The Parthenon in Greece

I recently had the privilege of journeying alongside Traveleyes, a unique group operator that has been providing life-changing holidays for both blind and sighted travellers since 2004. They offer group holidays to 60 jaw-dropping world destinations including a couple of cruises, and it was on one such cruise around ancient Greece that I met them.

They also offer several short UK breaks such as visiting Queen Victoria’s favourite hideaway, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, or the Giant’s Causeway near Belfast. These can act as an ideal taster before embarking on longer holidays like walking in Transylvania; meeting nomadic communities in Mongolia; tandem cycling in Holland; relaxing in the Philippines; discovering Africa’s wildlife in Swaziland or zip-lining and river rafting in Costa Rica. The list is both thrilling and impressively diverse.

Sighted travellers (be they couples, groups of friends, or travelling solo) are simply asked to describe, as best they can, the sights they see en route to a visually impaired partner, and in return for sharing their eyesight they receive up to 50% off the price of the holiday. (No experience with blindness is required and a poetic ability with words is not essential either!)

Visually impaired travellers are afforded liberation and independence; they don’t have to bring anyone with them as they know they are joining a family of like-minded adventurers and will be guided by committed, caring escorts, all under the expert guidance of a professional Traveleyes tour manager.

Andrew Milburn was the tour manager on my Voyages to Antiquity cruise; a whirlwind of energy and positivity, he was also incredibly organised and had telephoned the entire group before they flew to Athens to introduce himself, give some general advice and to make sure each and every individual was feeling happy and secure with their travel arrangements (apparently this is standard procedure). I questioned him about what makes Traveleyes such a success for everyone who participates.

“The way that we operate is that we rotate the partnerships between the visually impaired and the sighted guests every day, so you’re always with somebody new - you’re paired with a different partner every day. This means that you get to know the whole group very quickly and you have a great camaraderie within the group, so you never feel on your own.”

And from the interaction I witnessed - the fun, laughter and the real care everyone seemed to have for each other - I could see that this was true. My own mum lost her sight in later life, and it struck me how much she would have relished the opportunities that this visionary company offers.

Talking of inspirational travel I was fascinated to read in the news about Simon Powell, the entrepreneur who founded Transfer Travel a couple of years ago. After parting with his partner, Simon was stuck with a luxury holiday to Dubai that he no longer needed, and was so frustrated by not being able to claim anything back for his expensive hotel room that he decided to form an online marketplace where travellers could try to sell their unwanted flights and hotel bookings, cruises and even concert tickets.

Hailed as an eBay for holidays, its ethos is ‘one person’s pre-booked cancellation is another’s last-minute opportunity’. Knowing a couple of friends of ours who split up recently and had to sacrifice a holiday together in Italy, I think they would have jumped at the chance to recoup something. That’s what I call turning a crisis into an opportunity.