In episode 6 of the podcast, I chat with Ed Rex, aka ‘The Deaf Traveller’, who shares his story about travelling around the world and the challenges he faced with some surreal stories and brilliant advice for anyone who wants to do the same.
Listen to the podcast or read the transcripts below:
- The Deaf Traveller website
- Rexy Adventures website
- The Deaf Traveller on Twitter
- The Deaf Traveller on Instagram
Ahmed: Yes welcome to episode six of The Hear Me Out! [CC] Podcast, with your host Ahmed Khalifa and with a great interview lined up with Ed Rex, who is also known as The Deaf Traveller.
And he wants to help inspire and support and give advice to other deaf people who want to travel, whether it’s a short trip or travel around the world, and also create awareness for other travellers as well as any deaf travellers that they may come across.
It’s a great interview, so many funny stories, so many scary stories as well, of what he has been through, but it’s such a great interview with Ed, so let’s get straight into it with my interview with Ed Rex.
So Ed, welcome to The Hear Me Out! [CC] Podcast, thank you for joining us.
Ed: Thank you for having me, I’m so excited to be here.
Ahmed : I love the enthusiasm, I absolutely love it. I mean there are so many things to talk about with you, because your blog, your content and your journey literally around the world is just really interesting, really exciting, there was no doubt in my mind I have to talk to you.
So let’s start from the beginning, let’s just start off with a general story about your background, especially around your hearing journey, the kind of challenges that you had to deal with growing up, and how did you overcome, can you just tell us the general story of your background?
Ed: Okay, well once upon a time.
Ahmed : Lovely. [both laugh]
Ed: So I was born in the 80s, so a lot of people don’t think I look like I was born in the 80s, but hey. [laughs]
And back at that time there was baby newborn screening possibly just started to see if babies had deafness or hearing loss, and somehow I managed to slip through the net, and I wasn’t tone deaf until I was about five years old, and by then I wasn’t really speaking, and I probably heard one word answers, but possibly caused by reacting to things to the adults and teachers and parents who may have thought he’s doing well, et cetera, but I could read, write, and I could go to school, et cetera.
But the thing was I just wasn’t speaking, now a lot of people were saying perhaps your child is deaf, so they took me to the hospital, and tested me, again and again and again, and I kept passing through all these hearing tests, I have no idea why I passed through all these hearing tests, so it wasn’t until I got to school at reception, where I had a good teacher who used to be a special needs teacher, and she immediately spotted that I’m deaf, and took me to an educational audiologist who said definitely Edward is deaf.
And in a sense it was such a relief, for my parents, because they started thinking maybe I’ve got a problem between my brain and my mouth, and they probably still think to this day that I’ve got a problem between my brain and my mouth, think before you speak.
But again it was also devastating for them, because they don’t know anyone else who is deaf, or had hearing loss, and they really struggled to find what support there could be for parents of deaf children, how to make sure that my life goes the way I want to go rather than being hindered by everything else in my life.
As a result of my diagnosis I went to a primary school that had a hearing-impaired unit, so I spent all my core lessons in the unit with teachers of the deaf, and then spend time with things like history, geography, et cetera in the mainstream classroom, and then I did really well and my 11+ exams, so I went to a mainstream school, my secondary school, and it had a teacher of the deaf to accompany me to a couple of lessons.
But by then, by year 10 I didn’t really need that support, because I was able to progress so well, and I think I learned how to cope well, and I think the personality that was instilled into me, and also the support that was available out there, and the independence as well which is a really important word for me, independence was also given to me very quickly, fairly early on, and so I was able to look after myself no matter what the situation arises.
And then I went to 6th form college and then I went to university, and did all the Freshers Week things…
AHMED: Partying, yep.
Ed: …joining societies, I had a great time there away from my parents as well, no disrespect to them, but I could be the man I wanted to be, and then immediately after leaving university I got a job, which I had to be out in the field by myself with just a mobile phone to call if there was an emergency, that did not phase me whatsoever.
And then I quit that, went to do a Masters in Newcastle University to do environmental consultancy, and did that, and that’s when the dreaded recession hit.
All the careers that were promised to me after I got my Masters were gone, and so I went to work for a water company for a couple of years.
But that’s when I started to think, you know what, I’m getting on to 25 now, I’m having a quarter life crisis, what do I need to do, hey ho, let’s book a round the world ticket, always I wanted to do.
And that was essentially really was one thing that held me back, my deafness held me back was to travel solo, because I felt like I needed to travel with a friend, because what if I get into a situation which I might not be comfortable with, it’s a whole new culture, it’s a whole new customs, a new society, et cetera, will I be able to understand the accents over there.
