Leaving prosthetic legs behind, Chris Koch sets out to travel Europe for six months.
As of press time, Chris Koch, 32 years old and all but three-feet, six-inches tall, is gallivanting somewhere around Europe. He leaves behind nearly everything in Alberta, including his friends, his family, and his prosthetic legs.
For reasons unknown, Koch was born with no hands or legs, making his six-month solo trip to Europe nothing short of astounding.
"This is the one big thing I know that I have to do," Koch said, sitting comfortably on his mother's sofa, two days prior to his big adventure.
During the interview, he leaped down immediately after realizing he was still in a dirty sweater that he wore outside.
"I have to change my shirt," he said. "Mother would kill me if she came home and I was wearing this on her couch."
With no prosthetic legs on, Koch literally hopped to his room, and returned within two minutes, donning a crisp, plaid button-up. He climbed back up into the chair effortlessly.
On Nov. 16, Koch boarded a flight bound to Gatwick, London. Koch is presently travelling all over Europe to speak with children at different schools and share his life story. Having spoken at many schools in Alberta, Koch said children are so candid they often have the best explanations as to why he's missing his limbs.
"I went into [a] friend's third grade class... This one student puts up her hand and says, 'If nature would have allowed it, had you just stayed in your mom's tummy longer, than you would have had arms and legs,' so maybe my impatience is to blame," Koch joked.
Koch has travelled before to places like Brazil. This is his first attempt to brave the vast wonders of Europe, and he won't be bringing his prosthetic legs with him.
"I'll leave them at home so mom can cuddle with them if she misses me," Koch said, laughing.
Koch's YouTube video update on his trip.
Koch credited the parenting style of his mom and dad, Barb and Bruce, for his positive attitude and determined demeanor.
"I was fortunate enough to have a family that wasn't about feeling sorry for me, and didn't coddle me," Koch said. "It was clear from an early age that I wouldn't get any sympathy.
"I heard my uncle phoned my grandma the day I was born and said, 'Bruce and Barb had a baby boy, but he's missing his arms and legs,' and my grandma replied, 'Well Bruce never did finish anything he started.'"
If I Can...
One day, Koch and his good friend J.R. Comstock started talking about making a travel show, and what evolved was a concept called, "If I Can."
"If J.R. can do something like travel through Asia, or something as simple as wake-boarding or windsurfing, then why can't I?" challenged Koch. "Then if I can, then why can't any average Joe sitting there who is watching the show?"
With the idea bright in their minds, Koch and Comstock took a trial trip to Brazil for a month. Instead of hitting tourist hot spots right away, the pair travelled the less beaten path, literally going for a swim in the Amazon River.
"It was an amazing experience, and by taking that trip, it made me realize that a trip to Europe was plausible, and that I could do it on my own," said Koch.
And so, with nothing but a small suitcase, a backpack and no prosthetic legs, Koch has been making his way through countries like England, Spain, and Switzerland.
"This whole European vacation is like that one life altering event... The big moment in your life where it's like, 'Wow, that was huge,'" Koch said.
Koch's constant smile throughout the interview and his positivity about his trip to Europe prompted the question of how he always seemingly stays optimistic.
"There are days where I think, 'Man, things would be a hell of a lot easier right now if I had arms and legs,' but that's not an option, so you just press on forward," Koch said.
"You're dealt the hand that you're given, no pun intended, and so you just go with it."
To follow Koch on his European adventure, or to watch his wake-boarding and snowboarding videos, check out his YouTube channel.
- By Dara Defreitas