Visually impaired, will travel!

4 Jan

Visually impaired, will travel!

This is a guest post by Divya and Ritu of BAT Travels

The visually impaired also need a holiday. A holiday that treats them like equals. Disability tour or disability travel may not be the answer. Inclusive travel, most likely, may be. The lesser conversation we have about how different the disabled people are from able-bodied, the better it is. In fact, the conversation should be, how alike we all are, disabled or able-bodied. And therefore the need to go to a new destination, unwind in the new vibe, and come back learning a thing or two about an earlier unknown place, is universal. Also is the need to take a break from the people we meet every day and the workplace we mundanely show-up at every day.

Our Indian society and the family structure sure has its own merits. And the demerits are also not less. While the kinship is strong and the support system helps in raising a family. So are the clutches of control. Parents bring up kids to be obedient. Answering back is not appreciated. In their argument, parents garb it all under the cloak of care and for-your-good. But unless you let the child attempt a flight, you won’t know how high it can go. For parents with children having one form disability or the other, there’s a fine line to operate around. Too much protection and the child won’t discover his or her individuality. It will always remain a child and will have to be taken care off. On the other, pull back a hand to let it find its own footing. And of course, not to oversee the emotional toil all this takes on the parent. Amidst all this, letting the child choose a holiday of his or her choice is like passing a bill in a coalition government. Not a smooth sail for many.

You could say that I don’t know anything about disability since I haven’t grown up with a family member who is disabled. Yes, I haven’t. But you know what, am a social underdog, because am a woman. And as a social underdog, I understand the sentiments of other social underdogs. And to win in this society, the underdog has to rise up and claim what is truly his or her. So yes, I get you. Having said that, I know that you have more barriers to cross than me. So no, am in no way mitigating your battle by comparing it to that of mine, a woman.
Coming back to travel. The theory is that pre-historic human beings travelled from one landmass to the other to discover and explore new lands. This slowly led to the inhabitation of the whole planet. This theory, in a way makes us give more credit to the urge to travel. We need not shrug travel away as a luxury. In fact, it’s a basic human need. One that runs in us since pre-historic times.

The travel industry is growing exponentially. It is creating more jobs and more revenue for the government and stakeholders. The social media too is throwing up more photoshopped and filter-added images at us than ever before. We all want to go on that cliff and watch that sunset. Or to that tourist destination and eat that meal. Looks like everyone is travelling. Where are the social-underdogs as far as travelling is concerned? The ideal holiday-er is able-bodied husband-wife with a child or two in tow. Fits the social description of the ‘right kind of people’. They snuggly fit-in in the social weave. We, the ones who are not within the structure created by the society, somehow flutter away the calm of a hotel reception. Because we come in all permutation and combination that disturb the simple minds and ask for a change in the rules. We travel with a group of friends and family hotels see us as hooligans. With a boyfriend and girlfriend we become the immoral ones and forcing the check-in staff to ask, “how are you two related?” As gay/lesbian couples, well, nothing like that exists in India. And as a disabled traveler, how can you be travelling?

Those who feel that visual impairment is a great hindrance when it comes to travel, have surely not heard of James Holman. In 1832, he was the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe. When he set out to circuit the world, it was unheard of a lone traveler to do so. Blind or not. He had what every blind person does, a sense of the surroundings through vibrations. A Sense of the World is the name of the book written on his adventures. The description of the book reads as: He was known simply as the Blind Traveler. A solitary, sightless adventurer, James Holman (1786-1857) fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, helped chart the Australian outback—and, astonishingly, circumnavigated the globe, becoming one of the greatest wonders of the world he so sagaciously explored. A Sense of the World is a spellbinding and moving rediscovery of one of history’s most epic lives—a story to awaken our own senses of awe and wonder. Holman lost his sight at 25, but he didn’t lose his spirit.
Like James Holman, we all just need to be more open to newer experiences. Most of the time the comfort that familiarity brings is too drawing and warm. One doesn’t want to deviate from the known. But how about testing yourself with the unknown. Try an experience you have always said no to. And not because it is an adventure sports. No. I mean the kinds that you think won’t interest you. Like a drag performance, or a painting exhibition. Or a trip to Siberia. Sign up for it. Newer experiences not just enrich our lives. Here the motive is also to claim our spaces in the world. So go out to places you haven’t been to and own the space. We, the social underdogs, need to be seen more.

Travel has its own set of benefits too. When you travel to newer places and indulge in newer experiences, you are out of your comfort zone. In such situations, the mind gets more creative, developing new neural connections and triggering original and creative thoughts. The new smells, sounds, sights and places require mental processing. You are giving a new puzzle to your brain to play with. As read on TripSavvy: After stepping away from home for a while, you’ll return with renewed energy, a new set of mental filters, and ready to take on the next big project or challenge. Call it a life reboot. Getting away for some time, even though it requires effort, will greatly enhance your attitude and productivity once you return home. Sure, you may have some mail piled up and matters to attend, but those are simple challenges easily knocked out. Breaking up the monotony for a while is a great way to reduce stress and give your life an injection of excitement. Don’t be surprised if shortly after your return, you’re already counting down days until the next trip!
Most travel also doesn’t go as per plan, such situations helps one face the uncertainties of life. It is also a great tool to self-discovery. Know your limit, know your expanding interests and also know the human being you are evolving into. And like Mark Twain has famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”, meeting people from different cultures is also a myth-buster. Sometimes for the flair of writing or to make a story sound interesting, certain quirks are added in the process of story-telling. Travelling helps one shed these. Like India is more than a land of snake-charmers and magicians with the rope-trick. There’s a famous movie on this very theme, Ankhon Dekhi. Sanjay Mishra is playing the protagonist not believing everything at face value. It is hilarious, and thought provoking in the same breath.
Also when you travel, you are uninhibited, and will most likely be your real self. The fear of being judged is non-existent. Conversations flow easily and the probability is that you will open up your real self faster too. So the chances of you making real friends are on the higher side.
When we travel in groups, we do a mix of sighted and VI people. More than anything else, we all get travel-pals. All our tours are also designed to be highly sensorial. So the tour is intriguing enough for all onboard. Do check some of our tours on http://battravelsonline.com/tours/ Also, when you go in groups, somehow you become easily acceptable, socially. It’s is like people in mixed groups are no longer a danger to the society. Stereotypes, I tell you.

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BySrinivasu Chakravarthula

I am an enthusiast of accessibility and classical music.

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