Not being able to see doesn’t stop me from seeing the world. Every day that I wake up presents an opportunity to learn, grow, and explore. When I was in my early teen years, and just learning about my vision loss and how I would eventually go completely blind, I had a good friend of mine tell me, “You just cannot be afraid to get lost.” I took that to heart. I have gotten lost on many occasions, but met some great people and seen some great places in the process. Here is a list of the places I’ve been, still growing, and some fun stories to go with…
Far off Places: 14 Different Countries
Beaches and temples, mountains and cathedrals, monuments and modern marvels, I’ve experienced so much of it. This list includes the places that I have competed and seen sights. I have flown through so many more countries and cities, Frankfurt Germany, Paris France, Warsaw Poland, Rome Italy, but having only seen the airport, I don’t really count those as having visited the country. I’ve partaken in high society banquets, and conversely had the poor and homeless of many nations beg for food. It is a wide world, and would take many life times to fully experience. I’ve seen McDonald’s in just about every country I’ve visited, but seen cultural reflections in the menu, once visiting a McDonald’s in Slovenia that that served beer and wings. It simultaneously is a beautiful and ugly world, exciting and boring, unique and the same from one border to the other…and totally worth experiencing.
The United States – See further down for this gem of a nation and what I have found…
- Athens – Greece – Competing in the 2004 Paralympic Games, I also was able to see the city, and visit some of the ancient sights like the Acropolis, and see some of the work that was being done there. Lots of Marble buildings, and great people.
- Brazil – Rio De Janeiro and São Paulo – Having visited Brazil multiple times, I have had the blessing to have competed against their passionate team, and visited several monuments, the white sand beaches, Sugar Loaf Mountain, and Christ the Redeemer. We were at the statue of Christ when Green peace had a few people climb onto the statue and hang a banner on it in protest, check it out here.
- Canada – Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver, Branford – Some gorgeous country and some amazing cities. I love the ingenuity of living in the colder climate, one university campus I experienced had tunnels running under every building, connecting them and allowing travel from building to building during heavy winter conditions.
- China – Beijing – So many unique experiences, walking along the great wall, visiting the Forbidden City, standing in Tiananmen Square. This was one of the most intriguing cultures, very driven and proper, and a great place to visit. This was the first time I had ever eaten chicken feet and fried noodles for breakfast…and admittedly, the last time.
- Denmark – Amsterdam – Flying into Amsterdam, we took a Ferry Boat from here to Sweden for a tournament. I didn’t experience much of this place, but it’s free form of living is known worldwide…not necessarily my cup of tea, but fun to visit anyway.
- England – London, Sheffield – Staying in London in an old college dorm at the Royal Holloway University for a tournament was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had. Large antique furniture, feather down pillows, large open hallways…and an epic pillow fight that might have left me with a concussion, coupled with some really great fish and chip dinners and a talking coke machine that scared the daylights out of me one night, came together to make this a fantastic experience. Don’t tell my coaches about the fight though…not sure that would go over well.
- Finland – Espoo – Ever wonders what reindeer meat tastes like? Me neither, but I got a chance to find out. Along with bear sausage and a few other odd delicacies. Walking through Nuuksio National Parkk and seeing a place like Helsinki which is frozen over for a large portion of the year really makes me appreciate the variety of life. Living in hot flat Florida, the mountains and boulders of a colder climate were a treat.
- Lithuania – Trakai and Vilnius – Of all the places that I have been, Lithuania offered so many different experiences. This was the one place where we toured a Castle, which was the seat of power in Lithuania for hundreds of years, and also the location of a little known but epic cane sword fight between me and another teammate of mine…I of course won. We also experienced modern night life, and a once in a lifetime experience as we happened to be in the capitol when the country celebrated 1000 years of being a nation. Finally, seeing the history of the Soviet invasion, barricades with the words “I spit on your tanks Gorbi” written on the wall in Lithuanian. A proud people with a rich culture, and some crazy sunrise and set times. In the summer the sun can set as late as 10:00pm and rise as early as 5:00am…makes for a short night for our photophobic athletes.
- Mexico – Guadalajara – Not much to say for this one, we didn’t venture very far outside of the village, and when we did, we had an armed escort. Not sure if we were really in that much danger, but figured it was better safe than sorry. The Athletes village however was great, the food was delicious, and we have lots of fond memories of that trip, including back flipping into the pool, translating a lot of Spanish, playing Euchre, and patching up injuries, not all of them from competition.
