The traveler, Robby Beckman, said he hopes to inspire others to embrace change and to get out and live their lives.
“It was 97 miles, 18 hours down, a little over 12 hours back,” Beckman said. He sailed to Cuba and back from Key West last month with friends — a significant journey, he said.
“As soon as you get off the boat, one, you’re the Americans in Cuba,” he said. “It’s like, what are you doing here?”
The journey was significant not just for historical or political reasons, but for the physical accomplishment as well.
“Two, you see three guys roll off in wheelchairs,” Beckman said. “It’s like, oh yeah, something is going on here.”
Beckman and his friend, Josh, are both quadriplegics. Their friend, Colin, is a paraplegic. The trio became the first paralyzed men in the world to make the trip to Cuba.
“The mere fact that you’re on a boat for 18 hours and the three of you can just roll around anywhere you want, if you want to go up to a cabin, you can, or go up to the front and see the stars,” Beckman said. “It was pretty awesome.”
All three men are patients of Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.
“Josh and I were two of the first patients to come in here,” Beckman said. “That’s how our friendship began. Did I ever think it would lead to him and me ending up in Cuba? Heck no.”
“It was two paralyzed guys just talking,” he continued. “Dudes down in the dumps. I was going in there just to BS with him. Next thing you know, 10 or 11 years later, we’re in Cuba together sharing drinks and just laughing together.”
Beckman said he owed their ability to make the trip successfully to years of therapy. It was the journey of a lifetime, with numerous memories spanning from convertible rides through the city to playing golf and exploring the country.
“Rolling around Old Havana, we went to a flea market in the morning and had a great time getting to see some of the culture,” Beckman said.
The trip also carried historical lessons, he said.
“To see people sitting outside without cell phones or tablets, playing bingo, board games with friends, socializing, that really hit home,” Beckman said.
The journey also showed Beckman what was possible, he said.
“There were no sidewalks down there; it was a rough roll through the streets,” he said. “I push myself every day. You have to wake up. You’re paralyzed. A lot of people can be depressed. You can be down in the dumps.”
“But when you keep striving for that next goal, it mentally helps you wake up in the morning and push,” he continued. “You say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to get my butt in gear.'”
Beckman said he wants to show others with spinal cord injuries that they don’t have to be limited overall by their physical limitations.
“Hopefully, I do inspire other people,” he said. “I’d like to see more people get out. You can do just about anything you put your mind to. Everyone always says that, but it’s a matter of actually doing it.”
See video here.
Shelley Orman, Fox45 News
June 22, 2016