I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders. –Jewish proverb
The drive from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan was abruptly curtailed when I arrived at the wrong border crossing. The crossing was closed for repairs and there was supposedly another one about 60 miles away. The only sticking point: I had no idea how to get there. Fortunately for me, an Uzbekistan stranger did. However, he wanted to be paid for his services. 200,000 som to be precise. I didn’t have 200,000 som (about $100). I only had 45,000 and two packs of cigarettes. It was a take-it-or-leave-it moment. He took it and drove me to the correct border. Normal service was resumed.
As I waited for the Uzbekistan border guards to finish lunch, I met a few other teams that seemingly wanted to spend part of their summer in Kazakhstan as well. One of these teams stood out like a shining light. Pete, Jan and Rich were competing in the rally, but with a difference. All three of them are paraplegics.
Traveling 10,000 miles in a wheelchair for the Mongol Rally was truly astonishing. I spoke with Pete and his story was one of pure inspiration. He had been in the wheelchair for six years and quietly made a decision not to let his circumstances dictate his life.
“Other people put limitations on me and themselves, but I want to show them that there are no limitations,” he said.
His zest for life and his capacity to look beyond tragedy was inspiring. He recounted a story about how he had traveled from Bangladesh to London using only public transport. All done in a wheelchair. This was a journey of 15,000 miles as he weaved his way across vast swaths of the world over a six-month period.
Meeting Pete reminded me why I travel. To see the world. To learn from others. To experience life. Pete showed me that there is much, much more to learn.