Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel the world, explore rural villages and crowded cities, encounter new languages, and taste regional foods without the aid of sight?
A recent art project commissioned by Travel Supermarket endeavors to visualize what it’s like for the blind to travel. The UK-based travel search site asked eight visually-impaired people including a jazz musician, craftsman, chef, hiker, and video producer to describe their most memorable travel experiences for a blog post, and enlisted Malaysian artist Alby Letoy to interpret those descriptions in intricate line drawings.
The illustrations attempt to capture the feeling of wind on your face while horse-back riding through the mountains of North Carolina, the heightened senses of touch, taste, smell, and sound in the bustling streets of Tokyo, Japan or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the harmonies of camping in the woods in the Adirondacks.
“Blind people experience a city a little different than sighted people,” said George Wurtzel, one of the people interviewed for the project, who has been blind since his teens. ”It is a whole body experience, the texture of the streets under your feet, the bumping and jostling of very crowded streets, the intense smells of food, beer, bakeries and perfumes… All of these things build a mental picture that is very close to what someone would get by looking around.”
For one anonymous participant, lobster fishing on the coast of Maine was a “sensory enchantment” with the strong sea breeze blowing, the sound of seagulls overhead, and a lobster squirming in hand.
“I was amaze[d]…when I read their quotes,” said Letoy. The illustrator and designer said he’s usually commissioned for cartoon-like illustrations and reserves the delicate style of line drawing he eventually employed for his own works. But, as an outdoor enthusiast himself, he was excited to bring his more personal style to the project.