Maurice Gleeson has been blind since he was a teenager. But he has been on many trips around the world. He says travel helps him learn about other people. Maurice has had a lot of great experiences. He has also had problems. One time he was robbed. Another time he was left behind on a boat. Maurice says it is important to be prepared before you travel. He says it is also important to be patient. But the rewards of travelling are great.
Posted by: Graeme Turner, on 16/03/10
Travel can bring many different rewards
It’s an opportunity to learn and be a part of different customs and cultures. This is what Maurice Gleeson thinks is the reward for travelling abroad. Maurice has been blind since he was a teenager.
Maurice first travelled overseas with groups conducting pilgrimages to holy places like Jerusalem. But the former welfare worker embraced the challenge to travel alone when given the opportunity to attend a conference in Washington DC.
It wasn’t long before Maurice found himself wondering what he was doing. At Honolulu airport, staff insisted he use a wheelchair. When staff at San Francisco airport also directed him to a chair, Maurice again refused.
Maurice says travel helps you to connect with people. He tells the story of how a homeless man in New York accompanied him to his hotel room. Maurice did not realise the cleaners had left the door open. The homeless man slipped in and walked off with a cassette recorder. He later returned the device but asked for a fee for his labour. The episode gave Maurice a sense of what it was like to be homeless in New York. Maurice also learned not to be too trusting.
There have also been encounters with unexpected kindness. At Queen’s Racecourse in New York, Maurice asked about finding the nearest bus. He was offered a lift back to his accommodation by the racing commentator. At a museum in Hawaii, a guide escorted him around a display for several hours. It was an unexpected bonus.
On other occasions, he has not been so lucky. In San Francisco he requested assistance to join a tour about Chinese history. The guide was reluctant to help as he had 25 people in the party. Maurice declared that he did not realise they were all blind.
Enjoying the sense of being present in significant places, Maurice wished to climb the dome of St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. But the guide was worried about safety. Maurice was disappointed to miss out. He later returned and climbed the structure with a friend. The guide was informed afterwards.
Sometimes things do go wrong. When taking a midnight cruise in San Francisco Bay, Maurice realised the ferry had become very quiet. It dawned on him that everyone had walked off and left him.
Help other people
Travel has also offered Maurice the opportunity to help other people. He took one trip accompanying an older woman. Despite some initial reservations, the trip went smoothly. She liked to go to bed early, so Maurice would slip out quietly to visit a nearby hotel.
Maurice encourages everyone to give travel a go. But he says it is important to be prepared. He also advises patience. People should be realistic about the distances they can travel and how much they can squeeze into a day. He admits there are always some risks when travelling, but the rewards are great.
You can share your travel experiences in the comments section below.
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