Rucksack Essentials: La Musica

Music is a safe kind of high -Jimi Hendrix

It’s not that I am a snob about music but any world traveler will tell you that one of the most essential item in your rucksack is your music. My choice of tunes has become the soundtrack for many of my journey and it has saved my sanity. I can attest that there is nothing better then listening to your iPhone under the influence of Ambien on a trans-Atlantic flight. It is a wonderful hypnotic chemical that takes you away from the crying babies and exasperated mothers on El Al Airlines (not the Ambien, the song). The music has isolated me from Egyptian wedding parties at two o’clock in the morning as well as helping me pass days (not hours) while waiting for a flight out of Kabul.

For me, Justin Bieber just doesn’t round out the experience of tearing across the sun bleached sands of the Sahara Desert in a Toyota Land Cruiser – although, the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” does a terrific job in setting the mood. I have collected CD’s from souks, bazaars, back alley kiosks and hotel lobbies. I’d like to think that my taste in music is eclectic; you can find Middle Eastern Dance, Bollywood, Japanese Pop, Electronica, Soul, Rock, Tango and Neapolitan ballads on my iPhone proving that I am in constant search for my own personal soundtrack. 

Like a still image, a song can transport you back to a moment in time that has been forgotten. For instance, during the wild fires of Southern California in 2009 I had a very real flashback when Shakira’s song; “Whenever, Wherever” blared out from the radio while driving on the Glendale Freeway. The smell of a burning hillside mixed with fumes of diesel, the thump, thump, thumping of the helicopters overhead transported me immediately back to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. Music is sort of a synthetic acid, which enhances flashbacks of one’s own memories. Scans of the brain show that when people listen to music, virtually every area of their brain becomes more active. Which may explain why I have overcome a learning disability with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. 

Strange as it may seem, when I listen to music as I am doing right now, it forces me to focus and keeps my ADD at bay. Growing up, my parents could never understand why I would play music when reading or studying. They would just shout at me to turn the record player or radio off. But, instinctively I need this learning aid to focus – go figure! Music helps me concentrate. Once I sit down, play my music I fall into a Zen like zone and my brain slows down to a crawl so that I can concentrate. If it were not for music and the computer I would probably be selling used furniture in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

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