Traveling without an I-Pod (gasp!)

I-pods were made for travelers; it seems like a crime to leave these innovative, tiny, endlessly entertaining devices at home when you journey overseas.

While bopping my head on a recent flight, I gazed down my beloved I-pod and wondered if my little 2-ounce musical baby might hinder my upcoming experience. Ten years ago, portable music seemed like a secret indulgence (a bulky CD player and 12 CDs take up as much room as shoes!). Now that it’s tiny, I treat it like a tool essential to comfort and survival. The I-pod is up there with underwear, iodine tablets and sunscreen on my packing list.

The reasons its became a “necessity” seem logical enough. It helps me to sleep on overnight flights, long bus rides are less monotonous, and it carves out a bit of alone time when on group tours.

But when the batteries run out, that’s when I remember I’m in another country or embarking on a long journey. On a bus ride through the Chilean lake district, I wound up conversing with a Colombian family and finally practicing Spanish. In Quito, going to the hotel gym seemed boring without an I-pod, so I went for a run in Parque Carolina and got to see parts of the city I would have certainly missed otherwise. And even on the overnight flights, it’s probably good for my multitasking brain to sit still and enjoy a time out.

One of my favorites memories from a birding trip (I’m not a birder, so I experienced it as a complete outsider) was when someone’s I-pod wasn’t working. True birders store hundreds of bird songs and calls to lure the little buggers out of hiding.  When the I-pod wasn’t around, the birders had to try their own luck whistling calm, perfectly timed “hoots” to a diurnal owl. Their skill and patience with the call was pretty nifty to see.

Finally, I’m a tad embarrassed to be fiddling with it in front of people who live in a thatch house. Is it ostentatious? If I tell myself it’s essential to my happiness on the road, does that mean people without I-pods are unhappy? Life certainly wasn’t unbearable before the advent of the I-pod and it’s good to be reminded of that fact.

Of course, there are a few times that the I-pod has helped me to bond and connect with other people too  I love sharing headphones (one ear bus apiece) to fully explain why this is my favorite Pinback song. Or when a party starts to lag and you’re with new friends, it’s exciting to lend some beats to liven things up.

I may be hard pressed to leave my I-pod behind every time I hop on a plane, but maybe I’ll try it as an experiment; to leave something behind I find “essential” and see what happens.

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