“I always like to think big”: a globe-trotting “interabled duo” reaches New Zealand

A month away from their planned world tour, the “interabled duo” Alexander (Alex) Kaellner and Lovis Wiefelspuetz wondered if they had given themselves an impossible challenge.

“Are we too naive? Have we dreamed too much? Will everything be okay?” they asked in a social media post outlining their mission to the world: to advocate for countries around the world to become more accessible to travelers with disabilities as they travel six continents in one. year.

Alex, 24, was born in Wiesbaden, Germany with arthrogryposis multiplex congenital (AMC), a rare condition that limits the movement of his joints and muscles.

As a child, he underwent several major surgeries to improve his mobility, including operations to fix his feet and straighten his right hip so he could stand.

* I needed help getting into Sydney airport but everyone refused
* Accessibility bill ‘unlikely to result in change’, disability advocates say
* How accessible is Auckland? Why it’s not among the best cities in the world for people with disabilities

He wears splints for standing and walking, referring to them as “socks of steel”, and generally moves quite well, but is unable to climb stairs on his own.

With little strength in his arms and hands, he also needs help with eating, dressing and taking care of his personal hygiene.

Alex said it can be difficult to juggle their roles as friends, business partners and caregivers.


Alex said it can be difficult to juggle their roles as friends, business partners and caregivers.

“In short, I am dependent on daily help from outside,” he says. “In this case of Lovis.”

After completing a semester of university studies in Spain last year, Alex’s confidence in his ability to manage without his parents, who until then had been his main caregivers, grew.

“Experience has shown me that, even with my body, it is possible to do more than a semester abroad away from my parents. And since I still like to think big and love to travel, I had the idea – in my crazy situation – to take a year-long trip around the world.

Well aware that he couldn’t do it alone, he asked his former high school pal Lovis, 25, if he would like to come with him.

“He thought about it for a few days, and very quickly it was clear: we will do everything to go around the world together,” said Alex.

Hamburg native Lovis has no physical limitations and as an ‘interabled duo’ they decided their big OE should have a higher purpose. In an effort to raise awareness of what it is like to travel with a disability and how societies can be more inclusive, they decided to document their journey on social media and raise funds for Handicap International, a non-governmental organization that helps people with disabilities in crisis around the world.

Lovis (left) and Alex have been friends since they met in high school.


Lovis (left) and Alex have been friends since they met in high school.

“The perception of people with disabilities in society and their rights still needs a lot of improvement, and I want to contribute to that,” Alex said.

Now in Northland and two months into their world tour, the friends don’t feel like they’ve been in New Zealand long enough to rate its accessibility, but one wonders if they might find that lacking. A thing four-part series on accessibility in Auckland found it not to be among the best cities in the world for people with disabilities, with many major attractions prove inaccessible or difficult to access for people with mobility problems.

Going forward, the couple hope societies around the world will be better organized for people of all abilities, saying they hope ‘inclusion will be the global norm and not the exception’. Despite accessible tourism representing 25% of the world market, access needs often remain unsatisfied. Alex and Lovid would like to see it made mandatory for travel companies to ensure people with disabilities can access their services.

“It is clear to us that this cannot happen overnight, but it would be a first step for the travel industry to see the need to make travel around the world as accessible as possible,” said Alex. “After all, around 10-20% of the world’s population lives with a disability, which means it’s also financially beneficial for the travel industry to make travel as accessible as possible.

“We can see firsthand through our community how great the desire to travel is. It’s probably even more important than in the able-bodied community.

Just before their scheduled departure, Alex began to get nervous, wondering why he was choosing to submit to something that would test him in a way nothing else had ever done.

Alex being helped up stairs in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.


Alex being helped up stairs in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

“I constantly had moments where I thought ‘why am I doing this to myself? “. Because it was clear to me from day one that it would not be a walk in the park and that I would have to exceed my personal limits several times. We are taking a calculated, but still relatively high risk. If something were to happen to Lovis and that we were in the middle of nature, I’m screwed.

Still, the couple left in October, visiting Istanbul, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Sydney and Melbourne before heading to New Zealand.

