SayWhatClub

SOLO TRAVEL: Getting Started

By Michele Linder

Training myself to be a better solo traveler — who happens to have a profound hearing loss — has been among the most valuable teachers in life. It has taught me how to cope with and embrace my deafness, and how to fit into a world I can’t hear.

Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with others, but some things you can only learn and experience by going solo. Traveling alone leaves you more open to unique discoveries and adventures, and there’s nothing that will make you feel more empowered.

Many would never consider traveling without a companion, even those who are fully-abled. We each are free to set our own limits — I’ve always supported each to their own — but for me, I am not willing to let anything take away my independence, or place limits on where I can go, and when. I want to control my own plans, not wait until someone can accompany me.

So, that is the first question you need to ask yourself: “Do I want my travel to be dependent on others?”

If your answer is “No,” then the next step is to take control and teach yourself to be a good solo traveler. That doesn’t mean you book a long and involved trip that includes flying to some far away land. It’s best to start in your own backyard.

The biggest deterrent, as with anything you undertake, is to fixate on what could go wrong. Shifting your focus on the goal — your destination — is essential. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to reach your destination.

PART I: WHAT SOLO travel CAN TEACH YOU

SELF-RELIANCE:  When there is no one else to depend on, you learn to depend on yourself. It’s up to you, and you alone, to make your trip a success. And by “success”, I don’t mean that everything went according to plan and was easy. You’ll learn the best lessons when things don’t go well, or when your trip takes an unexpected turn.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION:  When you travel alone there is no one else to hear or listen for you. It’s all on you, and it forces you to communicate effectively to get the information you need. You can’t fake anything when successfully reaching your destination depends on making yourself understood and getting specific information.

ADVOCACY:  Solo travel shines a big old spotlight on how we perceive ourself and our disability. If you want to learn how to shed diffidence, or that feeling of needing to apologize for the extra effort required to communicate with you, traveling alone is the cure. There is no better way to learn how to effectively ask for what you need.

PROBLEM SOLVING:  If I had to choose one point as the most important, problem solving would be my number one. Travel presents such a huge opportunity for the unknown — delays, cancellations, missed stops, etc. — and is so well suited to best laid plans going up in smoke. You’re forced to think on your feet and to figure out an alternative. 

CONFIDENCE:  Traveling solo takes you out of your comfort zone, and when you succeed at something that scares you, you can’t help but become more confident and capable.

PART II: FIVE SIMPLE RULES

These rules will become your commandments.

  1. DEFINE SUCCESS SIMPLY:  Reaching your destination safely.
    Bonus: If you focus on that one thing, all that happened on the way there becomes inconsequential.
  2. PANIC IS THE ENEMY Let go of irrational fear; it never improves a situation.
  3. ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED CONFIDENTLY:  Let go of the notion that asking for what you need is bothersome or equates to a favor. No one is doing you any favor by accommodating your difference.
    Bonus: You’re teaching them to interact with someone who is different; a win for all.
  4. LEAVE AS LITTLE TO CHANCE AS POSSIBLE: Do your homework, prepare, learn as much as you can about your route, mode of transportation, and destination. Think about what can go wrong beforehand, and plan for it.
  5. REMAIN POSITIVE If you can’t control it, exercise flexibility and tolerance.
    Bonus: That missed flight or delay is an opportunity to catch up on your reading, work on writing your next blog article, or chatting with someone in person or online.

PART III: TAKING THE PLUNGE

START SMALL:  Take a bus, trolley, light rail, or train in a city close to you.
POSITIVE FRAME OF MIND:  Choose a day and time when you’re in a good mood and feeling more confident.
BE PREPARED Familiarize yourself with routes and maps. Look online for this information or grab a bus or subway schedule the next time you’re in town.
BUY AN UNLIMITED OR DAY PASS OR TICKET Give yourself a cushion. A flexible ticket means a missed stop or wrong turn won’t be as big of a deal.

Once you’ve mastered a small trip, keep pushing yourself toward bigger and longer solo trips. Each success — arriving at your destination safely — builds your confidence, and before you know it you’ll be purchasing a Eurail pass and traveling Europe alone!

You might think learning to travel alone, while deaf, is something you’re doing for yourself. It is, but it also demonstrates to the world how capable people with disabilities are. When you do that, you’re making things better for all of us.

Yin Meets Yang: the Benefits of Disclosing Your Hearing Loss

By Michele Linder – Originally posted Dec. 14, 2017

There are both good and bad things related to hearing loss, but the misconceptions that others⎯those who do not know what it’s like firsthand⎯have about it are something we who live with it every day have a responsibility to change.

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Reading a Hearing Like Me article, Being the Change: How to End Hearing Loss Prejudice, this morning made me think of my own life and the moments along the way where I felt as if I was doing my part to put a positive spin on living with hearing loss.

Do you remember the exact moment that caused you to turn the corner? That point when you went from accepting the negative of how others see you with hearing loss⎯sometimes we feel as limited as the wrong perceptions we encounter⎯to a more confident and better version of yourself and capability?

