Where in the World is Karen Carragher?
We chat with Karen about her 88 day, solo journey around the world as a deaf woman.
We catch up with our Community Engagement Representative Karen about her recent 88 day journey around the globe!
Inspired by the early 90s game show “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” we get the full report from our globetrotting team member as she details her trips and the challenges and joys she faced as a deaf woman traveling numerous countries alone.
Society, hotels, and airlines still have a long way to go to accommodate and include deaf travelers. Let’s get in to our piece, “Where in the world is Karen Carragher?”
We know the one thing that connects so many of our employees is our love for culture, language and travel. So, what inspired you to travel Karen?
Right before my first solo international trip (Venice and Croatia back in 2019) I was working multiple jobs for years and years. I realized that I was missing out a lot on life, all the beauty around the world and human connections that are just a plane ticket or boat ride away. That’s when I had a hard talk with myself and booked my first solo trip.
The traveling around the world idea came to mind when I watched a movie called EAT PRAY LOVE (my 2nd time) and then the 6 months of planning the Around the World trip started.
Tell us where you traveled!
I started in Baltimore, Maryland to New York City. From there I went to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Prague, Vienna, Innsbruck (small town between the Alps in Austria), Zurich, Venice, Rome, and Budapest.
I then did a month stay in Thailand and then my last stop was a few weeks in Bali, Indonesia. The last stretch was a few days stopover in LA before the final destination: Home-Baltimore.
That’s 88 days around the world with a little carryon suitcase and a tote bag!
What were your experiences as a deaf woman traveling alone? What access and discrimination did you face as a traveler?
There were moments when I had to do a long wait for a table in a restaurant, to get a menu or order or to get my check because of my deafness. It’s sad to see that basic humanity is something not afforded to you just because you’re deaf….
People in certain countries do not know how to properly communicate with a deaf person – if I told them they would freeze and panic. For some folks turning away or just ignoring you was their go to.
Now I only use gestures until I receive the services FIRST and then let them know that I am deaf after so I can proceed with ordering or whatever services I will need.
What countries were the most accessible or surprised you with how they accommodated you?
Amsterdam: Transportation with their notification system that is very visible, they don’t rely on audio alone. I had no problems navigating around thanks to this critical method of access.
Thailand: They treat everyone the same respect despite disability, class, or status. They will still bow and smile at you. They will still treat you WELL and do not expect anything in return. Thai people really do LOOK OUT for each other and have a beautiful warmness form my experience.
Paris: This one surprised me most. They won’t make room for the Americans. Longer wait times for a table or check while the locals got theirs first.
Budapest (Hungary): They wanted everything in CASH.
Rome: I spotted a small child (2 years old) with a set of hearing aids with no knowledge of sign language.
I introduced myself in ASL (and gestures) to the mother and grandfather and told them I was deaf, do not wear hearing aids, only use ASL to communicate AND that I was traveling around the world alone for 88 days.
Enough is enough. We need more deaf mentors and sign language access for the world’s youth. Inclusion and education needs to happen!
Did you run in to any other deaf folks out there?
Yes. I attended to the 4-day Festival Clin d’Oeil in Reims, France and met many people from around the world and even some old college friends. It was wonderful.
With around thirty countries represented, this festival brings together cultures and promotes the mixture of sign languages from around the world! The festival is entirely accessible in LSF – French Sign Language and IS – International Sign.
What would you do differently next time?
That’s a tough one….but expect the unexpected.
Submit Visa ON TIME! I was scheduled to go to Vietnam but because I submitted my visa late it caused serious issues. I had to reroute to Bali instead which really worked out.
Also, if you like having your bed made daily…avoid Airbnbs!
Any closing words on why travel is so important or resources you recommend for other deaf travelers?
Traveling solo is a wonderful thing. Take plenty of pictures and then print them into photo books. You will thank yourself later. II print my photos using Chatbooks to go with my collection. Instagram is the platform that I only used for documenting my travels online.
Get Global Pass! I truly regretted not getting it in time for this major trip.
My motto for this trip: “Go and explore. Your heart will grow”