Meet The Heart Transplant Survivor Who Is Traveling To All 196 Countries

By: Alyssa Jorgensen

Fire spinning is not for the faint of heart. Yet, Jordan Marcia, a 25-year-old heart transplant survivor from Vancouver, British Columbia, is learning the ancient Maori art of dancing with a flame-engulfed cord in a small pineapple farm in Northern Thailand. The heart in his chest is not his own, but the act makes him feel "fully alive and empowered," and that's what matters most to him. 

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Playing with fire is quite the extended metaphor for Marcia's adult life. When he first told his team of doctors (cardiologists, oncologists, general physicians, and all the rest) that he dreamed of traveling to all 196 countries in the world, most all of them told him he was insane. He had been born with a deadly heart disease — 'Transposition of the Great Arteries' — that nearly signed his tombstone when he was a child. He had endured a full-fledged heart transplant. Then, his right lung failed. Then, lymphoma cancer struck. He should have never made it to 25, let alone 10, he knows. Yet, here he is. And just as he has defied the odds that defined his childhood, he plans to defy the odds that plague his adulthood. 

"The way I look at life is that we’re all going to die," Marcia said. "That’s a reality. I was supposed to go when I was a kid. I didn’t. So any bit of life I get to live is a complete blessing. I’m uniquely equipped with a second chance because of my organ donation, so when I travel to new places, it is both me and my donor that go along for the ride."

For heart recipients in particular, one's lifespan can be estimated by cutting a healthy person's in half. Since Marcia is now in his twenties, and his lifespan should be estimated to go on until his eighties, he expects to live to somewhere in his forties. 

"My shortened lifespan actually allows me to take more risks and do everything in life I want to do without fear," Marcia said. "Traveling makes me feel happy. It allows me to experience different cultures, and for a time, say, when I’m on a train in Myanmar, or on a mountain in Nepal, or in a temple in India, or on an island in Vietnam, I forget that my life is finite. I just feel peaceful."

So far, Marcia has traveled to twelve different countries throughout Asia, and he has accomplished some incredible feats given his physiology. For example, he has summited Everest's basecamp, a difficult task for anyone with two healthy lungs. 

This year, Marcia plans to travel to twelve more countries. His unyielding idealism has not only allowed him to live the life he desires, but to also inspire other organ transplant recipients to live their lives on their own terms.

"I took control of my life and learned how to live abroad as a digital nomad," Marcia explained. "This means I make an income doing various freelance projects for different companies while I travel, and I teach others how to live on the go as well."

The exposure and connectivity social media allows has given him a platform to share his story with other organ recipients around the world. His video and photo content tell the story of someone who has defied the odds, and he hopes this will inspire others in his shoes to do the same. 

"I document my journey because I want to help inspire others. When people are in the hospital waiting for a transplant or have just received one, to hear about a 21-year post
heart recipient traveling around the world fills them with hope," Marcia said. "To me, being an influencer means being someone people trust — someone who can use their knowledge and experience to help others achieve their dreams and goals. That's what I aim to do."

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Disclosure: While Jordan promotes living life on one's own terms, he also urges those to keep tabs on their health as well. He still has his heart checked on by doctors regularly while he is traveling. 

Follow Jordan's journey on his socials: