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‘Blind people experience a city a little different than sighted people. It is a whole body experience, the texture of the streets under your feet, the bumping and jostling of very crowded streets, the intense smells of food, beer, bakeries and perfumes. You gain snap shots of people based on their conversation. All of these things build a mental picture that is very close to what someone would get by looking around.’ – George Wurtzel
As a child George had very bad eyesight which gradually became worse, he was totally blind by the time he was a teenager. Here he describes one of his most memorable travel experiences.
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‘Riding a horse at a full run through the mountains of North Carolina, feeling the wind in your face, the power of a well-trained horse, smelling the mountain-laurel, hearing the pounding of your horses feet on the ground and having the thought that life cannot be any better than this.’
Billy was born legally blind, and is now in his early 20s. He has spent a lot of time exploring the world and has shared one of his most memorable trips below.
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‘I visited Japan in mid-2012. I was amazed at the stark contrast between Tokyo and most cities I’ve visited in the U.S. The public transit was reliable enough to set your watch by, the people were extremely helpful, and the city itself was very clean, efficient and electronic. The cash registers would sometimes do the Mario coin collecting noise, and it sounded like there was an arcade on every other block.’
Frank was born blind and is today an accomplished jazz vocalist based in New York City. “Music is my life, singing is my love” is the motto Frank lives by.
‘Music camp set in the middle of the Adirondacks—a whole different energy from the city! As you approach the forest, the first thing you notice is the delicious blend of fragrances, then the cool air hits your skin as the canopy of trees shields the sun, while under your feet a carpet of pine needles puts a bounce in your step. The harmonies of birds, squirrels and insects is like music to my ears. I love pine trees because they are fighters--they survive where other trees can’t. I have a certain respect for that.’
Ross tragically lost his sight from a gunshot at the age of eight. He has recently graduated from high school, hobbies include playing instruments, manning his YouTube channel and getting a degree in computer science. Below he shares a memory of his trip to Grand Junction, Colorado.
‘One day we went four wheeling. I've driven a snowmobile, jet ski, and a car, but never a four-wheel. I would describe myself as a brave person, but there was something so intimidating about driving a four-wheeler. You may be wondering, how does a blind person drive a quad? My friend with sight would sit behind me and tell me where to go. It was an amazing experience: feeling the wind whip past me, feeling the roar of the quad as I gunned the engine, and hearing the trees woosh as I zipped past.’
Mind’s Eye Travel is an organization led by Sue Bramhall that creates and hosts trips for people who are blind or visually impaired. The travel experiences shared below have come from some of Mind’s Eye Travel’s clients.
‘Rocking gently in a lobster boat on Penobscot Bay is sensory enchantment. The tang of the sea breeze, ospreys and gulls calling to each other overhead, the clatter and salt spray of a trap coming aboard and then the hard, smooth, living shell of a lobster as it squirms in my hands. This is the coast of Maine.’
In 2005, Trevor was diagnosed with a rare and incurable eye disease that caused him to lose his sight. After losing his sight, Trevor discovered long-distance hiking and has since become the world’s only blind professional long distance hiker. Below he describes climbing Mt.Elbert, Colorado’s tallest mountain.
‘We climbed for an hour before reaching the tree line, leaving behind the smells of pine and the protection from the sun and wind, entering a desolate world dominated by the earthy smells of rock, scree, and snow. As we continued our ascent, the trail snaked its way up the mountain, getting steeper and more difficult with the final push to the top an exposed crest. Roughly the size of a two car garage, the summit of Mt. Elbert seemed tiny compared to the mountains enormous girth. Windswept, cold and barren, it was like standing on the surface of another planet. Other than the constant wind, I could hear no other sounds of life. I felt very small and privileged for the short time I was there.’
Christine suffers from neuromyelitis optica, a rare neurological condition which has led to almost complete loss of sight. Christine is an accomplished cook, writer and TV host, and is perhaps best known for being the first blind contestant and subsequent winner of MasterChef U.S. season 3.
‘It [Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] is noisy and bustling. There are street vendors hawking mangosteen, harem pants, cell phone cases; all calling out, “Madam, you like?” The air smells of sautéed crab and a little jackfruit. The rain ceases as suddenly as it begins. People and motorbikes are everywhere, driving on sidewalks, coasting past red lights. They tap their horns. There are thousands of them, crawling through the maze of streets like ants. But even in the chaos, we are all content because we know our destination is just around the corner.’
Blind from birth, Tommy has made a name for himself reviewing films and producing videos that offer a glimpse into what life is like for someone who is blind.
‘Stepping out of the airport in Melbourne Australia, I knew I was someplace different. The smells and sounds were completely unfamiliar to me, someone actually had to tell me that I was smelling eucalyptus and hearing tropical birds that are not native to the northeast of the United States.'