Switch to a white background with black text Switch to a black background with white text Switch to a yellow background with black text Increase text size Decrease text size

Tony ”The Traveller” travels to get to know better the world and himself

Written by Henna Vainio. Photos by Henna Vainio and Tony Giles.
(published in Tuntosarvi January 2011)

British Tony Giles, 32, deserves his nick-name ”The Traveller” indeed: he has already travelled over 50 countries despite of his visual impairment, 80 percent hard of hearing and kidney transplant operation that was made a couple of years ago.

Tony in Belgrade
Last summer Tony Giles explored the colourful culture of the Balkans. Kalemegdan fortress tells it’s own story about the warlike history in the heart of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.

”Travelling is in my blood. I was born with adventure”, says Tony who lives in Teignmouth, Devon.
It derives from both sides: Tony’s mother used to work for the railway and she journeyed around Europe. On the other hand his father told fascinating stories about ship adventures he experienced when he was in the merchant navy.

Going to a boarding school for the disabled when he was 10 years old gave Tony important skills to be independent. However, it was going abroad to America with the school and later with a friend that really gave him the bug to travel.

Cheerful Tony thinks travelling is a way to get to know better the world and himself.

”I travel, to meet people, learn about a country’s culture, through its music, food, history religion etc, but mostly it’s about meeting new and different people and challenging myself each day.”

Tony’s opinion is that travelling is a lot more than seeing beautiful scenery or landscape with your eyes. It concerns using all the body’s senses.

“It’s about being able to engage with people, feeling different textures of land and plants, eating unknown foods and hearing new kinds of music, being exposed to an alternative, exciting culture and emerging into another country’s qualities, and to return home knowing more than I did before I left.”

”Finnish people were friendly”

Tony has made most of his travels independently by staying at hostels and sometimes using couchsurfing -website service.

There has been many memorable adventures: Tony has made a bungee jump in New Zealand, ridden an elephant in Sri Lanka, wandered alone at nights in New Orleans and hiked in the Rocky Mountains, Canada. He has also visited in all states of USA and provinces of Canada.

His favourite places are New Zealand, Iceland, Alaska, and South Argentina for their ruggid landscape and isolation.

”I love being out in nature with the wind in my face and the rough terrain under my feet. I am like the dog in Jack London’s The call of the wild.”

Tony has some of the friendliest memories about people in Cuba and Turkey, and surprisingly, Finns too. A couple of years ago he visited here in the middle of darkest autumn.

”I crossed into Finland in the north from Sweden. Once across the boarder, I noticed the difference in people immediately. The Finns I met were more open and friendly.”

Unfortunately many hostels were closed or full of customers, so Tony ended up to travel around the country by sleeping on night trains.

A traveller’s life is not always dancing on roses. The last time when Tony had to face trouble, it was when his camera was stolen. One of the worst things that ever happened, was when he was camping in an open field in Northern Canada: when he returned late at night after exploring the day, his backpack, sleeping bag and tent were all gone once and for all.

”However, I considered myself fortunate that I was not in the tent as I might have been hurt.”

Luckily, Tony got help from a fellow backpacker who lived in Alaska, only a day’s travel away.

Take self-belief to your backpack

While Tony isn’t on the road, he maintains his website about his travels. Now his adventures have been collected into a book. His debut book; Seeing The World My Way was published at the end of last year.

”Self-belief is the real key”, goes Tony’s recipe for travelling.

Planning is another key.

Book covers and Tony
”Self-belief is the real key”, goes Tony ”The Traveller’s” recipe for travelling. Good planning helps, too. Tony Giles’s debut Seeing the World My Way tells about his adventures in North America, Asia and Oceania and it was published at the end of last year.

”Research and plan carefully the country or countries you wish to visit. Think about what equipment and what kind of accommodation will meet your requirements before you travel.

Ensure you have back ups such as separate money cards, a way of getting home in an emergency and a way of getting in touch with family or friends if anything goes wrong.”

Careful preparation doesn’t mean you should take lots of stuff for ”just in case”. Tony tries to travel as light as he can: necessary clothes and goods are easy to carry in a backpack.

Even though Tony is already a real expert when it comes to travelling, there are still many new places and wonders to experience in the world. Tony toured in Georgia and Turkey on his latest trip.

