Chapter 3: The Blank Spaces on the Map

Taking Out the Headphones; Traveling Without Music

Written September 11, 2015

My memories of Costa Rica have a soundtrack of about twenty songs.  One of my favorite pastimes was staring out the bus window at the Costa Rican landscape while listening to music, and just thinking and processing.  I walked down the city streets with headphones as a barrier between me and the piropos, or catcalls.  Even now, a year and some change after I left, a song will come up on my shuffle and take me straight back to the feeling of slowly making a strange place my home.  When I see something that particularly inspires wonder, U2’s “Ordinary Love”, the song I used for the soundtrack to my video compilation of my Costa Rica experience, starts playing in my head.

Music impacted my previous travel experience in a positive way, and I saw no reason for this trip to be any different.  Before I left, I made sure my trusty device I’ve had since high school was completely updated, charged, and fully functional, and that I had an extra set of headphones in case my first ones blew out or were squished.  However, despite my extensive preparations and precautions, before I even got on my first train, my iPod drowned.  My new hydration bladder created a lake in my new daypack while we were exploring the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona.

–send it back, it’s broken–
–oh wait, I didn’t close it properly–

My esteem for the water resistance of my bag increased by several points as it managed to accumulate a few inches of water before starting to drip into my shoes.  However, completely submerging my music source for an hour did more than just clean the circuits.  It still works–kind of, if I treat it just right and don’t adjust the volume, and charge it every single time I use it–but I took it as a sign from the universe that I should take the headphones out of my ears.

I didn’t accept my fate at first and attempted my listening-to-music/zoning-out thing a couple of times on the train.  However, I don’t know if I don’t find European landscape and towns to be as engaging as Central America, or if I don’t have as much to process, or what, but my attention quickly turned to reading or writing or napping.

What inspired me to write this post is that I’m currently sitting in a Czech airport, and my instinct upon pulling my laptop out was to stick my headphones in.  But then I realized I would shut out the background murmur of various languages, the eclectic mix of songs playing over the airport speakers, the shouts of children, the clank of foreign coins, and the occasional question from my sister on how to spell something.

Let’s try a trip without a soundtrack.


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