Slaven Škrobot is a 36-year-old Croatian from Zagreb. He’s a traveller, blogger, storyteller, motivational speaker, and humanist. He is also an incomplete c5 quad, after an injury 13 years ago. He likes to say he’s “just an ordinary guy who was given a second chance in life”, and we got the opportunity to ask him some questions about how he makes the most of it.
Can you tell us about your first travels as a wheelchair user? Where did you go, and what was it like?
After spending a year in hospital, I went straight to the seaside. My friends wanted to take me out on a speed boat, which got a big reaction from my family – they were worried I’d break my neck again! So, what did I do? Of course, I went!
It was my first step in realising what my body can do. Since then, every adventure has boosted my confidence.
I wanted to push myself even further after that, so I took a 15-day trip to Morocco. That was a big step outside of my comfort zone, but I was hungry for an adventure and keen to test my limits. The trip made me fall in love with travelling, adventure, and new experiences. It made me realise that I actually like a challenge.
Writing about my Moroccan experience also won me a competition prize of two return tickets to Australia. A lot of people reached out to me, telling me they loved my story and that I should continue writing, and I realised that this was an opportunity to do something I loved, earn money, and inspire people.
Over the past three years, I’ve also travelled to Tanzania, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Turkey, and Russia. My most recent adventure was definitely the longest and the hardest: I hand-cycled 3,500km through Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, and Turkey. I was declared a Croatian traveller of the year in 2019/20!
When you travel, what is the biggest barrier or issue you need to overcome?
It’s difficult to manage toileting and showering, and high/low temperatures are also a struggle. Plus, I hate not being able to be spontaneous or travel alone.
Do you have a favourite place (or places) to travel?
Can you tell us a bit more about travelling in Australia?
Accessibility in Australia is beyond amazing – I have no complaints about that! But some of the strict rules and regulations made no sense to me.
Australian workplace laws prevent a lot of heavy lifting, so I struggled to get assistance. I wanted to go beyond the usual accessible places, but I couldn’t find a company that would take me on a panoramic helicopter flight (because I couldn’t transfer alone). The same thing happened in the Daintree rainforest, where no one would help lift me three steps onto the bus.
Thankfully, I’m stubborn, and I find my way. I managed to get the help I needed to make my trip in Australia a dream come true.
There were so many highlights: the Great Ocean Road, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, the Gold Coast, Fraser Island, Byron Bay, whale watching, Whitehaven Beach – there were so many, but these were the ones that came to mind first.
What tips would you give first-time travellers with a wheelchair?
Make a good plan. Do your research before your trip. Always check things twice, and always be ready to improvise.
A few more specific tips: bring a spare tire, a pump, and a kit to fix a tire. Separate your catheters into two bags, in case some of your luggage is lost. Keep the tools you need for your wheelchair with you, and always bring duct tape (it fixes everything). Carry a spray bottle of water with you, too, in case of high temperatures. I speak from experience – it saved my life!
What equipment makes travel easier for you?
My backpack. Obviously, it’s great for carrying essentials, but I also use it as a belt to keep me in my wheelchair.
Aside from that, I also find a toilet seat or shower chair helpful, depending where I’m going and who I’m travelling with.
Where do you hope to travel in the future? What’s on your travel wishlist?
Namibia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Southeast Asia – those are my priorities. I’d also love to travel with my handbike in future. I want to conquer a lot of kilometers on it!
This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. Subscribe to the magazine here.