- Slovenia – Izola – It could be that this place is super awesome, and some good memories came out of this trip as we flew into Italy and drove to Slovenia, but I got super sick at this tournament with an ear infection and some kind of stomach virus. Most of our team was injured or sick from a very recent tournament, and we took nearly dead last in this competition. Other than that…entire great trip.[Symbol]
- Spain – Madrid, Fuer Labrata – So many cool things that happened in Spain, musicians and street performers, museums and local Laundromats, we had some good time to experience the city of Madrid. This place is interesting because the local Lottery is owned by the blind sports organization ONCE. So they are well funded, and there are a lot of neat features to this city, like cane tracks, which are guides for people who are visually impaired.
- Sweden – Malmo – We had a chance to tour the city with the sweetish Goalball team, and found great history and a fun culture. We watched some beach volleyball, and walked some old cobblestone streets, which are pretty hard on a cane. 😉
- Turkey – Antalya My first and last experience with swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, this city is situated between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean coast. The Hotel that we stayed at…one of the most complicated I have ever stayed in, boasted that one could downhill ski and swim in the ocean all in one day. I really enjoyed this place and the food was amazing.
Within The Continental US: 24 States
Some people dream of those far off exotic places listed above, and I understand why, I’ve been to some of them. I had a conversation with an employee from our local grocery store the other day, a young kid who was amazed by the many far off places I’ve been, and expressed how he wished to travel like that when he can afford it. I told him that there are some great things to experience, but that you don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to see some really cool things. He brightened a little and agreed with me, and while we collected the rest of my grocery list, we talked about some of the closer places I have seen…
Michigan – The home land. I won’t bore you with the full list of cities I have been in around my home state of Michigan, but suffice it to say the bottom half of the state I have well covered. Someday I’m hoping to get into the Upper Peninsula, I hear it is beautiful country.
- Alabama – Lots of trips to Birmingham and to the Lakeshore Foundation for training with the USA Men’s Goalball Team.
- California – To be fair, I took a trip with my family to this state when I was very young, and haven’t gotten the chance to get back out there in my adult years, definitely on my to do list.
- Colorado – I have traveled to Colorado Springs more times than I can count for the Olympic Training Center and for tournaments…the altitude really does make a difference. [Symbol]
- Delaware – …hi, I’m in Delaware…
- Florida – Now my state of residence, I’ve been in and around Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Panama City, Orlando, and several other places. Very Touristy in some areas, but a great variety of cultures and experiences, from open farm lands to big city.
- Georgia – Flown through Atlanta more times than I can count, and had a tournament in Smyrna, GA.
- Illinois – Many flights and train rides into and out of Chicago
- Indiana – Numerous trips to Fort Wayne, the location of our Goalball Center of Excellence at Turn Stone.
- Iowa – Aims was a host city for our National Championships one year…a whole bunch of hotels surrounded by corn fields…I think they are expecting more growth. [Symbol]
- Maine – My family took a bus from Portland Maine to Casco to visit Camp Sunshine several times. This is a wonderful camp for children with life-threatening illness.
- Maryland – Ventured into Baltimore when visiting the White House after the Paralympics
- Massachusetts – Toured around Boston with my family and saw some of the great history there on the Liberty Trail.
- New Jersey – One main city…Cherryhill, the location of the Eastern Regional Tournament.
- New York – I have flown through a lot, JFK especially, but also took many trips from Albany up to Lake Placid New York to the Olympic Training Center. Many people when they think New York, mistakenly think big city. The northern parts of this state are quite rugged, and we often lost cellphone coverage on the twisting roads through the northern Appalachians.
- Ohio – Cedar Point! Several trips with family to this great theme park, and some with friends, both sighted and blind. There roller coasters are awesome…except when your wife is pregnant and doesn’t know it, story for another time though 😉
- Oregon – Competed in a tournament in Portland.
- Pennsylvania – Lots of drive through’s, and a few tournaments in DuBois.
- South Carolina – Some tournaments in Spartanburg and one tournament at Fort Jackson, such a fun time.
- Texas – spent time in Dallas and Houston for different events. I visited Dallas for the national convention of the National Federation of the Blind. I spent time in Houston for processing for the Paralympic Games.
- Utah – Mostly in the Salt Lake City area, touring the Mormon temple and competing in a few different tournaments they hosted. A lesson learned is to never pass up on the opportunity to swim in the Great Salt Lake…I had the chance and didn’t take it, now I have to get back there and try someday.
- Washington – Spent a weekend in Vancouver at a tournament
- Washington D.C. – Multiple trips to the White House and tours around the historical sights…I really like the Washington Monument.
- West Virginia – White water rafting and horseback riding, beautiful country.