SayWhatClub

SOLO TRAVEL: Getting Started

By Michele Linder

Training myself to travel alone, as a deaf person, has been among the most valuable teachers in life. It has taught me how to cope with, and embrace, my deafness. I credit solo travel with my learning 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 face no barrier. 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.

Traveling, Accents & Hearing Loss

by Chelle Wyatt

My husband and I took a belated honeymoon/anniversary trip to Costa Rica a few weeks ago.  I decided to go minimal knowing we’d be moving to a different part of the country every few days.  I left my usual purse at home, using a super small, flat purse to carry only a few essentials.  Knowing it was going to rain every day and be super humid, I decided to leave my hearing aids at home.

I know some of you out there are gasping at the thought of leaving hearing aids behind.  Hearing aids are just too expensive to lose and I didn’t want to chance it.  I’m fairly comfortable not wearing hearing aids here at home but I’ll admit, I was a little worried about how I’d hear English with accents there.  Lucky for me I was going with a hearing person. Still I didn’t want to lean on him too much, I was sure I’d find ways to communicate as needed.

Our first driver spoke very little English.  I was super tired after flying all night in a tin can, packed tightly together.  Airline seats don’t go back far enough to sleep without pecking corn (my heading falling forward over and over again as I tried to sleep).  When I’m that tired, I can’t hear at home either so I only knew our driver was talking but understood very little of what he said.  Ken said he couldn’t really understand him either.  I fell asleep in the van which was more comfortable than the plane believe it or not.  We stopped for a picture at one point and when I had a hard time understanding him, he resorted to gesturing.  Perfect!  Gesturing is universal.

We went to a restaurant and the menu was in both Spanish and English. I thought I’d try the Spanish words since I was in their country.  “I’ll get the hamburguesa atun.”  He looked down at me and said, “You want the tuna sandwich.”  I almost laughed out loud.  I think he meant “Don’t massacre my language.”  I didn’t try ordering in Spanish again sticking to English.

We stayed in three different towns in different parts of the country.  We stayed in Manuel Antonio the first few nights which mostly resting up from our plane ride over.  Then went to la Fortuna the next couple of nights where three activities were planned; the hot springs at Tabacon, a trip to the Arenal volcano and the Fortuna waterfall.  We had an English-speaking guide for the volcano and waterfall, he was very good about facing me.  He was a biology student so he and Ken got along well, he even convinced Ken to eat a few termites…no I didn’t even try.  Ken said it was ‘woodsy flavored.’

Over the course of the trip I realized the same rules apply abroad as they do in the states.

  1. If having a hard time, I told them I couldn’t hear well.
  2. I told them I use lipreading.
  3. If I could relax, I could hear/lipread them, especially after spending more time with them.

My favorite hard of hearing moment  of the trip was while we were Tamarindo and went out on a catamaran for snorkeling.  I’m not one to jump in the ocean so I stayed on the boat while the others splashed around.  I was happy with mojitos, the view, the sun at least and getting to know some of the crew who were super accommodating. I was sitting at the back of the boat relaxing and one of crew members sat down next to me.  He said, “I know you don’t hear well and that you are learning my lips…”

And I thought perfect, yes!  I’m always learning people’s lips.  I’m learning their lips, the words they use, their facial expressions and their accents.  I was certainly learning his lips.  To continue…

“…and you’re learning my lips but I don’t know how you understand me so well.”

Well… I grew up near the Mexican border in California so maybe Spanish accents are a little easier than I thought they would be?  That’s what I told him but after more thinking maybe it’s a combination of things.  Maybe I spent enough time with him?  Or was it that he made sure he faced me?  Maybe some people are easier to lip read accent or no accent no matter what.

I had a grand time and I would not hesitate traveling in other countries.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Travel forth my hearing loss friends!

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My friend on the boat.
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Me
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Melwin at the pool who I could also undestand fairly well.
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My husband, Ken, and the volcano guide who spoke very good English.

Boise or Bust!

By Michele Linder

Many SWCers are gearing up for travel or are already on their way to Boise, Idaho, our convention city, where we’ll be Basque-ing in Boise from August 4th – 6th.  I think I’m the first to have arrived!!  I’m a day earlier than expected, but the hotel graciously extended my reservation and gave me the convention rate.

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I went for an early morning bike ride this morning, and the picture above is a shot of our hotel, The Riverside Hotel, right on the Greenway.  I rode quite a long ways on the southwest side of the river.  There was a lot of construction along the way, apartment buildings, mobile home parks, and residential areas.  I had to ride on the road for a short distance, twice.  It was in residential areas and not a negative.  I eventually crossed a bridge that followed another branch of the waterway.  The pavement was bumpy from tree-root damage and I turned around.  I’ll check out other parts of the trail later today and tomorrow.  It was a good ride, but probably not the most scenic section of trail.

What was fun was seeing surfers on the river so early this morning (you can see a video on SWC’s public Facebook page.  I almost felt like I was back living in Munich where you can see surfers on the Isar.

I also saw some early morning divers and a few fishermen.  Idaho River Sports is within walking distance from the hotel and they rent just about anything you would want to try. I think I’m going to give the stand-up paddle boards a go.

I can’t wait for the rest of you to arrive… to see old friends and to meet some new SWCers!! Safe travels!  I’ll see you all in Boise!