My Accessible Travel Podcast Takes to the Air

The image shows an  adaptive paraglider

A few weeks ago I told you I’d reached out to the team who organised the first South African adaptive paraglide. I asked them if they would be willing
to come onto my A Different Way of Traveling podcast to chat about adaptive paragliding.

Matthew van Zyl, the owner of Square1 Paragliding, was happy to chat to me and I got to find out all about this exciting and inclusive sport. I also got to chat to Tarryn Tomlinson from Able2Travel, who was one of the first to try out the new fly chair.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not the world’s most adventurous person. In fact, I’m far more likely to be found with my head buried in a book -audio, of course – or listening to some of my favourite rock songs. Yet it was fascinating to learn more about how paragliding has been made more accessible for those who are wanting to give it a try. And I was excited to learn how inclusive Matthew believes it to be.

Certainly, from what he told me in the interview, the fly chair would be able to accommodate a broad range of disabilities. Matthew also explained how the fly chair operates and explained how easy it is for him, as the pilot, to communicate with the person in the fly chair. And he was able to answer my questions about takeoff and landing. All of which reassured less-than-adventurous me!

Tarryn reinforced what Matthew told me and it was wonderful to hear about the experience from her perspective as a wheelchair user.

So, if you’re interested to learn more about adaptive paragliding, you’ll find the podcast at http://iono.fm/e/1129768

And who knows, maybe you’ll see me leaping off the side of the mountain and soaring into the air in the adaptive paraglider sometime … After all, I did try scuba diving!

Guesting on the Walking without Skin podcast

The image shows the cover of the book Walking without Skin, with Lois Wagner bottom left and a butterfly bottom right

It’s rare that I meet other people named Lois. So it was fun for me to discover a fellow Lois when we both attended an online meeting a year ago.

It turns out that Lois Wagner and I have quite a lot in common. Like me, she is a speaker, writer, coach, and activist. And we work in similar fields – helping people overcome challenges and move forward with their lives. Admittedly, we arrived at this destination through very different experiences – for me it was losing my sight as an adult, and for Lois it was surviving a horrific attack in her workplace. But it is uncanny how much we do that is similar.

Earlier this month Lois Wagner launched a podcast, called Walking without Skin. That’s also the title of her first book, which she released at the same time I published my memoir, I was excited when Lois invited me to be a guest on her podcast, and jumped at the chance!

What I love about the Walking without Skin Podcast is the diversity of Lois’s guests and the messages they share with the listeners. Some of the lessons are simple and are wonderful reminders of things we already know. But some are moving and profound.

If you’d like to get a taste of what Lois’s podcast is like, why not listen to the episode with my interview. You’ll find it at here.
And then you can always follow the podcast if you choose to.

Paws for Thought to Sniff All Sorts of Things

The image shows Lois sitting at a table surrounded by fragrance bottles and Fiji standing beside her.

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

I know I already posted an article this month but I decided to steal this post from Mom because it was her birthday on Sunday. Because she probably won’t tell you what her special day was like… Mom’s just like that sometimes.

I miss the days when Mom used to invite lots of friends around to celebrate her birthday. Somehow food always gets dropped onto the floor when there are lots of people standing around and talking, which makes it great fun for me and my doggy siblings to help clean up. Of course, we’re only doing it so Mom and Dad don’t have to. But Mom hasn’t had a party for two years now. I wish I knew why.

Which isn’t to say Mom didn’t celebrate her birthday this year. Just that she didn’t have a big party with her friends. Instead we hopped into the car and went for a long drive to Franschhoek for a perfume workshop at Kumanov Cosmetics.

When we got there I was somewhat put out because the human lady who runs the place tried to tell me I had to sit outside because she was worried that my waggy tail might break something. I mean, really! Who does she think I am? I’m a properly trained guide dog! Hmph! Luckily Mom insisted that I remain with her and the human lady relented. And I trotted happily into the room… being very careful to make sure my tail didn’t even twitch and accidentally break something.

Then the human lady told us all about the perfume industry and the different types of fragrances that are used. And I just went to sleep – I’m a dog so things like that don’t really interest me.

After a long time things got more interesting. Mom started to open one bottle of fragrance after another and my nose was assailed by lots of different scents. Some of them were nice, but others weren’t so good. Of course, none of them smelled as good as dog food, but still.

From where I was lying under the table with my head resting on my paws, I could hear Mom commenting about the different fragrances and selecting those that she liked, dismissing others that she didn’t like as much.

Eventually, the human lady came and mixed a whole lot of the fragrances together and gave Mom some bottles and a lotion that Mom helped make. Then finally I felt it was okay for me to go and greet the human lady. I wagged my tail as I politely pointed out how good I had been and that she had been silly to think I might break something. She patted me. I think she was saying she was sorry for having tried to treat me like just a dog, but I’m not sure – she might have just wanted to pat me.

Then I walked Mom back to the car and jumped into the back seat. And we drove home.