So that’s why I felt I needed someone to come with me, and I did search and search and search for a friend, but I don’t think they wanted to spend eight months with me just two of us, ’cause I’m extremely hyper, I can be very annoying, very happy all the time, but very much of a morning person as well, and so that’s when I decided I could go around the world then.
But, the only thing that really helped me on the way was having a cochlear implant, which I decided to have when I was 25, the reason is because the hearing in both of my ears went downhill dramatically, so I’ve got degenerative hearing loss, caused by a medical term called Pendred syndrome, it’s related to your thyroid.
So basically your ear hair cells depend on the supply of chemicals which your thyroid makes, but my thyroid does not make that, so my ear hair cells are dying up, so all my hearing in my right ear went kaput, so I decided to put a cochlear implant in there, so that would be great.
Ahmed: Wow, so many things, I think it’s a good thing that you made your own choice about a cochlear implant, because there are a lot of people out there who say you shouldn’t be forced on it, for example when hearing parents, they feel like they have to, force it on the child, and people sometimes argue about that.
But at 25 you made that decision by yourself, and I guess you’ve gone through all your life experiences, and to some extent you went mainstream the majority of your life until suddenly you realised okay maybe I can’t do mainstream any more.
And it’s interesting, because one thing that you said about your parents realised something was wrong, and it’s the same thing with me, I think my parents realised that, I can’t remember the story, but it was like my speech was slower than other people, other toddlers, fter I was born, and I was held back and whatever, and the same thing going to primary school and high school, I didn’t have what you said, you had someone with you, or a specific unit.
But I’ve had the speech therapist, or I’ve the additional tutoring, or have had the sit in the front of the exam hall, or sit in the front of a class and stuff like that, and it’s interesting that you said you’ve had these extra help which is good, because not a lot of people get that, I think it sounds like that helped you a lot along the way didn’t it?
Ed: Definitely, because I think it’s so invaluable to a specific child, because that teacher of the deaf will know that that child inside and out, and attend to their needs, and the problem nowadays in the UK we’ve got a shortage of teachers of the deaf.
And there’s a lot of kids out there who don’t actually see one, probably see one every six months, that is no way for a connection to be made and to understand the needs of that deaf child.
So it is really disheartening to hear that, because things should be improving all the time, and knowing that I was blessed with having a great teacher of the deaf, who saw me throughout primary school secondary school and sixth form college, it really helped me a lot, only to find out the children of today are not getting that, it makes me sad really, but again technology is improving all the time, maybe there are different ways to do it, but it’s just that human to human contact.
Ahmed: You can’t replace that, you can’t replace that with technology, there’s no way, I mean people talk about video calls and all these things, but I always say face to face you can’t replace that, even if we have one day hologram calling facility, like Princess Leia or something.
But face-to-face is the best way to communicate for everyone, not just for those who are deaf or hard of hearing or whatever, but you’re right it is quite sad, maybe things have changed since you were last in school, and high school and stuff like that, maybe technology helps.
But you’re right, it is a problem with the whole funding and facilities and all this kind of stuff, yeah it is a bit of a problem, but you moved forward, you did something, you decided you know what, I’m going to bite my tongue and travel around the world, and that must be quite exciting, but also scary, because never mind a deaf person doing that alone, even a hearing person doing that alone is something that will scare them a little bit.
So what was that moment, what was that moment when you thought, you know what, I need to do it, was it because of a job, was it because you feel that you have to prove something to yourself?
Ed: A bit of both actually, God you know me so well already. So I would say, the first one because I was in a job, and it was my third year in that job and everything was being repeated and repeated and repeated, I’m the one that needs to be distracted all the time, so if I see a squirrel going by, while I should be waiting for something I will go and chase that squirrel, so I was getting bored and bored, and also I’m very adventurous guy myself regardless, I like to push things to the limit, I hate people saying no to me, so if they say no to me then I will prove you wrong and go even further.
But travelling is something I’ve always enjoyed, because a lot of people in my family when travelling, so I heard the stories of how they enjoy travelling, I had an uncle who used to go travelling around Europe all the time, and I used to see his photos back in the 60s and 70s, et cetera, it just inspired me really.
So I’ve always said I wanted to go travelling, but as soon as I realised that no it’s now or never, because if I am gonna quit my job and go on adventures, this is the only time I can do it, because if I don’t get another job then that will be another five years, and by then I’ll get older and older and older and I’ll be like you know what I am quite happy being at home, but I thought no, this was gonna be my big adventure, so I booked that round the world ticket secretly.
