For our People of the World this week, meet Lilo and Stacey. When I first stumbled upon their blog Deafinitely Wanderlust and read about their story, I was immediately impressed by their travels. So many people let little things hinder them from traveling, yet here they were, two deaf travelers who refused to make their disability an excuse from pursuing their dreams. Read about their story and some of the difficulties that they encounter during their travels.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves?
I (Stacey) became Deaf at the age of two after recurrent ear infections. I will not let it hinder me nor view being Deaf as an unfortunate incident. Instead, I proudly accepted as who I am and wouldn’t give anything in the world to change that. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and two minors (human sexuality and family studies; one topic was just not enough), I did not want to live the typical American dream – graduate, get a career, get married, have children and die. I felt something was missing and wanted to continue to learn more – not just through school and work. I knew I would feel trapped if I did not take the chance to explore the world- something that I have been wanting since I was young.
I (Lilo) was born profoundly Deaf, but it wasn’t until I was three years old when my parents first found out. Since then, I grew up wearing hearing aids and learning how to speak orally. Finally at the age of 13, when I went to middle school (where I also met Stacey and became friends), I learned American Sign Language. I fell in love with ASL, because it opened up a whole new world of communication for me other than trying to rely on my ears. I knew there was so much more to this world that I have not yet experienced, so it made me yearn for more. That’s when I learned that me being Deaf should not stop me from doing anything I want to do in life. Thus, my desire to travel and explore the unknown grew.
What are some of the challenges of traveling with your disability?
One of the challenges of traveling is the lack of accessibility to visual services. We relay with our eyes, not our ears. When there is no visual announcement of what stop it is when transporting, or when to board, then we would have to ask others for help. Another challenge is that when locals or other people notice we’re Deaf, they would try to take advantage of us. For example, we had to take a tuk tuk in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the driver charged more than he should have when Stacey originally heard wrong. Lilo caught him saying, “250 bahts,” but Stacey misunderstood and thought he said 350 baht. “350?” Stacey asked him. An expression of feeling surprised was written on his face and even resisted a smile, he nodded eagerly. Lilo corrected Stacey, telling her that he was lying. A situation like this to take advantage of us did not only happened once but countless times. (READ: Why Traveling Isn’t for Everyone)
Have you experienced any discrimination or disadvantages while traveling?
Oh yes! I couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve experienced many kinds of discrimination throughout our travel! However, one of the worst experiences was when we were in Singapore. We were getting ready to check in for boarding the plane to Thailand. We asked for the attendant to please communicate with us through writing, but he refused. We understood that he didn’t know English, the staff next to him who knew English refused to write as well. One of the attendants pointed at Lilo and said, “You CAN talk. You CAN. I saw you talking earlier,” she said it in English. We were both so offended and continued to tell them that they have to write. They need to learn to accommodate Deaf people. The thing is: even if some Deaf people can talk, we still cannot hear and understand everything.
What is the biggest lesson that traveling has taught you?
It taught us that everyone has their own story. As we go through our travels, it really amazed us how each person can make an impact on our lives. It is nothing like what the media portrayed, which we know causes fear in many people to think that it is dangerous to travel. We came across so many people that were kind and would go out of their way to help us. The world really isn’t such a bad place. We also learned to not give into ethnocentrism. As we explored, we realized that no matter how different the culture it is, there’s no right way or the wrong way. For example, in Korea’s culture, they count age of birth at 1 year old, whereas in American culture, the baby is considered as 0 year old the day it was born. At first, we found that odd and felt that was wrong – but later, we “slapped” ourselves (haha) as we realized that there are many different ways to view things. (READ: 5 Things I Learned from Traveling)
What inspires you to travel? What do you love most about traveling?
Growing up, I (Lilo) always appreciated when my mom always made the time for us to go on vacations every summer. I got to visit Canada, Mexico and Hawaii and I absolutely love it. I just loved going out and explore the world whenever I could. But I knew that it wasn’t enough. I’ve always dreamed of visiting other countries and wanting to experience different cultures. Finally, I just did it. Thanks to the support of my travel buddy who gave me that extra push since she shared the same dream with me. What I love about traveling is the feeling of freedom and letting my Deafness nor fears hold me back. I love meeting new people and visiting new places.
Throughout the years, I (Stacey) often go to Mexico to visit my family in a small town. Coming from a small town, I always wanted to explore beyond my family’s hometown in Mexico, because I was in awe of how big this world is. However while growing up, we always went to the same small town every time — not giving me the chance to explore more of Mexico, or even anywhere else. Finally, one day my family decided to do something different, and we went to Hawaii when I turned 18. I couldn’t believe my eyes at how many people were there and how beautiful the world can be; A whole new experience perked my wanderlust even more stronger. I yearned more and more to explore and constantly found myself wondering, what else is there? However, it wasn’t until years later when I finally decided to do it. Just last spring, I realized that I could no longer just sit around and dream about it. When I finally traveled, I didn’t regret it – even if I faced many obstacles as a Deaf person, I love how traveling gives me the opportunity to meet different people and learn so many different things. (READ: What the Hell does Adventure mean?)
Why did you guys start your blog? What inspired you to do so?
During our traveling, we have met so many people on the road, and many of them were surprised but yet inspired by us. We realized that not many people (both Deaf and Hearing) are aware of what Deaf people are capable of doing. So, an idea came to our mind last summer but never acted on it until February 2015. We want to show Deaf and Hearing communities that Deaf people are capable to travel regardless of any obstacles. We also want to spread Deaf culture awareness to the Hearing community, such as how to to help Deaf people during crisis.
How do you think your disability changed the way you travel?
Compared to the Hearing community, we do not only face language barriers, but communication barriers as well. We also rely greatly on body languages and lip-reading to get by every day – which is two of the greatest perks as a Deaf person. Additionally, wherever we travel in the world, we also have a great opportunity to experience not only one culture but two different cultures- their culture and the subculture, Deaf culture.
What can you say to people that are wanting to travel but are just a bit hesitant?
It is definitely possible for anyone to travel. Don’t let anything stop you from following your dreams. It is also just all about priorities. Once you make that first step into the real world, you might feel overwhelmed and scared but everything will work out once you prepare and do your research. Trust us, you will thank yourself once you find the courage to follow your dreams. (READ: Things I learned from being a Solo Woman Traveler)
If you want to follow their travels, you can do so at: