Published on Monday, 21 March 2016 00:00
Written by Cheryl Teo Kai Lin
No feat is too big to accomplish just as long as you put your mind to it. 29-year-old Quan Peng embodies that statement by travelling 2,800km in a wheelchair across China in an epic quest to fulfill his lifelong dream of backpacking across the country.
Quan Peng started his intense backpacking journey from Beijing on 31 August 2014, and spent a whooping 566 days on the road before reaching Fuzhou city last Thursday. He has since travelled a distance of 2,800km, spanning the length and breadth of China, but his adventures are far from over. He is determined on covering a further 1,700km to Sanya, in China's southern-most province of Hainan before ending his exhausting journey.
“This is the fifth province and 22nd city I’ve passed through during my trip,” Quan Peng told local media after reaching Fuzhou. “My fate deprived me of my freedom. I have to get it back by any means necessary. Along with wanting to see the world with my own eyes, I also am making this trip so that people will see the importance of having barrier-free facilities.” In each of the cities he has visited, Quan Peng made it a point to document the type of facilities available for disabled people like himself. Sadly, he reports that in most places such conveniences are non-existent.
Quan Peng is originally from Gansu province. He lost the use of his legs at age 17 when he underwent a surgery to remove a tumor from his spine. The procedure damaged his nerves, permanently paralyzing his legs. But he refused to let his disability bring him down, and chose to move to Beijing in 2013 to make a career for himself.
The young man was hardworking and never once used his disability to garner sympathy. He started off working in customer service and spent his spare time managing a Taobao online store for extra income. He managed to live life as normally as everyone else would but his dream was to travel the world. Initially, he was skeptical whether he would be able to travel about in a wheelchair but he decided to bite the bullet and do it. His first day on the road was a gruelling test of his determination – he traveled 60km expending every single ounce of his energy. He developed a sharp pain in his shoulder the next day but he persevered.
Quan Peng also fell off his wheelchair six times during his journey, with the worst being when he tried to negotiate a slope and the wheelchair toppled. But he got used to it eventually, and after the first 500km he started to really enjoy the journey and all the experiences it presented, from the unpleasant incidents to making friends along the way.
Through his story, Quan hopes to inspire people and make them see that being in a wheelchair, or any other difficult situations for that matter, does not necessarily have to thwart a person’s dreams and ambitions.