O Dia magazine

Article by João Ricardo Gonçalves in news magazine, ‘O Dia’
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
November 2010

Translated from Brazilian Portuguese.

When the eyes do not see, but the heart feels

Blind British man overcomes physical limitations, turns professional traveller and writes book telling stories of visits to more than 50 countries, including Brazil.

A British man is proving his own life that the saying ‘what the eyes do not see, the heart does not feel’ is a rather myopic view of reality. Totally blind and with only 20% of hearing (when not using devices), Tony Giles, 32, has visited over 50 countries – mostly travelling alone, backpacking – and turned into a professional tourist, publishing a book and a blog of his experiences. In an interview with ‘O Dia’, he spoke about his visit to Rio, and about the best things about his favourite places.

Author of “Seeing the World My Way ‘, Mr. Giles says that he began to travel alone in 2000. “I was studying in South Carolina, USA. My friends decided to go to Disneyland on a week’s vacation, but I knew they wouldn’t let me do whatever I wanted if I went with them. So, I organized a trip alone to New Orleans. It was a week of wild parties and adventures. After that, I realized that I could travel alone. It was incredible and I wanted more”, says Tony Giles.

Since then, Mr. Giles has been in 54 countries. He’s been to all the states in the US, Canada and Australia. “I went on every continent outside Antarctica and has crossed the Arctic Circle by boat,” Tony accounts.

Although he had seen more places than most people, the British traveller holds a special place in his heart to Rio, where it was in 2004, he says: “Flying a hang glider in Rio was one of the best experiences I ever had in my travels. It was like flying, I felt a great peace and free as a bird. Any trip to Rio was a madness: traffic, beaches, festivals. Loved the fact that there are inexpensive restaurants with different foods and fresh juices”.

Mr. Giles took the opportunity of speaking with us to leave a message for those who think he does not enjoy fully the experience of travelling because he’s blind: “Read my book and website and you will understand that one can see the world through hearing, feel, smell, taste, touch and mind”

Tony Giles was born blind, with a disease that attacked his optic nerves, causing photophobia. Despite the problem of vision, he majored in history courses in American universities.

To study and write, Mr. Giles has a computer with speech software, and thus may help him write books and blog. He also has a scanner that turns text into audio files.

In 2008, Mr. Giles needed a kidney transplant. Nothing that discouraged his plans to visit soon again the U.S.. He also wants to go to Antarctica and Russia.