Earplugs: God’s Gift to Travelers

So you are looking to travel. You buy a book about your destination, you save some money, and you head to REI to check out all the gadgets designed to make your life simpler and safer. You tuck your new security wallet confidently into your underwear and pat yourself on the back. You’re ready to go, right? Wrong. Because without a good set of earplugs, you are not ready for a trip.

When I was a kid, I could sleep anywhere and everywhere. A train could have come flying through my bedroom wall and it wouldn’t have awakened me. Other family members struggled with insomnia, but not me – I was the blessed one. Sadly, now that I am older, I too am plagued by what I like to call sensitive sleeping syndrome, or SSS – a dog barks once, and I lie awake, waiting for the inevitable next bark. Now I have earplugs.

Earplugs are currently marketed to construction workers and people who work at loud bars, to allow those who work in loud areas to protect their hearing. But I find that in general, but especially when traveling, they are absolutely essential to get a good night’s rest. This is because you spend your vacation moving from hotel to hotel, encountering other humans much louder and more obnoxious than yourself. And just as obnoxious people are not limited to one ethnicity (believe us, there are even obnoxious Canadians), people from all races, religions and creeds suffer from obnoxious-tourist-induced insomnia, lending itself to easy international marketing. (There’s also the problem of the buzzing insect. Mosquitoes always head straight for your ears at night, right? Plop in earplugs, and suddenly, no terrifying buzzing!)

Therefore, if I were an earplug marketer, I would make sure that earplugs are sold wherever travel-related accoutrements exist — supermarkets, drug stores, REI and outdoor stores, etc — and not just where the sleep aids and Breathe Right strips are, but near the tourniquets and portable defibrillators because that’s how important they are (in addition to the travel section near the 3oz bottles and in every airport terminal). Don’t believe me?

Let’s say you are traveling abroad, and your obnoxious (French, Russian, Chinese, Kenyan, Italian – insert your own obnoxious ethnicity here) neighbor is talking really loudly to his intoxicated travel companion. Instead of sleeping peacefully, you are suddenly transformed into a homicidal maniac, plotting the grim details of his death at your bare hands, possibly with a pillow or with tied up bed sheets. The next day, while carrying all of your too-important-to-leave-in-the-hotel devices and documents, you leave the cafe where you have just had your third cup of coffee, leaving your important bag behind. Your passport’s gone. So now you have to spend the entire day fighting at the embassy to get another one, plus harassing your family to send you emergency cash. If you manage not to lose your important things, you spend the day being non-plussed about all of the cool things you are seeing (“Great, another 600-foot waterfall, big deal – can I have a nap?”). Trip = ruined.

In conclusion, I will say that there have been two things that have caused consternation on this trip so far: 1) PMS, and 2) not getting enough sleep. The former is difficult to prevent, but the latter was avoidable with good earplugs. So take note, marketers, and start the advertising blitz to corner that travel market. And maybe with a good night’s sleep, the world will be a better place for everyone.

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