Hit The Road
Headphones cancel noise with relief
My parents were never big into rules, and they were never particularly fond of the "silence is golden" rule. The Uyenos are big fans of talking, music -- my dad is even a singer in a rock 'n' roll band -- and loud laughter. The only place you'll catch us worshipping silence is while traveling.
Last summer, my parents impressed me by buying a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones (and borrowing a second pair from a friend) before making a long trip to the East Coast. Although my mom was unhappy that the headphones smashed her ears, making them sore after several hours, both of them raved about the joy of traveling in peace and quiet. "I felt so much better when I got off the plane!" they both said.
After writing about the things I can't travel without in this column last month, I spent the rest of April thinking about all of the things that I had forgotten to include. Although I am generally a light packer, my can't-travel-without list is actually a little longer and more technologically sophisticated than I originally divulged. My iPod, crammed with podcasts of "This American Life," my laptop (intention: do work; reality: re-watch episodes of "Sex and the City") and, of course, my noise-canceling headphones always make it into my backpack before I head out for the airport.
It's not necessarily silence that I want when I'm traveling, but rather being able to shut out the noise in order to replace it with something more pleasant. Even while in transit, it's sometimes necessary to transport oneself to a different place mentally. For example, I have been in love with the "Amlie" soundtrack for the past few months, and sometimes when I'm on a crowded plane, I like to close my eyes, turn on Yann Tiersen's "Comptine d'un Autre" and pretend to be skipping rocks in a stream in Paris. This often causes me to miss a round of drinks (which are still free!), but I think that this minimeditation is much more refreshing anyway.
I'm writing this while sitting on an airplane next to a group of loud, non-English-speaking people who, through wild gesticulations and inflection, seem to be angry with each other. ... I'm not entirely sure. Usually, I love exploring cultural differences, but on days like today, when I am exhausted and limp from lack of sleep, I'm really grateful for being able to pop on my big, panda bear-esque headphones.
Even though we can't all afford to pay five times as much to sit in first class, an investment in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones can make sitting in coach a less stressful experience. While the engines are roaring, you could be listening to Jack Johnson while eating your pre-packed Spam musubi, and it will be the next-best thing to the four-course meal they're getting in first class.
My headphones open up the space around me, and while my silence might not allow my chair to recline into a bed or conjure a bottomless glass of champagne, the comfort they bring is better than gold. On long trips the silence my headphones bring me is as precious as platinum.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward beginning travelers or youths experiencing their first extended stay abroad appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.