6 Essential Holiday Tips For Vision-Impaired Travellers
It only takes a broken cane or the wrong kind of shoes to turn your happy journey into a (mis)adventure. But Preeti Monga, our visually impaired expert, is here to ensure your holiday is safe and enjoyable. She’s jotted down a few pointers from her own holidays and is happy to share them with you. Read on…
As you know, I am always on the lookout for a holiday that lets me personally experience everything a new destination presents. Being visually impaired, I would rather be out there and live first-hand, the diversity each beautiful destination holds. It is so much fun and a complete life altering moment when you get to actually taste food from different provinces, wear dresses from diverse lands to get the actual feel of local costumes, get to hear unusual sounds typically belonging to the region, and breathe in the natural aroma of different places. So I can’t wait to share with you some fascinating, fun-filled anecdotes of things that at times happen when people like me get out and about.
Often people ask me, “you can’t see, so how come you love travelling?” My answer, “I am blind, but all my other senses work, and they certainly get me to experience and enjoy my environment as much as, if not more, than you do.” So in case you are visually impaired, don’t let your disability discourage you from holidaying. And do read on, as I share some useful tips to make your next trip truly relaxing and fulfilling.
Tip 1: Planning
Plan your travel budget, apply for leave, wisely choose your destination and mode of travel; make all your bookings well in advance to avoid unnecessary disappointments, distress or panic attacks, which last minute actions usually lead to.
Tip 2: Pack Right
Now that you have the above taken care of, please do enough research about your destination and accordingly plan your packing and other details like stopovers and activities you would like to do, well in advance. Oh, and while we are on this topic, I wish to strongly emphasise upon the very crucial need of carrying an extra pair of comfortable walking shoes. The sole should have a good grip through which you can easily sense the ground you will be walking on. I specially mention this as I have in the past experienced what discomfort and distress can befall travellers who have not have considered the above important.
A couple of years ago, I went on holiday to the beautiful mountains of Nanital in the lovely monsoon season with a bunch of my visually impaired friends. As soon as we reached our destination, lack of proper research and preparation had nearly everyone begin their holiday on the wrong foot. Here’s what happened…
We were all happily half sliding and tumbling down the undulating and slippery hilly path to the resort, huddling under umbrellas to avoid getting wet in the light rain. We were extremely pleased at having arrived at our magnificent destination nestled deep in the mountain forest, when suddenly the bliss was shattered by terrifying shrieks coming from nearly every direction! Soon, the resort staff discovered the culprit. Nearly everyone had been welcomed by the blood thirsty parasite known as the ‘leech’. They were hungrily feeding on the fresh human blood that had so willingly offered itself to them! It was only then that I realised that hardly any of my co-travellers were wearing closed shoes. Later I found out that most of them hadn’t brought along suitable clothing for the hilly climate and terrain either. They simply said that they never gave much thought to this particular aspect; and so, spent the next three days shivering and getting drenched while sprinkling table salt on the countless leeches that were feasting on their fresh Delhi blood! So I hope you will be extra careful.
Tip 3: Carry Spares
In case you use a white cane, please carry a spare one in your handbag! These canes usually have a habit of breaking down at all the wrong moments. There was this amazingly self-assured, independent, visually impaired friend of mine, who broke hers while she was excitedly trying to independently manoeuvre through rocks and boulders, when she sneaked off on her early morning walk on the Anjuna Beach in Goa. And, lo and behold, two whole days of her precious holiday were spent depending on others, as her own cherished independence was completely shattered without her cane. Only on reaching Panjim, the capital of Goa, did she get a replacement, after an entire day of hunting for one!
Tip 4: Carry The Right Accessories
The weather is usually most unpredictable, no matter what the meteorological dept may announce. So it’s always a good idea to carry a folding umbrella or a lightweight raincoat tucked away in your rucksack. I myself prefer a raincoat, as it leaves my hands free to help me manoeuvre myself more confidently, for our hands do most of the seeing for us! A strong mobile phone holder, which can be strapped onto your belt or slung around your neck with a firm strap, will further allow your hands to perform more useful tasks while you travel!
Tip 5: Carry Copies Of Everything
Carry two lists of all your important phone numbers and addresses, and place one in your backpack and the other in your pocket. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. It’s also a good idea to do the same with all your important travel and other documents; in fact, don’t use a wallet at all. Instead, make good use of the pockets on your backpack and clothes, placing each important document and cash all separately, for wallets and fancy handbags forever seem to vanish most effortlessly.
Tip 6: Don’t Shy Away From Asking For Help
This is one of the most important tips! Please do get into the habit of asking people around for assistance whenever you do need it. Your blindness is nothing to be ashamed of—we didn’t choose it! And remember, no one is perfect, everyone needs help at some time or another, and so do you! So simply say a polite, “excuse me”, and gently let the answering voice know you are blind, smile happily, and ask for help. There may be only one out of a hundred chances that you will be ignored—and then too, never give up. Simply go ahead and try again!
I have personally acquired countless friends and admirers around the world as I happily reach out to any nearby sound that I hear around me, to help me when I am stuck! And there have been times, when both my escort and I, end up helping each other; for ever so often, I have saved my helper from falling over and getting seriously hurt. They have sometimes tripped over unexpected obstacles, and as my grip on their elbow automatically tightens, the fall is prevented!
Hope these tips help you on your trips, and here’s to a glitch-free holiday!
Like Preeti, if you love travelling too, then choose Enable Travel (India’s first Accessible Holiday Specialist) for all your holiday needs. To book a package, visit enabletravel.com or call 1800 266 8002