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.
So it’s my job to educate them of the varying different types of deafness.
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.
So whatever you do, don’t push me in the river for a laugh, there’s a very high chance I will be wearing them.
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?
Loving your blog. My 9 year old daughter is deaf and we plan to follow your blog together. you are an inspiration. Thank you.
Thank you! Where are you guys from?
We live in Gibraltar, any time you passing by this way feel free to come and see us. good luck with your travels. 🙂
Ah amazing! I’m hoping to be in Spain/Portugal area in May/June 2013.
Does your daughter speak or sign?
my daughter wears two hearing aids and she speaks really well. she originally learnt to speak as a baby using makaton signs which she then dropped as her speech developed. I have recently passed BSL level one and my daughter is starting level one in March as she finds signing really interesting. There are not many young people with hearing aids in Gibraltar and Mia sometimes questions why she has to be deaf. That is why i thought she would like to follow your blog as she is always interested in other people that wear hearing aids. It was your comments about travelling and not hearing the tannoy etc that caught my attention as Mia has trouble with that and also being able to chat on mobile phones. Look forward to following your adventures. 🙂
Although I have no experience with this topic, I agree with Marie – inspirational! You are showing everyone (me included) that obstacles are there to be jumped over, or bulldozed, not to prevent you from doing what you love. Can’t wait to see how you get on 🙂
This is a really fabulous post! Thank you for sharing the world, your way.
Great post! I might be able to help with the waterproof bag. If your hearing aid and CI aren’t too big, Dicapac makes great waterproof bags for digital cameras. I’ve since switched to a waterproof camera, but I continue to use the Dicapac waterproof camera bag to hold cards, money, etc. I pre-tested mine by stuffing it with tissues and newspaper (the most water absorbent things I had on hand), submerged it in a pan of water (the Dicapac bags float, so I had to use tins of food to keep it submerged) and both were completely dry when I removed them. As I mentioned, the bags float, which is an excellent feature, if it happens to come off your neck or wrist.
I don’t know if Dicapac has a UK distributor. I bought mine through: http://www.dicapacusa.com/Default.asp?Redirected=Y
I hope this helps! Enjoy your travels!!
Thanks George! I really appreciate it!
Hope the train trip went well, seems you made it fine seeing you posted the photo, but was that when you nearly punched the woman? Lol. Anyways, I know of some of the struggles you face, working at Apple I was always either assisting people challenged with deafness or blindness, and I really hope people dot just brush you off because that is a bad mistake to make. Also, a lot of my co-workers were deaf, and could sell computers to people and make them laugh better than most! Like I said, I would really like to work out some sort of guides for deaf people sometime. Excited for you to reach New Zealand and finally meet ya buddy!
as someone who is deaf and has 2 hearing aids and wanting to go travelling next year, im glad that I saw a post by you on gapyear and now seen this is has made it a bit better to feel even more confident in going away next year, I did like a post by your about playing the disabled card a bit, I will definitely try that a few times!
I’m gald to have encouraged you to go travelling. It really wasn’t that big an issue as I thought it was going to be! Where would you like to go?
im going to go to new zealand for a whv and then head to Australia on a whv then wander around asia after.
Hi Ed, just seen your article. I use an Otterbox 1000 to keep my hearing aids in whilst swimming, camping etc., they’re supposed to be completely waterproof and you can clip it to your belt, backpack or whatever. Appreciate your comment about water, after four weeks in India one of my hearing aids had to be replaced due to the battery contacts corroding, purely due to my sweat! I now use Eargear to try and avoid that happening again.
Yeah this must be hard for you to keep tracks of stations. I am really proud of you. Thanks for sharing this.
Hi Ed! I was surfing the web about travel histories and found yopu. First of all compliments. It is nice to find out people “aliens” like me, … I think we are really a few, not all deaf have the strenght to reach their goals or their indipendence, even when the hearing is what it is…
I understand you when you say that you spent your life educating the others about the varying different types of deafness. I have long hair, and sometimes people really don’t imagine it, so at the first awkward moment I had to say I’m impaired since I was a little child and so on. And if I’m really deaf because I don’t sign (OMG!), I’m not a “loud personality” and sometimes it simply piss me!
Especially when they realize our “normality”, they don’t understand our difficulties with the “dreaded tannoy”. And that learning to speak was our biggest challenge.
Now, I’m almost 31, my last pair of hearing aids is very powerful and I catch more or sometimes talk to cell phone but it is not plain and simple. English is more difficult for me because it is not my mother language, and so academic congresses are really challenging.
Unfortunately my sleep is not so deep as yours. A light, or a touch, or a vibration and I am awake (or at least muttering…). If I have my hearing aids on, noises keep my awake, cause I try to understand what it is…
Regarding the humidity when I’m near beach and swimming pools and take a bath with friends (intelligent ones) I use and old hearing aid covered with silicon (?) so it is waterproof for drops. When I swim I use ear sport plugs and I leave the hearing aid in their salt-box in the bag. But honestly, who can steal it?! With their regulations and shape?!! But I don’t know how you can deal with the stable part of your CI.
By the way I still avoid pool parties and I am scared by kid with gun-waters and water balloons.
I use trains alone and I drive since 19, sometimes I take flights, since 2014 I live on my own most of the time. Last year I went in Greece, often totally alone ’cause I was moving often for work, and sometimes it was “challenging”.
However a travel in the US is my dream and I hope they will be my next stop.