Travel by Sound: “Blind Man Roams the Globe”

Travelling with a disability is often pretty hilarious, or difficult, depending on your luck and your point of view. But it also means you experience the places you’re in differently. Peter White, a journalist from the UK, has done a series called Blind Man Roams the Globe which has tremendous episodes from Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, and Washington DC.

“Sightseeing and I have never seen eye-to-eye,” he writes in an article introducing a previous version of the series. So his reporting takes a different direction:

Most foreign reportage is someone telling you what they can see: the views, the landscape, the artefacts, the paintings. What I’ve tried to do is let you hear exactly what I hear, as the city introduces itself by sound. When I land at an airport, or a harbour, or cross a border, my ears are instantly tuned to the individual sound of the place – its voices, of course, but also the rise and fall of its music, its street sounds, calls to trade, calls to prayer and just the sounds of a city at work, at play, joshing, arguing, fighting.

Most airports have a depressing sameness. But once you get outside, the individuality of a city’s transport system is reflected in its sounds.

I love public transport; taxis would be easier, of course, but quite apart from the cost, public transport is where you meet people and where you really get ‘the feel’ of the place.

He’s clearly a great traveller, with a sense of humour, curiosity and asking great questions without patronising people. One of his travelling technique is tuning into local radio stations to get a sense of place. Plus in all of the episodes he meets blind people that live in the cities he goes to.

I especially liked when he’s in Nairobi. He shows how Nairobi is different from what is expected in the UK, but not solely in a negative sense. It shows the challenges in that environment, but also people’s creativity in getting around them. And he is pretty astute about how very different material conditions also exist within Nairobi.

White is a great journalist and an important voice on disability. His series on Disability: A New History is well worth listening too as well.

Strangely for a radio show about disability issues, I am not finding a transcript of these episodes.

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