News on Sunday

Tony Giles : a blind world traveller visits Mauritius

Can the beauty of Mauritius be felt without actually seeing it? Can a visually impaired person appreciate the beauty of our island as much as a usually normal person with eyes would? Let me introduce you to Tony, he is blind but has seen Mauritius with as much appreciation as any other seeing person. I talked to him about how he manages to travel without seeing and how his unique experience of feeling Mauritius was.

Reading and writing

First, I asked him what persuaded a world traveller like him to come to our small island. He says, “I have heard about Mauritius from reading about World History and Geography.” Curious, I interrogated him how he learned reading. He informed me that he has a Master’s degree in Transatlantic Studies (History of US Foreign Policy) from the University of Birmingham. On the technical side, Tony has a screen reading software called JAWS. “It is expensive, but has good internet connection. One of the few things I can’t do is book flights. I get my mum to help me with booking flights and accommodation when I get stuck. I also have a friend who runs my website. I manage a few things on my own, like putting some updates or writing and posting blogs. I also consult Facebook a lot on my laptop. I equally upload my videos on YouTube on my own. I just have to press a particular key on my laptop, the computer speaks. Thus, I can use the arrow keys to read my emails, Facebook messages along with searching, browsing and reading articles on web.”
Mauritius: 

A happy space

As for coming to Mauritius, he explains, “One of my friends has visited this place and said that the beaches are gorgeous.” So far, how does he find his experience here? “I find Mauritius quite relaxing and serene. It’s kind of a peace giving place, which is also very quiet. The same goes for the people, they are very gentle and polite. Not partying too much. It feels like everyone is in their happy space. I stayed in an Airbnb at a village called Saint Croix, near Port Louis. A wonderful local family hosted me for a quiet and relaxing stay.”

Tony Giles in Panama.
Tony Giles in Panama.

Using other senses

I then queried about his interests in travelling: “As you are not able to see, then what are the things you feel while travelling the globe? I mean, people travel to see the world. Why do you travel?” Tony clarifies: “I can see the world in my own ways. I have other senses where I can feel the atmosphere or hear people talking. I use my remaining senses a lot.” I couldn’t agree more.

He further elucidates his fascination about the country. “In Mauritius, I tasted the local cuisine and listened to traditional music Sega. I went to a magical waterfall near Chamarel. There, I heard the water crashing and felt the delightful spray on my face. I visited Black River Gorges National Park where I smelled the nature. I felt the different terrain under my feet. I know if I am walking on sand, rocks, or grass. I experienced Mauritian wind, sun and the rain on my face, arms, body and even in my heart. It was wonderful to visit this island.”

Tony adds, “But, primarily, it is about meeting and engaging with the local people of a country. Learning about their culture and customs. Unfortunately, I was not able to explore Mauritius fully, so I intend to return in the near future.” 

Financing his travels

After learning that he has already visited 140 countries, my obvious question was, “How do you pay for your trips?” “I receive a private pension from my dad, who worked for the railways,” he declares. “I received this after he died several years ago. It’s a relatively small amount allocated on a monthly basis. I have also published two e-Books ‘Seeing the World My Way’ and ‘Seeing the Americas My Way’. 

I mostly stay in inexpensive accommodation, like hostels. I also use couchsurfing.com., a website where people offer to host like-minded travelers for free in exchange for sharing culture and hospitality.”

Tony Giles
Tony with his girlfriend.

A travelling girlfriend

Meanwhile, he informed me that he is also 80% deaf and uses hearing aids. When he mentioned his girlfriend, I was more than eager to learn about her. Tony agrees with a smile. “Yes, I have a long-term partner named Tatiana. She’s lives in Athens, Greece. I still live in the UK. We’ve been together for almost 10 years now.  We met via the internet and then I visited Greece in November 2009. We had dinner together and things slowly started from there. She sometimes travels with me. She is also totally blind. But Tatiana enjoys a slower pace of travel and prefers staying in more comfortable accommodations. We’ve visited roughly 40 countries together: Europe, Russia, Japan, USA, Egypt, Australia, among others. We intend to visit Canada in June.”

When asked if he has some message for our Mauritian readers, he turns philosophical and says: “Dear wonderful people of Mauritius, anyone reading this, who feels they are struggling with life and finding things difficult, especially anyone coping with a disability - physical, mental or both, I’d like to say, don’t give up. Life can be hard, but with a little help and some self-encouragement, you can live your dreams and have a great life,” concludes Tony with a smile. 

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