Pros & Cons of Bringing a Music Player When You Travel

by BootsnAll

Even people who aren’t serious music geeks usually at least consider bringing an MP3 player with them when they travel, regardless of the length of the trip. After all, music has the ability to lift your spirits when you’re feeling low, give you the energy you’ll need to get through the day, and help transport you from your 10-hour bus ride through Central America when you’re crammed between the smiling, toothless woman and the wooden crates full of chickens.

We know travelers who say that a music player is second only to a passport in terms of importance when they’re packing, and others believe having headphones plugged into their ears cuts them off from the world around them and makes them seem unwelcoming to others. In this article, we’re going to look at the reasons why you might or might not want to bring a music player with you on the road.

Why You Should Bring Music

  • Pass the time: The number one reason people say they want music is because it helps to pass the time on long plane/train/bus/tuk-tuk/donkey rides. Not every ride will have a cute backpacker to flirt with or an interesting local who wants to practice speaking English. Music can save you from sheer, opressive boredom.
  • Make new friends: If you’re the kid with the kicking speakers, there’s no doubt that everyone in the hostel will be wanting to hang out with you – especially those that didn’t bring music. Music is also a great conversation piece and can be an excellent reason to start conversing with the cute backpacker who just showed up on the plane/train/bus/tuk-tuk/donkey and looks like they might have good taste in music.
  • Block out other noises: Anyone who has ever spent a night in a hostel dorm room knows just how annoying the rustle of plastic bags is at 5 am, or how irritating a chorus of serenading drunks can be. With music, you can tune out these distractions and focus on whatever it is you’re listening to, without having to pay attention to the couple that’s hooking up on the other side of the room.
  • You want to be antisocial: Sometimes, you can just get a little grumpy, and you know it. Sometimes, you don’t care if you’re in another country, you still don’t want to talk to anybody and that’s it. Period. Headphones can be a conversation inhibitor and if it looks like you don’t want to be bothered, chances are, you won’t be.
  • You can update your collection: When you get tired of your music collection, download some new songs or buy some local music and add it to your player. If you’re going old-school with CDs, varying your music is as easy as borrowing CDs from another traveler or picking up some new ones wherever you are.
  • You just like it: As Eminem put it, music can alter moods and talk to you. If you live and breathe music, chances are, you don’t want to be without it.

Why You Should Not Bring Music

  • You can’t afford for your device to get lost or stolen or break: If you are in love with your iPod, or your Discman is the best thing since sliced bread, you may not want it to visit the countries you do. Small electronic devices can break easily if you’re not careful – simple things like throwing down your pack on the cement, leaning up against your bag when you’re waiting for a bus or catching your device between two hard objects will dampen your fun. Also, music players are universally popular items, with both locals and backpackers. Sometimes, things are stolen and they’re not always easy to replace.
  • You look like a target: The more expensive your stuff, and the more of it you have, the more likely are you to be ripped off. This is especially true if you have something that is difficult to get where you’re traveling and can be sold on the black market, such as an iPod.
  • You appear inaccessible: Face it, if you’re wearing headphones, it’s a lot less likely that someone is going to sit down next to you and strike up a conversation. While this may be what you want sometimes, you can also miss out on a lot of valuable experiences by sticking headphones in your ears. Also, your display of wealth may alienate you even further from the communities you are visiting.
  • You don’t need it: Plain and simple, you’ll make it without music. Read a book, make a new friend, or ponder life. Travel is pretty entertaining all by itself – you don’t need music to entertain you while you’re on the road.

Should you take music with you?

BootsnAll Sez: Music is a seriously personal decision, and if you’re so afraid of losing your iPod that you think the constant worry is going to keep you from having a good time, then you probably shouldn’t bring it. But all things being equal, we think that bringing an MP3 player is a great idea. And even though it’s more expensive to get an MP3 player (such as an iPod, Creative, or Zune) than to use the Discman or Walkman you may already own, we think that it’s a huge improvement. Cassettes and CDs are seriously bulky, and usually the players are more fragile, making them less travel-friendly than a compact and more durable MP3 player. But if what you’ve got is a Discman, you’re already surviving on a Ramen diet just to afford your trip, and you simply must have music with you, then by all means bring the Discman.

Recommended Music Players

If you don’t yet own a music player, don’t go back in time to the age of the Walkman or Discman. Go straight for an MP3 player. You’re probably familiar with the iPod, which makes up more than half of the MP3 player market – there are several different kinds available now, and they vary in terms of the features and the amount of storage (not to mention the color). Everyone likes iPods, but they’re not cheap – and there are other non-Apple MP3 players out there that’ll do the exact same job for a lot less money. (And don’t forget to check sites like eBay and Craigslist for gently used players, too, which could save you beaucoup bucks.)

Another bonus of having an MP3 player with you is that they’re useful for other things, too – if you’ve got one with lots of storage capacity, you can move digital photos to it when you need to empty your camera’s memory card. You can also scan important documents at home – like insurance paperwork, travel information, passports, or emergency numbers – and save the files on your MP3 player so in a pinch you’ve got a copy you can print out. Of course, having documents like that on your player is one more reason you really don’t want to lose it or get it stolen!

These are just a few of the MP3 players out there.