Lonely Planet Writer

A snapshot of what it’s like to travel without sight, through a wonderful set of illustrations

Indonesian artist Alby Letoy has been commissioned to create a series of drawings to illustrate how a group of visually impaired people feel about travelling.

Holiday comparison website TravelSupermarket spoke to eight travellers who haven’t let the absence of sight stop them experiencing the world. It asked them to describe some of their most memorable travel experiences, and then invited Alby Letoy to interpret their words.

The responses TravelSupermarket gathered suggest that heightened senses of touch, taste, smell and sound work together during visually impaired travel to build up a picture of unfamiliar surroundings.

George Wurtzel, describing riding a horse in North Carolina.

As a child, George Wurtzel had very bad eyesight, which gradually became worse. Now a woodworker and craftsman, he was totally blind by the time he was a teenager, and describes riding a horse in North Carolina.

“Blind people experience a city a little different than sighted people,” says George. “It is a whole body experience, the texture of the streets under your feet, the bumping and jostling of very crowded streets, the intense smells of food, beer, bakeries and perfumes. You gain snapshots of people based on their conversation. All of these things build a mental picture that is very close to what someone would get by looking around.”

Artist Alby Letoy's illustration of visually impaired George Wurtzel's description of North Carolina. Image: TravelSupermarket
Artist Alby Letoy’s illustration of visually impaired George Wurtzel’s description of North Carolina. Image: TravelSupermarket

Billy, describing a trip to Japan

Billy was born legally blind and is now in his early 20s. He has spent a lot of time exploring the world. He was amazed when he visited Tokyo in Japan at how efficient, clean and electronic it was, compared with cities he had visited in the US.

Artist Alby Letoy';s illustration of visually impaired Billy describing a trip to Japan. Image: Travel Supermarket
Artist Alby Letoy’;s illustration of visually impaired Billy describing a trip to Japan. Image: TravelSupermarket

Frank Senior, describing a music camp in New York

Jazz vocalist Frank Senior was born blind and is an accomplished jazz vocalist based in New York. He describes the experience of attending a music camp in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.

Artist Alby Letoy's illustration of visually impaired Frank Senior's description of a music camp inNew York. Image: TravelSupermarket
Artist Alby Letoy’s illustration of visually impaired Frank Senior’s description of a music camp in New York. Image: TravelSupermarket

Ross Minor, describing a trip to Grand Junction, Colorado

Ross Minor tragically lost his sight from a gunshot at the age of eight. He has recently graduated from high school, and his hobbies include playing instruments, manning his YouTube channel and getting a degree in computer science. He shares a memory of his trip to Grand Junction, Colorado.

Artist Alby Letoy's illustration of visually impaired Ross Minor's description of Grand Junction, Colorado. Image: TravelSupermarket
Artist Alby Letoy’s illustration of visually impaired Ross Minor’s description of Grand Junction, Colorado. Image: TravelSupermarket

A Mind’s Eye Travel customer describing a trip to Maine

Mind’s Eye Travel is an organisation led by Sue Bramhall that creates and hosts trips for people who are blind or visually impaired. The travel experience shared below was from a visually impaired client describing a trip to Penobscot Bay in Maine, New England.

Artist Alby Letoy's illustration of a visually impaired Mind’s Eye Travel customer describing a trip to Maine. Image: TravelSupermarket
Artist Alby Letoy’s illustration of a visually impaired Mind’s Eye Travel customer describing a trip to Maine. Image: TravelSupermarket

Trevor Thomas, describing climbing Mount Elbert in Colorado

Trevor Thomas was diagnosed with a rare and incurable eye disease that caused him to lose his sight in 2005. Trevor then discovered long-distance hiking and has since become the world’s only blind professional long-distance hiker. This is his description of climbing Mount Elbert, Colorado’s tallest mountain.

Artist Alby Letoy's illustration of visually impaired Trevor Thomas's description of climbing Mount Elbert. Image: TravelSupermarket
Artist Alby Letoy’s illustration of visually impaired Trevor Thomas’s description of climbing Mount Elbert. Image: TravelSupermarket

Christine Ha, describing a visit to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam

Christine Ha suffers from neuromyelitis optica, a rare neurological condition that has led to almost complete loss of sight. Christine is an accomplished cook, writer and TV host, and is perhaps best known for being the first blind contestant and subsequent winner of season 3 of MasterChef US. She describes a trip to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Artist Alby Letoy's illustration of visually impaired Christine Ha's description of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Image: TravelSupermarket
Artist Alby Letoy’s illustration of visually impaired Christine Ha’s description of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Image: TravelSupermarket

Tommy Edison, describing his holiday to Melbourne, Australia

Tommy Edison has been blind from birth. He is a film critic and video producer who reviews films and produces videos that offer a glimpse into what life is like for someone who is blind. This is his description of a holiday to Melbourne, Australia.

Artist Alby Letoy's illustration of visually impaired Tommy Edison's description of a holiday to Melbourne, Australia. Image: TravelSupermarket
Artist Alby Letoy’s illustration of visually impaired Tommy Edison’s description of a holiday to Melbourne, Australia. Image: TravelSupermarket