traveling abroad with vision loss nmo

The Great Big World and How I Navigate It

Last updated: June 2023

After my last eye attack from NMO and because of my vision loss, I made an oath to myself that I wanted to see the world before I lost more of my vision. It's a hearty order that feels pretty unreal, but I want to do my best.

This year, I received two travel opportunities. One of them has terrified some, and the other, no one knows about yet.

When opportunity knocks...

My best friend (and roommate) has the chance to go to Germany this year - and she invited me! I'm also planning another cruise early next year. The cruise is something I know I can manage, but Germany is another story.

I have never traveled overseas. And I didn’t expect Germany to be my first time, but I’ll take it. The biggest issue that some of my loved ones have brought up is, “What are you going to do, blind boy?”

Vision loss from NMO... It can't stop me!

I get it, I'm visually impaired and going to a whole new country that I honestly don’t know too much about. I’ll be with my best friend for some of the time, but while she works, I’ll be on my own. I understand everyone’s concerns and have my own, but this is a rare chance to do what I want to do.

The trip would be for a week, and I’d be on my own for about three days. Really, that isn’t too bad. I’d get to spend my mornings and afternoons exploring on my own.

Deep down, it terrifies me, but overall, I’m a little kid jumping up and down with anticipation. This is my chance to really push myself to a whole new limit.

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So, when it comes to traveling and exploring with vision loss, I’d like to give some helpful tips that I use whenever I am out on my own.

Travel tip #1: Get familiar with the home base

The first thing I do is to examine my starting place, such as a hotel. I will become familiar with the area and look at certain things like doorways, art or statues. I'll note where the front desk is, where I need to go to get to the room and any other little things that I may not be able to make out.

Travel tip #2: Know where you're going

Second, when I leave, I like to set up my GPS on my phone. Especially if I’m walking, I will make sure to save the address to where I’m going. I use the GPS map to show any areas I need to look for that are nearby where I’m going. Just because I can’t see clearly doesn’t mean I can’t figure out more prominent areas.

Pictures help when you're trying to navigate with NMO vision loss

Also, side note, pictures, and screenshots can be your friend. Zooming in on pictures is a massive help if you have vision issues from NMO.

Travel tip #3: Talk to others!

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I like to go into places and chat with people working that don’t seem to be that busy. Sometimes, sparking a conversation can ultimately lead to asking for help. Most times, I feel okay with addressing my vision issues. I've had great success meeting some fantastic people who have helped me.

NMO and my vision loss won't stop me from living my life!

Overall, knowing your surroundings to the best of your ability is best. I’ve done this many times at home or when I'm away. Usually I'm around my friend, who helps me out. Be safe and have fun!

Sometimes, I just enjoy going off on my own and seeing where I end up. It’s empowering in a way to do it on my own. I prove to myself that NMO can’t take away every freedom I have.

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