6 Challenges for a Deaf Person Travelling Solo
Thought it should be high time to talk about myself as a deaf person on the cusp of backpacking solo abroad. Is there anything I should take into account?
1) The dreaded Tannoy. Every time I’m at the train/bus station and it is needed to inform of a change of platform, bus, cancellation or delays, it is announced over tannoy. I can never understand a word what’s being said perhaps snatches if I really listened hard.
It’s the echoness of the tannoy that throws me as the previous word is still ringing around as the next word is said. So I can count, more than often, of missed trains and buses.
So if you really need to find me (e.g. running into the station to declare your undying love for me), you’re better off making your way very close to the massive Departure Board where I will be keeping a very close eye on it. (Please bring coffee ) However, should there be no board, I have to rely on the kindness of strangers.
Optimistically, you can think that it’s a great way to meet people ‘err…excuse me…does this go to the other side of the world’ and perhaps use a chat up line or 2. Usually, they are happy to help out upon realising I’m deaf.
2) Missing my stop. This gets me on edge. So often I would like to just snooze and curl up in a ball, perhaps dribbling onto and hugging the person next to me (it happens too much for me to ignore) and arrive at my destination completely refreshed.
This rarely happens.
Why? Because if I did fall asleep, I will miss the announcement of the destination and I will wake up confused to why I’m in an eerily abandoned dark train carriage with a mouse dangling off my nose.
So staying up and amusing myself is the key. I can make friends and get them to wake me up maybe.
But there are a lot of maybes.
I will be put to the test tonight as I’m catching the Caledonian Sleeper Train from London to Edinburgh. The train ends at Inverness so I will have to make sure I’m awake for my arrival!
You may be thinking, why not take an alarm clock? I do have an alarm clock..a vibrating one that is…but I need it near my face to jolt me awake.
Having it in my pocket will not work; I’m too used to the vibrations.
3) Understanding the foreign lingo. I wish foreign speaking people could speak English…no hear me out.
For me, they speak perfect English rather than trying to make out the Brummie, Geordie or Devonshire accents (I’m looking at you Toni – you better behave). I’ve met loads of Germans, Spaniards, Italians, Venezuelans etc that speak English perfectly, clearly and with utmost clarity.
They are music to my ears.
Hence why I believe I will end up settling down with an Italian. But sadly, I can’t have all my wishes come true and I will have to make out what’s the mother tongue of these people are being said.
It will be extremely hard work and my lipreading skills will certainly come into play causing strain on my eyes. So if you see me tired, please give me a hug!
But how to combat this I will have to make sure I know what the context is is first to glean an idea of what the hell they might be talking about. Then check out their body language to see what’s the mood and tone and then pick out keywords, which I’ve hopefully memorised from a phrase book. If all else fails, I’m gonna give a huge smile and throw my hands up in the air. Watch out Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore!
4) People can very easily get the wrong impression of me. (I’m a nice guy…) Meeting someone for the very first time, most people will automatically see the hearing aid and will indirectly think of the stereotype. I’m not the stereotype at all. I can speak normally, listen very well and get by very easily.
But sometimes, they will not talk to me at first thinking I will be hard work.
You may tell me, why hang around with that awful person? It’s not their fault. It’s due to their ignorance and assumption that makes them like this.
Luckily for me, I have a very high success rate and we are the best of friends. I think it’s why I have such a loud personality that I have to get ‘Ed’ across to them rather than ‘that deaf guy’ upon first meeting. I don’t think I’ll have a huge problem but there may be times when I don’t want to be the ‘teacher’ for the day and just chill out.
My Hearing Aid and My Cochlear Implant are my connections to the world.
They are above all, my number one of my possessions (including underwear?!) so it is my absolute dedication to them to ensure they are extremely well looked after.
But it will be hard. Especially going to countries where a lot of water is involved.
My hearing aid and my CI hates water.
One dunk and they will frazzle to death.
Luckily, I will have a spare of each when I go travelling in case one of them decides to go faulty.
However, the practice of maintaining them will take a portion of my backpack whether they are batteries, chargers, parts, disposables and boxes etc. If all comes to worst, then I can find a hearing aid replacement quickly through the markets (I’ve been told they were being sold in the remote villages of Nepal!), and contact home to send me via air a proper replacement.
6) Swimming. I’m deaf as a post in the water, and after nearly being eaten by a Croc (I may be slightly over-exaggerating), I’ll have to be more alert!
Plus I don’t want to be swimming around lost in my own world and people are screaming at me to get away because there’s a Jaws like Shark headed for me. How very Horror Sterotype I could fall into! So what to do? I’ll just have to keep my eye out all the time and if I see a fin, dolphin or not, I’m hightailing it out of there!
Also, I can’t go far because where else can I look after my hearing aid and CI? I’m currently looking for a waterproof bag to store them in and I can carry it around but failing that, I will have to leave them with my clothes. This makes me feel uneasy as I aid before, they are my connections to the world, and I’m hesitant to have them more than 1m out of reach.
I’m sure there are more challenges ahead and I will tell you all about them in due course.
Are you a deaf person? What were your challenges when travelling solo? Do you know a deaf person What challenges did you see them face?