Martin Ziervogel wants to give hope to others struggling.
He knows about life’s challenges. He was born with a rare bone disease as well as diabetes and suffered abuse throughout his childhood, which led to depression.
It’s taken a lot of work to get to a healthy place.
But rather than seeing himself as a victim, Martin wants to be a hero, raising awareness of abuse and giving hope to those struggling.
‘In my childhood and adolescence, I was repeatedly sexually abused,’ he explains on his fundraising page. ‘I suffer from a rare metabolic disease, so I was always physically disadvantaged and did not always have it easy in my school days.
‘Due to these negative experiences in my childhood I fell into a deep alcohol addiction. This went on for many years because I could not understand the past and wanted to suppress everything.
‘I had no desire to live anymore, after many crashes, stays in a psychiatric clinic and many unpleasant experiences, I woke up.
‘I know what it’s like to be abused, and I want to help the children deal better with their suffering.’
In May Martin embarked on a 4,500km cycle through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia. He plans to keep cycling – and then walking – around the world to continue inspiring people suffering with mental and physical illness.
The next part of his trip will mean ditching the bike to travel by foot through the Himalayas, followed by a trip up Mount Everest.
It’s no easy feat. Martin’s diabetes has caused bone deformity and bow-leggedness, while the isolation of travelling alone has taken its toll.
‘The hardest part is the solitude of going through it all alone,’ he says.
‘But I have already met or been contacted by so many people by who told me they have been through the same thing and how I have made a difference.
‘It makes my heart jump and gives me the strength to finish the rest of this journey with a smile on my face.’
But he’s found that exercise has helped him to combat his depression – discovering a passion for Ironman challenges has helped him through low moments and given him a sense of purpose.
Martin’s journey around the world is raising money for a German organisation that helps sexually abused children, as well as for the Special Olympics. He’s raised thousands so far.
‘I decided to become a hero rather than a victim by giving hope to those who don’t have any left,’ says Martin.
‘I know how it feels to be abused, and the reality is that a lot of people turn a blind eye. This journey is about raising awareness so it can be detected early.
‘My physical handicap made school a living hell, and these experiences left me full of shame, disgust and fear.
‘My dream is to show these kids that life is always worth living, no matter how much it feels that way.’