Slaven Škrobot is from Croatia which would make his globe-trotting adventures stand out in his native country anyway; but much more so that, as a result of an accident, he is confined to a wheelchair. Slaven truly inspires us with his commitment to experience the world and his love of adventure despite the obstacles he has to overcome. We are very happy to chat and learn from him today.
Slaven, can you please tell us something more about yourself and about your condition? In what ways has this changed you as a person?
My name is Slaven Škrobot, I am 34 years old and I was born and still live in Croatia. I’ve always considered myself quite hyperactive and I lived an active life. That changed eleven years ago when I had an accident while sea jumping and broke my neck. That accident left me paralyzed from the neck down, and permanently put me in a wheelchair. That, let’s call it „second life“, was quite hard at the start and was a challenge on a completely different level. At the start I was furious by not being able to do anything and by watching other people traveling, doing sports and enjoying life. I knew I had to do something about it, my life and I wanted to find a new purpose and something to fulfill me. I decided to go all out, leave my comfort zone and start traveling.
How did your love for travel develop? What was the main trigger to start travelling in the wheelchair and when did that happen?
I did travel before my injury but never far away or on longer periods. Usually it was just for some concert or skiing. I was pretty young, never had friends who liked traveling and I’ve always preferred to stay home alone rather than travel with my parents. As I said, I was young and stupid. I understand it now, didn’t see it back then. After my injury traveled across Europe but I found all that quite boring and not exotic enough. I never felt I was kinda far away from home. That changed with my first trip outside Europe, to Morocco! That experience was something completly different than Europe and Morocco was a new challenge. Since I’m a fan of the Middle East, and arabic & persian culture, architecture, music and deserts, that trip changed my life and made me fall in love in traveling.
There are many challenges that you face daily, let alone when travelling. What does your trip planning and packing look like? Did you ever consider just giving up rather than moving forward in the face of the challenges?
Uff…people actually never understand and realize how much work, time and effort I do in my research before my trips. Just for Australia I read, explored, researched, planned, exchanged emails for more than four months! I like to have it all planned so I come across as few problems and obstacles as possible and to be able to enjoy as much as possible on my trips. But it doesn’t really matter because I love it, I love researching and I learn alot of new stuff. Packing, however, is a nightmare! You see, lets say, you have a 30 kg suitcase and you can put inside whatever you want. For me, 70% of that bag is filled with medical stuff so I have only 30% left to carry the stuff I’d like to carry so I have to be quite picky. It is a nightmare but It never even crossed my mind to give up. I actually hardly give up on anything! I am stubborn as hell.
What are the most rewarding things that you get out of travelling that keep you going?
Apart from magnets and usual souvenirs, I collect knives and sand! By now I’ve collected more than 130 samples of sand from all over the world. Not just by myself but from my other people and my friends as well.
How do you find reliable travel information when doing your research? What are your “go to” sources for this?
As they say, „google is your friend“. Usually I read people’s blogs, watch videos and of course, google everything possible. I’ts probably three times harder to research everything when it comes to traveling with a wheelchair because in less-developed countries, information is pretty hard to get. You have to research everything twice and make sure something is possible or accessible. Sometimes, well, usually, there is no information and then I start sending emails and ask around. But in most cases I find my way. For Australia I sent more than 350 emails whch seems crazy but the trip was perfectly planned!
Overlooking the Indian Ocean…
As a person with special needs, you have managed to log quite some trips, but not just that. You have attempted some endeavours that no one but you has managed to do until now (at least not to our knowledge). Can you tell us more about these?
Well, I did do some crazy stuff on my travels, I admit that actually. Some were quite dangerous and some maybe a bit stupid but that’s life! No reward wihout risk, right? There are a few but two worth mentioning the most are being the first person in the world to reach the Monastery in Jordan’s Petra and Sri Lanka’s Pidurangala in a wheelchair. It took us five and a half hours one way for the Monastery and two hours for Pidurangala. Pidurangala was really something different, dangerous and completely extreme. I’d think twice before doing it again for sure!
A major highlight – getting to Petra
How did it feel to aim for these endeavours, to conquer your own destiny that life has given you?
That is probably one of hardest questions to give answer. The problem is I don’t have the words to express myself and people can’t understand that „feeling“ since they can’t put themselves in the same situation as mine. To achieve and do something that has never been done before, where no one supports you, nobody tells you it can be done and where you are aware your body is physical limited is one of the best feelings human being can experience. I’d compare it with scoring a goal in a world cup in front of a full stadium. It makes me more alive than I am and pushes me forward.
What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned so far from facing all your challenges and succeeding in winning over them?
I’ve learned that everything you want or dream of is possible if you really want it! People will always make excuses. I question everything and rarely believe someone completely, I’ve learned that from my experience. Also, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s okay to give up, not all has to be seen or done. I’ve leared to listen to my body and do what it tells me, but still, sometimes my stubborness wins.
How did you face the travel bans due to the pandemic and what alternatives did you come up with to stay out there, despite travel being almost impossible for the moment?
I don’t mind the limits. I’ve lived with limits for the past eleven years. For the first time in my life, I’m calm in my mind when I’m at home because everyone else is and I am aware I am not missing anything. Travels will come, I’m sure of it, we just need to be patient. Not being able to travel far away is not the end of life. There are many more things to do other than traveling.
For me, I’ve found another thing to love and that is my bycicle! I’ve been traveling across Croatia lately, exploring the coast, riding my bicycle and conquering some of the islands with it. Again, something new, different and challenging. The Bicycle has brought a new dimension to my life, especially regarding my independence. Even if they allow traveling in 2021, I’ve got big plans with this bicycle.
Do you have some ultimate travel goal, and if yes, what would that be?
Not really, I’m not a fan of statistics. My goal isn’t to visit all world countries since I’m not interested in all of them. I just want to explore, see and experience places I’m really interested in. I was supposed to go to Iran, Indonesia and India in 2020. But due to COVID-19, all of that got canceled. Considering that, when travel opens, my priorities will be Iran, Namibia and Southeast Asia but that doesnt mean I will visit those first. I’m for traveling anywhere, as long as the place interests me.
Slaven, we will end with our signature question. If you could invite any four people, alive or dead, from any period in human history to dinner, who would you invite and why?
Tough question and I’d actually have to think about it for some time. Considering I have to answer right now, I’d put David Attenborough in the first place since he is the only person I envy. He has lived and is still living an amazing life, he has explored the whole planet, experienced amazing things, has great stories and he is doing what he really loves.
The second person would probably be someone from Pink Floyd, Roger Waters or David Gilmour. Pink Floyd is my all time favourite band and I’d have alot of quiestions for those two about probably every song.
The third person would be Alexander the Great. I’m a history fan so not much to say here. I’d ask him a billion questions.
I just can’t think of a fourth person that fast but it would be someone like Carl Sagan or some kind of scientist or even better, my grandfather who passed away at the very start of my travels. He had always been my support and he found me traveling in a wheelchair amazing.