1. What is your profession and why did you decide to choose this field?
I’m a man of many hats! First and foremost, though, I’m the founder and managing director of Traveleyes, an award-winning tour operator specializing in bringing blind, sighted, and vision impaired travellers all over the world (and we taking them back as well!). I founded Traveleyes in 2004 after facing rejection from mainstream travel companies, who told me that I needed to bring a carer if I was to travel abroad. I knew I didn’t need a carer, but I also saw that this was a case in which, if I wanted something that didn’t exist, I’d have to build it myself. More than 15 years and a hundred destinations later, Traveleyes is still going strong, as we were even fortunate enough to win the Best Assisted/Accessible Holiday Company in the 2019 British Travel Awards!
Thanks to Traveleyes’ success, I’ve also been lucky enough to work with television companies like the BBC and Channel 4 to present a few travel documentaries. This actually means a lot to me – I’m always keen to help change the public’s perceptions on blind and visually impaired people, and all the crazy stuff I get up to in these shows offers me the perfect opportunity to try and do just that!
2. What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
The most rewarding thing about what I do is getting to meet all of our incredible travellers, blind and sighted. The number one reason that our holidays work so well is that our travellers are open to being lead by one another into new things, and to being encouraged by each other to push their own boundaries and get outside of their comfort zone. Most importantly, however, the holidays work because our travellers are open to supporting one another.
After all, for a lot of them our holidays are very new experiences- whether that’s because they’ve never guided a blind person before or because they haven’t been on holiday since losing their sight - so at any one time on a Traveleyes trip, someone is always helping someone else do something new. And this is why our travellers are one of my greatest sources of inspiration, as well; they’re constantly showing each other how much is really possible if you’re open to it!
3. What is your advice to all the other VIP around the world who don’t believe they can be successful in the area of their interest because of their disability?
My number one piece of advice to all other VIPs around the world is to try, as much as you can, to reject the preconceptions that other people have about what you can and can’t do. Oftentimes we’re lead to believe that, because people have our best interests at heart, they know for certain what’s best for us. I’m living proof that that’s not always true! I always say that independence is the most important thing a person can have, and the best way to get that is to ensure that the decisions you’re making are your own. Respect the people around you – your parents and your friends – but remember that the final call should rest with you.