There will be a quite big introduction here,
for, without being afraid of tautologies, I must say that the new hero of “Special Beauty” is extremely special for me.
In the spring of 2018, I received a message on the VKontakte network in which I was thoroughly and respectfully offered to cooperate — to help create the cover of his first book, Journey Without Borders. Only after skimming through the list of Vova’s activities, I realized that I would consider the very fact of meeting and talking with him as luck. More so, helping him with my creativity.
It’s funny to remember now, but we took that picture in the parking lot of the Yekaterinburg Circus (don’t ask why, I don’t remember myself). The book was published just a few months later, and Vova became a participant in the first season of the project “Special Beauty”. And he said touching things at the opening of my first exhibition. I can’t call him a friend in the full sense of the word (I would like to, of course). This term requires more regular communication (and with Vova’s pace of life, only a few are awarded such an honor — a wife, for example). However, I can call him a comrade, and in some ways a mentor with pleasure and pride.
Thinking about Vova, you come to the conclusion that the title of his first book (the second is already on the way) is the most accurate description of not only his “travel adventures”, but also his attitude to life in whole. This person has absolutely no mind limits. To travel half the world, being blind. Why not? Earn an apartment in St. Petersburg at the age of twenty, being a disabled person? He can. To become the host of a YouTube show. Who but him? The recklessness of a dreamer, at first glance, multiplied by the sober prudence and analytical mindset of a true mathematician, gives phenomenal results in his case.
The twists and turns of his fate you will read in more detail below, but I want you to know that in addition to a huge number of achievements and regalia, he is an incredibly charming young man with a subtle sense of humor, self—irony and the manners of a true gentleman.
The social sphere is a very difficult environment, with its own specifics, “clans” and not always an attractive inner life. Vova is one of the few people in this field whose opinion I trust unconditionally and without hesitation I agree to all his proposals. I know that he will definitely not let me down and will organize everything in the best possible way. And, yes — today he is not just an “inclusive showman”, traveling with motivational speeches, he is a real power broker from inclusion, overseeing a huge number of events, forums, projects. A powerful leader who sends instructions to his colleagues and subordinates out of the darkness of thought.
With our photo shoot, I wanted to show exactly this role of him — omnipotent and a little demonic (since we are talking about the influence of such a scale). I don’t know what Vova would say if he saw these shots, but I think that, at least, he would laugh, being a big fan of any non-trivial experience.
So, let me introduce you
28 years old
Traveler, writer, business coach, event organizer, producer, yachtsman, author of the blog “Journey in the Dark”.
I’ve only seen one year in my life. The first.
There are no memories of this. So, you can say, I have never seen.
At the age of three, I had both eyes removed because of retinal cancer.
Of course, it was a tragedy for my parents. But they did everything to make my childhood truly happy and fulfilling.
I even managed to play football with the guys in the yard (a life hack is to put the ball in a bag and navigate by its rustle).
The main scourge of all disabled people is extra guardianship of loved ones.
It is extremely important to minimize this so that a person can cope with most of his life on his own. No pity, no excessive care, maximum independence. I am very grateful to my family for the fact that they managed to maintain a balance in this.
However, the blind are special children and require special education.
Therefore, when I was 7, my parents made the difficult decision to send me a thousand kilometers from my hometown to the specialized boarding school named after Martirosyan, one of the best schools for the blind and visually impaired in the country.
After boarding school, there was a university. I went to an unadapted university, chose a specialty that no blind person had studied before. It was a mixture of programming, economics, marketing at the Higher School of Economics and Management.
I had to get out a lot — it was a serious school of life.
Imagine when you are given a project in 3ds Max, and you are blind. Both teachers and fellow students helped me.
Once a week I went to a math tutor just to show him what I had photographed at a lecture and he explained what he had seen to me.
The ability to negotiate, to find compromises is the main result of this education.
The love of traveling was inspired in me by my parents.
I couldn’t read by myself, so I would sit on my mother’s or father’s lap and listen attentively. I got tired of fairy tales pretty quickly, and I asked for something more interesting. Then my father took Mayne Reed and Jules Verne from the top shelf of our large bookcase.
So I plunged into the world of adventure and travel. By the age of six, I had “read” most of the authors of the adventure genre who wrote about the sea and pirates. This prompted me to study geography and shipbuilding. I studied the diaries of Columbus, listened to the first circumnavigation of Magellan, the conquests of Cortez and dreamed of one day going on my own journey.