Ahmed: Oh, how did I not know that, I figured it would be secretly, I don’t know why.
Ed: Since I booked it I was in negotiations with some really nice people there at the travel company I was working with, and all communicated by email, they knew my requirements, et cetera, and then I quit my job three months before I was due to go.
and next day then I told my family, and there was a lot of stunned faces, then a lot of questioning, have you got anything to help you on your way, et cetera, and my mantra is something that really really annoys mum to this day, is it will be fine.
I will be fine don’t worry.
Ahmed: Don’t worry about it.
Ed: Have you got your passport, don’t be running out of date, so what are you gonna do about it, no, it’ll be fine, so something like that, so she said she can’t believe how relaxed I am about things, so then I boarded on a flight from London to Bangkok in Thailand, and as soon as I landed, this was when I think I got really scared just for about half an hour, and the only reason being because, when we landed I forgot to write down the address where I was going to be staying in Bangkok in Thailand.
And I was like “right, I need to get access to a computer to find out what the address is”, and I couldn’t just walk up to a telephone, because the Thai accent is really, really hard to understand.
So basically I first started going you know what I don’t really care, because I went up to a store book seller in the airport or something, found someone who was on the computer, and I said “I’m really sorry, may I use computer for 15 minutes, I need to find out my address”, et cetera, this guy looked at me suspiciously, going who the hell are you, are you gonna be stealing my laptop or something.
I said no, I said “I can give you some money, oh wait, I haven’t withdrawn any money yet, so I can get you a coffee or something”.
So I did, and then found the address, and that’s when I went right, I think I’ll be okay.
Ahmed: And from then on you became a deaf traveller, after that you were fine?
Ed: Yeah I was fine, once along the way there are some highs and lows, but it was meant to be an eight-month trip, which then extended into five years.
Ahmed: That’s amazing, that’s incredible, here’s the thing as I said, you are known as The Deaf Traveller, you have documented your journey and started your blog as well, and I’ll link to that in the show notes, so people can access it.
But some of the journey that you’ve went on, like I said, it would be exciting for anyone let alone a deaf traveller, so of course there were challenges for you, what kind of challenges did you face as a deaf traveller and how did you overcome them?
Ed: The first one was always making sure your equipment is in working order, so that was the biggest thing for me, because you’ve got to be prepared for every single situation, and the reason is because, for example I can give you a really good example, I was on a speedboat in New Zealand, on Lake Tasman.
And I just got in and I did not hear the captain saying we’re going off now, normally I would take off my cochlear implant, and put it in my pocket or something, but we missed the dock at such speed that my cochlear implant suddenly got ripped off, and I though it landed into the water and was gonna be lost, et cetera.
But actually luckily it actually fell off and went under the seats in the speedboat, so that was great, so equipment for me is always firstly important, and also when you go to hot humid countries as well, it’s gonna fritz up your hearing aid or cochlear implant or something, I always made sure I had a hearing aid dryer box with me, made sure I had plenty of batteries as well.
Because some countries don’t stock these type of batteries that you have, be prepared to get your electronics to help charge up your cochlear implant or hearing aid inspected by the airport officials like it happened in Australia, so they literally unpacked everything out of my bag and said “what’s this?”, and I said “it’s the battery”. [They said] “for what? Don’t tell me you’re gonna be doing something bad in our country”, and I went, “no it’s just something to make me hear”.
So first thing equipment is important to me, second was attitude as well, because wherever you’re gonna go you’re gonna get somebody who’s gonna be discriminatory towards you, you’re gonna get somebody who’s gonna be inquisitive and want to know more.
You always get somebody who’s over-keen, to find out more on what you have, but it’s your own personal attitude as well, because they don’t know what you know, you have to educate them, in terms of maybe deaf awareness, how hearing aids work, et cetera, I found that’s really, really important.
Anybody who is travelling who is deaf, on the road it’s like they’ve got to make sure that you’ve got patience, they’re kind, if you’re gonna get somebody who’s in your face, et cetera, for example I remember an Australian guy telling me, “Can I catch it, can I catch deafness from you?“
Ed: Obviously I just went, what is the thing you’re telling me all about for, so I had to sit down and explain to him, et cetera, then I’ve had to do it first, I had to take out a hearing aid first, and I said, “Quick, it’s on the loose, it’s gonna get you.”
But I was good with that. And also third is about good clear communication, obviously there are gonna be some accents that you’re not gonna be able to understand, though my hearing loss is more loss on high frequency scale, and so, I would say South Asian accents or something is something I’m gonna really struggle with as well, because it’s very melodic.
