Over 50 Countries and Counting

Connect Magazine (University of Northampton)
Spring 2011

Since graduating in 2001 with a BA (Hons) in American Studies, Tony Giles has visited over 50 countries and has just published a book about his experiences, ‘Seeing The World My Way’. His experience is made all the more extraordinary because Tony is blind, 80 percent deaf without his hearing aids and had a kidney transplant two years ago.

Bungee-jumping in New Zealand, skydiving in Australia and partying through the night in New Orleans make for fascinating reading, as Tony’s way of seeing the world is through his other senses. He has proved that disabilities don’t have to be a barrier to travel or ambition, and the next stage of his trip is to visit South American and Antarctica in January 2011.
Tony started travelling as part of his degree placement in 2000. Since then he has visited every populated continent, dipped his feet in every ocean and travelled to all 50 states of the USA.

Tony told us: “When I started travelling it was all about escapism, it was about escaping from responsibility, parents and myself. Things have changed over the years, as I have matured. Now it is just about learning and meeting people from different walks of life and different cultures and seeing how people feel in different situations, day in day out. Things that we don’t think about”.

“People ask me why I’ve come to their countries and what I know about them, which is a bit odd. To me, I am just another tourist, another backpacker. I just happen to be blind. I like places that are a bit unusual and to do things that are slightly different. I don’t know if I would have wanted to travel as much had I been sighted. I imagine my challenges in life would have been different”.

He has visited every populated continent, dipped his feet in every ocean, travelled to all 50 states of the USA, sky-dived and bungee-jumped his way around the world.

Tony was diagnosed with cone dystrophy and photo phobia at around nine months of age and partial deafness at the age of six. Both senses gradually deteriorated. He credits his family with giving him the independence to live life to the full. After attending a boarding school for the blind in Coventry, he faced more challenges when he came to University to read American Studies.

Speaking about his time at University Tony said: “I received financial support from my Local Education Authority to purchase equipment with speech in order for me to write my essays and read handouts and books. Academic texts are extremely difficult to obtain in Braille, and too bulky to read. I can touch type without speech, but having software that reads everything I type and the entire screen if I command it makes studying much easier. I employed fellow students to help me research books, find quotations and correct my spelling and grammar.

“I have a scanner with speech, which allows me to read any typed text including my post. This vital piece of equipment enabled me to function at university at the same level as sighted students. I had to scan the books myself and then listen to the entire text. This took twice as long as a student reading with sight, but it made me more determined to learn.”

Travelling is what Tony enjoys and hopes people will read and enjoy the stories and ideas in his book, ‘Seeing The World My Way’.

“I hope it will inspire someone, not necessarily to go round the world, but just to do something that is one of their challenges, to stretch themselves, to overcome something,” he added.

Tony sums up his unflinching thirst for discovery and excitement by revealing what keeps his feet itchy: “Really, I want all the freedom I can get.”

Seeing the World My Way, is published by SilverWood Originals (£8.99), available from all good bookshops and Amazon, and has also been chosen by the RNIB to be transcribed into Braille.

Tony is hosting an event about his travels and his new book on 27 September 2011. For further information email: lynn.margetts(at)northampton.ac.uk