A man who lost his vision just became the first blind person to hike the 26-mile Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in one day.
He struggled with the limitations of his new reality. But instead of simply feeling sorry for himself, he says he came up with a new way to approach the rest of his life.
He and three other incredible athletes formed Team See Possibilities. The group takes on endurance challenges around the world linked to charitable causes, in an effort to encourage people to overcome their obstacles.
This month, they teamed up with guide Elyas of Intrepid Travel, the company who sponsored the adventure, to take on the challenge in Peru.
The trek ascends from approximately 9,000 feet to over 14,000 feet elevation. Hikers typically take four days, but the team planned to go non-stop.
Intrepid Travel was able to arrange exclusive permits so the team could start at 4:30 a.m. on the day of the hike and got special access after closing hours.
“The main Intrepid Travel guide, Elyas, actually ran the Inca Trail the week before the run to time the route for Dan, before joining Dan on the trek,” Michael Sadowski of Intrepid Travel told me.
The group reached Machu Picchu in just 13 hours, making Berlin the first blind athlete to accomplish the feat.
Watch the heartwarming moment they completed their trek here:
Aside from Machu Picchu, Berlin and his team have run nine marathons, including NYC and Boston, and completed two Half Ironman triathlons. They also ran across the Grand Canyon and back nonstop—making Berlin the first blind athlete to complete this as well.
Here’s my Q&A with him:
Q: What has been your biggest motivation while completing these challenges? (ie. Machu Picchu, the Grand Canyon, running marathons)
A: “At the most basic level, I am a father of 2 awesome children, Talia 15 and Ky 11, and as such, strive to be an inspiring role model for them. We often talk about setting goals and following your dreams in life even in the face of adversity. I hope to be an example for them of how we can take obstacles in our path and turn them into springboards for positive change. On the second level, I am motivated by the ability to encourage people, both disabled and not, to challenge themselves in living a fulfilling life. AND on a third level, I love the personal physical challenge and the ability to work together as a team to tackle huge physical endeavors.”
Q: I find your story to be really empowering for other people living with some type of disability, specifically a child who might be hearing they can’t do something based on society’s expectations. What would you tell them?
A: “I completely agree that children are the future of our world and we need to both empower and challenge them. So often, very well meaning adults, whether they be parents, teachers, caregivers, or the like, send consistent messages to a child facing the obstacle of a disability that there is so much they cannot do in an attempt to keep them safe both physically and emotionally. I believe we have to do all we can to break this message of inability and turn it into one of overcoming significant inconveniences in order to experience a life full of wonderful possibilities. I tell children facing a disability that it is not going to be easy, but they have the ability to live an exciting and fulfilling life, it just may not be by following the path others take.”
Next time you’re feeling down on yourself or need a little boost of inspiration, picture the moment Berlin and his team reached Machu Picchu.
The only limits you have in this life are those you set for yourself.