Wheeling around the world

Matt Getze '96


Fall 2010

On a muddy and icy path in England, struggling across the moors from the historic home of the Bronte sisters to the manor of Wuthering Heights fame, then-Calvin student Matt Getze ’96 was determined to finish the journey.

Assisting him was one of the professors for this January interim excursion, English professor Dean Ward, who was carrying Getze’s wheelchair (useless on these small passages), as the young man negotiated the twists and turns on his crutches.

“I was picking Matt up after the fifth time he had fallen, and by then we were both completely splattered with mud,” said Ward. “Matt looked up at me and said, ‘I’m really having a great time.”

The kind of intense determination and global curiosity that Getze displayed on that muddy English path is rooted deep in the Los Angeles resident. He currently works as a technical specialist for an advertising network and is also in graduate school working toward an educational technology degree.

Eventually, his goal is to work for a college, university or international school and develop innovative uses for technology to aid in the curriculum, with a special emphasis on foreign language and cultural studies.

But his passion for travel, despite the additional challenges of using a wheelchair, remains central to his life and interests. He published a website called “Wheel Adventure”, which chronicles his experiences around the world to inform others in wheelchairs about travel through on-site research—and perhaps inspire more “wheel adventures.”

“I wanted to make a site with authentic, real information that was useful and practical. I didn’t see anything like it in the internet landscape, so I did just that,” said Getze.

Wheel Adventure was recently featured in the “Frugal Traveler” column in the travel section of The New York Times. The national exposure has brought Getze a lot of attention.

“It has been interesting,” he said. “AT&T called and wants me to appear in ads for their mobility products.”

Getze learned, from his English moors experience, that travel sites billed as “wheelchair accessible” could not be taken at face value.

“Most times you can’t tell from pictures or the written description what traveling to a particular place will be like for someone in a wheelchair. And even if you contact the provider, there are international differences about what ‘accessible’ means and these varying interpretations may provide plenty of surprises for the traveler,” he noted.

Getze is also fond of traveling to locations across the globe that are off the beaten path for many travelers, especially for persons with disabilities. His travel site features descriptions and advice for negotiating travel in the Philippines, China and Thailand. He is pictured above in Cambodia.

One of his favorite destinations is Chaing Mai, Thailand, despite the fact that he had to improvise often to accommodate his wheelchair. He found the country beautiful, the people friendly and the ability to handle the travel challenges manageable. Writing about his experiences on his website gives others a first-person road map to follow.

Getze’s travels have also given him something deeply precious and personal.

“My trip to Cebu, in the Philippines, taught me many things about gratitude,” he said. “You know in your head that you are blessed and have much, but that knowledge—through my experiences in Cebu—went from my head to my gut to my heart.”

It has become Getze’s philosophy that travel, especially when one adds some element of personal challenge to the experience, has much to teach.

“That class on the moors? My favorite class ever,” he said.