And for me to contrast that the American or Australian, it’s very loud and almost flat in a sense, I’m able to understand more of that.
So for example I was in Thailand, and I was trying to find out where this boat was leaving, and I said oh, do you know where the boat is, et cetera, and I tried my best in my “pigeon Thai”, and she was like…she said something she kind of gestured one way, and I thought it must be down that way, thank you so much, I ran back that way, I couldn’t find the boat, I came back, and I said you said the boat was that way, am I right?
No, and she started pointing the other way, and I thought “what’s going on”, and then I went off that way, and it wasn’t until about five times later that she didn’t actually realise, she was actually telling us that she didn’t know where the boats were going, and she was telling us that, she was literally telling us I don’t know.
But I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but she was actually going please ask someone else, which is why she was pointing, so yeah, but you’ve got to have a laugh about it.
Ahmed: Of course.
Ed: So and I think that’s the key thing as well, just making sure you are confidently smiling, and you’re gonna get into any situation you’re gonna be involved in whether you like it or not.
And I think it’s something you shouldn’t get stressed about, embrace it, there’s always a lesson to be learned and everything. So yeah I think that’s the main key thing for me, just keeping a happy face.
Ahmed: Great advice, I like that, it’s great attitude, because you’re right, you’re going to face some challenges, and it’s not going to help if you panic or worry or run around like crazy, you have to sometimes laugh about it, embrace it, and try to solve the problem.
And a few things that you have mentioned, resonated with me, and one of them is about people asking questions, which for you and I and maybe a lot of listeners, sound baffling, it sounds crazy, and some of the comments that they made, because I’ve done a video about things that people have said to me which are unhelpful.
For example someone has said to me, “do you need Braille”, and I said “no I don’t need Braille”, and someone said to me “can you drive”, I’m shocked, how can you drive, why can’t I drive, I’m not driving with my ears, I’m using my feet and my hands.
And sometimes there are times where you’re like, but then there are other times you’re right, people are genuinely asking questions and you just want to help them out, which is sometimes a good thing, it’s about using that awareness.
And what you said as well about accents, makes a lot of sense, because for me I love languages. I can speak Spanish for example, and I can understand it quite well, but then it got more and more difficult for me to listen to them, not just trying to translate from Spanish to English.
But also to do the accent on top of it, it’s a challenge, so kind of maybe forever, I don’t know.
But for now I am put off learning spoken languages, and right now I’m focusing on BSL, but it’s a challenge, and you’re right, if you are in certain countries where if you speak the local language and they have a strong accent that’s hard, if they speak in English with their accent that’s also hard, so it’s a challenge that we all have to overcome, even more so for someone who is deaf.
But kudos to you, you’ve overcome it, you’ve overcome a flying speedboat and people pointing the wrong way, and you following in that direction.
And it’s really cool, but there must be something for you then that you realised you know what, I can’t do it, so would you say there are certain types of holidays that deaf people can’t do at all?
Ed: Can’t do?
Ahmed: Can’t do, you’re trying to prove everything you want to do, go to as many places as possible, but would you say that there are certain things that you know what, I’ve hit the barrier and I can’t do it.
Ed: Well like I said earlier, if you’re gonna say no to me that I’m gonna prove you wrong.
Ahmed: Yeah exactly.
Ed: But having said that, for me it would be diving holidays, but only for me personally, I can’t scuba dive because of my cochlear implant, [mumbles] but if I didn’t have that, then of course I would, if I just had my hearing aid that’s fine, because like I say divers communicate using sign language underwater.
Ahmed: I guess on the other hand, maybe you can compensate that in some way by snorkelling instead. I know it’s not the same as deep sea diving, but snorkelling is still in some way something you can do isn’t it?
Ed: Yeah, I can do it, I’ve done it, I’ve done it quite a few times, I snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef, and I found an eel as well which really excited me, but something I can’t do, I think, can’t is a word.
It’s not in your vocabulary is it? I don’t sympathise with at all.
Ahmed: No, I can tell.
Ed: But given the choice, what I would not like to do is going on at 18-30 holiday, going out clubbing where it’s absolutely about every single time go to a pool party, music playing real loud, I can’t really have a conversation with anyone.
If I’m looking for a date or something, that’s gonna be an awful time, really, really loud, I would choose not to go on that kind of holiday.
But I could if I want to, I mean all I have to do is take out my hearing aid and smile at people, that’s it, but no I don’t think there’s any holiday that deaf people can’t do at all.
Ahmed: There we go, and you’ve done the research, I like that as well.
Ed: Nudist holidays, I mean I’ve done that.
AHMED: Okay, I don’t think that’s really gonna stop anyone, let alone deaf people, it’s a different kind of challenge in a sense.
But you’re right, loud parties and stuff like that, which is kind of one of the reasons why I will not and do not go to these party holidays.
Because I know it’s not going to work for me, it’s not going to work at home, let alone in a foreign country, so I don’t know why people are trying to convince me to go.
So what was the best and the worst experience you’ve had in your deaf travelling?
Ed: Hmm, the worst one, I’ll start that first, we always like to end things on a really good note, the worst one is it’s a choice between two, I’ll go through them really, really quickly, the first one was actually on my second day of my eight month round the world trip.
So I was walking down a street in Bangkok as well, and somebody came up behind me, flicked my cochlear implant off my ear, and I saw it fly off into the crowd, it was almost like I could see it in slow motion happening, and it landed in the middle of the street.
I rushed forward to try and grab it, and I saw somebody’s foot actually step on to the external processor of my cochlear implant breaking it into different pieces.
And this is the moment when I went, “oh wow, I’m only two days into my eight month round the world trip, and I can’t even hear properly now.”
But at the same time, I was actually mugged as well, I mean not mugged, I just got pickpocketed as well, so my wallet went missing.
By the time I was reaching forward trying to save it, somebody stole things out of my pocket, et cetera, I properly really made sure everything was safe, so you’ve got to be very careful when you’re out there as well.
But luckily I got in contact with my manufacturers, and they sent a replacement, about three days later, and I really looked after it really well from that.
It didn’t go nowhere for a good few days afterwards, because I remember skipping the fireworks on the beach on one of the islands, and then it blew up where I was skipping.
And it wasn’t till I came back off it and I went round, and I was like “oh where is it on the side of my head…oh my God, I’ve lost it again.”
Ahmed: Oh no.
Ed: Then somebody came up to me and said “Is this yours?” I was like oh my god thank you very much, thank you, thank you.
So that was probably my worst one directly related to my cochlear implant.
But the absolute worst experience overall was when I got kidnapped.
Ed: Yeah, kidnapped.
Ed: I was halfway through my journey and I was really tired, the ferry was late, the kidnappers brought a group of us to a travel agency or something, and they said you need to pay this much money to get to this place.
And we said no, you’re telling us that it’s way more expensive than it should be, and that’s when they brought out the knives.
And they marched me to the ATM, withdrew £85 worth of money, even I had more money in there, and put me in a minibus to go round Thailand, and travelled to Thailand for about a good day.
I was delivering drugs at the same time, so they’re using me as a…
Ed: Yeah mule. So luckily they left the door unlocked one time, I went to run out with my bag and went to get to Malaysia as quick as possible, having said that Thailand is a beautiful place.
Ahmed: But apart from that…
Ed: You’ve just got to keep your wits about you that’s all. But that was probably my worst experience ever, but what really surprised me was the way I dealt with it, I could have started crying saying oh my god I’m deaf and I’m in a strange country, no idea what’s going on, et cetera.
But no, I just kind of assessed my options and went right, don’t stress, this is a situation you’re involved in, what kind of lesson can you learn from it.
I kept really calm and chilled out, et cetera, so when the police raid the van I’m gonna tell them the whole truth and everything, and let’s get through the situation, and they’ll sort that out, it’s fine, I was really, really surprised that I kept my cool in a sense.
So that’s that, my best one, was yes, was when I was in Uganda in Africa, and we went to a place in Uganda where they had never seen white people before, and one guy immediately.
One kid immediately came up to me and sat next to me, and all the rest didn’t, and he started talking to me in a sense. But obviously he was talking a different language I didn’t know, et cetera.
We started playing basketball together, et cetera, I thought “why is he getting a connection with me but not anybody else”…his grandma is deaf.
Ahmed: Wow, okay.
Ed: So he kept showing me his hand he said you need to come with me, but I put him off for a few days, because we were building a school, but then we had a free day, so I said “you can take me to see your grandma”, et cetera.
So I went to see a grandma, his grandma sorry, and then when I met her, she had a hearing aid, I was talking to her but she wasn’t responding, and I thought what’s going on, is her hearing aid working, so we started talking a bit more, then her daughter who knew very slight English, started talking to me.
And I realised what the problem was.
I ran back to my campsite, grabbed the load of batteries, and went over, and the first instance I put the battery in her hearing aid, she suddenly jumped up with delight and started crying, and saying she could hear again.
