In December 2020 I read the memoir of an extraordinary man. I had followed Eamon Wood on his blog – Wayward Wheeler – back in 2017 as he hitchhiked around New Zealand, UK, Europe and America. Eamon Wood has just released A Backpack, A Chair and A Beard and it is an inspiring read.
About the book
A paraplegic since the age of four, Eamon found ways to give his wheelchair wings. He became the number one seed in the Kiwi men’s wheelchair tennis rankings, and represented his country on the men’s wheelchair basketball team, travelling the world. But that was in a safe, predictable team setting. He wanted more.
At twenty-eight, he set off on an epic journey, with little more than his backpack, his guitar, and an open mind. He hitchhiked around New Zealand’s southern island. The travelling bug took him to the UK and the USA, then along the fjords and lakes of Europe.
He slept rough, did odd jobs, busked in thoroughfares and made friends with oddballs. He wheeled his way through cities and small towns, searching… and found himself.
Join the Wayward Wheeler on his epic adventure, detailed with sincerity and humour in A Backpack, A Chair and A Beard.
My review for the book
This is a memoir and a journal of a trip of a lifetime. After a tragic accident at four years old leaving Eamon Woods confined to a wheelchair, and following a nomadic childhood, he developed a passion for achievement. Becoming a professional sportsman in the New Zealand Basketball team, travelling the world to compete, and completing a seven year apprenticeship in engineering.
If that was not inspiring enough, he decided in 2016 to take on a trip that would have the majority of us terrified. We tag along, trying hard to keep up, as Eamon completes a two week practice run around New Zealand, with a backpack and money for essentials and a hope that he would find the kindness of friends, family and strangers along the route.
Following the trial run, and having ironed out some of the issues of hitching in a wheelchair, carrying a tent, camping stove and crammed backpack, he decided to tackle a much bigger adventure around the world.
Armed with limited funds and contact details of friends scattered around the countries he intended to visit, Eamon took his first flight to the UK. He spent several weeks in Brighton before embarking on a whistle stop tour of England and Scotland before heading to America and then back to Spain, France, Switzerland and Scandinavia. He provides a wonderful snapshot of each of the countries that he travelled through, and shares the highlights of the scenery and people he met that he emotionally connected to. This connection is shared through the lyrics to the songs he wrote on the journey.
Along the way he worked for accommodation, met friends via websites and in hostels where other world travellers gather. He was met with kindness most of the time, with people stopping to pick him up as he hitched, some offering a bed for the night and a hot meal. He also met indifference in some countries but always people would find their way to him and restore his faith in human kindness. With money running out he found ingenious ways to conserve his cash such as busking and renting cars as mobile bedrooms.
He returned to New Zealand as the pandemic took hold in Europe but I am sure when the restrictions have been lifted and his professional sports commitments allow, he will be off again exploring the world via the less travelled paths, inspiring us all to open our hearts and minds.
About Eamon Wood
Born in Nelson, Wood has been in a wheelchair since the age of four-and-a-half, when a car accident left him with permanent damage to his lower spinal cord.
Now 31, he’s spent a lifetime pushing himself to his physical and mental limits; representing New Zealand in wheelchair tennis and basketball, and becoming the first person in a chair to complete an apprenticeship in engineering, helping, as he says, to “deconstruct a few roadblocks for people using wheelchairs who want to become fabricators”.
In December 2016 Eamon embarked on a worldwide journey about which he said:
‘I’m just a guy in a chair, travelling around the world. Expanding my culture, learning about myself and other people. I want to inspire other people, not just people that are disabled. Inspire them to do what they want to do. Follow me on my own journey for beauty and growth.’
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the review and will head over to buy Eamon’s book.. thanks Sally.