Oh, I did also get to take Mom to a birthday supper with Dad, Granny Ank and Uncle James where I got to have lots of yummy crunchwater.

Still, I hope Mom will get to have a big birthday braai with all her friends next year. That would be wonderful!
XXXX

My Brother Doesn’t Paws for Thought

the image is of a small brown and black dog with adorable ears

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!

I know I promised to tell you more about my brother, Onyx. He’s now been part of our family for 5 months and has wriggled his way into the day-to-day activities of the house very well. He is full of energy and loves to run around and play. He also likes to bark a lot, which is a bit annoying when I’m trying to have my midday nap. And he and my sister Allie absolutely love to play together. They run around and jump onto the couches play-growling the whole time – they really are the terrible twins!

I know people say that all dogs are curious by nature, but Onyx takes it from a pleasant pastime to a fulltime career. Whenever Mom or Dad open a cupboard or a drawer, Onyx will somehow be standing right beside them with his head buried deep inside. He’s not even scrounging for food. He simply wants to sniff anything and everything he can find.

Onyx also devours treats whenever he can. Whenever Mom restocks my treat bag before I take her for a walk, Onyx will walk back and forth on his back legs trying to stick his nose into the bag. But Mom’s too fast for him so I don’t have to worry he will eat all my treats. It would be terrible if we were to run out halfway through our walk!

And Onyx is also a sock thief. It all started when he stole socks from the clothes washing that was hanging up to dry. He grabbed them off the rack and ran off at high speed with them in his mouth. Not bad for a partially sighted pup! Then he started checking all the cupboards and drawers he could get into and stole any socks he could find. He carries them around like I carry my tennis ball. And sometimes he tosses them into the air and pounces on them to play. Again and again.

I was a little hesitant when Onyx first joined the family. But he’s great fun and I’m glad he’s here.

Yes, I Am Still Working on the Audio Book of My Memoir

The image shows the cover of Lois’s book A Different Way of Seeing.

Wow, where has this year gone? I can’t believe we are already heading towards the end of October. And I still have so much I want to have completed by the end of the year. And I’m definitely running out of time… fast!

One of the projects I had expected to have finished long before now is the publishing of the audio book of my memoir, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way. After all, the book was published a year ago tomorrow.

Somehow 2021 has been swallowed up by the writing, launching and marketing of my guide dog Fiji’s book called Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog. Fiji and I started working on the book in January 2021 and published it in September – a whole lot faster than any of my earlier books!

Somehow I never seemed to get around to the next steps in the process to launch my audio book. Till now.

Over the past two weeks I’ve listened to the recordings of the book and have once again been reminded what an amazing job my narrator, Julie Norman, has done with the book. It is sounding fantastic!

Now that I know the recordings are ready to go it is time for me to investigate getting the book into the various outlets that sell audio books. So that will be the next, and hopefully the final, step in what has become a much more complicated project than I originally expected.

But it will be available soon… after all, it’s been long enough!

As an aside, I am also working on the audio versions of my children’s books, so watch out for more information on that project as well.

Podcasts on A Few Accessible Activities

The image  shows Lois sitting at a computer and speaking into a microphone

A few days ago I found myself wondering how many podcast interviews I had done relating to adaptive sports and activities. When I looked back through the podcast feed I was excited to see how many there were. Today I’m going to share a few past episodes with you in the hope they might inspire you to discover how various activities can be adaptive to become more inclusive for persons with special needs.

Our first foray into accessible activities was in episode 5 (December 2018), when I spoke to Angelique le Roux of Ceres Zip slide Adventures. I found it fascinating to hear how they make ziplining available to persons with a wide range of different disabilities. And, even with my atrocious head for heights, I found myself wondering what the experience might be like. Find out for yourself by listening to the interview at http://iono.fm/e/638621

On episode 14 I interviewed Roxy Davis of Surf Emporium about the adaptive surfing clinics she runs. That was all the way back in June 2019. You can listen to the episode at http://iono.fm/e/696018

In other episodes I’ve spoken to people about accessible safaris (Episode 32 – http://iono.fm/e/828914) and ocean cruising, (Episode 34 – http://iono.fm/e/845329
)

Then, in my most recent episode I chatted to a team who run an adaptive scuba diving organisation. Again, I was excited to hear how they are able to accommodate people across a wide spectrum of abilities. So much so that I am hoping to give it a go myself in the next few weeks. You’ll find that interview at http://iono.fm/e/1110127

I have always maintained that I constantly learn things from the podcast interviews I do and certainly my eyes have been opened to so many different opportunities and activities that are available to those of us living with a disability. And I think that is wonderful.

Want to know what my next interview on an activity will be about? Well, I know that the first South African adaptive paraglide took place in Cape Town recently. And I’ve already reached out to the people concerned to see if they’re interested in being interviewed. So maybe that will be next!

Podcast on Long-Distance Air Travel with a Guide Dog.

The image shows a man sitting on a park bench with a yellow Labrador beside him.

Hosting a podcast on accessible travel, I often have the opportunity to chat with interesting people about a wide range of topics. My last few podcasts have been no exception.

I recently interviewed Michael Hingson on the topic of long-distance air travel with a guide dog. Michael has had extensive experience on the topic, having travelled not only for work but also following his experience escaping from the World Trade Centre during the attack on 9 September 2001.

Together Michael and his guide dog Roselle walked down 78 floors of the World Trade Centre and navigated their way to safety. Michael tells the story of that day in his book “Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero”

Michael and his guide dogs have subsequently travelled around the world sharing their story. So he was the perfect person to interview on the subject of air travel with a guide dog.

You can hear some of Michael’s experiences in the podcast – http://iono.fm/e/1103477

While you’re there, why not listen to a few more exciting travel stories. And subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. With 53 published episodes so far, there is plenty to enjoy!

My Book is Here – Wag, Wag, Wag!

the image shows a close up of a yellow Labrador’s face

Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji,

I’m jumping up and down and bounding around in ecstatic circles to tell you that my book has finally been published.

Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog is full of stories about me and my human and doggy family, from my puppyhood right up to the present. Although, to be fair, it’s not entirely up to the present because we had to stop writing so we could get the book ready to be read by you. So we decided to make the end of 2020 our cut-off. But let’s be honest, what with the pandemic and all, not much has happened in 2021 anyway. Except that we’ve been busy with the book.

You may be wondering why you should read my book.

It is full of stories about me and my doggy siblings, lots of stories about the many different ways I help my mom, information about the work a guide dog does, and explains why I think humans are sometimes strange. And it’s fun.

Maybe I should let you know what someone else thinks of the book. Because I admit I’m a little biased because I wrote it… with a little bit of help from my mom. Here’s a review from Amazon.
“Fiji the Labrador retriever is a witty little blond that shares her adventures with her owner in a fun and educational way. It is a fun and easy read about the challenges Lois and Fiji faces together. It would be a great gift for dog lovers or a book for the family to read together for young and old.”

I’m so happy that people are reading my story. I’m going to buy lots of dog treats with all my royalties… And maybe I’ll even share them with my doggy siblings, Emily, Allie and Onyx.

Oh, I almost forgot, here’s how you can buy the book for yourself:
Amazon/Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FGYPYP4?ref_=pe_3052080_397670860

South African paperback: https://www.loisstrachan.com/order-form/

Paws for Thought on New Arrivals

The image is a close-up of Lois and Fiji’s faces with Lois holding a glass of bubbly up in a toast

Hello everyone – it’s me, Fiji!

I’m so excited right now that I’m bouncing up and down and wagging my tail full speed. Because the book that Mom and I wrote is now available on Amazon.

Even more than that, we’re going to be having a launch party on Zoom and would love for you to be there. And you might win a free copy of our book, “Pause for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”

To book for the launch party, go to https://bit.ly/38C8uHz

The party will take place at 17:00 South African time on Sunday, 12 September and everyone is invited… your doggy companions as well!

And, to be amongst the first to read our book, the Kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FGYPYP4?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420

Mom and I hope you can attend our celebration… and that you feel inspired to buy the book and read my story. It would also be wonderful if you could tell your friends about the book and the online celebration – we would love to have as many people there as possible!

Oh yes, we are planning a South African print run of the book soon if you prefer to read it in that format… more on that as we get everything organised…

Two Phenomenal Women I Interviewed in August

Accessible South Africa Logo  Full

With August being Women’s Month in South Africa, I decided to interview two women on my accessible travel podcast, A different Way of Travelling.

For those of you who don’t know about the podcast – where have you been? We now have 52 episodes featuring interviews with travellers with disabilities, or showcasing fun inclusive travel activities. Even if you don’t have a disability, or know anyone with a disability, I guarantee you will be fascinated by the adventures that my guests have undertaken.

Back to the point – my guests for August…

My first episode in August featured Praveena Sukhraj-Ely sharing wonderful stories of her travels and her insights into the realities of travelling as a woman who is blind. Like Praveena, I enjoy having someone with me to share the breathtaking and diverse experiences of travelling. I also found the challenges she mentioned very relatable.

To listen to Praveena’s interview, hop onto http://iono.fm/e/1080899

My second guest in August was Neha Arora, owner of Planet Abled, a travel agency focusing on inclusive travel experiences in India and the East. We spoke about her company and discussed her thoughts on the accessibility of tourist sites in India. During the episode I asked Neha what types of activities she would recommend for me if I were to contact Planet Abled. She outlined such amazing options that I found myself feeling excited about the possibility of travel for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Even though I’m not yet ready to consider travelling, it’s nice to be excited at the thought of doing so. That episode will be out any day now.

You can listen to Praveena and Neha’s interviews by searching for A Different Way of Travelling on your usual podcast player, or on our podcast feed at https://iono.fm/rss/chan/3715

While you’re there, why not take a quick tour through some of our other episodes to hear from previous guests…

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