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What does luxury travel mean to you?
By Tarryn Tomlinson

A blind woman, Lois-Strachan, leaning on a wooden chair, smiling towards the camera. She has long brown hair, is wearing a black sweater and denim jeans, and has a warm, friendly expression. The background is a solid dark blue, providing a nice contrast with the subject, which gives the portrait a classic and clean appearance.

South African travel podcaster, Lois Strachan, offers her view

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From a stretch limo airport pickup in New York to being taken on a private museum tour in Greece, Lois Strachan and I unpacked what luxury travel means to us and some of the surprising benefits that come when travelling as a person with a disability. 

When Lois was six years old, she proudly proclaimed to her parents that one day she would go to every country and meet every person. A rather ambitious goal for a six year old. She had a curious and adventurous spirit, so when she became blind at the age of 21, it may have seemed to others that her dreams would never come true.

However, Lois thought differently. She realized that she had a choice, she could let her blindness determine the rest of her life, or she could go out and see what was still possible for a blind woman in a sighted world.

Lois is an author, speaker, disability advocate, travel writer, podcaster and sometimes rock musician. She has been to four continents and has visited 21 countries. Lois Strachan has proved that, indeed, a lot is possible for a blind woman in a sighted world.

I wanted to get a sense of who Lois is and so I asked her to tell me more about herself. She said, “I think if we’re talking about who I am fundamentally, I am a person who is adventurous, despite having a very reserved kind of brain and childhood. Travel is the one area that I have always loved, since I was about six years old. I said to my parents that I wanted to go everywhere in the world and meet everyone.” She chuckles and says, “I was obviously quite a pretentious child as well.”

Watching her and having spoken to her on many occasions, I can assure you that Lois doesn’t have a pretentious bone left in her body. I imagined that for such a curious child, however, becoming blind must have felt like an incredible loss.

Lois assured me that, “When I became blind, the only thing that changed for me were the tools and the techniques that I used. I can do everything as a blind person that I used to do as a sighted person. I am a person who loves reading and listening to music. I love spending time with my friends and family. I’m curious about the world and I’m curious about different lived experiences, different cultures.”

Persons with disabilities are diverse. We have different tastes and aspirations. I wanted to know Lois’ take on luxury travel, so asked what luxury travel means to her. After a pause she said, “Such a tough question because every travel experience offers something different. I don’t really know because for me all travel is luxurious but it’s not all high end.”

“For me,” I told Lois, “luxury travel is being able to afford certain comforts that make your journey extra special and having it done by people who make an effort to see you.” I began to think about why I love going to the restaurants and bars of high end hotels. I chuckled and continued, “When people rush to get my wheelchair from the boot. I always feel like my disability makes me a V.I.P.”

Lois interjected, “Especially since V.I.P also stands for visually impaired person.” We both burst out laughing at the irony of it all. When we eventually composed ourselves, I explained that services which cater to V.I.P guests are often very much the same types of services needed for guests with disabilities: valet parking attendants to give you a hand, bigger rooms, better lighting, etc.

This reference sparked something within Lois and she said, “Well, yes! I’ve had surprising luxury experiences. I was once in New York, booked a taxi but a stretch limo pulled up. The driver had to drop off another passenger and decided to take us.” She continued, “I’ve had a number of experiences when travelling that other people don’t have access to and those should also be taken into the thought of luxury travel. Something special, something different that not everyone can do.”

She explained how, when arriving at a museum in Athens, she was told that the tour was very visual and would not be suitable for her. The tour guide then took her on a special tour to a part of the museum where she could touch items that were not on public display. “I consider that luxury travel as well,” Lois said, “Because it’s something special, something that is only offered to a few people.”

I think back to my own life and all the special experiences I got as a result of having a disability and feel truly blessed. Though life is not always easy, it is the little comforts and considerations that can turn any experience into a luxurious one. 

Hear more stories of travels on Lois’ podcast, A Different Way of Seeing.

Buy her book on Amazon A DIFFERENT WAY OF SEEING: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an “Ordinary” life in an Extraordinary Way (2nd edition)

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