13-19 February 2015 #745

“I’m having fun”

Motivational speaker, Chris Koch, touring Southeast Asia stopped in Nepal
Sahina Shrestha

When Canadian farmer Chris Koch returned to Kathmandu from a trek to the Everest region, locals and tourists crowded around him every step of the way, just to talk to him and ask him questions.

Koch is a motivational speaker currently touring Southeast Asia to show people that they can overcome any obstacles with will power and determination. Being born with no limbs hasn’t stopped Koch from cruising in his longboard on the streets of Kathmandu.

During his trek to the Everest region, Koch hopped and climbed as much as he could. For the rest of the journey he had some help from the porters. “I don’t like taking help but the view of Everest from Namche was worth it. It was absolutely amazing,” says Koch.

This week in Boudha, Koch was followed by a large group of curious onlookers, some asking questions and others taking selfies.

“Everywhere I go, I have a group of people following me and I love it,” says the 35-year old. “I know I look different so I don’t mind people looking at me, asking me questions. They can see I have a big smile on my face and I am happy.”

It’s Koch’s famously charming smile that people remember most about him wherever he goes. It changes people’s perceptions about their own lives and things that they take for granted. “I always have a smile when I travel, so people know that I am having fun and things are obviously going great,” Koch adds.

In Nepal with his friend Anna Tenne, a photographer, he wants to document his travels in order to inspire and encourage others to travel more. “Why would you want to watch travel shows, when you can travel yourself?” asks Koch who was in Thailand and Cambodia before Nepal.

On his first week here, Koch travelled to Dhangadi and Nepalganj and he was struck by the lack of facilities for people with disabilities. “It is sad to see many people with disabilities in Nepal living without citizenship,” he said.“If you give them opportunities for good education, they can become key and crucial individuals. No one should be ashamed because they are disabled. It happens, it’s a part of life. How you react to it is the key.”

Koch says he likes to help others to reciprocate for their kindness towards him. “I want to give people with disabilities in Nepal confidence and let them know that they have the ability to do anything and live independently,” says Koch, who is determined to return to Nepal.

ON A ROLL: Chris Koch greets passerbys and onlookers during his tour and in Namche last week for a view of Mt Everest (below).

"Happiness comes with independence and freedom" seems to be Koch’s mantra. And he credits his family and community for encouraging him to be as self-sufficient as possible. “They treated me like a normal person. I was expected to do everything like everyone at home or school,” explained Koch. He learnt to ski, snowboard and play golf while growing up. He felt most independent when he learnt to fasten his prosthetic legs himself.

His parting message: “We are our biggest obstacles in life.”

Photographs by Anna Tenne

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