Then Dad and I started studying cities and maps. Then there was the first trip with my parents to the Krasnodar Territory. When I was 14 we travelled to the Caribbean Islands which was my dream.
It cost a lot of money for my parents who were doctors from a small town of KhMAO. We saved up long to fulfill my cherished wish (after all, there was the focus of all the first discoveries in the field of navigation).
What is more, they not only brought me, but also gave me the opportunity to manage our budget and plan leisure time. I already had skills of working in the Internet (it was 2010) and selected all the routes and excursions for us myself. Actually, it was then that my love for traveling and organizing was born.
Remember the moment when you were invited somewhere — and you refused. It is quite possible that you missed your chance.
Upbringing, parents, environment, self—discipline all this is important. But sometimes a single acquaintance can change your life. My life, at one time, was turned upside down by a meeting with Oleg Kolpashchikov. He came to our boarding school with a performance, but for some reason I didn’t want to go (most likely, I was just too lazy). Fortunately, I was persuaded.
So at the age of 16, I “saw” the same blind man as me but only successful. He had his own business, he went to Germany to teach sighted (!) entrepreneurs how to run a profitable business, traveled a lot including on a yacht to which he invited me later.
At that moment, it clicked in my head. I realized that I want the same. Independently, freely and without borders.
Therefore, one of my tips is to find a mentor or a role model — someone who will truly inspire you.
And try to do the same.
So, I was a student (that is, I had no money) — and I wanted to “see the world”.
And I decided to start hitchhiking.
At first I tried hitchhiking with sighted friends. I traveled around several European countries in this way, and after that I started traveling alone. I realized that this is a great way not only for budget travel, but also the opportunity to hear a lot of interesting stories from locals.
As a blind person, it is not beautiful landscapes and sights that are important to me, picturesque and emotional stories about them. As a rule, such stories you can hear from locals and truckers a lot
The most difficult and the most important for me was to learn to trust the world and people. It often seemed to me that everyone was trying to deceive me, I was always expecting some kind of trick, danger.
One story helped me:
once in Yekaterinburg I got out of the subway. I had to walk about 300 meters to the bus stop. And then someone grabs me by the collar and starts dragging me somewhere, saying in a confident bass voice: “Bro, don’t fuck off, we’ll break through! Seryoga has a day of good deeds today!”. I tried to dissuade the unexpected benefactor, but he was determined.
Seryoga didn’t know what phrase to use to inform me that there were steps ahead, so he cheerfully announced: “Bro, there’s going to be a BIG DROP!”. Then he noticed a young lady very attractive, apparently and began to passionately describe her to me in all details. He got carried away with the process so much that he immediately drove me into the pillar, and in his defense he said philosophically: “Sorry, bro, but you understand yourself women are nothing but problems.”
This story finally convinced me that there are more good people.
The world is open and it is beautiful.
And if there are difficulties, most people will be happy to help you with their solution. Even in the case of a “Big drop”.
I understood this only with time and experience. So now I am alone in the vast majority of trips. And this is the excitement because then I communicate with the locals, who are very willing to talk about their native places, show secret places, take me to their favorite places, share the tricks of going to the market, using local transport and all that you won’t find in guidebooks.
“Why travel if you can’t see?”.
Today I am often hated in the comments. They say, why do you need to go to Paris if we can just take you for a ride around Parnassus (St. Petersburg district) by car and say that the Eiffel Tower is outside the car window. But it is easy for the blind to understand that you are in another country. And you too, without seeing, will immediately distinguish the MKAD from the Sicilian Trappeto. This is air, heat, sun, atmosphere, language, people around.
Everything is for the sake of emotions.
Vision is an important sense organ. But I get my emotions through the rest of the spectrum: smell, touch, taste. Communication with people, national cuisine, music. There are a lot of ways to enjoy a new country.
Travel is able to raise all areas of your life to a new level from finance to breadth of horizons.
Plus, you need to travel to dispel your stereotypes about other countries (and at least regions) and mentalities. It helps to be more mature, more conscious, develops the ability to think quickly and outside the box.
All our lives we have been fighting with our own limits and nothing else.
All our successes are about overcoming them.
I’m used to looking for advantages in everything. I call it the search for hidden benefits.
Imagine that you broke your arm. A problem? Of course, there is a problem. But what if we look at this situation from a slightly different angle? Broke my arm. OK. Now I can stay at home, communicate with my loved ones, do self-education, watch my favorite movies, do everything that I haven’t had time for a long time. Do you feel the difference? In one case regrets and disappointment with what happened, in the other — positivity and moving on, without stopping for complaints and sorrow.
