Traveling is not something that is a privilege to just a selected few. Regardless of your economic status, skin tone, physical ability or disability, traveling is for everyone. It does not discriminate!
With hopes to not just inspire the capable, white or black people to travel we have decided to bring in two different kind of travelers that refuse to let their circumstances hinder them from pursing their dream to travel the world and you shouldn’t either
With that being said, let me introduce Lilo and Stacey from Definitely Wanderlust.
Stacey is a deaf traveler who lost her hearing at the age of two due to a recurrent ear infections. She enjoys filming, taking photographs and learning about different cultures and languages – such as Mandarin Chinese. Though she is deaf, she does not think it’s a barrier to travel the world.
Her travel buddy goes by Lilo (real name is Lieurene) because she used to look like the cartoon character from the movie: Lilo and Stitch before she donated her hair to Locks of Love in 2014. Though born deaf, Lilo’s parents didn’t find out until she was three. Growing up she was raised to believe that she was no different from anyone else besides not being able to hear and that she could do anything she want in life, including traveling!
So on to our first question,
Q1: When did you fall in love with travel?
Lilo: I was introduced to traveling by my mother who always took us out on vacations for the summer. I never thought I could travel on my own or with another travel buddy until 2014 when I finally had the courage to follow my dreams.
Stacey: My burning desire to explore has been there for as long I can remember. Growing up, I’ve been to Mexico countless times to visit family, but I could never really explore the way I wanted too. When I was 18 years old, my parents decided to do something a little different and travel to Hawaii for five days. The excitement I felt was indescribable. It was astonishing for me to see what else our world had to offer, and the people living in it. Five days wasn’t enough, that trip ultimately inspired me to travel the world.
Q2: What made you start Deafinitely Wanderlust?
We wanted to inspire the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to show them that it is possible to travel regardless of being deaf. We also wanted to spread awareness about the deaf culture to the hearing people. Many people have a lot of misconceptions about the deaf community, and we wanted to change that.
Q3: You mentioned that people have a lot of misconceptions about the deaf community, what are some of those misconceptions?
One of the most common misconceptions is that wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants will help us hear normally. This is not true. It can never fix or restore our hearing. It is not a cure for deaf people. It may help somewhat, depending on the severity, but even with these aids, we mainly rely on visuals.
Another common misconception is that if deaf people speak, then they are not deaf. Again, this is not true. Some deaf people may be able to speak because they took speech therapy or other practices but depending on their severity, most still depend on visuals.
Q4: What are some obstacles you face as deaf travelers and how do you overcome them?
Once, at an airport, we were discriminated against because the airport officials were unwilling to communicate with us by writing. They wanted Lilo to talk, because one of the staff somehow saw Lilo talking earlier. “Oh you can talk, you can talk!” a woman said. We insisted that we wanted to write, because it’s the best way to communicate, instead of struggling back and forth. The woman was upset and was telling Lilo to talk. I, stubbornly told her in gestures, that we sign and we can’t hear and wrote down that we are deaf and rely on writing. Though they weren’t happy about writing everything down, but it was necessary. We had to bring to their attention that they must learn how to accommodate deaf people.
Another obstacle we face is, lack of visual accessibility on certain modes of transportation, such as when we took the bus in Thailand. When the driver announced the location, we couldn’t hear it. We got off at the wrong stop quite a few times. However, we overcame that obstacle by gesturing directly to the bus driver, showing a screenshot photo of the location or translating it on an app and gesturing “here” (two index fingers of both hands pointing down to the floor).
You said it and we’ll admit it, us hearing people can be a bit unaware about deaf people’s needs sometimes.
Q5: What tips would you give the hearing community to better communicate with deaf people?
If you want the attention of a deaf person, be sure to lightly tap them on their shoulder or wave. There are various ways to communicate with a deaf person depending on their preferences so be sure to ask them. Hearing people can write, use gestures, speak slowly and clearly so that the deaf person can read your lips or learn sign language if possible even if it is just the ABC. Either way, it is really important to make eye contact with a deaf person because they rely on facial expressions and body language. If they choose to lip read, be sure to face them at all time and don’t cover your mouth or look away. One more important thing, remember to be patient and be sure to repeat certain things if they ask.
Q6: So if you avoid speaking, how do you communicate in a foreign country? Is sign language an international language?
We would mostly use gestures as our form of communication in a foreign country. We also take screenshot photos of different locations and write what we want to say on our phone when ordering food, or asking where a certain location is. We sometimes attempt to use our voice but strongly dislike it due to the misconception, that if we can talk we are no longer deaf.
Actually, many people think sign language is an international language when it is not. Every country has their own sign language. Just like there are many different spoken languages, there are many different sign languages. For example, we would not understand Thai Sign Language, because it is vastly different from American Sign Language.
Q7: What are three items that you can’t travel without, beside the basics of course?
We can’t travel without our phones. We need it to communicate with others through Google Translate, Google Maps and a notepad app to type what we need to say. The other two things are our cameras (GoPro and a Nikon camera) and eBooks!
Q8: What is the most adventures thing you have done while traveling?
Trekking and bathing with elephants in northern Thailand! We both loved that adventure. The weather was unpredictable though, and we didn’t prepare for the heavy rain. However, we kept on laughing even when we slipped and fell into the mud and the elephants stole our bananas from our handbags.
Q9: What is a question you wish interviewers would ask you, but never do? :D
“If you have a chance to become hearing, would you?”
Alright Stacey and Lilo you have your question, answer it? You have 30 secs… :D
This question is often asked within the deaf communities due to our different upbringings with our families and social environments. However, we noticed that many hearing people are afraid to ask this question because they feel that it could be offensive, which is understandable. Our answer is NO, we wouldn’t change a thing. We are proud to be deaf. We have accepted that it is a part of us. Plus we wouldn’t be where we are today and doing all the things we are doing. We wouldn’t have become great friends and we probably wouldn’t have traveled or met so many great people along our journey.
Awesome answer! Alright enough with the serious stuff, we have some silly questions to ask you! Mwhahaha….
Q10: We’ve heard that if you lose one sense that another one is amplified. Is that true for you guys and if so, what’s your super power, oh I mean super sense?
It is definitely true. However, it varies from deaf person to deaf person – for example, deaf-blind people’s super sense may be touch. Personally, for us, our super sense is vision. We rely a lot on visual inputs when reading lips, facial expressions, and body languages.
Q11: Okay, last one, if you had all the money in the world for 24 hours, where would you go and what would you do?
Stacey: I’m having a hard time choosing where I would go! It’s hard to pick one, but I would go to Africa (perhaps Kenya) and visit the Deaf Institute there to explore their culture.
Lilo: That’s really hard question to answer but knowing myself, I will make the most of it. I will probably end up making multiple stops for a chance to see the whole world as much as I can. If I can only pick one place, then it would be New Zealand. I would explore local cultures, hike up to the tallest mountain in the world and eat as much as I can.
Thank you Lilo and Stacey for taking the time to share your personal story of traveling while deaf and showing others that there is no excuse not to travel. I hope this interview inspires not just the deaf community to travel but everyone.
So remember guys, “It is possible for anyone to travel, if you really want to travel, then it is definitely possible. It is based on your own desire and priorities. Where there is a will, there is a way.”- Lilo and Stacey
So think twice the next time you think you are not “qualified” to travel. Everyone Travels!