Travelling overseas? There are a million books and websites filled with an amazing range of travel tips,but I want to share the one thing I’ve discovered that is not in the books:
Carry a ukulele.
A ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to learn, and it is incredibly portable. You can get a cheap Mahalo brand for less than $30. It is one of the few instruments that is so cheap that will still sound good. It sounds even better if you throw on some Aquila strings (about $20).
Why travel with a ukulele?
- They are cheap. Cheap enough that if they get damaged or lost it doesn’t matter
- They are a fun and happy instrument. You can’t be sad when you are playing a ukulele.
- They are easy to learn. You can be playing basic songs in 15 minutes. And they sound good, not like someone learning violin!
- They are portable. Easy to stuff in a backpack and carry anywhere, and they fit in your carry-on luggage
- They are a great way to meet people. In my experience, when you have a ukulele people will come up to actually talk to you, not just sell you trinkets. They seem generally interested and love to have a go at it. It’s a great way to make momentary friendships with those many random people that pass through your life as you travel.
- Protection from monkeys. Probably not a big concern for most people, but it was an effective tool for keeping away aggressive monkeys at the Old Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.
- Crime prevention strategy. Unfortunately I don’t know if there is a causal effect, but I carry my ukulele everywhere and I have never had troubles with being attacked or robbed, even walking in the dark streets of developing nations alone at night.
So there you have it, take a ukulele when you travel.
For the last and best word on ukuleles, let’s ask Amanda Palmer.
That is actually a really good tip, although I’m not sure about picking it up in 15 minutes (I must be severely untalented). I tried a mouth organ once, but I think the ukelele would work better somehow. Or maybe I was just bad at the mouth organ. (That could have been it.)
I may have slightly exaggerated the 15 minutes :-p
One advantage it has over other instruments is that you can practice quietly, which is not so easy on a mouth organ.
Very true! And thanks for putting up the link to us(Melbourne Ukulele Kollective) playing the wonderful Amanda Palmer! Cheers, Dean Denham aka Dino Divo
Awesome advice! Ukuleles are the best!