”My aim is to travel to Antarctica some day.”

It would not be a surprise, if it happens really soon. Tony has all the energy and courage that is needed.


Original Finnish language article:

Tony “The Traveller” matkustaa tunte­akseen paremmin itseään ja maailmaa

Brittiläinen Tony Giles, 32, on to­tisesti ansainnut lempinimensä “The Traveller” eli reissaaja. Hän on ehtinyt matkustaa yli 50 maassa huo­limatta sokeudestaan, 80 prosentin kuulovammastaan ja parin vuoden takaisesta munuaisensiirrostaan.

“Matkustaminen on veressäni. Syn­nyin seikkailijaksi”, Teignmouthissa Devonissa asuva Tony uskoo. Tonyn äiti työskenteli aikoinaan rautateillä ja kierteli Euroopassa. Isä puoles­taan kertoi kiehtovia tarinoita kaup-palaivastokokemuksistaan.

Tony meni 10-vuotiaana vammais­ten sisäoppilaitokseen ja oppi sitä kautta itsenäiseen matkustamiseen tarvittavat taidot. Varsinaisen kim­mokkeen matkustelulle antoivat kuitenkin matkat Amerikkaan en­sin koulun ja myöhem/nin ystävän kanssa.

Elämänmyönteiselle Tonylle reis­saaminen on tapa oppia tuntemaan paremmin itseään ja maailmaa. “Matkustan oppiakseni maiden kulttuurista musiikin, ruuan, histo­rian, uskonnon ja muun sellaisen avulla. Mutta eniten siinä on kyse uusien ihmisten tapaamisesta ja it­seni haastamisesta.”

Tonyn mielestä matkustaminen on paljon muutakin kuin maisemien näkemistä silmillä. Siinä tarvitaan kaikkia aisteja. “Herkkyyttä tulla toimeen ihmisten kanssa, maan ja kasvien rakenteiden tunnuste­lemista, tuntemattomien ruokien syömistä ja uudenlaisen musiikin kuulemista.”

Valtaosan reppureissuistaan Tony on tehnyt omatoimisesti hostel-leissa yöpyen ja joskus myös soh-vasurffaajien nettipalvelua hyödyn­täen.

Vuosien varrelle mahtuu monen­laista seikkailua: Tony on hypännyt benjihypyn Uudessa-Seelannissa, ratsastanut norsulla Sri Lankassa, kuljeskellut New Orleansin yössä ja vaeltanut yksin Kanadan Kalliovuo­rilla. Hän on myös käynyt kaikissa Yhdysvaltain osavaltioissa ja Kana­dan provinsseissa.

Tonyn suosikkipaikkoja ovat Uusi-Seelanti, Islanti, Alaska ja Etelä-Argentiina eristynei­syyden ja karun maiseman takia. “Rakastan olla ulkona luonnossa, tuntea tuulen kas­voillani ja kovan maaperän jalkojeni alla. Olen kuin koi­ra Jack Londonin Erämaan kutsussa.”

Ystävällisin muisto on jäänyt kuu­balaisista, turkkilaisista ja yllättäen myös meistä suomalaisista. Tony vieraili täällä pari vuotta sitten kes­kellä synkintä loppusyksyä. “Tulin Suomeen Pohjois-Ruotsista. Kun ylitin rajan, huomasin heti eron ih­misissä: tapaamani suomalaiset olivat ruotsalaisia paljon avoimem­pia ja ystävällisempiä.”

Monet majapaikat olivat tosin joko kiinni tai täynnä, joten Tony päätyi matkustelemaan ristiin rastiin Suo­mea yöjunassa nukkuen.

Reissuelämä ei ole aina ruusuilla tanssimista. Sen Tony sai kokea viimeksi keväällä, kun häneltä va­rastettiin kamera. Kiperin tilanne sattui kuitenkin vuosia sitten teltta­retkellä Pohjois-Kanadassa: Tonyn palattua myöhään illalla vaeltele­masta oli koko teltta rinkkoineen ja makuupusseineen viety. “Joka ta­pauksessa pidin itseäni onnekkaa­na etten ollut teltassa sillä hetkellä, koska olisin voinut vahingoittua.”