Hi everyone! My name is Skylar Mason and I am a Cochlear™ Baha® 5 recipient, a 2016 Anders Tjellström Scholarship winner, and a writer for Cochlear Americas. This summer I’m going to embark on an international travel adventure; a three-month backpacking trip through New Zealand and Australia. I’m going to start in Auckland, New Zealand; drive down to Wellington, then fly to Adelaide, Australia and work my way up the eastern coast to Brisbane. I’ll make a brief stop in Hawaii on my way back to the continental U.S. Follow me on my adventure!

If you’re thinking, “That sounds fun but also intense and kind of scary for a 21-year old who’s never left North America,” you are absolutely right!

When I first decided to take this trip, I had three major concerns:

  1. The cost. I’m finishing up my junior year in college at Arizona State University, which means my diet generally consists of noodles and PB&J sandwiches. I consider anything over $20 to be an extravagant purchase, so my initial research into the cost of international travel definitely gave me sticker shock.
  2. Being away from family and friends. My younger sister agreed to join me for the first month of the trip, but after that I’m on my own for two months. I consider myself an independent person, but even I have my limits.
  3. My hearing loss. Single-sided deafness makes it difficult for me to navigate social situations. Even with the help of my Baha® 5 Sound Processor, the thought of trying to understand speech in foreign languages and accents is intimidating.

However, the more I read about other travelers’ experiences, the more I knew I wanted to explore the world on my own. There are so many cities I want to visit, and I’m excited to learn more about the world and my place in it.

So, I decided to do research and address my concerns one-by-one. As for the cost of the trip, I realized there are a lot of ways to travel safely and economically. I’m going to be staying in a mix of hostels and Airbnb accommodations, which are cheaper than hotels and a good way to meet locals and other travelers. I’ll take advantage of public transportation whenever possible, use fare-comparison sites to find the cheapest flights, and look for Groupon® deals on excursions.

Being away from family and friends is still intimidating, but I’m planning to stay connected online through social media posts and instant messaging. Plus, I’m hopeful I’ll make new friends on my trip, while still enjoying some solo adventures.

Finally, I’ve found tons of resources on travelling with a Cochlear Implant or Baha device. As a member of Cochlear Family, I can access myCochlear, a site that has personalized information and support, with access to troubleshooting 24/7. It even has an entire section devoted to tips for travelling—including how to navigate airports and what to pack on a trip. So, no matter where you are, you have access to the information you need.

Another thing I’ve found incredibly helpful is the Cochlear Traveler Kit, a compact package of items you may need during your travels. It includes an equipment bag, a passport wallet, a dry caddy, a luggage tag, a patient ID card, and batteries for your processor.

It also includes a traveler’s guide full of helpful suggestions for the perfect trip. My favorite parts were a suggested packing list and a step-by-step guide to hearing during every part of the adventure.

Before I knew it, I had addressed my biggest concerns and I was more and more excited to embark on this adventure! This blog series is a way for me to share how I travel and communicate with people around the world using my Baha processor.

My next post will be on navigating through airports and finding your way around a brand-new country with a Cochlear device.

Have questions? Comment below and I’ll do my best to address them in an upcoming blog post.

Bon voyage!

Skylar Mason
As a journalism student, Baha recipient, and Anders Tjellström Scholarship winner, Skylar is excited to join the team at Cochlear as an intern to tell the stories of other CI and Baha recipients! She attends the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.