For me, it was a gradual, decades-long process. Each teaching moment pushing me toward who I wanted to be without my even knowing I was headed there, until something would happen to shine a light on the positive. I’ve written about such moments, and this article, from November 2014, was a memorable moment for me:

Be What You Want the World to See

Originally posted on the SayWhatClub Blog,
November 20, 2014
 

be who you want the world to see

You just never know… there will be moments when people cross your path at the exact time you need them, for the exact encouragement you are looking for. I’ve had this happen to me countless times in my life, and when it happens I’m always in awe of how the universe looks out for me.

Then, on the flip side, you just never know when your presence in another’s life will be just what they need at that moment. Those moments are just as awe-inspiring, they serve to give you confidence, and to let you know all of the struggling you’ve done to get to a better place can have value, not only for you, but also for others who are struggling and searching for answers.

Sometimes all that is needed is someone to cry with. Never underestimate the power of sharing tears and letting down your guard to show compassion. It means a lot no matter which end you are on.

One morning last week, I got up at 5:30 to leave the house in order to drive (an hour and a half) to Grand Rapids for an appointment with the Morton Building people to talk about some barn improvements I’m looking to make to our pole barn. The gentleman who handles our area of Minnesota seemed very nice via our email conversation, and upon meeting him I could tell he was very eager to accommodate my hearing loss, which I had made him aware of through our Internet correspondence.

Morton Man and I walked to his office and got down to the business of barn brainstorming.  During our meeting, there came a point when we needed to go out into the warehouse to look at some of the applications we were discussing. Talking while walking came into play, and, of course, when someone is trying to show you something and talk at the same time they tend to point at what they’re talking about. Pointing also means they tend to look at what they are pointing at, which is a train wreck for a lipreader, so the Morton Man kept apologizing for looking away as he pointed. I told him it was okay, as there is a learning curve, he would eventually get it.

The Morton Man paused, and I could clearly see he was collecting himself to tell me something personal. When he spoke, he told me our interaction was actually very good training for him because he had a 4 year-old granddaughter with a conductive hearing loss. As he shared her story, it was clear how concerned he and his family were for her and how emotional it was to see their beloved girl struggle to hear. This began a 15 minute discussion about hearing loss, how really debilitating it can be, but also how manageable it can become if you have the right attitude and tools. We talked at length about the information that was out there and how to go about finding that information, and I shared some of my own experiences with him, telling him how hearing loss does threaten to take much from you, but it can’t take more than you let it. At one point he actually broke down and cried and had to collect himself before he continued speaking. I instinctively gave him a hug and let him know that it was okay to cry, as hearing loss is very upsetting. Tears are common and very appropriate.

As we walked back to the office and began again talking about my barn, the Morton Man paused once more to say, “I have kind of a strange request… my daughter’s office is just a couple of miles down the street and I think it would be beneficial for her to talk to you and to see someone who is deaf and who handles it so well.”

I told the Morton Man, “Sure, I’d be glad to stop in and meet your daughter. We can exchange contact information and I can share some resources with her that might help her deal with her daughter’s ongoing hearing loss.”

Our meeting on barn matters concluded and I followed Morton Man to his daughter’s office. The daughter and I had a very similar conversation as the one I had had with her dad, as he looked on. I repeated some of the same information that I had given him and there were about three instances where the daughter teared up and had to compose herself, which, of course, made her dad break down. I held her hand or hugged her each time and then went over and hugged her dad. It came in handy that I come from a family of contagious criers… I’m pretty comfortable with tears.

We all exchanged information and I promised to email the daughter with some research results on groups she might join for parents of children with hearing loss and other information I thought she might find helpful.

The final thought I left the Morton Man and his daughter with was this: Make sure you instill in your granddaughter/daughter that there isn’t anything she can’t do because of her hearing loss. And when you come up against people who might discourage your girl from participating in something because she can’t hear, move on to the next person, and the next until you find that one person who says, “Let’s see what you can do.” If she knows she can do anything, believes it, and then acts upon it, it becomes true… she’ll be okay.

And their little girl will be okay… it won’t be easy, there will be challenges, but she’ll learn some good things along the way to carry into who she becomes as an adult.

Yes, you can be capable, confident, strong, and deaf.  I’ve learned that from people who have crossed my path at the exact moment I needed them, saying “You’re not alone, you’ll be okay.” I’m thankful for the opportunity to pay it forward on days when I’m able to be what I want the world to see.

The Trouble with Hearing Loss Memes

I look for hearing loss memes to post on our work Facebook page. Some are funny, some are true and some are way off base.  Let’s take a look at memes.

This happens all the time with people who have hearing loss and there’s a variety of reasons. We can sense the other person’s agitation and we still didn’t hear it so we nod and let it go. Or someone is in deep denial still and afraid to admit they can’t hear.

Continue reading “The Trouble with Hearing Loss Memes”