Editor’s note: Gabby Abeyta, a sixteen-year-old with low vision, reflects on her first overnight journey without her family, an organized college preparation trip. She encourages others with blindness or low vision to take calculated risks to gain independence and meet their goals.
It may seem simple to travel overnight on your own; people often do not want to admit they have struggled with it. Everyone has a safe place they don’t want to leave, such as near family or friends or just a place they call home. Taking risks isn’t always easy. Nonetheless, it is important to develop the skills to do so as an individual who is blind or has low vision, even if it is initially scary. As a young person, it’s intimidating to realize you are growing up and will soon be out in the real world and have to figure things out independently. It is wise to take all the opportunities you can get to become independent.
A Challenging Decision
It is a step out of the comfort zone for a young person to travel overnight independently, but when you’re blind or low vision, it may feel scarier. I know from my personal experience. I had never been away from home without my mom or other trusted adult. My first time going away from home was on an “Upward Bound” (UB) field trip. I wanted to go to learn, have fun, and gain some independence. Many people around me told me that if I didn’t feel it was best to go, I should wait until another opportunity arises when I’m older. On the other hand, others were telling me to take a risk and go. They said it could only go right or wrong, and I could learn what to do differently in the future. Finally, I decided to go and use it as a time of trial and error.
My Fears of Independent Travel
I had never been on any other UB field trip. Even though I wanted to go on the trips, I feared getting separated from the group, being disoriented in an unfamiliar location, or being overwhelmed and not getting much out of the event.
I never went because I felt like my safety wasn’t guaranteed without someone I could fully trust. I also felt uncomfortable because I knew the staff had others they were responsible for, and I may have been separated from the group. I often felt excluded from activities since the event was unclear or inaccessible to me as a person with low vision.
Moral of the story: this trip was to visit colleges within the state, tour the campuses, and learn what they offer. It was a three-day trip that took place during President’s Day weekend. Our main focus was to spend time at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. During those days, we also went to El Paso’s college to see a basketball game and the New Mexico Tech College in Socorro. Overall, it was a great experience.
I got to practice and showcase my independent life skills by getting ready for the day, keeping my clothes and necessities organized, keeping any areas I was in clean and picked up, and being where I was supposed to be at the right time. I could see what it will be like when I live on my own in the future. Most importantly, I had fun and learned a lot. I got to interact with my peers and socialize. One of my favorite moments on the trip was going to White Sands. I had never been there, and it was really fun. I got to go sledding in the sand, which I’ve always wanted to do. As scary as it was at first, it was worth it. I don’t regret it, and I’m now open and ready for all the adventures that await me.
Outstanding Lessons Learned
On my first overnight journey without my family, I learned that taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone is okay. Without risks, no lessons would be learned, and many opportunities would be missed. I learned that you must be open-minded and choose the experiences for which you’re willing to take risks. You will have a better future if you challenge yourself. To me, the sky is the limit, and I advise all young adults to have fun and get as many experiences as they can while they’re young.
You don’t get a second chance to do some things, so it is best to go for it when the opportunity is given to you, even if it goes off course. One of the things that helped me while I was on my trip is to keep in contact with family. You can still get reassurance from your family or loved ones, talk about the things you are doing, and be independent. I believe that every individual that is sighted or blind can do anything they put their mind to, even if it seems impossible.