Loaded_touring_bicycleVisual impairment did not prevent a couple from riding a tandem bike to see the beauty of nature spread across 16,000 miles in an 18 month journey. The couple identified as Tauru Chaw and his girlfriend Christi Bruchok decided together to see the world despite their visual problems. They started their journey last January 2012.

Chaw is suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa. It is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and often blindness. Retinitis Pigmentosa causes permanent changes to vision that comes in varying stages among people who suffer from this disease. These changes may include difficulty with vision in dim light or in the dark and the loss of side or peripheral vision. His girlfriend and travelling companion, Christi Bruchok who is a Coopersburg native is fully blind in her right eye since age 19.  Her left eye also is visually impaired, providing her with 20/200 vision.

The couple took the journey on a tandem bike with Chaw taking the front position. Christi learned how to bike in order to help Chaw in navigating the bike, especially that her boyfriend’s vision deteriorated during the journey.

According to the couple, they took this trip to test their limits and to encourage other visually impaired individuals to get out and experience the world. They especially sought out schools for the blind and other organizations for the visually impaired during their trip. They are disheartened by the fact that there are numerous schools for the blind with children not given encouragement for opportunities in their future.

Riding tandem was difficult to both of them. Chaw has severe tunnel vision and can really only see out of a small center circle in each eye. Christi on the other hand, is still learning how to bike aside from her visual problems. For this reason they traveled slowly and managed to fall at least seven times because of their visual problems. The couple might not have been able to see all the bumps on the road but they got to see great sights along the way. According to the couple their favorite sights were king penguins in the wild of Argentina.

Christi was grateful for the chance to learn to ride a bike properly. In the past, she relied on public transportation and rides from her friends to get around. Now, she is able to run errands and get around town using her bike when there is no one available. This new skill gives her a little bit of independence despite her condition. She calls this ability to ride a bike as a “life changing” skill.

Indeed this story gives great encouragement for people who have doubted their abilities and seem restricted by self-imposed limitations. Believe in yourself and take challenges with a brave heart. Take a bike and see the world, just like this couple so bravely did.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia