Travelling around the world is an amazing and challenging thing to do. Doing it in a wheelchair, alone, and without any money, makes the challenges seem impossible. If you change your perspective, then anything is possible. 29-year old Spanish-born Albert Casals lost the use of his legs due to leukaemia at the age of 5, which left him in a wheelchair. He began his travelling adventure at 15, and has not stopped since.
Albert has visited over 100 countries – without money. Staying in communities and environments as diverse as the countries he’s visited, from the jungle with indigenous tribes to the city streets with people without homes, depending solely on his own inventiveness and the kindness of strangers. Having lived amongst so many different people and distinct cultures, he is Breaking the Mould, questioning cultural stereotypes from our society and inviting young people to think critically about “the way things should be”, and to find their own way.
Different worlds, different ways
Albert explains: “There are all these different worlds and different ways to do things. If you are only in one society and in one culture, you only get to see one world. When you travel, you start having all these doors to other ways of living and other worlds.” He has learned a lot from the hunter-gatherer tribes that he lived within different parts of the world, such as the Dayac in Borneo, Indonesia. The Dayac do not have private property and they do not attach objects to people. “While I was living with these people, I started thinking: why do I need my own things, my own clothes? Why do we all not share everything?,” Albert says. “If you are a nomad, to survive, it makes most sense to share everything unconditionally.”
Travelling without any funds has vastly enriched Albert’s experiences, who claims he finds money more of a nuisance. Always asking people for help, from Spain to Thailand, he gets close to the local people, learning from them, living like them, and gaining local knowledge, all the while thinking, “Could I live like this? What can I learn from people who live differently to me? How can we best all live together with our differences?”
Many would consider being in a wheelchair an insurmountable obstacle when it comes to travelling the world, but Albert compares it to wearing glasses or having a hearing aid. “I can do anything in the wheelchair: take stairs, go through sand, or snow. It is not an obstacle, but rather an advantage. People see you less as a threat and are more inclined to talk to you,” he explains.
Push the boundaries and most importantly, live a happy life
For seven years now, Albert has lived in a community of friends, people he loves and considers his family. They have travelled the world together, without money, forming their own tribe, constantly pushing the boundaries of “the normal” and stimulating others to think about their way of living and thinking.
Albert’s TEDxYouth@BSN talk will focus on cultural stereotypes and the ways in which we can break away from them. But mostly – as he says and as is his goal in life – he will talk about living a happy life, one that you want, whether it is by Breaking the Mould or keeping it firmly intact.