My name is Tony Giles from England, I am totally blind and severely deaf, yet I have travelled the world visiting all its continents.
It is a fantastic achievement and a dream come true. At a young age I desired to be independent after attending a specialist boarding school for the blind. I gained the mobility skills and confidence to believe I could do anything I desired. Further education presented opportunities to experience other countries. Once I was exposed to travelling in foreign environments, there was no going back – I was bitten by the travel bug!
It has been a privilege and a real education to travel the world, meet people from different cultures with alternative epistemologies and engage in all at a country and its people have to offer. I nearly always travel alone, meeting likeminded individuals as I go. I have made many friends and have created a vast global social network through travelling. It is my entire life and I love the challenge it provides.
My main goal for all of these adventures is to increase my knowledge and become a wiser and better more open-minded person. However, it is also about personal challenge and discovery. I challenge my fears and discover not only new peoples and cultures, but also I learn more about myself and that is exilerating.
I am exceptionally lucky in that I have a private income from my deceased Father, this enables me to travel without having to work. I journey as a backpacker, choosing the cheapest accommodation, often buying my own food and travelling by the most cost affective means. However, my income is constant so I do not have the worry of becoming broke when on the road!
I like to engage in many activities while travelling, from meeting local people to mixing with other backpackers who are often found in hostels – cheap shared accommodation for travellers. I have bungee jumped twelve times and sky-dived in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the fact that I cannot see the ground only makes it easier and more frilling!!!
I want to get the most out of my journeys, so participate in as much as possible. Trying the local food and hearing a country’s music is a must when travelling, as it not only enables me to use my other senses but it also gives me a greater impression and appreciation of a country’s culture. Travelling teaches one to be open-minded, to try things, to be receptive. It is about being open to new ideas, concepts and not afraid to try the unknown.
Travelling can be a buzz for anyone, doing it blind can be even more rewarding. I engage all my senses to discover a countries delights.
It is not all a bed of roses and travelling for a prolonged period gets tiring. You are constantly having new challenges and have many emotions to tackle and often fears to overcome. Many regions of the world are dangerous and one has to be permanently aware, it is this which is the most exhausting. It has its frustrations like any challenge. Probably my biggest problem on the road is cooking/eating. Hostel accommodation though great for meeting people, often lack good kitchen facilities and the ones that do, also lack disabled friendly appliances. If in Asia or Africa, it is cheap enough to dine out, but this becomes a chore after a couple of months. Plus, when on a budget eating is the first area where cutbacks are made. The theory being, ‘I’m here to experience the country’s attractions, eating can wait’. I also get disenchanted with food after about three months of travel, I still do not know why.
Travelling the globe over the last ten years has taught me much, both about the world and myself. There was an occasion when I was travelling in Canada, I had made it to the Yukon Territory and had decided to camp. I was alone and pitched my tent in a field; near a path so I could find it again with my cane. I went off exploring. I returned later that night to discover my tent and backpacks gone. I hailed down a passing motorist who helped me to search and later took me to a Salvation army hostel for the night. Kind people took me in, gave me a bed, a meal and new clothes. Initially, I was angry with myself thinking that if I could see I would have pitched it in a better place. However, the experience taught me that things could have been worse, I could have been attacked and injured or even killed. I had lost all my gear, but they were just possessions. The only things that really matter is one’s health and family and friends. I also realised that even though something bad had happened to me, there were still good people willing to help. Since that experience, I have travelled light with just one small backpack and maintain that anywhere I go in the world, there will always be kind people to help me along the way.
I am exceptionally lucky, I have the time, money and confidence to travel. It is what I love and it gives me so many rewards. I put myself in the situations and I am positive and willing to have a go, despite my disabilities. If people see you trying, they are usually willing to meet you half way.
Having an outgoing and positive personality helps. But anyone can travel if they desire, disabled or not, male or female, rich or reasonably poor.
I would not give anyone any advice except follow your dreams and live life to the full.