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An epic journey – travelling the world in a wheelchair and a Sprinter.

A Sprinter drives across a muddy road in the Andes

Jozef Balemans is in a wheelchair. And yet in his entire life he has never been as mobile as he is now – thanks to a Sprinter that bears his name.

The best wheelchair in the world.

In the past, when Jozef Balemans went to work, he would be offered an outstanding view most of the time. The Dutchman used to be a roofer; he founded his own company many years ago but still climbed roofs afterwards. Until in 1998 he fell from a house. And from then on nothing was like it had been before. When Balemans woke up in hospital he was paralyzed from the waist down. He would never be able to climb a roof again. Almost twenty years have passed since the accident. Jozef Balemans has learnt to live with his disability. He has a beautiful life. And this has a lot to do with the fact that the roofer can once again enjoy breathtaking views. ”One day I bought myself a motorhome and opted for a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4“, recounts Balemans. He dedicated many working hours to designing a vehicle adapted to the needs of the disabled, with a lift on the side.

At night, when we are sitting in front of our Mercedes-Benz Sprinter overlooking a river, a mountain or the sea, we keep saying to each other: A more beautiful view than this one is not possible.
Jozef Balemans in front of his Sprinter that he calls his ”Josmobiel“

Despite his handicap Jozef Balemans bought this Mercedes-Benz Sprinter for himself in 2006 and began with the conversion of the van. Self-reliance is the name of the game.

Sold his company, bought a Sprinter.

Their daughter’s honeymoon trip across North and South America in 2007 was the perfect occasion for the Balemanns to set off on their first major adventure on the road. The Dutch couple was planning to travel around Argentina with their Sprinter ”Josmobiel“ for six weeks, but on the day of departure they made a decision. „We flew back and sold our company. For the next three and a half years, we travelled the length and breadth of South America.” Life on the road had cast its spell on Jozef Balemans and his wife. ”We love the simple life, all the adventures, the many new interpersonal encounters, the peace and quiet. At night, when we are sitting in front of our Mercedes-Benz Sprinter overlooking a river, a mountain or the sea, we keep saying to each other: A more beautiful view than this one is not possible. Not even on the roof.”

The Sprinter 4x4 against an impressive backdrop in the American South

Texas, 40 degrees Celsius, the Sprinter is on the road. Up until now, the Balemans have visited no less than 36 US states.

New friends from the Mercedes-Benz subsidiary.

Amongst other reasons, says Balemans, he chose Mercedes-Benz because ”it is a global brand and and you can get spare parts anywhere in the world“. Just like a few years ago during a tour through Peru, when the Josmobiel packed up near Ilave not far from Lake Titicaca, – and three employees from the Mercedes-Benz subsidiary in Cusco five hundred kilometres away were sent on their way to pick up the Sprinter. ”During the two-day return journey, my wife cooked for the men; one of them slept with us in the van“, recalls Balemans. „Those two days on the road were not put down to our account. We were told that friends did not have to pay for something like that“, he explains enthusiastically.

Jozef Balemans’ Sprinter in California

“We have the most beautiful garden in the world “, says Jozef Balemans. Together with his wife, the paraplegic adventurer travels the world in his converted Sprinter 4×4.

Friendly acquaintances and a helping hand.

Another trip took the couple across Bolivia. One of many travelling acquaintances was the Argentinian Gustavo, a mechanic who lives in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz with his family. ”If there is anything you need”, Gustavo said, ”then please contact me.” Weeks later, Gustavo’s acquaintance proved to be invaluable. The Josmobiel urgently required experienced hands, so Jozef Balemans dialled Gustavo’s number, received an invitation immediately, and ultimately he and his wife stayed with the friendly mechanic who made the Sprinter ready for operation again within two weeks. His family turned a room on the ground floor into a a guest room specifically so that wheelchair user Jozef could stay the night without any problems. „Gustavo and his Gabi are probably the nicest people we have ever met “, recalls Balemans and asks: „Where else do you find people like that?” He already knows the answer: On the road, maybe even during his next adventure. Where even a wheelchair cannot prevent you from flying high/following your dreams.

Jozef Baleman’s Sprinter e driving through a desert in the United States of America

Jozef Balemans and his wife have explored no less than 36 US states. Currently, the camper is parked in Phoenix for inspection. .”For this vehicle you will get spare parts anywhere in the world!“, he says.

A man is cleaning a Sprinter 4x4

A basic cleaning for the Sprinter 4x4 – in the middle of Bolivia. “Sometimes, the contacts established on the road can be invaluable”, says Jozef Balemans.

A Sprinter drives through Bolivia

From Canada to Mexiko – in his own blog, the former roofer Jozef Balemans tells his readers about his travels with the Sprinter.

Jozef Balemans is reading a book in front of his Sprinter

Jozef Balemans is reading a book in front of his Sprinter.

Photos: Jozef Balemans


Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

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