And apparently she spent two years without her hearing aid being checked. So I just said here’s a box of batteries which will last you a year.
I said “but go and see the hospital and they will give you some batteries”, et cetera, and she couldn’t stop thanking me, she kept bringing food, grandma cooking that’s great.
Ahmed: Who doesn’t like that, definitely.
Ed: And you know I wrote a letter, so she could keep in contact, I haven’t heard back yet, but that will always be the fondest memory for me, because I helped someone to be back in contact with her family as well and be involved in everything rather than feeling isolated which is the worst thing could happen to a deaf person at home.
Ahmed: I feel this is something a lot of deaf people can resonate with, they’re familiar with that, but that’s amazing, you’ve definitely gone from one extreme to another, so well done for choosing the worst experience, and then finish it on a high with your best.
But that’s amazing, that’s beautiful, I mean that was not something I expected.
But you’re right, it’s almost like a habit that you put in your hearing aid without thinking about it sometimes, and you realise you just put it in and get on with my day, not knowing whether it’s doing anything at all.
But she didn’t realise that, and unfortunately I can’t imagine in that part of the world, you’re not gonna have facilities that we take for granted over here in the UK, so that’s amazing, I love that, that’s a great story.
And that’s a great story for me to share with other people as well. “Yeah I know that guy who said he went to Uganda…”, that’s amazing.
Ed: You’re gonna make me famous now.
dAhmed: This is why I wanted to interview people like yourself, just this story is different, and not everyone has that kind of exact same story, so it’s great that you’re sharing that as well, because everyone has their own journey which is great.
And this leads me to my next question then, because this is where you put yourself in these situations, you created these opportunities to get you in Uganda and Bangkok and whatever.
So then what advice do you have for other deaf people who want to travel, and they are a bit hesitant, but what advice do you have for those people who want to travel?
Ed: My first advice, don’t be scared at all.
Get to a destination and you’ll be wondering why did I get scared about it at all, because you’re gonna have an absolutely amazing time, you’re gonna love it, and the amount of deaf people I spoke to, they said I don’t know why I put things off so long, et cetera, it’s so easy these days, to go travelling, the second is always make sure you have all the equipment you need that will see you throughout the journey.
So make sure you stock up on batteries, tubing, electronic chargers, et cetera, there will be a portion in your backpack that will be solely dedicated to your hearing aids and cochlear implant as well, so remember that you can’t stop it with cheap t-shirts or something.
So always make sure of that.
Third is go to an agency first, have a face-to-face conversation about what your plans are, don’t say yes straightaway, just get them to email you confirmation that you discussed, then you can always find out more items you can add in, so there’s tourists as well throughout the world, for deaf people, so if you want to meet other deaf people we can do that indeed, so check on the website, et cetera, and the fourth one is have a great time.
Ahmed: Of course.
Ed: You’re travelling, it should be one of the most relaxing experiences you have, and you’re on holiday, escape from the real world, et cetera.
And whether you want to lay on a sun lounger by the pool reading a book, that’s fantastic, or if you want to go on adventures, in the Sahara, that’s fantastic, or if you just want to go on a city break or a long weekend, the opportunities are there, and don’t feel frightened to do anything, because after you’ve done it a few times, just popping over to Japan, that’s easy.
Ed: Exactly yeah.
Ahmed: No it’s great, it’s great, I think everyone should follow advice like that, enjoy it, get prepared, get all the information you need, get your equipment if that’s relevant to you as well.
Of course you want to make sure that you’re comfortable and you’re safe, and you know what you’re doing, but you’re right, have fun.
Ed: And also pack underwear.
Ahmed: Well, that should be number one shouldn’t it really?
Ahmed: You have great advice including your underwear story as well, so I like that. Okay, well if we’re going to sort of round things up with the quick questions that I like to ask my guests.
So I want to ask after the whole deaf travelling experience, I want to get personal a little bit and talk about what was the worst thing people have said to you about your hearing or your deafness, or your cochlear implant, what’s the worst thing people have said to you?
Ed: “It doesn’t matter.”
Ahmed: Oh God, yes, yes.
Ed: It’s like when you’re having a conversation with anybody, and you just missed it, and you go sorry could you just repeat that again, “no it doesn’t matter.”
Ahmed: Yeah, that’s up there for me, definitely.
ED: It happens anywhere in the world
Ahmed: Any language.
Ed: Keep your cool, and just say look actually, it actually really irritates me because blah, blah, blah, you need to educate them of the fact, it might not be their fault or something, but keep educating them.
