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Question: I don't travel as well as I would like. The mobility instructor has a large territory to cover and only comes to my community every few weeks. Am I doomed to be a poor traveller because I can't get the daily instruction students at NFB centres receive?

Answer: If you expect to become a good traveller when you only see a mobility instructor every few weeks, take a hike. An hour or two of walking every morning will give you the practice and confidence you need. In his book Care and Feeding of the Long White Cane, Tom Bickford astutely describes the role of the travel instructor as providing "supervised practice." His book is just one of many resources on cane travel available from the National Centre for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD, 21230.

As you walk in your community, incorporate new challenges every day. Begin by travelling in familiar areas and practicing cane technique. Your technique is good if it gives you information you need to keep from bumping into obstacles or falling up or down curbs and steps. Increase your speed; you may find you need a longer cane as you begin to move more briskly. Try going to unfamiliar areas. If you have business to conduct at a building you have not walked to alone before, allow extra time, get directions and go for it. You will be more likely to keep practicing your travel skills if you're going to new and interesting places.

If you know another blind person who also wants to become a better traveller, go places together. Learn from one another's observations, successes and failures. Walking together turns cane travel into an exploration adventure rather than a tedious chore or a frightening and dangerous journey. If you know a blind person whose travel skills you admire, follow him or her around for a while. You'll discover that good travel is not free of false turns and mistakes. Good travellers say to themselves, "If I get lost, I can find my way again."

When you do have access to a mobility instructor, use the time to ask questions and solve problems which have arisen during your daily walks. Remember, travel teachers aren't there to teach you the route from point A to point B. They're there to teach you the concepts you need to discover your own routes and to go anywhere you choose.

There is no doubt that the supervised practice offered by a good travel teacher makes learning to get around easier, but thousands of blind people have learned what they needed to know without ever having good travel instruction. Make the most of the teacher time you can get. Take what you've learned and practice on your own. You'll be astonished by how much and how quickly your skills and confidence improve.