My travel life: Nicholas Gleeson, blind traveller

THE TRAVELLER

Nicholas Gleeson, winner of the Australian Geographic Spirit of Adventure Award 2019, disability advocate and consultant. Blind since the age of seven, Nick became a marathon runner, cricketer and athlete and adventurer, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp, crossing salt lakes and the Simpson Desert on foot.

Number of countries visited

12

My worst passport mishap was

 

arriving at Sydney International Airport, I walked into the terminal using my white cane to indicate I was blind. Approaching the reservation desk, I confidently handed over my passport. The staff member commented, "You don't look like a Heather". I had picked up my wife's passport by mistake.

I got my first passport when I was

13 and it felt like one of those old bankbooks. So excited, I headed off to Denpasar and Singapore with my brother who is also blind, and another blind man with a cook from the blind school. Sauntering along Denpasar's rough roads, I could hear the sounds of Bahasa and chickens squawking.

My favourite destination in the world is

Nepal. It has such strong spirituality and is a place that offers all the wonderful sensory experiences I could ever ask for in a destination. The people, the food and the animals are all my favourite, and of course, the thousands of mountains peaks touch my soul.

My last travel destination was

Kahurangi National Park, a remote coastal area on New Zealand's South Island. My companions were my friend and experienced guide, Sarah, and my wonderful eight-year-old seeing eye dog, Unity. Setting off to the isolated keeper's hut, we were faced with the challenge of crossing four tidal and potentially rain-impacted rivers. Sarah swam Unity across the rivers and tied us together when we crossed the deeper and more rapidly flowing ones.

My first trip after the covid-19 crisis will be

Fiji, for a relaxing holiday. i'm really looking forward to the sand, sun and water. I love the thought of supporting our region through spending money in a country that's nearby. I'd love to relax and be pampered, while supporting those who rely on tourism for employment.

I will always love to travel because

I love to travel to do new things, be it to compete in an event, to discover something new or to experience nature. I have walked in deserts, climbed mountains, run marathons and ultramarathons all over the world and loved it.

My travel philosophy is

to be clear about the reasons why you are travelling and be absolutely certain that you are travelling with people who make you feel comfortable.

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The one travel mistake I always make is

I arrive at the airport too early, smiling.

The one thing I really do get right when I travel is

confirming the arrangements prior to departure. It makes me feel confident that my travelling companion and I will get on. Once on the road, I make sure we have space and can do our own thing if need be.

The famous traveller I most admire is

the Dalai Lama who is universally accepted as a man of peace. He radiates calm wherever he goes. I'd like to learn about life and beyond from him.

The one famous person I'd like to travel with is

[US photographer] Annie Leibovitz. I admire her creative mind and ability to capture her precious images in time.

Hotels are

a challenge as they represent a new environment for me to learn. However, they often provide an opportunity for relaxing on my own and chilling out.

I've always wanted to go to

Antarctica. For many years, I tried to find sponsorship to undertake a crossing over the continent right through to the South Pole. I want to feel the isolation, cold and sense the continent's spirituality.

I've Never Wanted To Go To

Texas. Too many guns and the violence I perceive happening there is off-putting.

The one book that takes me travelling without leaving the room is

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. This book transports me to England, and back into the 19th Century. I love his descriptive narrative and the connection he illustrates between Australia and England.

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