What could a blind person glean out of traveling the world? How does a blind person travel alone and how does one know what they are viewing? As a blind person, what do you actually get out of going on a cruise?
These are frequently asked questions of me, as I fearlessly traverse my way around my neighborhood and my state and the world. People ask how and why and my response is "There is a way" and "Why not?"
Most of us are, at birth, blessed with five senses and they are all useful in learning, visualizing and understanding about our environment and its inhabitants. Because I lost my vision as a young adult, I am also lucky enough to have visual memory. That is, I can envision something described to me by reliving my visual memory.
Recently, I traveled on a 12-day cruise of Scandinavia and eastern Europe. I traveled with a group of 34 blind people, some with partial vision and some totally blind. They are all experienced travelers with as much innate curiosity about the world we live in as any normally sighted person. Some traveled with their guide dogs and some with only their white canes. I travel with a white cane which provides me with important information about the surface upon which I am walking.
We traveled through four time zones and seven countries, including Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Berlin, Germany, St. Petersburg, Russia and Tallin, Estonia. I was on a tour at every port, learning about that country, its natives, its government and its culture. Helsinki was a beautiful city by the sea, similar to San Francisco in setting, cultural advancement and education. St. Petersburg, Russia was Russia's version of a cosmopolitan European city on the Baltic Sea. Their great art museum, the Hermitage, contains a collection of art second only in the world to that of the Louvre. I had my picture taken in front of Matisse's "The Dance," one of my favorites.
It was all a magical experience and we all found a way, so why not?