The Power In The Journey Interview With Amy Bovaird

Kenya image description is in the body of the post.

ABBY’S CORNER | AUDIO INTERVIEW

Editor’s Note

Author Photo
Author Photo

I recently sat down to have a chat with Amy Bovaird a world traveler, teacher, author, and advocate. Amy has traveled to more countries than many of us will accomplish in our lifetimes and she did it while losing her eyesight and later her hearing. Her story is one of perseverance and faith intermingled with a great sense of humor. Below the audio interview is a transcript for your reading pleasure. Enjoy! ~Abby

Abby:

Hey everybody, it’s Abby. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. It’s uber hot where I am right now. I’m getting the time to spend with Amy Bovaird today and I’m super excited about her story because you guys know I’m a traveler and I’ve been all over the place. And it’s so fun for me that I get to talk to her about travel in different aspects that we’re going to cover. So, Amy, thank you for hanging out with me today.

Amy Bovaird:

Yeah, I’m really happy too.

Abby:

I know. I want to talk about your travel experiences because they’re so amazing. And I wonder if I need to know just a little bit about you and all the places you’ve been. Where all have you been during your international travels?

Amy Bovaird:

Well, gosh, it seems like I counted up one time and it was 33 different countries.

Abby:

33? Golly.

Amy Bovaird:

I’ve lived in seven, so yeah, that’s a little bit less. Yeah.

Abby:

Oh my gosh. I definitely classify you as a mega world traveler. That’s awesome. So Amy, what I love about this whole story that you share with us is, when you were traveling, can you kind of talk to us about the time that you started to realize that you were losing sight and your hearing?

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Park Bench

Amy Bovaird:

Well, so when I first started kind of realizing that something was going on with my sight was when I was in the jungles of Ecuador, in the interior jungle, the Amazon. And I noticed that it was always dark and I was stumbling a lot and people just didn’t get why I was doing that and I didn’t get it and they didn’t want to go with me when we were checking out the caiman with the phosphorescent lights. And I was just like, “Why am I always tripping and falling?” And, “I guess I need stronger glasses.” So that was the first time I really noticed a marked change.

And I guess plus probably because in the interior jungle, it’s so dark. So I came home and I told the doctor I needed stronger glasses because at that time, I had a wonderful job opportunity in Indonesia. So I had a couple, two, three weeks between that. So I thought, “Okay, I’ll get these new glasses and I’ll go.” And it was a little bit more complicated than that. That’s when they had found out my condition, which is called retinitis pigmentosa. So anyway, I decided to continue with my teaching overseas and I would just do it no matter what. I was going to pursue my goals, and this was halfway across the world. I could learn another language or languages. So I just did, I didn’t know at that time if I was ever going to see my family’s faces again because they didn’t know at what rate this was going to happen to me.

So I just took my chances and it really paid off. I had such amazing experiences. But in the beginning, I noticed I was a lot more frightened. I had this opportunity to go in another island and we were exploring a cave. And so it’s super dark in a cave. And one guy, There were maybe six or seven of us, and he’s like, “Oh, you’re like my grandma, but 28 years old.” And he says, “Oh, you walk like my grandma.” [inaudible 00:03:50] I didn’t really tell anyone about my sight loss so it was just like, oh my gosh.

Abby:

Yeah no one wants to be told at 28 they’re like a grandma, but I mean, so you found this out, were you using a cane at the time?

Amy Bovaird:

I wasn’t at that time. I was just sort of feeling my way and I don’t think I needed a cane at that point, but it definitely was a decrease in my visual. Yeah so as I got on, as I continued to travel, my field narrowed more and more and more. So I had to, for example, I went to Scotland and I was climbing a mountain and I was afraid I was getting lost on the mountain. So the flashlight was the people ahead of me. They were wearing bright lights, bright-colored clothing. So I just fixed my eyes on them as it started to get dark so that I wouldn’t get lost.

Abby:

There’s so much here, Amy, that I know you and I talked earlier about your love for teaching and your passion for it, coupled with your need for travel. Was it just when you came back and you were told that you had RP which you weren’t expecting, because you’re thinking you’re just going to get your glasses and run to your opportunity, what was that passion that you felt that you were like, “I’m going to continue with this no matter what.” Because there’s a lot of fear there I’m sure.

Amy Bovaird:

There is.

Abby:

What propelled you?

Amy Bovaird:

Yeah. Well, it was actually a scripture in the Bible because there’s Abraham and he was the father of all the nations and God and told him to go to a place that he did not know. And he would show him. And so I felt, “Oh my gosh, he took care of Abram,” at the time it was Abram, then it turned into Abraham, “He can take care of me just as well. He’s not going to let me get hit by a car or,”

Abby:

Or get lost in the woods and climb a mountain and a cave, all the things we’ve talked about here already.

Amy Bovaird:

Yeah. I mean, there were a lot of instances, but I just wanted to do it so badly that I just said, “It’s okay, we’re going to adapt and we’re going to do that.” So I would take taxis so I didn’t have to drive and everything was doable.

