Hap Working The World by Hap Cameron (Allen & Unwin $30)
Told with all the enthusiasm of a man on his third beer at the barbecue, New Zealander Hap Cameron recounts his free-wheeling globe-trotting adventures after deciding, at 23, to see all seven continents before he was 30.
Like a passport-carrying Sam Cash from Barry Crump's stories, Cameron, from Nelson, offers the kind of backpacker, thumb-out yarn that should have considerable appeal for the Lonely Planet generation, and anyone prepared to enjoy his un-self-conscious writing style and admire how he rode his luck to achieve his goal.
There is the brief affair in Seoul where his girlfriend announces she is pregnant (the furious search for an abortion clinic not necessary because it was just her joke), months of indulgent luxury in Spain tutoring the son of a Russian family he'd met in Korea (topless beaches, his digs having a pool, jacuzzi and bar), a sojourn in Brazil before relocating to Ohio with the Russians to work in the corporate world, the Aids test (unnecessary, it was only meningitis), on to Kentucky where, by good luck, he saw Michael Campbell win the 2005 US Golf Open.
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All this in just the first quarter of a book that opens with him being kidnapped by gangsters in Dar es Salaam.
As with so many Kiwi couch-surfers, the perpetually broke Cameron would doss down anywhere - he spends unfeasibly long periods sleeping in cars - but also has a good heart and a social conscience amid his self-fulfillment. The period working in a Mexican orphanage is genuinely moving and changes him.
Cameron's story isn't all high times, passport and visa problems, being the world's worst waiter on a cruise ship to Antarctica or cycling across dangerous parts of Africa. He also recounts loneliness, failed or long-distance relationships, a brush with death (ironically in New Zealand while home for a rest) and being diagnosed with serious depression.
Rambling, funny, tense and mostly told with an increasing awareness of his own shortcomings, this is a series of linked yarns which would have you pass Cameron another beer at the barbecue and let him tell another story while inwardly congratulating him on surviving, and for having the good sense to make that belated marriage proposal.
Graham Reid is an Auckland writer and reviewer.