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Tony Giles is a backpacker and wants to visit every country in the world. Nothing remarkable in that, but he is blind and profoundly deaf. He isn’t travelling with a guide or a companion, he is doing this completely on his own.
Tony, from Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, who is aged 39 lost his sight at the age of 10 due to a genetic condition. Without his digital hearing aids Tony would be unable to hear anything and would find it virtually impossible to travel alone. Many people with these conditions are restricted to a life indoors or a very limited lifestyle. As a child Tony used to have to travel to his school, Exhall Grange in Coventry, on the bus and it was this sense of adventure that gave him the travel bug and where he decided he wanted to visit every country in the world. He thought travelling alone would be “the biggest challenge possible for a blind person”. He has admitted that without his hearing aids “he would struggle to travel at all and would be confined his home in the UK – or need regular care”.
After Tony left school he continued with his studies and graduated with a degree in American Studies from Northampton University, which he achieved in 2001.
Tony’s first trip was in March 2000 where he visited New Orleans and since then he has travelled every year and visited more than 125 countries. He has also visited every state in America. Tony was left some money by his father who died when Tony was just 16 and it is this monthly private pension payment that funds Tony’s trips. Tony has turned his travels into a series of books telling people about the places he has visited and of his adventures along the way of which there have been many. These books are penned under the name of Tony the Traveller.
By travelling on his own Tony says it makes him interact with people. Watching a documentary about him, he said that some people would just walk past when he asked for help but others would be happy to point him in the right direction and help him find his way. Once the initial concerns were overcome Tony decided that he could travel on his own and the rest as they say is history.
Being blind and deaf means that Tony visualises the world in a different way – the smells in a market for instance mean so much more. He feels the echo of the sound in different situations which makes him more aware of his different surroundings. Places such as South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Iceland, Jordan (including Petra – one of the Seven Wonders of the World), Sri Lanka plus numerous others have already been ticked off his list. One particularly memorable trip for Tony was one to Greece where he met his girlfriend Tatiana in 2009.
Tony doesn’t travel in luxury he lives cheaply whilst he is away and he uses budget hotels and public transport whenever he can can. He has also sofa surfed on several occasions.
Some of the adventures Tony has encountered have made dramatic reading in his books. He has been in situations in both Mali and Senegal at the times that coups were going on. In Mali he actually roamed into the capital during the military coup. He was arrested as he crossed the Ethiopian border whilst entering from Kenya in 2013 with 20 people after they tried to enter whilst in a truck.
Tony also loves a challenge and he has tried hang gliding, elephant riding to name but a few. He has also shot an AK-47 and a .44 Magnum on a shooting range in Nevada. Tony loved Dirty Harry as a child and he really wanted the chance to shoot like his hero.
Here at Banana Crumble we are always on the look out for Good News Stories and ones that will inspire people do do more with their own lives and to prove that if you put your mind to things you really can achieve. If this story doesn’t inspire you and prove you really can overcome almost anything then we are not sure what will. From all of us here wishing Tony and Tatiana a Happy New Year and lots of happy safe travelling. We look forward to hearing about your next adventures.