Abby:

Amy, I really want to hit the point though of, I mean, all I’m hearing faith. Faith, like no other and just the confidence that you exude and not letting yourself be held back. But it wasn’t just that, you’re extremely innovative. I mean, you were on your feet thinking about, “Okay, this is what I want to do, and this is what I’m going to do to get it done.”

Amy Bovaird:

Yeah, yeah. That’s right. Yeah. And I didn’t tell people, because I thought that if they knew they would treat me differently. So I just kind of kept it to myself and if they thought that I was kind of an airhead, by maybe walking too closely to them or running into them or whatever, it was okay because I was living my life. So I just maximized what I could see. I used whatever I could and whatever transport I could. And I just continued. And it was easier sometimes overseas because you could take trains and you could take ships and so there were lots of ways to accommodate without really saying I’m accommodating. The hearing was a little bit more of a challenge.

Abby:

Yeah, can we talk about that?

Amy Bovaird:

Yeah. Well, so I’m a teacher and I’m teaching English as a second language. So you have to hear your students when they would read something out loud or they would give me an answer. I’d say, “Sorry, can you repeat that? Again?” Nobody couldn’t know I wasn’t hearing them, but I just thought, “Gosh, I’m going to have to stand closer to these people, to my students, I’m going to have to pay more attention to them, I’m not hearing them.” And then in the back of my mind, I had this idea. I remember reading when I found out about my RP, that there’s another part of it that goes along with it, which is hearing loss. And I was like, “I have that. I must have that.” And so I kind of kept that in the back of my mind, that that’s why it’s harder to hear over the telephone or in context reduced situations.

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Street Corner

Abby:

So how did you adapt with that?

Amy Bovaird:

Well, I just started walking around the room and standing next to my students when I asked them questions, and sometimes I was adapting in two things. I remember being in Taiwan and my teaching platform was like a theater. It looked kind of like a theater with three steps going down. And I walk a lot when I teach. So the steps weren’t steep, they were quite broad. And so I sometimes walk down a step without knowing, I stumble down the steps. And so I’m trying to listen to my students and I’m trying to catch, “Oops missed that one.” So I would just try to make jokes. So that’s how I handled it. And I just kept asking them to repeat themselves and making jokes that I didn’t hear them. They were pretty good about it.

Abby:

That is great. Even listening to you talking about this, I, myself, there are struggles that we all face and I remember a very similar story where I thought it’s okay if people think that I’m, oh, well, you know what I mean, I was without someone and I didn’t want to have my cane and when I didn’t get to this level of acceptance, this is a different story for me, but I think it rings true with a lot of us in this situation, that we think it’s okay for someone to think we’re a ditz or in my case, maybe this person just thinks I’m drunk. And we’d rather them think that about us than thinking they’re going to think less of us because we can’t see.

Amy Bovaird:

Yeah. Isn’t that strange? When you think about it, I think it just has to come from within ourselves that we develop that confidence to share that information.

Abby:

Yes it does. Yeah. When did you come to the point of where it came from within?

Amy Bovaird:

I think it was that year. It was 2008 when I had my mobility training. My trainer was completely blind and he was saying hello to people. And I’m like, “How can he see them?” And he kept telling people, “Oh I’m helping Amy to see better so she could be more independent.” And I’m like, “Why is he telling people?” And I think because being so open about it, I started to become open about it. And I did have a travel, on a cruise after with my cane, and I traveled with people that were not accustomed to being around someone with a cane.

And I remember reassuring them that it was okay. By that time it was two years, it was 2010. So I had gotten used to people seeing me with a cane. So they were telling me, “Oh, they’re wondering about you with your cane.” And I had completely forgotten it by that time. So I had come so far in such a short time and I just realized that it’s okay to have that. And it was my job to make people feel comfortable about it instead of everybody feeling uncomfortable, what do I say? What do I do? How do I show her? And I think that coming, I was more approachable, it made everything so much easier for everyone.

Abby:

Yes. And I bet you your world opened up more.

Amy Bovaird:

Yes, it did. It absolutely did. And it made me very courageous to travel. I mean, I felt like I had the best of two worlds. I was able to have special accommodation. I was able to do it, to go. I remember there was a really interesting thing, my friend was in the water and she was really good at paddling, I don’t know what it was, paddling something, kind of a boat. And they’re all talking about how beautiful these fish were, and it was in the Caribbean, and I couldn’t see any of the fish. And when we went to get me on this canoe or whatever it was, they were like, “Be careful with her, be careful with her.” I’m like, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” And I started being afraid because they were afraid. But then when I was in the water and I couldn’t see any fish, and I was kind of putting my hands in the water. I go, “I’m wet. I’m getting wet. I’m going back to my travels.” And it was such a marvelous moment.