Ahmed: Yeah, just don’t say that by the way, don’t say, “it doesn’t matter.”
What’s the worst thing about being deaf?
Ed: That’s really hard, because if I really have to pull something out of the hat, it would be that I’ve yet to experience an earthquake, I’ve slept through many earthquakes because I didn’t hear it.
And I know earthquakes are natural disasters blah, blah, blah, but I think when I was in New Zealand there were loads of earthquakes happening, but really mini ones.
So things like the windows rattling, or there’s a really big storm going on outside, big lashes of rain, and I always wake up the next morning and somebody goes did you hear that last night, and I’m like, “no, no I was asleep, I didn’t hear anything at all” because I take out my hearing aid at night.
I’m like everyone is talking about this now and I feel left out.
That’s probably the worst thing about being deaf is, no nothing at all.
Ahmed: No that’s amazing, because I never would have thought you would say earthquake, again this just shows why I want to speak to different people.
Everyone has different experiences and I would never have thought you would say earthquake, maybe thunderstorm and the rain sounds and stuff like that.
There’s something soothing about it for those who know what it sounds like, they would know that it can be quite soothing and relaxing.
But earthquake? Wow, that’s a new one for me. That’s definitely a first.
Ahmed: On the other hand then, what is the best thing about being deaf?
Ed: Lip reading all sorts of information, whether the recipients like it or not.
So every single tour, it actually can be the worst thing, because the tour leaders, when they talk to other tour leaders, when they’re eating a snack or something and I’m glancing up, we’re gonna surprise them with this, oh I’ve lost my surprise, and then you know in a tour group.
So I was held in America for 10 days with a tour group, now the dynamic of that group, completely split into different cliques.
But I knew what each were talking about the other all the time, I became like everyone’s best friend, because I just knew what they wanted, et cetera, without telling anybody else this person said this.
You’re breaking the deaf code, but I just knew what they wanted, so I used to go, “I’ve got a scarf I don’t really need it because I’m too hot, but are you cold?”
And minutes before they said, “I’m really cold, I wish somebody would give me their scarf”, but “here’s the scarf”, and then “oh, you’re so amazing”.
So yeah, that’s probably the best thing you know, and also, you know it’s a term of peacocking as well, because people are interested, you can actually see them wanting to ask about you and your hearing aids and your cochlear implants and your deafness, they’re interested, and you can actually see them in their eyes.
But they’re scared to tell you because they don’t want to offend you, or maybe they think that you don’t want to talk about it or something, I welcome it.
So I make people laugh about me being deaf, I can make them feel emotional as well, sympathise or whatever, and it’s a great way to meet people as well, sit next to them, take out your cochlear implants and start cleaning and put them in front of you, and they’re going what the hell is that? So talk to them, yeah great.
Ahmed: Definitely, I think I agree with you on that last point, because this is why I’m doing the podcast and the videos or whatever, because I don’t mind talking about it.
Years ago I was a bit private, but now I don’t mind talking about it, and I encourage people to leave comments, or if you have questions just ask in the comments section, or send me a tweet or whatever.
And sometimes it’s nice to just help out with that information, just answer that question, so you’re right, it’s a great thing, I liked it, great stuff, good answer.
So then what advice do you have for hearing people when they are around deaf people
Ed: World travelling or in general?
Ahmed: Let’s stick to the travelling route then because this is quite a unique angle.
Ed: I would say be patient and expect to repeat yourself, because if we’re gonna be walking along a busy road, et cetera. I’ve got to watch where I’m going, and if someone is talking to me, then I might have to step over something while somebody is talking to me. But by then I’ve lost that conversation, and I’ll just keep asking you to repeat, et cetera.
Always keep a lookout, what’s happening. I’ve met so many friends through my travelling experiences, probably over a hundred people through my travelling, you meet them in all sorts of situations.
But once they began to travel with me they noticed something that I probably couldn’t hear, or couldn’t stand, maybe someone shouting at me across the street or something, I’m just blissfully going on my way ignoring everything.
And then my hearing friend would tap me on the shoulder and say look somebody shouting at you, et cetera, I go, that’s a guy I haven’t paid money to, let’s run. So things like that, but also be very understanding as well, particularly when going to loud environments as well, you’re gonna be going into a club, you’re going to go into a bar, whatever your gonna be in the world, so yeah just be a friend really, just like any friend, just be understanding.
Ahmed: That’s great advice, and I could not disagree with you, it’s all relevant point to a lot of people, you know you’re right, so then let’s finish it off.
