Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv

For the past three months or so, I’ve been traveling without an iPod. Everything was fine up until one morning in March when I woke up in my beach hut on Koh Chang in Thailand. When I went to check the time, the light never turned on. I thought I was just a little too bleary-eyed so I ignored it and went back to sleep for another four hours.

When I woke up again, I knew something was wrong. But being on a beautiful Thai island, I couldn’t be bothered too much. My plan: figure it out when I got back to Bangkok in a few days. So what exactly happened after that? Much frustration and lots of patience.

Soon after arriving in Bangkok, I was optimistic. Basically I thought I got lucky because I learned my iPod Touch was still under warranty from Apple. I’d literally bought it just a few weeks before leaving Boston last year, so this shouldn’t have been a surprise seeing as how I had a 1-year warranty. I found an authorized Apple reseller in downtown Bangkok (conveniently near one of my favorite lunchtime markets in Siam Square). There, they took my information, erased EVERYTHING on my iPod and said I could pick it up in 3 or 4 days. The problem with the iPod? The backlight stopped working.

Of course I thought I’d caught a lucky break. And of course I already had plans to leave Bangkok in less than 3 days time. I wasn’t set to return until celebrating Songkran, so I decided to just live and let go. I’d pick up my iPod in a month.

That month of travel—several overnight buses, a long boat ride, and many a lazy afternoon—I was iPod-less. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Still, I was looking forward to the day I’d get my iPod back. I hadn’t been keeping up with news, and generally felt disconnected (which in turn made me feel rather guilty about traveling).

When I did finally return to Bangkok to pick up my iPod, I learned that Apple was refusing to honor my warranty for what they claimed was “water damage.” Though the sales clerk also pointed to a large bump—like a tumor—on the back of my iPod (which granted, had been there for months). So Apple wasn’t going to fix my iPod after all. I dejectedly signed my papers and took back my broken iPod…only to find that it now worked! (Probably just opening it up and letting it dry out for a month helped revive it.)

Don’t get too excited for me, though.

Because by this point, I was on my way to Cambodia. And, as some of you may recall, Cambodia destroyed just about every electronic device I own. First my point-and-shoot camera broke on day one in Siam Reap. My cell phone had stopped working a few days before (water damage from Songkran). And what next? Again, my iPod’s screen went dark and the backlight never once turned back on again. Not to mention all my data and music had been erased, so by this point, the iPod was simply just there for me to read the news.

Alas, I’d been so used to traveling without an iPod, this time I just gave it up for good. It’s now sitting at the bottom of my backpack (getting a proper beating) and I’ve decided to just travel iPod-less for the rest of the trip. That means no music. No reading the news on the go or jotting down notes and blog ideas when on long bus rides. No easy way for me to actively ignore others and remain antisocial. Now I’ve got nothing to distract me. No cell phone. No iPod.

It’s been three months I haven’t used my iPod. And you know what? Traveling like this isn’t so bad. I meet more people, talk to more strangers, read more newspapers and instead of playing silly games late at night, I just sleep or read or think. Maybe I think too much (at least recently) but it’s nice to give my fingers a rest and my mind a challenge. Give it a try sometime.

I’ve previously written the following posts on traveling WITH an iPod, which I definitely plan to do again seeing as how it really was an incredibly useful tool. Of course, I’ll just have to wait until I can afford it (or better yet, an iPhone).

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  1. Scott - dreamalittledream.ca

    I don’t think I could go months traveling without an iPod. It’d be like watching a movie with no soundtrack, the tunes help improve the situation. Sure, Jack Johnson is playing on every single speaker in Thailand but the man only has 4 albums and I can only hear someone’s love affair with peanut butter so many times.

  2. hamptin inn

     Amazing! I can’t even stand a minute without my ipod near me,if I’m with a crowd I tend to ignore them coz I’m busy playing or checking my mails,fb then reading stories. So,good experience for you!

    • Adam

      I used to be the same – iPod always at the ready. But once you’re without something for so long, it’s easy to lose the addiction.

  3. Before leaving home I had the huge debate (with myself) to Ipod or not to Ipod during my RTW trip. I opted to NOT Ipod and I am so glad I went that route. I love not having it cus it’s one less thing I have to worry about. I also love that when I am walking around a new city I dont have the option to have an ipod with me. Or while I am on chaotic public transportation. I agree with Megan you see and observe so much more with out one. I love music alot but I figured I can listen to it while Im on my laptop not while lounging around or seeing new things. 

    • Adam

      Wow! Can’t believe you didn’t bring one especially since I know how much music seems to mean to you!

