There’s something enticing about travelling to a new place by yourself. I’ve never travelled alone, but I would like to one day!
There’s an appeal to it, to be able to go somewhere, and do whatever you want (within reason of course), and not have to worry about sometimes catering to the needs of whoever you are travelling with.
With my hearing loss, I sometimes have to depend on people. Whether it is because I need an appointment to be made over the phone, or an extra ear during a conference call at work, or someone to wake me up when I’m somewhere that isn’t home.
What happens if I travel alone? Who will wake me up in my hotel room if there’s an emergency and I can’t hear the alarm?
I can’t answer those questions yet, but my friend Laura Girardo can! Welcome to Hearing Differently’s first ever interview!
I met Laura through the VOICE organization and we became fast friends, bonding over Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.
Introduction to Laura Girardo
Laura has severe to profound hearing loss in both ears and has been wearing a cochlear implant since she was six years old. She is a coordinator for VOICE for deaf and hard of hearing children, a motivational speaker for the Sick Kids’ Cardiology Department and YCDSB`s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Department, where she shares tips and advice as a student of the deaf, and shares her life experiences as a deaf person. She is currently at Queen`s University completing the Teacher`s Education – Consecutive Program (B.Ed).
Interview with Laura Girardo
Laura recently travelled to Manchester and Liverpool in England on her own! She went to see the Spice Girls in concert.
She also went down memory lane at the home of the Beatles (and did some other exploring)!
K: Did you have any initial fears about travelling alone in respect to your hearing loss?
L: Not really. My initial fear was thinking about how I, a young female travelling alone, was going to stay safe travelling in an unknown city. I have travelled before, but with friends, which definitely helped me be more confident in travelling by myself and made that transition easier. None of my initial fears were related to my hearing loss.
K: What was different about travelling alone vs. travelling with a friend?
L: Several things! They were my ears in certain situations, like helping me understand any heavy accents, or waking me up in our room if there was an emergency. Also, one thing I want to stress to anyone with hearing loss that is travelling with friends is to not worry about feeling like you are inconveniencing your friends with these requests, because you do not want to sacrifice your own safety and enjoyment to please your friends.
K: Let’s start at the beginning of your trip! What did you do when you went to the airport?
L: I walked in, checked in, and went through security. At security, I needed to let them know that I have a cochlear implant, and that I can’t walk through the metal detector…because I have a magnet in my head. I also show them my card!
When I arrived at the gate, I make sure to sit near the podium where the flight attendants usually are. I tell the flight attendants that I have a hearing impairment and because of that, I can’t hear when they call the numbers out for people to board the flight. They’re always incredibly understanding. When they started to call numbers out to board the flight, they let me on first!
K: When I’m on the plane, I usually have no idea what the pilot says over the intercom, so I depend on whoever I’m with to tell me. How was your experience being on the plane?
L: I didn’t really talk to anyone on the plane. When it comes to instructions by the flight attendant about emergency exits, I usually just watch the visuals they always play on the TV screens. When it came to the announcement over the intercom, I usually just miss them. I know that I should tell the flight attendant that I can’t hear them and to let me know of any important announcements but I don’t do that. But that is just my own opinion and experience! I know some people who depend on notifying the flight attendants.
K: Do you find the plane to be really noisy?
L: Yes! So, I take my cochlear off on the flight. I hate the noise, and I find it way too loud. For me, that’s my downtime. So, just in case, I always keep my seat belt buckled because I would miss the indicator to put them back on.
Author’s note: I related to Laura taking her cochlear off, because sometimes the silence is just what we need to shut our brains off. You can check out more on that in this article here.
K: Wow! I don’t think I could take my cochlear off during a flight! What happens if someone tries to talk to you?
L: That did happen! The flight attendant was coming around with the food, and I just read her lips! She asked me if I wanted “rice or pasta”. Or so I thought. When she delivered my food, and I opened it to find pizza, I knew I made a mistake. But I don’t mind pizza, so it was ok. In any other situations when people try to talk to me, I either just try to read their lips or notify them right away that I can’t hear by pointing to my ears.
K: Did you have any scary moments when travelling?
L: One moment I can think of was right after the Spice Girls concert. When I left the venue, it was crazy packed with people and impossible to get an Uber, or a taxi or really any method of transportation back to my hotel because the data network was down (so I couldn’t use my phone), and every taxi in sight were either pre-ordered or used. I freaked out a bit, but tried to stay calm, because I knew if I showed my fear, I’d stand out and come across as vulnerable.
I spotted a cop, and he directed me to the tram (trains for our non-England readers). I managed to find a route back to a station near my hotel, and took a taxi from there. It was cheaper, and much safer than where I was.
K: You travelled around quite a bit! As someone who sucks at talking over the phone, I was wondering…how did you call a taxi?
L: It would have been hard if I still had the Nucleus 6. With the new Nucleus 7 that I now wear, any calls that I do are streamed directly to my cochlear, which really helps with tuning out the background noises to focus on the speaker. Even then, if I was in the hotel room, I would just ask the front desk to call the taxi for me.
K: Being in England means hearing people talk with an accent! Did you have any trouble with that?
L: A little, but not too much. Mainly, the hardest part with the accents was whenever I had to speak with someone over the phone, and I couldn’t see their face to lipread. If I ever got someone with a thick and heavy accent that makes it hard to understand, I try to work through it! Also, I love the British accents and could listen to a British person talk to me all day if I wanted to. My trouble actually lies more with the Irish accent – that I need a translator for ha-ha.
K: Do you have any other tips that you want to share about travelling alone?
L: Yes! Here are a couple. Some of these can apply to everyone travelling on their own.
– TRAVELLING TIPS –
- After your flight, when it’s time to go to customs, go to a representative there and tell them that you have hearing loss. They will let you go first and skip the line up (this is dependent on different airports).
- Plan your transportation ahead of time. Make sure that when you leave any event, have a taxi/Uber pre-booked. Always keep alternative options of transportation in mind.
- Plan your day ahead as well. Whether you have a ready itinerary or planned spontaneously – make sure you take account into transportation, hours of operation, budget and more.
- If possible, get some tips from someone local about travelling around! A friend of mine said to not use Uber, to avoid any potential harassment, so I took the local taxis because they had stricter rules.
- Take public routes, it’s safer to be surrounded by people than walking alone in a dark alley.
- If you’re sleeping alone in a hotel room, talk to the front desk and let them know that in any case of an emergency (where you can’t hear any alarm), that they have permission to knock down your door and get you to safety.
- Use data. Pay the extra expense because carrying around a map will make you stick out.
- HAVE FUN and BE SAFE! Worrying about things will ruin the fun of your trip!
Travelling alone can be a bit intimidating, but also a lot of fun! One thing is to not let your hearing loss stop you from doing it. As shown by Laura in the interview, there are plenty of workarounds to any obstacles you might face with your hearing loss when travelling!
If anyone has any other questions you want answered or have any tips that you want to add to the list about travelling alone, please comment below!