Heroes of solo travel: the Kiwi travelling the world in his wheelchair
The following story is part of our 'Heroes of Solo Travel' series - inspirational stories of people travelling by themselves. Travelzoo’s travel industry initiative #SoloSeptember is a campaign to provide better deals for solo travellers.
If the idea of setting off on on your own adventure feels daunting, Eamon Wood’s story should put things in perspective.
Born in Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand, Eamon had his world rocked at the age of four when a car crash left him with permanent spinal injuries.
His response ever since has been to meet every challenge head on. He represented New Zealand in wheelchair tennis and basketball, then he turned his attention to travel.
He started by journeying around the UK, then decided to really challenge himself by flying to the States and wheeling the 150+ miles from Miami to Key West in his wheelchair. To be clear, he pushed himself the entire way.
Eamon has been documenting this fascinating adventure on his blog A Backpack, a Chair and a Beard. We got him to slow down long enough to tell us his story.
Here, in his own words, is that story...
I have been exposed to travel all my life, moving from place to place throughout my childhood without spending more than a year in one place. The number of different places I have lived is in the upper 40s. Travel gave me sense of adventure. Everywhere new I went was a chance to soak up new cultures, new perspectives and have myself grow. This is where my wandering style of travel came from.
I almost feel like I have less of an obstacle than a lot of people. Maybe the world isn’t quite as easy for someone in a wheelchair, but because I have had so much practice with problem-solving in the physical world, I know how to step back and take a look at something to figure it out.
My approach to facing life's difficulties is to remind myself that it is mind over matter; that I have absolute choice over how I perceive everything and that everything is balanced. With a problem comes a solution, with mistakes come lessons, with loneliness comes an intimate knowledge of yourself.
When I find myself overwhelmed, I quickly take a look around me, listen to what is going on, feel the elements and very quickly whatever is overwhelming gets put back into perspective.
The whole time I’ve been travelling has been full of kindness from strangers. I’ve never been stuck - there was always a lovely stranger to help if I was lost or tired. The thing I found the most humbling was how quick everyone was to share their stories and take the time to ask if you needed help.
One of my first big adventures was a push from Miami to Key west. I just showed up on the day - it was sunny and someone mentioned a cycle path heading down there so I got a coffee and made my way without a thought on why I was doing it!
Most of my travel highlights are about random timing and the people along the way: watching the the sun setting on the edge of the world off the Isle of Iona in Scotland was a huge highlight; heading in a direction with no destination and ending up exactly where I wanted to be; sleeping in the car for a few weeks while travelling around the beautiful fjords of Norway.
I loved travelling in the UK and was in awe of the history. It was probably the most challenging place accessibility-wise, with me having to jump out of my chair and drag it up stairs to get into the buildings on a few occasions.
The thing that holds people back from their own adventures is waiting for the right time, money and leaving what is comfortable to go into the unknown. My advice is simple. Just say yes. Once you have done that, everything gets easier. The right time is when you decide to go, money isn't as important as you think, and the most beautiful moments are waiting in the unknown.
My next adventure? I would love to start in Europe and make my way around the world without using a plane.
Travel has taught me that you can journey as long and as far as you like if you appreciate the journey. The destination is just a milestone at the start of a bigger journey.