Could you imagine traveling across more than 75 countries? Could you imagine traveling across more than 75 countries without any money? Can you imagine doing all of that in a wheelchair? That is the story of Albert Casals, a Catalan man who due to early leukemia and its medication, by the age of 5, had lost the use of his legs. However, never lost his willingness to discover every country of this planet. Today Albert is a fearless 24 year old guy without insecurities “without borders” (just like the name of his book), he has collected thousands of kilometers while traveling with his wheelchair as his mean of transport and his opened heart as his passport.
He told Sensa Nostra some of the important life lessons he learned around the world and how he can live like this.
We usually complicate our lives more than we should, there is always somewhere to sleep, there is always something to eat. You only have to know people, and then everything flows. Travelling, I understood how simple the world and our lives were! Only four things are enough for living: sleeping, eating, showering and friends. During my trips I normally sleep in beaches, train wagons, parks, stations, sofas, camps, police stations, ruined castles, abandoned houses, caves…
Often having fewer things is to have more happiness, which is what really matters. In general, less ideas instilled in you since when you are born, it means you have more freedom to choose what you really want. Without going any further, when you are traveling, the less luggage the freer you are to do what you want. This way you are going to meet more people -because you are going to need more things- and more interesting things will happen to you. In my travel bag I just carry: a book, a pen, a flashlight, cards, soap, two pairs of pants and two shirts, a jacket, a tent, a first aid kit and a repair kit for my wheelchair.
In my travel bag I just carry: a book, a pen, a flashlight, cards, soap, two pairs of pants and two shirts, a jacket, a tent, a first aid kit and a repair kit for my wheelchair.
As far as I remember I always wanted to travel but when I was 5 years old, my parents would never had let me go. My adventure started when I was 15 years old and I went on an inter-rail trip for a month with a bit of money. When I ran out of money and my interrail pass was out-of-date I decided I wanted to keep visiting more countries. So I learned how to hitchhike, how to find a place to sleep, how to find free food in cities, and soon I learned how to travel without money. I liked it that much that I decided to keep on traveling like this and I am still doing it.
Even though I am on a wheelchair, since I am still mobile from waist up, I can climb, walk up stairs, etc. so in practice, the wheelchair does not mean a barrier for me. On the contrary, the wheelchair an advantage for me, because people are not afraid of someone who uses a wheelchair and it makes it easier for people to talk with me or take me in their cars. I enjoy my trips slowly but surely. Once, It took me 8 months to travel with only 20 euros in my pocket from Barcelona to the farthest point from my house, a small island of New Zealand. There is a film I did called “Mundo Pequeño” (“Small world”) that documents that trip.
When I arrive somewhere new, the first thing I do is to look for a park or a square and draw my cards. Soon I catch the attention of children, and after a while the half of the town is around me! Usually adults ask me repeatedly two questions: “Where did you come from?” and “Do your parents know about it?” Some are very scandalized by my peculiar situation. It also happened sometimes that the police arrested me because they thought I had run away from home… A happy child alone in the world… what’s wrong with that?
Once I arrived in a village in Peru where there had not been a tourist in at least 10 years. Suddenly, they saw a child with blue hair on a wheelchair and they thought they had hallucinated.
It definitely is not the same to move than to travel. Normally people travel to the other side of the world, in order to spend their time in a hotel, in a pool, to shop… In my opinion they do almost the same things they could have being doing in their home countries. For me, it is all about seeing how people live and how they do things, see how they are, live with them, know them, learning new languages and be their friend. Once it lasted five months to get from Barcelona to China, hitchhiking only with 30 euros for the whole trip, without any plan or anything. Suddenly, you meet a Chinese family willing to help you, and you find yourself in a Chinese family, living with them, accompanying them to work, etc.
Sometimes I got to spend some time with a family which generously took care of me for a period of time but after some time I had to go. I usually feel sorry because I’d had a great time with them, but I’d have to go in order to meet the following people because if I never had gone from the previous people I met before, I would have never met the current ones. At the very moment I am heading to my next destination, I only can feel happiness and excitement.
I do not believe there is a real thing like a bad experience. If I survived I do not feel to go home, I want to keep moving and living adventures because I survived. And if one day I do not make it through an accident, I will die happy because I will have spent my life doing what I really wanted instead of staying secure at home living against my will. Generally I think that while you do not die, everything is fine. There were several times I almost died. Sailing with smugglers from Colombia to Panama I was drowned out of the boat in a storm and fell unconscious into the water, but luckily they saved me. Another time I ended up trapped in an abandoned castle in Scotland during winter. While I was in Thailand a hurricane woke me up while I was asleep on a beach. Once an insect stung me in Indonesia and I nearly died from an allergic reaction. I almost died many times but as I did not die, I don’t wallow about it but think of it as something cool. It is one more adventure.
