Tony Giles, the blind English traveler, with a crocodile Tony Giles, the blind English traveler, with a crocodile Yep, a real crocodile. (Photo: Tony Giles)

This blind and deaf backpacker is traveling the world

Tony Giles journeyed from the U.S. to Zambia to Israel. Alone.

When Tony Giles was 9 months old, doctors discovered that he had a rare disorder that made him very sensitive to light.

"I spent my first few years of life living in darkness whenever possible," the British traveler wrote on his website. Eventually, he got dark sunglasses, and ventured outside.

"I played in the street with my non-disabled friends, learning to listen for traffic," Giles continued. "My street was a cul-de-sac and I knew the traffic came from one direction."

His vision gradually got worse. Light hurt him more and more; it became so bad that he ended up blind. And then his hearing went – he's 80 percent deaf. (Luckily, he has some pretty great hearing aids and can talk to people.)

Tony Giles, the blind English traveler, makes his way through a Jerusalem marketplace. Tony Giles, the blind English traveler, makes his way through a Jerusalem marketplace. (Photo: Tony Giles)

You might think a deaf and blind man would live a quiet life, but Giles instead decided to travel the world. Alone.

The first city he went to by himself was New Orleans. "I didn't know where I was going. I was blind, and I just froze," Giles said in a documentary. "I took a couple of deep breaths and said to myself, 'Tony, this is what you want. If you don't want it, go home.' More deep breaths. Turn left. Walk down the street, and the rest is history."

He's 39 now and has journeyed to more than 100 countries around the globe.

Giles at the Tórshavn harbor in Faroe Islands between Norway and Iceland. Giles at the Tórshavn harbor in Faroe Islands between Norway and Iceland. (Photo: Tony Giles)

"I travel alone because it's the biggest challenge I can get," he said. He once went whitewater rafting in Zambia and nearly drowned, an adventure he called "a frightening, but thrilling experience."

Traveling alone also lets him meet more people. He needs a lot of help to catch buses and find places, so he relies on friendly strangers to take him from place to place. He still gets lost a lot.

"If I travel with someone, particularly someone sighted, they would be doing all the work," he continued. "I wouldn't get to touch as many things and find as many things as I do by myself."

He just visited Israel a couple weeks ago, where he particularly enjoyed the smells and atmosphere of an open air market in Jerusalem. Giles wants to eventually visit every country in the world.

Tony with a saleswoman at her market stall selling craft items in Curaçao. Tony with a saleswoman at her market stall selling craft items in Curaçao. (Photo: Facebook)

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