was to list them all you’d be stuck here reading for days. Instead, I’ll share with you what I learnt. These lessons aren’t the answers to great mysteries, but they are things we often forget in the rush of our daily lives. I hope this gives you a little reminder.
Take a chance.
You’ll never know where it could lead you. If I didn’t put myself out there and ask Chris to come traveling with me, I would have missed out on one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Although I’m an avid traveler and doing cray cray shiz is what I love most, it took a certain amount of courage for me to ask someone I’d only chatted to for 15 minutes if they wanted to travel Asia with me. And not just anyone – someone with no limbs. This trip could have gone horribly wrong. I could have gotten the man killed or we could have got on each others’ nerves. Thankfully though, we got along from the moment we met and we had the most amazing adventure.
There’s nothing more rewarding and you never know what you will get in return. I went on this trip mainly with the intention of helping Chris inspire others. Sure, I knew it would also be an incredible adventure but I didn’t expect anything in return. What I didn’t realize was how traveling with Chris would help me have a new outlook on life.
Chris inspires others just by being himself and being comfortable with who he is. I’m still amazed as I watch him do everyday tasks that we take for granted, like climbing stairs, brushing his teeth or trying to eat peas. Whatever he did, he always did it with a smile. But we wanted to do more than just eat peas and brush teeth. We visited Stepping Stones school Cambodia to entertain and cheer up the kids, the Mondulkiri Project to bring awareness to their elephant sanctuary and deliver food to the locals who needed it most as well as attend many community meetings for people with disabilities throughout Nepal. Chris’ initial intention was to hopefully inspire and enliven others but I think through trying to help we not only met some amazing people but even Chris gained a new perspective.
Love who you are and others will too.
I have never met someone in my entire life more comfortable in their own skin than Chris. While we are too busy worrying about our wrinkles, our extra roll of fat or that balding patch, here’s a man with no limbs more content than anyone I know. Because he’s so optimistic he receives only positive energy in return. Everyone can’t help but love him. I highly doubt people would feel the same if he was sour and bitter about life. Chris told me “if you’re worried about how you look you’re only cheating yourself out of opportunities”. His positive attitude towards life is strengthened by the acceptance he has for himself. Imagine if in our own lives we could all do the same.
Do what you love.
That’s the only way you’ll ever truly be happy. I didn’t get paid to go on this trip, nor did I make any money from it, but that doesn’t matter because I got to do the three things I love most: travel, photography and impact the lives of others. For me, these three things outweigh any financial gain. I honestly believe that Chris is helping change lives and it’s awesome to think I could help him share his message. The amount of people that would approach and thank him for just being himself was incredible. I hope that through my images, I’m helping him inspire more people by showing that if he can, they can and to me that’s priceless.
Unknowingly, our adventures unfolded in a way that had a profound impact on both of us. I started this trip thinking I was helping Chris, but really, he was helping me. Chris set out to inspire others, but I think he received just as much inspiration in return. And that inspiration always came with a wide smile on Chris’ face while rolling down the narrow, lively streets of South East Asia on his dusty old longboard.