Ed: Also wake me up, before the food starts getting given out on the plane, that is really important.
Ahmed: Well it’s a challenge on a plane isn’t it, people have conversation on the plane, I’m like, “how do you do that?”
And then the air stewardess or steward just talking casually, I’m like, “how do you have conversation like that over the noise?”.
And that’s why sometimes if I’m either sitting beside my wife she will tell me what they’re saying, or I sit on the aisle and then I got a better idea, but still not perfect, of “do you want chicken or beef” or whatever they’re gonna ask you.
Good point, you can’t miss the food on the plan. No way.
Ed: Exactly, I always keep sleeping through it because the tannoy comes on.
Ahmed: Of course yes.
Ed: Can’t hear it, and as I said if you’re gonna be fast asleep then they’re not gonna serve you, especially when you’re on the long haul flights.
And I remember a really good flight I went on and they had stickers, that you put on your blanket or your head or on the headstand that said when food is served please wake me up. It was completely a revelation to me.
Ahmed: That’s amazing!
Ed: I would ask for stickers, it was Emirates who did that, but other flights don’t do that now.
Ahmed: They should be in every single plane for everyone I think.
Ed: Exactly, exactly.
So let’s finish it all off then, and finish it in style as well.
What advice do you have for anyone who is living with a hearing impairment, hearing loss, a cochlear implant, deafness or whatever it is, what advice do you have for those people in making the most out of their life?
Ed: All very good questions, I would say, just be open about yourself. Don’t be shy about your deafness, don’t hide it away, because if you do that you’re denying a part of yourself, your deafness shapes who you are, regardless of whether you wanted it or not.
But you can be open about it, talk to your friends about it, talk to your family about it, and never let it push you back from anything you want to do, because there are so many things out there that you can do without realising it.
Because I mean look at loads of people now travelling with different disabilities, they can do whatever they want to do, why can’t we do what we want to do, if you want to go to see your child at their local play.
But you’re worried about not being able to hear your child, there’s equipment out there for you, there is induction loop system, there’s conversation listeners, et cetera.
If you want to go to the cinema but you don’t feel like you want to go to the cinema because you won’t understand it, there’s subtitle screenings.
So there’s always something out there for you, I know technology is getting better, the world is getting smaller, we’ve got more ways of communicating, like I said don’t deny your deafness, because it’s part of who you are.
And I think I can speak from experience actually, you said don’t hide it because it will deny you of who you are and your opportunities.
And I can speak from experience, because for many many years I’ve been pushing it aside, whether deliberately or subconsciously, and just kind of ignoring that I have a quote, issue, and part of me regrets that, because it means that you are denying yourself certain opportunities.
And since I’ve been a bit more open about it with YouTube videos and whatever, it actually opened up a whole new world for me, so I can definitely agree with that from my own experience, great advice, get advice.
Ed: Don’t be embarrassed, don’t be worried about something is gonna happen, you will get into that situation whether you like it or not, it’s how you cope with it that counts as well, I mean I’ve got a friend, went to a busy restaurant, said to his wife, I love you, but his wife has got hearing loss, she misheard him and thought he said I love stew.
[Ahmed & Ed laughs]
Ahmed: Oh great.
Ed: And it was an hilarious situation, they love each other as well, and they talk about it as well, and it’s just the most natural thing to talk about, so don’t worry about it whatsoever, so be happy.
Ahmed: Love it, love it, and what a way to end it, so many stories and great advice and words of wisdom, and important information like don’t forget your underwear, I mean there are so many important advice in there, so thank you Ed I really appreciate it, it’s been great, really, really good, so if people want to connect with you and find you, where is the best place for them to do that?
Ed: Well I have two websites, so one is, which I’ve started many many years ago called Rexy Adventures, it chronicles all the adventures I’ve been taking, with some alluding to my deafness.
But now I’ve now got a specific deaf travelling website called The Deaf Traveller, which I will be putting more and more content on their about all the countries I’ve been to visit, and how it related to my deafness.
Ahmed: Oh God, everywhere.
Ed: I’m open for business.
Ahmed: And I’ll make sure I put the relevant link in the show notes so people can access it, but again thank you for taking time for sharing the stories, and I appreciate it, thank you very much.
Ed: Thank you for having me
Ahmed: Now it wasn’t that a great interview? Thank you Ed again for being on the show, I really appreciate you sharing your story, and of course you can all connect with Ed, all the links to his website and social media is in the show notes, and the transcript is in the show notes as well.
And of course I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes, it would mean the world to me, until next time I will speak to you soon.
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