Blind and Deaf Backpacker Tony Giles: Seeing the World His Way While on His Own
Get to know Tony Giles, a.k.a. “Tony the Traveler” who has been to more than 125 countries as a solo backpacker while totally blind and with a hearing impairment. Seeing the world his way was a challenge he set for himself at the age of 16. While attending a special boarding school at Coventry, he saw others afflicted with all sorts of disorders, It was then Tony realized that blindness and being partially deaf were not the most serious disabilities in life.
Born in Weston-Super-Mare, a seaside town located south-west England, Tony was diagnosed at 9 months old to have a rare visual impairment known as Cone Dystrophy and Photo Phobia. He grew up without color nerves at the back of his eye, a condition that gravely exposed his optic nerve to light. At the age of 10, young Tony became totally blind. As he recalls, the last image he saw of the world was of the sun setting down in his hometown.
He gained confidence in traveling on his own, while commuting long distance by train to Exhall Grange, the special school he attended in Coventry. He never lost sight of his goals and of what he wanted to do in the future, even when he was not able to pursue his desire to study British history. Still, Tony heeded a history teacher’s advice by taking up a course in American studies in Northampton University (formerly University College Northampton) in England. In 2001, Tony Giles completed a 2-1 Degree with Honours in American Studies.
How Tony Began his World Travel as a Solo Backpacker
Even before he began with his university education, Tony had already visited Washington and New York in 1998 with a disabled friend. While pursuing his American Studies Degree in 2000, he was given a chance to take up courses at the Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle, South Carolina.
His first solo travel in a foreign land was his trip to New Orleans. It was a turning point because it was then that he realized he could travel on his own, even if he felt overwhelmed by not knowing where he was going.
Tony Giles All Set to See the World
After his first solo trip to New Orleans in March 2000, made it his goal to visit every U.S. state, and thereafter became determined to visit a country every year. In 2001 to 2002, Tony embarked on a five-month travel to visit Australia and New Zealand, as well as Thailand and Vietnam. He made his way to South Africa between 2004 and 2005.
He took trips to Iceland, and Sri Lanka in 2007 and was in Turkey and in Greece in 2009. The latter trip brought another milestone to Tony’s life, as he met the love of his life, a blind Greek girl named Tatiana. Tatiana subsequently wrote books about Tony’s world travel by writing under the pen name Tony the Traveler.
After traveling to more than 125 countries, Tony tells of his many experiences during his many travels, He is quite proud to say that he has bungee jumped 16, times, took to sky diving 3 times, had driven jeeps, motorbikes and even a jet boat, whist getting the hang of jet and water skiing.
Tony’s rich trove of experiences includes firing an AK-47 in a Nevada shooting range, being at Mali at the height of a military coup, and getting arrested while crossing the Ethiopian border.