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Effingham Magazine

Billy Lane: Adventurer & Explorer

Billy Lane: Adventurer & Explorer

Story by Cindy Reid


For many of us the very thought of jumping out of a plane or traveling by all by ourselves in a distant country would send us right back into our comfort zone—which is usually curled up on the couch. Few of us are explorers or frankly, very adventurous.

Meet Billy Lane, a young man who permanently lost his hearing due to spinal meningitis at the age of eight months. Born in Savannah, Billy attended the Hope School for Hearing Impaired Children, Inc. and learned sign language as a small child. He attended local public schools until the end of sixth grade when he moved to St. Augustine to attend the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. A few years after graduation Billy moved back to Georgia to be closer to family. He is currently working for Halstead International and lives outside Rincon.

Billy is an avid licensed skydiver and international solo traveler, which makes him both an explorer and an adventurer. We caught up with him on a rare day when he was home—and on the ground—to catch up on his latest travels in Scotland.

How did you become involved with skydiving?

When I was young, I saw a lot of videos of people skydiving. The adrenaline rush fascinated me. A friend and I decided to do tandem skydiving for the first time in Titusville, Florida in 2005. I was hooked.

One year later, I decided to take training for a skydiving license. I went to Skydive the Farm in Rockmart, Georgia. They had amazing instructors, especially Andy Whitlock, who welcomed me to be their student. Deaf skydiver Billy Vance helped me to train with him. After the completion of training, I got my license. I can jump anywhere at the drop zones across the USA.

How many jumps have you done?

I have had countless jumps. I have been jumping since August 2006. That would be 16 years jumping.

What do you like about it?

I like and love skydiving because it’s a very relaxing sport. I love the adrenaline rush. Skydiving is one of the most thrilling feelings ever. Flying in airplanes, free-falling through the sky at 120 mph and deploying a parachute all create extremely pleasurable feelings within me. It doesn’t feel like falling, more like flying because of air and gravity. Skydivers come from all walks of life and create a unique atmosphere filled with interesting people. They are like a family. We get to jump with strangers and get to know them.

The skydiving community is filled with tons of people looking to enjoy life and good times with friends in the sky and on the ground. Skydiving creates confidence, optimism, and positive feelings. Skydiving is a form of therapy, we all have things in life that stress us out and make life complicated, but when you skydive you are able to leave all your troubles on the ground.

You’re able to momentarily forget about the things that cause you stress on a daily basis while you fly around and play in the sky with your friends. I also feel that skydiving brings me closer to God and I can enjoy God’s creation from the sky.

Where in Scotland did you travel?

I was in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, also Stirling, Inverness, Portree (Isle of Skye), and Highland of Glencoe.

Why did you choose Scotland?

I have wanted to go to Scotland since high school. I love Scotland’s culture and history and Scotland is home to some of the most striking landscapes in the UK. Venture out of the cities and you’ll find no end of ancient abbeys, exquisite churches and cathedrals, historical monuments, old ruins, and castles.

They have magnificent castles, in all shapes, sizes, styles, and ages. I visited a lot of castles; Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle, Dunvegan Castle & Gardens, Eilean Donan Castle, and Doune Castle. Eilean Donan Castle is my favorite because of its stunning location on the small island and at the meeting point of lochs Long, Alsh and Duich and architecture of the castle’s interior and exterior.

Does being deaf make traveling by yourself more difficult?

I have been traveling by myself in the USA, but Scotland was my first time traveling overseas. Did I worry about that? Yes, in some way. Fortunately, I unexpectedly met people who were waitresses, flight attendants, in Scotland who knew a little sign language, known as BSL, short for British Sign Language. I understood what they were saying, and they understood what I was saying. I met a person from Ireland, using Irish Sign Language. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, and he couldn’t understand what I was saying in ASL or ESL. Luckily, he knew English in writing, so we enjoyed talking about where we were from for a little bit. Others who didn’t know any sign languages were very friendly and patient with me as I communicated in writing with the pen and paper I always carry with me.

What was special about the trip and what you experienced?

The Scottish people were the most incredibly friendly and welcoming I ever encountered. Scottish food is heart-warming soul food that’s perfect any time of the year. Especially haggis, the national Scotland dish, which is banned in the USA. It has a very interesting texture and gamey taste because it contains sheep’s heart, lungs, and liver. I love it with breakfast and with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) for dinner.

Scotland is known for four seasons in one day. Never was I once able to fully predict the weather. The weather in May is wonderful, only 50-60 degrees compared to 90-100 in Georgia. I had 17 hours of daylight in Scotland, plenty of time to explore.

I had an epic and adventurous drive through the Highlands of Glencoe. It has a road between the beautiful Highlands, waterfalls, and lochs with a lot of viewpoints where I frequently stopped and enjoyed the scenery.

Old Man of Storr is my favorite place for hiking on the Isle of Skye. It has incredible scenery at over 2,300 feet elevation. I love a little charming and colorful town and harbor called Portree located on the Isle of Skye. The town is surrounded by hills and impressive scenery.

Would you like to return to Scotland?

Absolutely, I consider Scotland my second home. I want to do another adventurous drive on NC500, short for North Coast 500, about a 500 miles scenic route. Driving on the left side of the road in the UK is different than in the USA. It takes less than 15 minutes to get used to it, it’s really easy.

Where would you like to go next?

I would like to go to Costa Rica to see their active volcanoes or Norway to the amazing Alps. Or Egypt because I love ancient civilization.

Are you a beach person, a mountain person, or a city person?

I’m more like a mountain person because it has more challenges and scenery. I love taking a time out whenever I’m in the mountains, to just be in one place looking over to the stunning lush greens of the Highland. The chance of taking amazingly beautiful landscape photos is higher in the mountains. The sea is, of course, also beautiful but it’s the mountains where you get a diversified landscape: forests, lakes, rocks, peaks, springs, waterfalls, streams, rivers, animals, interesting vegetation, and the amazing look at the world from the above.

Mountains are also great places to get away from the city hustle and bustle. In the mountains you get to test your character and endurance which may come in handy later in life. When you are up in the mountains, all your worries will ease away as time stands completely still.

What other experiences are you looking forward to trying?

I want to try BASE jumping or cave diving.

What would you want people to know about deafness in general? And as it pertains to you?

Deaf people are people too. The deaf have a better awareness of their environment. Deaf people learn differently and communicate differently but it is the only way we are different from other people. We have the same interests and desires in life.