Back in November I was invited to attend the Texas State Convention or Conference for the National Federation of the Blind in San Antonio. They were considering me as a mentor for visually impaired people wanting to be entrepreneurs but who don’t want to go into food service. They offered to arrange my transportation and cover my expenses, so I said yes.
I am not usually the spontaneous type, but I saw the opportunity and decided to go after it. I packed my good clothes into the only suit case I own. My good clothes consist of two shirts given to me by the people at Robert Graham Designs and a couple pair of casual slacks. I realized that I didn’t own any dress shoes but decided that at a meeting of blind and visually impaired people most wouldn’t notice. 🙂
They had someone pick me up at my house and drive me to the greyhound bus station in Houston. I then joined my group for the ride to San Antone. I was surprised to find out that they had wifi on the bus, and I even got a blog post written on the way.
I had also forgotten to bring snacks with me for the trip. Well heck, I didn’t really forget. I was low on funds and wasn’t really sure what kinds of snacks i should take. As a gastric surgery patient snacking is not something we are encouraged to do.
The plan was for me to share a room with the potential mentoring client. For some reason he decided not to go, so I ended up in a large room by myself. While this may sound like a good thing, it meant less opportunity to connect with someone and make a friend. And when you are in a place you don’t know like a huge hotel, knowing at least one person who you can recognize by sound is incredibly reassuring. I didn’t have this with one person there,, so quite a bit of the weekend was spent nervously wondering about getting lost or left behind.
But I did enjoy the seminars and speeches. The culminating speech at the main banquet was especially empowering. It was given by the national president who was part of the fund raiser involving a blind man driving a car at daytona speedway. In fact he was the driver. The topic was don’t let yourself be the passenger always make yourself the driver.
I was so impressed with the speech that I contacted him afterwards and advised him that he should trade mark the phrase and merchandise it. I went on to say that it could raise a lot of funds for their organization.
I learned a lot about the struggles of blind people and what is going on in the federal and state legislative arenas. I found out about the efforts to repeal a law allowing employers to pay the visually impaired less than the minimum wage. I also found out about the state of texas moving to combine all the rehabilitation agencies into one office and how this may effect the blind in the future.
There were some good opportunities for socializing. The first night there was a buffet set out and I noticed how many people were seeing each other again and renewing friendships they had made in college, at previous conferences, or state institutions for the blind. I was jealous of that. But the food was good and I splurged on a beer. I had a bud lite something I hadn’t done in years. It was cold and tasted better than I remember. I enjoyed sipping it, eating some good finger food, and meeting some great new people.
Saturday night they had karaoke. I was keen to attend and participate, but my back started acting up. It was stiff, and whenever I stood up after sitting a while I had to take several steps before my back would be straight again. Its very strange walking with a cane while you are partially bent over.
But I decided to accept this and be of good cheer. I was in a room with a big tub and no room mate. There would be no one to complain if I sloshed water on the floor. And with me having lost all the weight I could not only fit but I could soak. I practiced some deep yoga breathing in the hot steamy water and felt amazing. All it needed was some music and maybe someone to wash my back. 😉
While we were there I was impressed with the Marriott’s handling of having over 200 visually impaired people in one place. They had a working talking atm set up in a private place. Most people had ear buds, so that wouldn’t have been a problem; but it still showed amazing sensitivity. They put tape on the key cards and then showed us which way to insert them to open the room doors. They had scotch tape to place on the signature lines so we would know where to sign the check in and check out forms. They had extra staff in the common areas to help get free coffee or give directions to those of us who were constantly lost. I was so impressed I went online and wrote them a review. 🙂
I did have some scary moments on the way home. I had put my laptop in my suit case and was only carrying my cell phone. It went dead and i didn’t have the cord to charge it. Even if I had had the charger, it wasn’t working real good. So I might not have been able to charge it anyway.
Then it turned out that due to a scheduling conflict my ride to the bus station couldn’t take me back home to conroe over 45 miles away. And let’s not forget I didn’t have cab money or bus money or know which routes I would even take to get close to my home.
I called my brother on one of the other people’s phones and left a message. He called and found one of our friends who works for a carnival in houston who could come get me. It would mean hanging out on their midway until closing before I could go home; but at least I would be sure of getting there. And its not like I’ve never been on a midway before.
So, after getting back home I thought I’d think about what I learned and how I could be more prepared for future trips. And here is what I came up with.
First, if I am not going to have a trusted friend or family member along, then its critical to do more planning. This is hard for me because I would rather do something pretty well than not do it at all while waiting for things to be ideal. I also need to have a working cell phone or other means of contacting help. And having cash and or credit handy is also something I need to address.
In addition I need to get some training on using my white cane and traveling independently. It had been so long since I had had to depend on it, that my skills were almost nonexistent. I have called to inquire about training, so we’ll see.
And since cost will probably be an object for the near future, I can probably expect to travel by train or bus rather than plane. And this means I need to find out what kinds of snacks are okay for me to have and are okay to carry on to a bus or train. I have asked the people at Texas Laparoscopic Consultants, TLC, about this and we are working on a list. Perhaps you have some suggestions for high protein low fat low carb items that travel well.
In all it was a positive experience. I took a risk and left the house without friends, family, or much of a safety net. I made it back home not only safely but I got to spend some time with some old friends while navigating my way back home. I learned that I still have the spirit it takes to do things like this which gives me confidence about future travel. You all know I want to travel more, so I’m sure you can recognize the value of taking a baby step like this. I fell down a bit and got bruised a bit; but the wounds have healed the bandages are gone, and I’m ready to try again.
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about my little excursion. Do you have any advice as to how I could get out there more often and take even longer trips. Perhaps you have suggestions on how I could generate more income or even find a sponsor. And of course any encouragement is always welcome.
Sharing is caring
I know I always ask you to share my posts. 🙂 This time though I have shared about a time when I had every right to be apprehensive if not down right scared, but i went ahead and did it anyway. What is more, I want to do it again. I’m actively planning and scheming towards my next trip. I want people to see this in hopes that it will encourage them to take more risks. And that can’t happen if people don’t see the post. So please share this with your friends, family, coworkers, and social media networks.
I appreciate your continued support. I know everyone is busy, so I hope you know how much I appreciate your taking the time to read my posts and leave your thoughts. Let me know if I can do anything to help you on your own journey.
Thanks so much and take care out there, Max