Alexa Huth has been an avid traveller for close to 20 years, recently returning from a three-month trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and America. Alexa never let her visual impairment hold her back from seeing the world. She shares her tips for backpacking so you don’t either.
As a visually impaired explorer, I’ve tried out many types of travel. Backpacking is one of the most challenging because you never know what each day will bring. I’ve learned a lot during my travels and especially during my month exploring Myanmar two years ago. I’d like to share some tips that I think might help the other visually impaired travellers (and soon-to-be adventurers) out there.
The prep for a visually impaired backpacking adventure is much scarier than the trip itself. Thoughts of getting lost, getting hurt, or being exhausted are normal. And honestly, some days will go down like that, but they will almost never be as bad as you expect. Here are a few things that can help:
Once you start tackling these fears, you’ll start to realise the other issues that pop into your head become more insignificant or improbable.
For me, my vision creates a lot of minor challenges that can crop up at any point. Some days I can’t stop seeing double, others I am extra light-sensitive, and occasionally severe headaches will creep up.
Instead of taking it as a lost day, take in how awesome you feel when you tackle a challenge. If you run yourself ragged every day, that feeling of personal success might not be possible.
Being frustrated by the current state of your vision, or “limitation rage” as I call it, is totally normal (it’s that feeling you get when you aren’t able to do the things you once could or things you think you should be able to do because other people can). I lost a chunk of my vision at 23 and ever since, my vision has been a moving target. Some days things are OK and others are pretty bad.
If you keep fighting to be exactly who you were, you’ll never get to be who you are now. That’s hard to remember in the middle of a trip when there is a roadblock that only seems to be impacting you.
A lot of people spend their travel time hunting down tourist attractions. While I love a good famous spot, I have come to enjoy travel that is personalised to my interests. As I wander around new cities, what I see has become less important. Instead, my travel is a lot more about how I feel on my trips.
What you see or don’t see is much less important than how much fun you had or how enthusiastic you are about the adventure you are on in that moment.