Imagine running a 250km marathon across the Gobi Desert ...then add in the handicap of not having your sight.  Listed as one of the "World's Top Endurance Events", why on earth would a blind or partially sighted person attempt such a gruelling event?  For the same reason as a sighted person; putting one foot in front of the other in a sense of direction, to find their inner strength in their pain and solitude and to forget what may be their mundane every day life, seeking the extraordinary in their achievement. Or, it could simply be to gloat over their glory to their friends or maybe to yell from a rooftop "I did it!"

Sight Impaired Travel - The Wise Traveller

Just because a person is sight impaired, does not mean that they do not have the same aspirations or desires as a sighted person.  Many people live their whole lives in a state of "blindness" despite having their sight. Travel is one dream that we all have - well many of us do - whilst others are content to sit in an armchair contemplating their navel or some generic television show on the idiot box in front of them.

So for those that may need a helping hand to fulfil their travel aspirations without having to beg to be taken by a sighted long-suffering friend or horrid (or nice up to a point but not someone you want to spend 24 hours with or involve in a boozing spree) family member, there is an alternative.

The first commercial tour operator offering travel on an independent basis for vision impaired people was founded in 2004 by a blind Glasgow born entrepreneur, Amar Latif, called "Traveleyes".  Amar lost 95% of his sight in his first year at university and decided to set up the company because in his words " no one was doing the kind of holiday I wanted to go on".

This brilliant concept is where sight impaired people travel with sighted souls who act as their eyes in small exclusive groups (average 14 people per trip). The sighted people get to travel for a much-reduced price in exchange for lending a guiding arm and playing snapshot camera with descriptive story telling of the surrounds that they encounter. Each day you get to swap partners, so if a sight impaired person gets stuck with someone that thinks are they "deaf" not "blind", or the other way around in the case of a sighted person having a quirky sense of humour when describing objects that is not appreciated, it will only be for a day.

Sight Impaired Travel - The Wise Traveller

Image: Traveleyes

I can imagine the humorous side to playing storyteller when describing erotic reliefs in the ancient brothels of Pompeii:

Sighted Person 1 (blushing or not): "A man, lying on his back with a naked lady squatting on top of him, both smiling.  This next one is the doggy position, a bit boring but his member is rather on the large size. Further along, if you rub your hands over the wall you will feel the shape of the lady on top of a man, again. This time she is facing his feet... hmmm just trying to work out how she is doing that, as I don't think I have every tried it, but then again I am not double jointed."

Sighted Person 2 (a "proper" English Lady):  "You don't want me describing these, let's go and have a nice cup of tea instead."

I know whom I would rather be with.

Every planned holiday is crafted as a multi-sensory experience to make the most of all of the 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, hearing and touch). The travel company promote the fact that  "you don't need prior experience with sight impaired folks" to join in with their social groups. It is simply a case of not being patronizing and to be prepared to describe a meal on a plate as the hands on a clock:  your peas are at 3 o'clock with the duck on the bone at 6. Its scrunching up lemon leaves to be smelt, letting know that your hand is on the back of the chair, that an escalator is coming up and letting the sight impaired person take your elbow, that it is haemorrhoid cream not suntan lotion in their hand and they won't even know if you are not wearing your best Armani.

It is all about being with like-minded travelling bodies who love to share the world we are in and you may even get to "touch" antiquities that otherwise you would not be allowed near.

Why not visit the Traveleyes Website

Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller. Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.