Tuning Out

Last Friday, an article I wrote about travel-related songs appeared on Brave New Traveler. (You should go check it out if you haven’t already.) Anyhow, writing it got me thinking about music and just how portable it is now. MP3 players (specifically the iPod) are ubiquitous these days. Almost everyone in the 35 and under crowd owns one, and a whole heck of a lot of people in the older age groups do too. With these gadgets, you can literally carry with you thousands of songs in your pocket. Pretty amazing. I’m certain Jeff and I will enjoy this technology multiple times while we’re on the road…on those marathon bus rides, in noisy hostel rooms, etc.

But sometimes, I’m tempted to just leave my iPod at home. Though I wrote that article on music and though I love me some good tunes, I’m not a music junkie. I’m not up on the latest bands, and half the time, I’d just rather ride in silence in the car than listen to the radio, so it’s not like I’d be missing some integral part of me. And, I have to admit, that I often find the iPod or other MP3 gadget to be more than a little annoying. For instance, while out hiking yesterday, we passed a fellow hiker walking with his earbuds in through a gorgeous stretch of woods where the birds were chirping and a creek was burbling. What? Why go out in nature if you can’t disconnect yourself? You’re missing half the experience of being outdoors.

Sometimes I think we’ve become so “connected” to technology that we’ve become entirely disconnected from the world. On my Metro ride everyday, I’d say at least 75% of the people in my car are listening to iPods. No one talks to each other. Everyone just pops in their earphones and escapes to their own world…while oftentimes taking others with them whether they want to go or not because apparently most of the world is deaf and must listen to their iPods at a volume that makes the earphones unnecessary. (Lord, I sound like an old person.) Now to be honest, I doubt too many people would talk on the Metro even without the iPods, but still, I find it bothersome when people use their iPods as a means of ignoring other people. Can you not take your stupid earphones out for one second while you’re checking out at the grocery (I’m sure the cashier would appreciate some acknowledgment), when your coworker comes to talk to you (Um, you are at work, and she shouldn’t have to yell over your music), or when you’re in the freaking great outdoors (Soundtrack already included).

On our trip, that totally oblivious iPod person is not the person I want to be. I’m traveling to learn more about the world, to become more in tune with it…not my favorite songs. What’s the point of traveling around the world, if I’m always going to escape into my own private world? Will having an iPod be an easy escape from a difficult situation? Will I miss out on a fabulous conversation with a local on a bus because I’m too busy listening to my music? Will I seem out of reach, uninterested, unaware if I pop a set of earphones in? In the end, will being “connected” cause me to be completely “disconnected”?

4 Replies to “Tuning Out”

  1. I lost my ipod half way through my rtw trip and it was devasting. Long flights, 16 hr bus rides, boat rides, people hanging out and drinking in hostels- there’s a lot of times where you will want music.

    There will be days where all u want to do is sit and relax and you’ll wish you had an ipod.

    bring it but dont be attached to it!

  2. I’m going to bet it’ll be nice to have the iPod for your intercontinental flights and other long excursions on various means of transportation. I definitely wouldn’t have the earbuds in while traversing the Incan Trail or going through Buenos Aires, but there will definitely be times when not only will you not want to talk, but you won’t want to listen. Its a good way for a mini escape especially for 12 months in foreign places. With music you can always return to something familiar.

  3. I agree, I would also bring it. I don’t think you’re the kind of person that’s at risk of missing something because you’re too busy tuning things out. I hardly ever listen to my iPod for many of the same reasons you just listed, but when I do want it I’m glad I have it. Also, you’ll be able to get podcasts which will help you stay on top of current events and whatnot.

  4. I would definitely take your iPod. I backpacked through Central America for 6 months and about 1 month in – I found a cheap Discman at a market and bought a few local CD’s. It really helped on the bus rides. I loved listening to music from the countries I was in – and now, 5 years later, when I hear those songs, it takes me right back to the places I’ve been.

    My boyfriend and I are leaving on our RTW trip in a few weeks – I hope our paths cross at some point!

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