Humor is also important.
Self-irony can help you out in difficult situations and charm. Let’s confess people really tend to feel awkward and uncomfortable in the presence of a person with a disability. But then I check into a hotel room and tell the bell boy:
“Don’t worry, you don’t have to turn on the light, I’m saving on electricity.”
And it instantly relieves tension.
Today I have glass prostheses installed instead of eyes. So I am the person who can sleep with my eyes open. I don’t remember being sighted, so I have absolutely no sense of loss and deprivation. My picture consists of texture, volumes, sizes, shapes, tactile and olfactory sensations. Plus, of course, the comments of the sighted.
I don’t care what people look like.
One of the main advantages of the blind is to focus primarily on spiritual qualities. I don’t see the packaging, but immediately pay attention to what’s inside.
As one of my friends, who went blind at the age of 20, jokes: “I still haven’t missed some faces.”
Due to the fact that I became blind in early childhood, I have not only a vacuum in terms of ideas about color, light, darkness, but also in terms of emotions. After all, the child, seeing the emotions of his parents, draws from them information about the world around him, tries to repeat (smile, surprise). I didn’t have that, so it may seem I’m a pretty closed guy.
There are few emotions on my face because I do not know what they look like.
So when the editor of my travel show offers to make me a soulful face I don`t understand. Perhaps this is the reason why I love extreme sports so much. It can bring me to a new range of feelings. It brings me a real drive and a sense of fullness of life.
“Do it normally and it will be fine”
And about the disabled.
Yes, it’s a little more difficult for me than for completely healthy people. But the rules of the game are the same everywhere: the one who does nothing gets nothing, the one who works hard and makes efforts on the way to his dream gets results.
There was a time, my own book, apartment, and YouTube channel seemed to me something incredible.
I could not imagine that my life would look like this: at such a pace, with so many trips, public appearances.
The most important thing is to step on your own fears and believe that you can do more.
I have a training walk “Journey in the dark”
I conduct it in any cities of Russia and the world. In 2 hours with my help you are completely
reboot, plunging into the world of the blind. We walk around the city, chat, have lunch at a restaurant. You’ve been blindfolded all this time. Sometimes I combine such a walk with a coaching session.
My task is to become a guide of a person in the dark, as a metaphor of life with its uncertainty.
This is a way out of the comfort zone, triggering the mechanism of “brain movement” in a person, because in such a non-standard situation, the brain is forced to turn on to the maximum. My goal is to bring a person to a result and fix in him a sense of triumph that can help him cope with further tasks in life.
I myself am still afraid of a lot, but it is important to understand that
most of our fears are a matter of practice.
The first time is creepy, the fifth is familiar, the twenty—fifth is already automatically.
Now I may not notice two transfers at airports at all. Once they wildly terrified me. Now I fully wake up already at the destination. What happens if you are late? Well, at most, you will lose money. Most likely, you won’t die from it.
Over the past seven years, I have traveled to 28 countries, visited 60 regions of Russia, won the program “I Can” on Channel One, got married, wrote a book, started writing a second one, earned my first apartment, moved to live in St. Petersburg, filmed a travel show.
I skydived, steered a steam locomotive, sailed on a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea, rowed across Siberia (600 km in 16 days), dived to a depth of 20 meters, spent the night in the African desert, participated in a fire show, climbed mountains, milked mares, was robbed in Paris, fell asleep on an anthill in The Hague and was arrested at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
All these events dilute my reality with bright colors and help me feel life in its entirety.
But once I was not even hired as a cosmetics sales manager.
I wish you to dream and strive for your goals. Your dream is what will lead you forward.
Try to make every day bright and unforgettable for yourself and your loved ones. Be inspired by other people. Try new things. Don’t give up. A train that stops is much more difficult to push than to push it on the move.
Only action no matter what.
You have a lot of opportunities and you need to use them right now.
Don’t whine and don’t make excuses for yourself. Do it.
Try to plan a goal for yourself ex.a trip for the next year.
Want it with all your heart and with all your passion. Do everything to achieve your goal.
You will be surprised how many new opportunities life itself will throw up to you on the way to this. You have only to want to.
Most likely, you will return very inspired and a little different person, because traveling is a real reboot, leading to a new breakthrough, and often to a new stage in life.
Photo/text: Yulia Otroshchenko
Vladimir Vaskevich’s Vkontakte blog: “Journey in the dark”
You can buy the book “Journey without Borders” here