One of the “bad” things that can happen while travelling is that they can steal you something, but at some point, I will be able to get back what they stole from me but the most important thing is that no one will ever be able to steal my experiences from me.
Once I arrived at a Buddhist monastery with the idea of seeing Buddhist monks praying. When I entered the courtyard of the monastery I listened to modern music. Following the sound, I started opening some doors and to my surprise they were there singing and dancing, like in a karaoke bar. It was unbelievable. What was more unbelievable was when they were trying to open the door of one room and could not find the right key I just picked the bunch of keys and tried one, for the surprise of all, that key was the right one. From that moment, they thought I was the reincarnation of a monk who lived in that room before. They started giving me a lot of food and I could save a lot for the rest of the trip.
Partly due to travelling, I personally do not believe in any religion because you easily realize that everywhere everyone believe in their own religion with all their faiths, their proofs and miracles and everywhere is a different one. For me that is a bit suspicious, but it also has to be with my way of seeing the world. Whereas I do not believe in religion, I have constantly seen a lot of people who is happy thanks to religion or that they reached the same conclusions I reached through other ways. The great problem itself for me is the religion establishment which brings moral paradigms and dogmas and that brings people suffering. For me, the probability of the existence of a God is equal to the probability of the existence of a violet hippo that controls the world. It may be, or it may not be so.
Nevertheless, I really believe that when you are doing what you really want to, the whole universe conspires in your favor.
Look around and choose: you can choose to live happy or sad. I choose happiness. I do not see reasons to be unhappy. I always try to make people see it that way. If you could not feel pleasure and pain, life would not make sense. Experiencing the highest possible happiness is the only thing I want to do in life before I die. It is not selfish, the happiness of others makes my own happiness greater.
Experiencing the highest possible happiness is the only thing I want to do in life before I die.
According to popular belief, you can only love one person, which makes no sense at all to me. I can love more than one person and those I love, I hope they can love even more people. I have never been jealous because my partner was with other people. Regarding the concept of family, I see it as a much more crazy idea, it does not even seem healthy. You have to live with only one person, every day of your life. If you like other people, you have to resist it, or lie to each other, which is even worse. Once something is not allowed you can only lie. How can someone put bans on something as beautiful as love – which is supposed to be free?
But instead, it is what has always been done before in modern societies and what is still done in many tribes that I had the fortune to meet is raising children in a collective family. If you ask a “Kanak” child who his mother is he will answer: “well, I have three: this one teaches me how to fish, this one shows me how to look for food, and this one used to nurse me.” I think, because I saw it, that it is psychologically healthier, having more than one model instead of having a single mother. I will certainly do that in my future as a father.
I also extrapolate this with the convention of choosing between sexes. When I was younger I used to think I was heterosexual and at some point while travelling I met a guy who I really liked and felt attracted to him. At that moment I realized I liked both boys and girls (and it is a very good way to learn about sex, because it is completely different). In truth, the fact that you have to choose between a gender is only a forced social convention, a prejudice that you learn in your childhood when actually we are all human, and we all love and that is it for me.
I rarely find myself in the situation where my will and my emotions go separate ways. In general, if I feel like doing something like traveling, I do it. The good thing is that when you travel alone you never have to do anything you do not want to. For example, if I want to climb a mountain, I do it, but while I’m doing it and I get tired, I stop and go. That is simply my way to think and to see the world. Of course, I will be happy to inspire other people. It could be wonderful.
Nevertheless, I do not want to say that my lifestyle is what every person should choose. The inspiration I want to transmit with my lifestyle is that everyone should decide for the way he or she wants to live.
The inspiration I want to transmit with my lifestyle is that everyone should decide for the way he or she wants to live.
Lets say that I had not ended up on the wheelchair when I was five. who knows where I would be now, Who knows what kind of life I would be living or would have lived. Maybe I would be living a very happy life. What I do know is that I am now living a very happy life.
Taking the risk of preferring the other maybe life where my legs would be mobile is risky. I would not change anything in my life. You might wear glasses and I wear a chair. That is how I see it. Sometimes I’m told, “If you do not work, when you will be old, you will be a poor man”. But if I ever get old, I will have friends all over the world! Can I ask for more?