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Helga at Mae Hong Son, Thailand 1999
Helga has gone backpacking, by herself or with someone, around Europe, central and south-East Asia, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
Inspired by the “Palin effect”, Helga went travelling alone in 2003 in Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, China, Tibet and Nepal. She believes that travelling solo is educational and leads to more memorable experiences.
Mongolia and Tibet are her favourite countries. It was comforting being so far away from home and being alone in monasteries and doing almost nothing. She’ll always remember the Trans-Siberian, seeing Angkor Wat at dawn, watching pilgrims around the Jokhang, drinking rum with Deaf Cubans and learning about their lives, and her painful floating experience at the Dead Sea.
Her video camera is her security blanket for narrating her travel stories, as opposed to a notebook and pen. She enjoys filming Deaf people and visiting Deaf schools overseas, as it provides an opportunity to learn more about their culture through them. You gain a deeper insight into the country and its people than would be the case when ticking off places on your must to-do list and targeting the usual tourist sights to have your photo taken in front of.
Helga has since continued her travels in Cambodia, Cuba and more recently Israel, Palestine and Jordan. An element of ‘dark’ travel lurks within Helga as she likes to visit sites where tragedies have occurred. How many people would go on holiday to Rwanda, Kosovo and Chernobyl? She would.
For Helga, travelling is her passion and she dreams of working in developing countries one day and seeking more meaningful travel opportunities. Sometimes it astonishes her how little some people want to travel and how much their travels are based around beaches.
In addition to travelling, Helga enjoys watching football (or soccer as Australians call it) and supporting Arsenal FC.
Helga currently lives in Glasgow, Scotland and is a Director of the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI).
Ian trekking near Namche Bazaar, Nepal
Ian is passionate about travel and was one of the first deaf people from his generation to go backpacking and travelling in the early 1990s. This was just before the boom in independent travel started to take off. Family holidays to the United States and Canada in the 80s had fuelled Ian's sense for adventure but he had ambitions to explore further afield.
After graduating from university in 1992 he embarked on a solo round the world trip for one year using money saved from previous summer vacation jobs. His budget was enhanced by working as a kitchenhand in Sydney, Australia for four months. As Ian travelled around Australia he got a kick out of scuba diving, whitewater kayaking, canoeing, hot-air ballooning and hitch-hiking around Tassie (Aussie lingo for Tasmania). Then it was onto New Zealand for more adventurous exploits and some world class tramping. A period of relaxation followed in the South Pacific, a highlight being where Ian was invited to stay with the locals on the idyllic Fijian island of Taveuni. The last stop was the US where Ian took the opportunity to do a grand tour of the whole country before heading home.
Although Ian had clocked up the miles in his year overseas he wanted to venture to places off the beaten track. By now the travel bug had definitely bitten. Trips to China and Vietnam, both under communist rule, followed long before the advent of tourism. Few people can say that they have been to Myanmar (Burma) but the difficulties in obtaining a visa were no deterrent to Ian. In recent years he has travelled alone through countries such Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Cambodia and Argentina, and also lived in Australia for a year from 2001-2002.
But of all the places Ian has visited three stand out: Nepal, the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. Trekking in the Everest region in Nepal inspired him to write a diary, which was published by Boots'n'All. And at the Melbourne Deaflympics Ian was the reporter for both the GB Men’s and Women’s football teams on the UK Deaf Sport website.
Although Ian likes travelling solo he gets great pleasure out of meeting a wide range of people, experiencing different cultures at first hand and changing people's perceptions of deaf people. Travel broadens the mind, and visual awareness and signing is of more benefit in communicating with those who do not speak English. Deafness is no barrier to travel; in fact it helps break down barriers and Ian feels an equal when travelling, as it is not an issue. When travelling with other people, like on cruises to the Galapagos and Antarctica Ian deliberately chooses small group cruises rather than large passenger cruise ships.
He is a great believer in trying the unknown and experimenting with the different foods that a country has to offer and this has got the better of him on the odd occasion. Sampling eels in Japan and munching on fried cuy (guinea pig) are not culinary experiences that Ian wishes to repeat!
Ian's other interests are sport, a love of the outdoors, trekking and adrenalin sports. He travels up to Old Trafford whenever he can to watch Manchester United in action. These days he is working as a database administrator in Essex and helps run West Ham Deaf Football Club for whom he plays.