Travelling is a great life, it is my passion. I’ve been doing it all my life. I had specialist schooling from the age of five or six until I went to university around the age of twenty. This was my early travel life. First back and forwards to school in a taxi every day then to boarding school in Coventry about 100 miles from my home. This was at around the age of ten. I then came home every six weeks or so. At first I rode home in a taxi mini bus with several other students, but eventually I took the train home.
By the age of fourteen, I was travelling the railway network of Great Britain independently and having great fun.
My parents had travelled, my Mum and Dad met because of the railway, they both worked on it. My dad in signals and my mum elsewhere. Mum travelled around Europe in the late 1960s whereas my Dad had gone to sea at the end of world war two, joining the merchant navy and serving for over five years. He went around the world, to Canada, Australia and India. He later told me stories of these adventure that gave me a further interest in travel.
I wanted my independence at a young age, I had an older brother and sister who are not disabled and I wanted to be like them. It was only later that I realised I was different and unique.
My trips abroad began with a family holiday to Rhodes the Greek Island off Turkey when I was fourteen in the summer of 1992. I was recovering from a strong case of Chicken Pox and the Olympic Games were taking place in Barcelona, Spain. I saw the final of the 100 metres, it was all in Greek and Linford Christie won the gold. That holiday was memorable for arriving at 4 am, sleeping in a field near the airport, searching for accommodation, which we found in a small B and B and lying on the beach each day in the blazing heat. I ate only spaghetti at the time not trusting foreign food. It was a start and I longed for more.
My next trip was a school vacation to Boston in the United States for a week in April 1995. It turned out to be fun. I discovered much, mainly lots about the American revolution, 1776-1783, Bunker Hill which was a battle that preceeded the real war and that I had a love for history and in particular American. I think it had much to do with the fact that it was recent in comparative terms plus the fact that at the time I was reading about the 1692 Witch Craft trials that had occurred in that city. I learnt much, that American pavements are expansive, cadillacs are large, so are the steaks which are delicious. I found a fire hydrant one day as I was walking along a pavement suddenly, I felt a nasty pain in my crutch as I walk smack bang into a fire hydrant. It was right in the middle of the bloody pavement!! I only discovered this by accident!
That trip lasted a week but wetted my appetite for more adventures in America. I got the chance when aged twenty in the August of 1998 just before I began university. A friend who is also disabled and I went backpacking around Washington DC and New York City for two weeks of fun and excitement.
This was my first backpacking trip abroad. I had done several trips in the UK by then, going to Norwich, Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, Milton Keynes and several other cities and towns. I had begun going to rock concerts and staying in hostels, the trip to the States was an extension of this. Incidentally, I discovered that the Youth hostel just outside Milton Keynes is excellent and not too expensive.
My backpacking trip around Washington and New York was fun. We visited the usual attractions in both cities like the White House, Lincoln and Washington memorials, Mount Vernon, General George Washington’s stately home – that was especially interesting. We also investigated the islands of New York. The Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building were of particular interest and so was Central park which was quiet and spacious – it was humongous.
These trips were taken before I began drinking so I was able to get a feel for places and sights. Not having any vision gave me a different insight to cities, countries and travel. I was able to detect the size of a place such as Central park its open spaces, wide paths and tranquil atmosphere. I could detect the energy of a building, city, area. The change in atmosphere is one of the major differences I note when travelling, it is like the difference between being in a trapped city with tall tower blocks and being in the countryside or at the coast. I use my entire body and all my senses to visualise a place. I have enhanced these skills the more and further I have travelled. It became essential if I was to travel alone.
My mobility skills of long cane training had to be perfect to enable me to undertake independent travelling. Without it I would be stuck, I would not be able to cross a road, find a bus or train station, use public transport, use stairs, in fact have no independence at all. Without these skills travelling would not be a possibility.
I am able to travel independently despite being totally blind and 80% deaf because I use all my body senses, the tremendous receptiveness and kindness of the public world wide and my cane skills. I have two important attributes, I have total confidence in my ability to get from one place to the next and I desire to travel.
My brother and sister have said that they could not have done what I do and they both have good sight. They don’t want to travel, I do that is the basic difference.
I have now been backpacking for over seven years, and I am soon off again. I aim to go to Spain and Morocco for xmas, first flying to southern Spain then taking the boat to Morocco coming back via Portugal. This is only a short trip of about three weeks to a month. The planned trip after that is a year long assault of Asia in spring 2009. I aim to begin in west India and keep going east exploring as many countries as possible. My trips have varied in length, after two weeks backpacking in the US and another two weeks on a drinking holiday in Germany, I settled down to studying and drinking properly. This allowed me to study and travel in America for five months. I then went backpacking around the southern hemisphere in 2001-2 exploring Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam. In 2004 after completing my master degree I yet again set off on around the world trip. this time travelling through South and North America, Cuba and finishing with four months in southern Africa.
After that I came home to the UK and got my first flat in Birmingham in the West Midlands. Once my new home was established and I new my way around the scattered town I undertook a six week trip around some of Europe, visiting France and Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and alike. The following two years were spent in America again. 2006 encountered a six week trip around mostly New England. My latest trip just completed April-July 2007 took in mainly the mid west and upper most northern region. In 10 weeks I covered over forty States, revisiting some and exploring the last seventeen that I had not previously discovered. I have now been to all fifty of the United States.
All very well and good Tony but when are you getting this book published and coming over to Oz???