On 10 2006 September Vasile Stoica completed a grueling summer-long Pan-European trek, alone and using only the push power of his hands in a manual wheelchair. What did he do to celebrate his 5'250 KM (3,250 mile) adventure? After a 5 day break, he began the next leg of his journey, a 2'200 KM (1,350mile) trek from Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany where he plans to arrive on 18 October 2006 in time for the Rehacare Disability Exhibition.
NewDisability.com (ND) conducted this long distance interview with Vasi just after he finished:
ND: Vasi, tell us more about your trip. How long was it?
Vasi: I started on June 7th 2006 in the capital of Romania, Bucharest and I arrived at Finisterre, Spain on 10th of September. I did about 5250 km. only by the power of my hands in a Kuschall manual wheelchair.
ND: Where exactly are you right now?
Vasi: Now I am in the north of Spain on my way to the Rehacare Exhibition in Dusseldorf. I will arrive there on October 18th.
ND: How did it feel when you were nearing the end?
Vasi: Every time when I am close to the end of a trip I think about the next one. I was happy to find “the end of the Earth” and to finish the trip there but for me it was the beginning of a new trip. After 5 days break I started my journey to Düsseldorf; about 2200 km.
ND: Are you traveling alone? Or do you have a support crew?
Vasi: I travel alone all the time. Sometimes in some parts of the world some wheelchair users, bicyclists or runners come with me for some kilometers but normally I am alone on the road with two back packs hanging on my wheelchair.
ND: What motivates you to do this? Don’t you sometimes feel like giving up and taking a train?
Vasi: You have to know I was born with disability; I had 13 operations to both of my legs. I did not have a wheelchair until I was 14 back in the communist time in Romania. When I got my first wheelchair I felt like I was flying. Since then I keep “flying” with my wheelchairs.
Sure, sometimes I get tired and I think of giving up but then I think about all the people who trust me and my goals and get somehow more power and I continue.
ND: Is everything in a wheelchair?? Do you have any other types of transportation?
Vasi: I try to do all my trips only by wheelchair. When I cross seas or oceans I use an airplane.
ND: What kind of special equipment do you use? Helmet, Gloves, etc?
Vasi: Normally I have two backpacks and inside I have everything I need for the trip; 2 pans, 2 t-shirts, pullover, rain gear, gloves, things to repair eventual malfunctions to the wheelchair, laptop, digital camera, cell phone, press book, and a journal. (I ask all the nice people I meet on the road to sign. It is proof that I was there!!) paralyzing spray and some other things. All this is about 25 kg.
ND: What countries have you crossed?
Vasi: Since 1993 when I started the first trip I crossed all European countries several times (but not GB, Portugal and Greece), Canada, USA (west coast, east coast and Route 66), New Zeeland, Australia (east coast from Melbourne to Cairns) and Egypt.
ND: What was the biggest challenge so far?
Vasi: The trip Around the World. I started in May 1998 in Bucharest and I ended one year later in May 1999 after passing through Romania, Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, Canada, USA, New Zeeland, Australia, Singapore, Dubai, Egypt, Bulgaria and Romania.
ND: How many KM or Miles have you been averaging in a day?
Vasi: I do between 50 and 150 kilometers in one day…. Depending on the weather, road…
ND: Which of the places have you enjoyed most?
Vasi: On all my trips I made I liked most Australia. The people there are nice and friendly and the landscape is beautiful. On this trip I liked very much Spain, the Galicia part especially.
ND: How are you taking care of yourself? I imagine you have to look out for dehydration and other medical issues that the most of us never consider.
Vasi: I carry with me water, fruit juice, and chocolate but not much because I stop many times on the road when I see some store and I take what I need. Until now I did not have any medical problems. Only some blisters to my hands but is normal.
ND: What kind of reactions have you been receiving from people?
Vasi: People on the road are very impressed about what I do and some times they offer me food, drinks, lodging or money.
ND: This is not the first long-distance journey you have made. You have gone by wheelchair in Europe before, you have traveled route 66 from LA to Chicago, how does this trip compare to the others?
Vasi: From L.A. to Chicago was different. The first half was difficult because I passed through the deserts in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
ND: I imagine that many of the roads are not very wheelchair accessible. How do you manage with that?
Vasi: I do my trainings on dirt roads and mountain roads but when I do a long trip I try to stay only on good paved roads.
ND: Have you had many breakdowns along the way?
Vasi: I have some times flat tires or bearings problems but I always fix those because I have some spare parts with me.
ND: What has been the best part of this journey? What is the worst?
Vasi: The best part is when you are close to the end and see that people appreciate your efforts. Worst is when it is raining all day long and you have to push very hard and when you meet unfriendly people.
ND: Lets look back to before you started this voyage. What did you do to prepare for this journey? How long have you been planning this?
Vasi: Always some months before I start the trip I send press releases to major mass media and try to find the sponsors. At the same time I train too.
ND: I imagine you trained very hard. What is your exercise routine like?
Vasi: 3, 4 times a week I train on the mountains road and dirt roads. That is all my training.
ND: This must be a massively expensive journey. Can you give us some idea of that? How have you paid for it?
Vasi: The cost of a trip like that is not very expensive. The average of a day is about 100 euros, that includes hotel, food and drinks. I have the money from the sponsors.
ND: Why did you pick the route that you did? Why this route, from Romania to Spain?
Vasi: Just like that. I pick a point on the map and I plan the trip. I choose Finisterre because I want to see how is at “the end of the Earth”.
(Note from ND: Finisterre means End of the Earth)
ND: What is in the future? What is the next challenge?
Vasi: Next year will be Paris – Dakar if I find all the necessary sponsors.
ND: Do you have any suggestions for others that might consider attempting something similar?
Vasi: I tell all of my friends that the most important is to trust yourself, respect yourself and keep it real. If you have a dream, follow your dream. Everything is possible!
ND: What will you do when you get back home? Any big plans?
Vasi: When I am home I paint, do web design and film editing, sport and teach computer to the members of the Physical Disable Association from Lugoj, Romania.
Big plans? Paris – Dakar!!!
Click here to read more about Vasile Stoica
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