      Problem for me at the moment is I don’t even have music on my crappy computer, so literally the only music I hear is in cafes, clubs and bars. Which more often than not isn’t the music I had on my iPod…

  4. Before leaving home I had the huge debate (with myself) to Ipod or not to Ipod during my RTW trip. I opted to NOT Ipod and I am so glad I went that route. I love not having it cus it’s one less thing I have to worry about. I also love that when I am walking around a new city I dont have the option to have an ipod with me. Or while I am on chaotic public transportation. I agree with Megan you see and observe so much more with out one. I love music alot but I figured I can listen to it while Im on my laptop not while lounging around or seeing new things. 

  5. I think I would die if I lost my iPod while travelling…but since I’ve been back in Sydney I’ve made a point of not listening to it while on public transport/walking/jogging – you notice so much more around you and get more involved with your surroundings, overhearing funny conversations etc…actually, maybe I should travel without my iPod! 

    • Adam

      Taking public transportation or walking and NOT listening to an iPod really changes the journey! It can be hard sometimes but in general, I like it.

  6. Bubba GotPassport

    Hey Adam,
    I love my ipod touch (3g), too, and it is quite handy, isn’t it?  You don’t know what you’re missing till it’s broken, eh?  I’m glad you found the positive in being ‘disconnected,’ but am sorry your ipod died.  Try to reach them via twitter, you might get better luck there.  I know Nokia’s twitter people do help resolve issues like this.
    Happy Travels!

    • Adam

      Yeah, I definitely thought to reach them via Twitter but Apple doesn’t have much (if any) of a social media presence. It’s intentional I think.

  7. I never got into the ipod craze, mostly because I was too cheap to buy one. As a result, I have never missed it. What i DO miss is the cell phone! On my first extended trip, I swear I would hear it ringing and stop short in whatever I was doing. Of course, I didn’t even have it with me, so it was just phantom rings. Going away again this weekend for a while, sans phone, and kinda looking forward to it!

    • Adam

      I really enjoyed traveling without a phone for a lot of different trips I’ve taken. But I was never too terribly attached to mine and used to just leave it off for periods of time as well. There was one summer where my screen was broken which meant I never knew who was calling me when it would ring – every caller was a surprise!

  8. Rease Kirchner

    I purposely leave the house without my ipod all the time just so I will enjoy the weather or sights a little more. However, on buses all I can do is listen to music or sleep because I get motion sickness, so traveling without one would be rough.

    • Adam

      Luckily I don’t have much of a problem with motion sickness. Though I’m about to get on a 14-hour flight and not looking forward to being without music – hopefully the airline will provide some entertainment!

  9. Dtravelsround

    Oooh. I can relate. I lost my iPod in Bulgaria at the start of a miserable 30 hour commute from there to Montenegro. I remember being in the grips of panic when I rooted through my purse to find that my iPod was gone. Granted, I lost all of  my music a few weeks earlier (sans some music I had purchased), so my iPod didn’t have much, but it was better than nothing. I lived without music for a few weeks, but I wanted music back. So, when I got to Sarajevo, I found an Apple dealer and ordered a new one, this time an iTouch so I could have Skype and internet without opening my laptop. I waited five days for my new little music player and was overjoyed when it finally arrived. Now, 9 months later, my iTouch isn’t working well, either! It only plays music to one headphone, so today I have a date with a Genius at the store to see if they will fix it. Very proud of you for going iPod-free!! It does open you up to more travel and more getting in touch with yourself … but whew! That’s a long time!! Hope you are well love!

    • Adam


      I remember when you lost your iPod on your trip and thinking how miserable I’d be if I were in the same boat!!! It’s been much easier than I thought but I’ll look forward to the day I finally decide to shell out the cash again.

  10. I’m old than you so I started traveling with out it and a laptop. I consider it a blessing, since now that I travel with both, I don’t rely on them. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the having them with me, but they aren’t a necessity. 

    • Adam

      I agree – they’re not a necessity (more of a luxury). And I miss it less and less the longer I’m without it.

  11. WOW! As someone who prides herself on traveling with minimal technology, I have to say CONGRATS on traveling without music!  My shuffle had its bad days and I wanted to die without it on long bus rides (but yes, I survived too!) but it always started working again, eventually. But 3 months, no music? OY! Snaps to you!

    And hey, if you still do want to be anti-social, just pop in your buds. No one has to know you aren’t listening to anything:-). I do that all the time.

    • Adam

      Looking back it’s hard to realize I’ve gone so long without my music! Luckily I’ve been meeting people and having so much fun, I barely even noticed.

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