It was like complete joy because these people were enjoying themselves so much and I was part of it and I wasn’t being held back. I was still living my life with my cane. So it was a kind of eye opening moment. It was a moment where I realized that this was going to be my future. It wasn’t going to impact me.

Abby:

Amy that is the most beautiful story, I am speechless, which is hard for me to be. And I love that you shared that with us and wanted to share with me the power that just comes from that. There’s too many times that we in our lives hold our own and you realize that the end of the day, it’s holding yourself back when you don’t accept the things that are challenges. But knowing that when you do, and the minute the light hits in your heart, that you can be what you want to be, and you continued your travel. What are you doing now? Because you’re doing a lot I mean, you’ve written books, what do you do now? I feel like advocacy is totally in your heart and can you talk to us a little bit about what you’re doing now?

Amy Bovaird:

Well, mostly I’m writing and I’m kind of advocating for sight loss, but I’ve got some plans in my mind about where I want to travel overseas. I want to take my brother and show him some of these places. One of the places I want to go is Mexico. And just to really let my brother have that opportunity, my older brother, have that opportunity to just see what he hasn’t been able to see. So together, we will help each other. So that’s one of my goals and just a kind of a closer one, and instead of being in Africa or something, but I just wanted to start small and just help my brother to see what I’m so passionate about.

Abby:

Oh, that is beautiful. Because we all need to be sharing what it is that we’re passionate about. I mean, that is so critical. Don’t you think? Because it inspires other people to do it.

Amy Bovaird:

Yes. I think so.

Abby:

No matter our circumstances. Oh my gosh, can you tell us a little bit about the books that you’ve written? Maybe one piece or what it means to you to share, to write?

Amy Bovaird:

Okay. So really, the book that emerged first was the story of my white cane, because that is what gave me the freedom. And so it was that idea of what, I remember there was a moment where I was dropped off in the middle of nowhere and I had to find my way to the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and only ask three questions, and I would pass go and collect $200 or whatever.

Can I ask this? Is there a person? Can I ask them? And my trainer said, because I would just go, I was really abrupt. I’d say, “Okay, what street are we on?” When I got to the Bureau of Blindness, I made my way there, a little bit late, but I made my way there, and I was so excited. I asked for my caseworker and I told her, “I made it, I made it, I found them.” And then turned around and walked into the wall. I thought that was really humbling. We are always small, not too big for our britches. And I think when we realized that and we’re able to laugh at ourselves and just see that we are all so imperfect in all of our strivings, then we’re going to enjoy our life.

Abby:

I agree wholeheartedly. If anybody wants to read your books, Amy, where could they find them?

Amy Bovaird:

On Amazon dot com, I have my audiobooks on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible. My website is Amy Bovaird dot com, they’re there. All of my books are in large print and Kindle, eBook, and they are regular print. I have a couple of recent eBooks that just went out about my diagnosis and I have some other issues and so the other ones are overcoming and finding joy in little things, family, and how God kind of gives us surprises. Stuff like that. I’m working on a book right now called Second Sight, which goes through some of my early travels and it goes through now what I’m coping with, like going to the wrong seat of the car, the backseat, thinking I’m in the front. All those kinds of things and looking at it from a perspective of acceptance.

So it’s called Second Sight because it’s like looking in the mirror. And instead of looking out of a situation of continually adapting, it’s more inside us. Instead of before, it was mostly outside, like the physical, we tried to get to [crosstalk 00:19:58] using a cane and now it’s more working on my perspective and how to change a negative into a positive and looking for the blessings and things, looking for the good things that arise out of my situation. There’s always something to be thankful for.

Abby:

Yes, there is. Amy, I could just sit here and talk with you for hours and hours. And I just want to thank you so much for your time with us today and sharing just pieces of priceless ways that we can live our lives and realizing vulnerability and realizing that we are human and accepting every bit of who we are and looking for those moments of joy. And, gosh, wow I’m super excited to be here with you today and thank you so incredibly much. You guys, I just want to hug you. I can’t wait until we can do that. So thank you so much for being here with me today and sharing your story and we’re going to definitely look you up and I’m going to get to reading your books, stat. So I can’t wait.

Amy Bovaird:

Oh thank you, that’s great.

Abby:

I hate to go, this was so wonderful. We’re going to go grab some lunch or something soon. It’s going to be awesome. You guys, this is Abby. Thank you for joining Amy and I today. And remember, just stay strong, stay natural, stay lovely, stay beautiful, one cane tap at a time, and we can do this together. Guys, take care and have a great one.

Connecting With Amy:

Image Descriptions:

  • Header photo from Amy’s visit to a small village in Kenya where she sponsored a child, Betty Mueni, through Child International. These are the villagers in her area. Amy is in the center. Sweet memory.
  • Amy’s official author photo with her white cane.
  • Park Bench – Amy is seated on a park bench smiling and happy in a park.
  • When she lived in Indonesia. Here Amy is carrying a backpack and pointing to the street name Jalan Salam with another teacher from her school. 

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