So far it has turned out to be one hell of an adventure, with their experiences ranging from erect to hair-raising. Just, like Alex said, any epic journey should.

One out of the ordinary experience was seeing kangaroos in the wild as they drove down Victoria’s Great Ocean Road – a trip ‘so beautiful’ they lost track of time and missed their flight to Auckland. Discovering that Uber wouldn’t work for them, they spent “an eternity” trying to find a taxi to take them to Melbourne airport, arriving just an hour before their flight departed.

Turned away because they had no return tickets, the pair chatted with a Swedish/Irish couple who had been denied boarding for the same reason. Hearing that Alex and Lovis had nowhere to stay that night, the couple invited them to crash on their sofa, and the four of them spent the next day on the beach in Melbourne before flying away for Auckland in the evening. The sting in this seemingly happy ending: they discovered they had left their camera in Australia.

In Istanbul, where they got ripped off by a taxi driver.


In Istanbul, where they got ripped off by a taxi driver.

“This experience is so special to us because it contains exactly what constitutes such a trip around the world: unpredictable extreme emotions,” said Alex. “On one side the incredible Great Ocean Road with the kangaroos, getting to know a very kind and helpful family. On the other, extreme time stress, a missed flight and lost equipment. What is a world tour made of?

Other memorable experiences include being abandoned in Oman in the middle of the night after a taxi driver told them ‘there were no addresses’ there, meeting ‘a strange woman to Singapore who mysteriously paid for their hostel accommodation, obtaining the phone number of Australian professional tennis player Nick Kyrgios and, for Alex, leaving his heart with a young woman in Sydney.

Friends complement each other when they travel, drawing on their individual strengths to help each other. Lovis helps Alex with physical tasks like eating, bathing, and getting around, as well as mentally “pushing me over and over again to my limits, and sometimes helping me jump over my own shadow.”

The more tech-savvy of the two, Lovis also takes most of their photos, shoots and edits their videos. Alex takes responsibility for organizing the trip and helps with their social media activities.

“Last but not least, I also offer my emotional support to Lovis and try to make it as easy as possible for him where he is already taking all my care.”

Spending all day every day together has its challenges, with Alex saying it can be difficult to juggle their roles as friends, business partners in terms of documenting their trip and finding sponsorship for their trip, and carers .

The couple hope that documenting their journey will show people with disabilities that it is possible to travel widely.


The couple hope that documenting their journey will show people with disabilities that it is possible to travel widely.

“We are always looking for an appropriate balance… Reconciling these three levels so that they can co-exist is one of the biggest challenges of the whole journey.”

During their trip, Alex said it became clear that the world was slowly starting to realize the importance of making societies accessible to as many people as possible and, therefore, more inclusive. They were particularly impressed with Singapore in this regard, with Alex saying he was able to move “very freely overall”.

“I didn’t have to take a single step during our whole stay, except in the hostel… We also noticed in the company that the subject of disability and inclusion is consciously perceived, and the diversity of disabilities is also addressed in public with the help of programs and assistance.

Originally considering Sydney’s Bondi Beach inaccessible because there was no path for wheelchairs, they changed their minds when lifeguards offered them a beach buggy to get around – another many pleasant surprises in terms of waking the world to accessibility.

Now on a road trip across the North Island, the couple plan to spend Christmas and New Years in Auckland. They don’t have time to see the South Island on this occasion, but intend to return in January if they find sponsorship.

“For many Germans, the dream is to travel to New Zealand once in their life because the nature here is supposed to be breathtaking, and we can confirm that it is,” said Alex. “Further from home we cannot be at the moment. We are, from our point of view, at the other end of the world.

Alex and Lovis in Muscat, Oman.


Alex and Lovis in Muscat, Oman.

Having had little contact with the Kiwis so far, Alex said he couldn’t comment on “how we like the people here” yet, but the scenery exceeded their expectations.

“Nature is gigantic. We find it so fascinating how quickly nature is changing on the North Island. We look forward to the days to come and what we can still experience here.

You can follow the adventures of Alex and Lovis on ICT Tac, instagram, Facebook and Youtube.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *