My daughter, Arden, and I recently traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, with other family members to attend my nephew’s wedding. It was a great reason for a mini family reunion and for touring a spectacular city in the meantime. Four of my six siblings attended, including all three of the Stargardt-affected ones. So what is different about planning and enjoying a vacation when seeing and reading are not as easy?
First, I use maps to acclimate to the new surroundings before arrival. Whether viewing an electronic or paper map, needing to magnify in order to discern intersections and read street names creates a dilemma. You lose context as you zoom in on your target area. It’s like magnifying one word in a book, without knowing the rest of the sentence or even what chapter you’re in.
I prefer viewing electronic maps on my Mac mini as I can zoom in using ZoomText Mac with no noticeable degradation. This way I can still read the text on the map even at very high magnification levels. I also purchased a good fold-out street map of Vancouver and marked our lodging location with a big X. I memorized the closest cross street names. Using my desktop CCTV at home to familiarize myself with the printed map before I left, I can then use my i-loview portable video magnifier as needed while vacationing.
Yes, I have heard of GPS technology. However, my cell phone plan makes it too expensive to use in another country. This is where a standalone GPS would have come in handy… at least before it gets stolen out of your car, as it unfortunately happen to my sister-in-law on a dark Vancouver night. Trust me, no one is going to steal a paper map. Another option is to download a map of the area you’re visiting from a GPS app, but keep in mind that it won’t be able to track your current location in real time.
Some other tips: I always enter important contact information and addresses into my iPhone before departing. Brightly colored or unusually patterned luggage (ideally with four wheels on the bottom), will help you find it on the carousel when you’ve arrived at your destination. Since we were traveling internationally, I was sure to leave ample time to get through security and customs. You never know how long each line will be or the distance you’ll have to walk (or run!) to the gate.
Vancouver is such a striking city that I didn’t have any trouble enjoying the sights and scenery. We took a bike ride around the famous Stanley Park. It was magnificent, with a stop in the biggest outdoor swimming pool I’ve ever seen. En route to the park, we took a bike path around the city, which was a little tricky with surface transitions, curbs and posts to contend with. Everything worked out well but next time I’d make a few changes: I’d go on a weekday, in order reduce the number of obstacles (people) to contend with. Plus, I’d have Arden wear something brighter, so I could easily follow her lead.
Next up, it was migration time for the orca (killer) whales, so a whale watch to Vancouver Island was on the bucket list. Boating out of the harbor, with downtown Vancouver behind us, was a sight to see, with coastal islands and mountains completing the scene. But the topper was yet to come. Armed with my binoculars, I asked people to point when they sighted a whale, then I’d use my binoculars to get a good view. We spotted a pod of whales popping out of the Pacific with the majestic Mt. Baker in the northern Cascades of Washington state in the background. I could not see this giant mountain without the binoculars as everyone else could; they always come in handy while taking in the sights on vacation.
My brother still has some good cone receptors left so if he strains his eyes, he is able to read the text on his iPhone. I showed him how to use VoiceOver for when he’s tired of his method.
The wedding was incredible and we had no problem appreciating the bright colors worn at this traditional Indian ceremony. At the reception, my Stargardt siblings and I couldn’t see the slide shows being displayed on a large screen but I’m sure we’ll get a link at some point for viewing at home.
We lean on our spouses and children to do the things we can’t, like drive or read signs along the route. That said, we are more than capable of making it up in other ways, by doing laundry, navigating, or just being fun to be with, so no one seems to be put out by our lack of perfect vision. Besides, vision isn’t a requirement to appreciate a vibrant city like Vancouver.