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Blind – but that won’t stop me seeing the world

Bristol Evening Post
Tuesday, 15th February 2011

Some people may think being blind and deaf could hinder a person – but one man from Weston-super-Mare has become a world traveller extraordinaire, visiting every continent of the world alone. Tony Giles talks to Vicki Fitzgerald.

Globetrotter Tony Giles from Weston-super-Mare has travelled to all seven continents after reaching the Antarctica this month – despite being blind and deaf.

Tony, 32, has now visited all the continents and spent time in 54 countries in order to fulfil his ambition of travelling to every country in the world.

So far he has travelled alone with the help only of his white stick but organisers of the Antarctica trip were not keen to take a blind and severely deaf person without a chaperone.

He therefore had to get help on this part of his journey but reached his goal and is already embarking on his next trip taking him to Chile.

Tony was born with a rare generic visual impairment, cone dystrophy and photophobia, which means he has no colour nerves in the back of his eye, making his eyes sensitive to light.

He spent the first few years of life living in darkness whenever possible and was eventually given dark glasses ro wear indoors and outside.

Despite being unable to see any of the beautiful sights on his worldwide expedition, Tony enjoys every moment and claims that his sense of smell has let him experience the beauty of the four corners of the earth.

Tony said: “I am a young person, totally blind and 80 per cent deaf in both ears without my hearing aids.

“I have also recently had a kidney transplant due to renal failure. Yet I have visited every populated continent independently.

“I can travel blind because of four things – confidence, wanting to travel, good mobility skills and good planning. That’s all anyone needs.

“I have recently completed the goal of visiting all 50 states of the USA. I have also crossed the Arctic Circle and visited all ten Canadian provinces and I have now been to Antarctica.

“On the Afternoon January 28, 2011, I went off on my adventure to Antarctica.

“Leandro from near Buenos Aires, Argentina, was my guide and companion for the entire trip and I must say now he was a star.

“We shared a cabin and he looked after me as if I was his own son.

“He took photos of me in the various locations, of wildlife, described the animals in their habitat in broad detail and ensured I had a fantastic time and experience.

“After two days crossing Drake’s Passage, really a large expanse of the Southern Atlantic Ocean, looking for albatrosses and petrels and trying to tell the difference between a royal and a wondering albatross, we eventually arrived in the Southern Shetlands, the most northern part of Antarctica.

“On the early evening of the second day, we made our first landing by Zodiac, a rubber inflatable boat, to Half Moon Island.

“So I finally set foot on the Antarctic. It was so emotional as I stepped from the sea on to the rocky pebbled beach, what a thrill to reach the last of the seven continents.”

Tony had only ever been abroad with family and friends to European cities but this changed when he undertook an American exchange trip in 2001.

He flew to the US while reading American Studies at Northampton University and during the trip he went to New Orleans alone.

Since then he has not looked back and immediately booked other trips, firstly to Prague and then a backpacking tour to Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Thailand.

During these adventures he skydived three times, white-water rafted and even bungee-jumped off a number of bridges in New Zealand and Australia.

In 2004 he travelled around Latin America and Africa and the following year he completed a six-week tour of Europe.

In the last three years he has visited more European countries as well as Sri Lanka, Canada, The USA and Morocco. He has encountered a few incidents of pick-pocketing but he has always emerged from his travels unscathed.

Tony has written a book about his global adventures, Seeing The World My Way (£8.99), which is published by SilverWood Originals.

He also keeps readers updated on his website http://www.tonythetraveller.com