Ekinath Khedekar, Photograph courtesy: Facebook
When you travel, the sights that you see play a huge role in shaping your experience. It is often the sight of watching snow-capped mountains or ocean waves caressing the sands that stays etched in your mind forever. But what happens when you don’t have the chance to view such sights? If you were not able to see the stars, sky and the mountains, would you still go out of your comfort zone and travel the world? Travelers like Ekinath Khedekar, Pranav Lal, Satish Navale and Joaquim Rapose would do that, and they have. They are travelers who embody the spirit of adventure, experiencing the world in ways that others never can. ALSO READ: 10 most accessible tourist destinations for the disabled Also Read - Hanuma Vihari Names MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli as Best Captains Amid COVID-19 Lockdown
For instance 57-year-old bank executive Joaquim Rapose and wife Padma have been traveling across India ever since they married in 1986. From Kanyakumari to Jammu, the couple have often traveled with each other or with their two children. And their challenges have not stopped them from feeling awed by the beauty around them. Padma felt the beauty of Rohtang Pass as she sat on the snow and the greenery of Kodaikanal from the cool wind and the sound of birds. Pearl, their 29-year-old daughter, often goes with them as their guide. Also Read - Best Finisher MS Dhoni Owns Lasith Malinga in IPL: Scott Styris
Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh
Satish Navale has mostly traveled solo across India. He has so far explored 60 cities, and his journey began at the age of 19 years, traveling from Pune to Mumbai. The education researcher had a harrowing experience, but today he is a confident solo traveler. Despite worrying for his safety and being afraid of losing the way or being made fun of, his love for exploration has won every step of the way. For him, the best trip was to Srinagar’s Badami Bagh Cantonment. Despite fears of being in a troubled territory, he was met with warmth and friendliness along the way. And the sounds and smells of the place are just as memorable to him as sights would be to others. Also Read - 'Stay Indoors, Observe Shab-E-Barat Solemnly', Delhi Police Urges Muslims Amid COVID-19 Lockdown
Pranav Lal, meanwhile, uses a sensory substitution device called an artificial eye to see the sights around him in his travels. The cyber security consultant first opted for a trip to Iceland in 2011, organized by UK-based tour operator TravelEyes that specializes in organizing tours for visually challenged travelers. For their trips, travelers are paired with a sighted person each day. Lal, an avid photographer, uses an artificial eye called vOICe to frame his shots. He has also gone on several treks, the most challenging one being Dayara Bugyal trek in Uttarakhand, as organized by the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation. ALSO READ: 5 restaurants in India that are disabled friendly
Ekinath Khedekar, Photograph courtesy: Facebook
Meanwhile, take Ekinath Khedekar, a 32-year-old corporate executive who is visually challenged. The young man has gone skydiving over the Swiss Alps, and that’s just what he did last year. He has not let his challenges get in the way of experiencing the thrill of adventure. According to him, the sensation of free fall and the feeling of the wind hitting his face was what gave him exhilaration, and he does not miss anything. Khedekar embraced his inner traveler after his post-graduate program in London, during which time he explored the Stonehenge, among other places.
These visually-impaired explorers are often met with surprise by others. They all talk about positive experiences, with people, both locals and other fellow travelers, willing to go out of their way to help them. Whether it is giving them a lift or warning them of a low ceiling ahead, the gestures are always heartwarming. And although there are plenty of challenges along the way, these travelers all talk about getting past your fears.
To other visually challenged travelers, they suggest doing proper research and learning sign language in order to communicate well. They also recommend being curious travelers and not being shy of touching things. Connecting with other visually challenged folks in your destination is always helpful, since they can advice you about accessibility and mobility issues in the area. And look out for travel concessions for visually challenged travelers and operators that specifically cater to them. NOW READ: 98 visually challenged people, 45 km, 2 hours
H/T: Hindustan Times
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