Get to know dare devil deaf presenter Alana Nichols and be inspired by her new travel show, launching today.
Travel may be off the cards right now for many of us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get inspired and start planning for our next trip abroad. One way to get inspired is by checking out Follow Alana Switzerland — a new show launching on digital platforms today! Here at Conscious Being we had the pleasure of catching a preview of the show. We also had the opportunity to interview the host herself, Alana Nichols.
Born deaf, Alana has an inquisitive, open demeanour that shines through every episode. A talented presenter, speaker, and one of Ronald MacDonald House Charities of the Philedelphia Region “Champions of Hope 2020,” we knew we had to get to know Alana more…
Hi Alana, thank you so much for joining us and for sharing with us the phenomenal work you are doing around inclusion, diversity and travel. You were born with an extremely rare form of deafness, can you explain this condition further and how it has impacted your life?
I was born with a common cavity malformation which involves a malformation in the inner part of my ear (the cochlea to be specific). As a result, I have zero hearing and my sense of pitch is distorted. I spent several years in verbal therapy working on the tones in language (such as raising the pitch at the end of a question). This was particularly challenging since I grew up in a place where the primary language was Mandarin — a tonal language. While many deaf people can and have successfully learned to hear and speak Mandarin, I am not able to distinguish the tones which are critical in understanding the meaning of words in Mandarin. (For example “wen” in different tones can mean ask or kiss.) This was one of the reasons my parents opted for me to learn English in verbal therapy growing up.
I love the tagline on your website — “Alana was made for the unexpected” — how does this reflect your life and experiences? What has been the most unexpected moment that you have experienced?
I grew up in an unusual situation and that is sometimes reflected in how I view the world from the perspective of a multicultural person with a unique disability. I don’t think I am able to pick one singular most unexpected moment. However, I often find myself stepping out of my comfort zone and as a result, my circle of comfort is constantly morphing.
Congratulations on the show, Follow Alana Switzerland, where you explore the beauty and story of Switzerland, can you tell us more about the show and why you chose to explore Switzerland?
I’ve always been very drawn to the culture and geography in Switzerland. I’m fascinated by this small country with a unique political system and four official languages despite having a small population! There were endless topics for us to cover in the season. What surprised me the most was the striking similarities I noticed between Switzerland and Taiwan, where I grew up. Both are small yet have high mountain densities and I could not help but be reminded of my home when driving around in Switzerland. What is beautiful about the lifestyle in Switzerland is the strong alpine culture. I remember being fascinated when one of our guides headed home after a day of work by paragliding (his normal commute).
In the show you reveal your inner daredevil, and even when you showed a wobble in your confidence, i.e., the Dragon Jump at the Pilatus Rope Park, in the end you held steady. Where do you get this confidence and dare devil vibe from?
That was a fun episode! I’ve always had a bit of a dare devil streak (much to the fright of my parents) and embraced things that give me a healthy dose of nerves. This probably comes from constantly living outside my comfort zone. There’s a misconception that dare devils and explorers don’t have fear. While it’s natural to feel fear, it’s important to recognize it can be disabling if you allow it, and quite enabling if you utilize it.
Travel is such a huge part of your life, where does this love of travel come from?
Born in a multicultural household, I was fortunate to start traveling from a very young age and quickly grew to love it. I appreciated the diverse insight it offered into multiple lifestyles and cultures. I was also strongly influenced by my mother’s love for travel and linguistic skills. (Unfortunately I only inherited the first.)
You have spoken about how story can be used as a catalyst for positive change. How do you believe combining story telling and travel can create positive change, especially for deaf and disabled women?
As a public speaker, I saw firsthand the difference storytelling could make in a variety of ways. In relation to the deaf community and disabled women, stories invite the audience to question internalized narratives (such as biases associated with the word “disability”). They bring visibility and representation to those who may feel their own narratives are not heard and have the power to bring people together. Stories help us understand the world a little better and in doing so, inspire action and participation.
You are also an internationally sought after speaker, and you have addressed the World Health Organisation on issues relating to deafness and hearing care, in our books that makes you a phenomenal change maker. What do you hope for in the future for deaf people and deaf women in particular?
I hope deaf people including deaf women feel empowered to stand up for themselves and communicate their individual needs. Additionally, it is my hope those who are not a part of these communities value the importance of representation and allyship.
Finally, in looking forward to when we will be able to start travelling again, can you share with us some travel tips and insights that you have picked up on your travels?
Print out all your travel details beforehand and carry it with you in case technology fails.
Always let someone know where you’re going.
Talk to the locals, they can suggest great tips and opportunities that you may not find online otherwise.
Most importantly, have fun and don’t be afraid to try new adventures!