Our world is so, so small. It can be pretty fascinating if you’ve found out that your friend in Hong Kong knows your own friend who currently lives in Washington D.C. We often say, “wow, what a small world!” But having a small world sometimes can be a challenge when you are looking for a travel Deaf or Hard of Hearing (HoH) buddy, a personal Deaf guide in the country you are planning to visit or even just to meet up and hang out. Because I (and many of us) can completely relate to you on that one.
"How do you find Deaf travel buddy? My friends can’t come with me."
or “do you know how to find Deaf people in [country] so I can meet?” I get a lot of messages with these questions. I don’t want only give them just one choice, “just go solo traveling!” because everybody is different. Some want to travel the world but just not alone, and they want to share their moments with someone else. Finding a Deaf or Hard of Hearing companion is limited comparing to Hearing community who have so many social platforms to meet other travelers like Facebook, Couchsurfing, Travello app, Backpackr app and so much more. In these platforms, the majority of people are Hearing* and are not signers.*
Although there are some Deaf and Hard of Hearing people don’t mind traveling with Hearing people, many still don’t a complete access to communication, especially developing a strong connection. Meeting their own community usually have a better sense of developing a bond, a connection, despite whether there are different sign language around the world.
Here are some tactics that you can start by to find a travel buddy or two, a personal Deaf tour guide or meet up with local Deaf people.
Couchsurfing is a great social network platform where you can stay or meet locals and travelers. You can stay over at the host’s place for free! All because the hosts would like to meet new people and have cultural exchange experiences. You don’t only have to look for a place to stay though, you can also just only meet up with them.
I personally use this in order to travel on a budget and meet local people in different countries. However, I’ll be honest about Couchsurfing from a Deaf traveler here. The majority are Hearings, and you’ll find not a lot of Deaf locals or travelers here. And sometimes when you find them, they haven’t been logged in Couchsurfing since the last couple of months or even years. The majority of Deaf travel groups aren’t very active due to our small world, better luck with a group named Deaf and Signing Couchsurfers though. When a Deaf person posts something in a group, asking for a place to sleep or to hang out, many are left unanswered. If you want to go stalker mode, you can search their name on Facebook if you’re lucky. However, give Couchsurfing a try! You’ll never know. Otherwise, you may meet with Hearings, even Hearing singers if you’re lucky!
Couchsurfing Groups for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing:
American Sign Language, Deaf and Signing Couch Surfers, Sign Language.
Instagram, oh yes.
Instagram isn’t actually the official social networking platform to find Deaf travelers. However, you may befriend Deaf travelers if you reach out to them. I used this tactic when I was heading to Indonesia soon, and I still use this tactic if I would like to meet them when visiting France, Washington D.C. or anywhere else. You can maybe also find Deaf visitors who are exploring your country too! If you get to know them and ask if they would like to meet up, you probably would be surprised by their answers. If they do not answer you, don’t let one person hinder you from befriending other Deaf travelers. Try this out, because Instagram is widely popular nowadays.
Instagram hashtag for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing travelers:
#Deaftravel, #Deaftraveler, #Deaftravelworld, #deaftravelworld_, #deaftraveller, #deaftravelagent, #deaftravelagency, #deaftravelagent, #deaftravels
Contact the local Deaf institutions
I’ve asked my Deaf friends around if they know anyone from New Orleans, Louisiana. I didn’t have any result from that, so I began searching on Facebook. However, it was still limited to find to find them who would be interested to meet up. Instead, I changed my tactic and contacted the local Deaf association and ask if they know any information about local Deaf events or a well-known local Deaf who would happy to meet. Fortunately, they do know someone. You’d be surprised how many more Deaf people you may meet after the first one, because they may introduce you to their own Deaf friends.
So, start googling! You can google Deaf organizations or Deaf associations or Deaf schools. Contact them directly through their email or Facebook (if they are still active). If you have no head of anything, like I had before in Nepal, you can just show up there. Who knows? You may even make new friends there, and they’ll invite you to some places. Deaf organizations have a lot of networks.
Google these keywords to search Deaf institutions
Deaf organizations in [insert city/country],
Deaf associations in [...], Deaf schools in [...], Deaf events in [...], Deaf business in [...], Deaf cafe in [city/country]
Words of the mouth, or hands, I’d say.
Ask your Deaf friends if they know anyone from that country that you would like to visit. If your friends don’t know, have them to ask their own Deaf friends who may have a larger network. Believe me, this is worked out a lot for me.
When I first flew to Jakarta, Indonesia, I met the Deaf community and spend some time with them. When I told them that I was leaving for the city of Bandung next, they referred me to their own friends in Bandung. And then Deaf friends in Bandung referred me to their own friends in Yogyakarta. And then they referred me to their own friends in Bali, Indonesia. Crazy, right? It’s like a domino effect, not kidding. It didn’t only happen to me in Indonesia but everywhere else. I met with the Deaf community in South Korea, and one Deaf male referred me to meet many Deaf friends in Hong Kong.
Believe me, let them help you do the work too! That’s a beauty of our small Deaf world.
Steps to spread the words
Ask many Deaf & HoH as you can, even maybe the ones that you don't personally know. Just ask them directly in person or personally message them.
Facebook, it's pretty powerful than you think.
Facebook is a very popular social media platform worldwide. But Facebook is actually very, very important for many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. It is where we have access (for most parts) about both national and world news that included subtitles. We have access to news in sign language (like Daily Moth or D-PAN). We also have access to Deaf creators (like Nomadic Deaf, Deafintiely Without Barriers or Seek the World). It is a platform where we can make a vlog in sign language. Facebook is like a home for many of us where we can connect with other Deaf people worldwide.
Search these Facebook groups
Solo Deaf Travelers, Deaf Travel Community, Deaf Travel Group, Travel for Deaf / Viaje para las…sordos, and many more. New groups will keep growing. Just Search “deaf travel” or explore with different words that you can come up with. Some of these groups may be inactive, and some I don’t personally tried it yet but recommend you to check it out.
Deaf Travel Japan, Egypt Deaf Travel, Deaf Travel Korea, Deaf Travel UK, Deaf World Travel UK, Australia Deaf Travel, Welcome to Hong Kong, and many more. New groups will keep growing. Just Search “deaf travel [city/county].” Some of these groups may be inactive, and some I don’t personally tried it yet but recommend you to check it out.
For Facebook, you’ll have to either write a post on these groups, personally message them or post up a vlog what you are looking for.
Although I have shared some methods in this blog post, it may take a little bit of work. Because our world is so small, you will need patience and assertiveness. Keep on trying different ways as mentioned above to find what you are looking for! Believe me, it is worth it in the end because you’ll make new friends, learn their stories and feel yourself grow in a lot of ways.
How do you look for Deaf community when traveling?
If you are Hearing, have you ever thought of the challenges for us to seek within our own community comparing to yours? Share your thoughts/feelings in the comment below!
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