Every now and then I discover something I can’t believe I’ve been missing. Things like goats cheese, Moleskines, pancakes with bacon, global travel even. Well guess what, I’ve found a new one: audiobooks. And they’re especially handy for travel.
Lauren got me onto audiobooks just last month. I assumed they were for people too lazy to read, but when she started listening to them in preparation for her Gobi Expedition, I thought I’d try them too. I found that they’re a great way to satiate an appetite for books when it’s just not practical to read.
Uses of Audiobooks
Buses, Trains and Bumpy Journeys
I’m not a big music listener. Don’t get me wrong, I like music, it motivates me and keeps me a little sane, but it bores me to tears on long journeys. That means I either read books, watch movies or write about some grand ol’ scheme. But a lot of the time it’s just too bumpy to read, too impractical to watch movies and then there’s writer’s block.
Audiobooks are perfect for these situations. You can sit back, listen to a classic and laugh your ass off while the other passengers decide whether you’re loony or just drunk.
Lauren and I love to get out into the wilderness and put ourselves to the test. It keeps the mind fresh, the body limber and can be a ball of fun to boot. But with physical adventure comes the need to push through pain, and there’s nothing as distracting as listening to a good yarn while you’re trotting along. Hello audiobooks.
For Lauren’s Gobi Expedition she’s taken roughly 20 audiobooks. Some are more than 10 hours long. So although most of the time she’ll want to take in her surroundings and chit chat with her teammates, there will certainly be times when she just needs to put her head down, ignore the pain and keep on trekking.
I’ve given this a test at the gym too. Instead of punk rock or death metal, I’ve put on an interesting audiobook. It doesn’t sound very stimulating, but in training for endurance, I became engrossed in the story and forgot about my numb legs. The exception to this is when trained much harder and faster. I found with a heart rate over 160-170, I just couldn’t concentrate on the audiobook.
Sleeping in Foreign Places
We’ve slept in some pretty nasty places. For example, an insect-ridden floor of a makeshift school in the jungle; a bug infested bed in a remote Peruvian village; numerous tents placed on uneven mountain sides; and of course the typical noisy hostel.
In many of these places your mind is wound way too tightly to read a book. Even if you try, you find yourself flicking through the pages without taking in a single word. And all you want to do is numb your mind enough to fall asleep so you can wake up and get the heck out of dodge.
Audiobooks are handy in these situations too. I find that listening to an audiobook isn’t as hypnotic as reading a traditional book, but they’re much more effective in tense situations. The only problem is that when you fall asleep, the book doesn’t land on your most recent page; it keeps on playing until your batteries run out.
Sources of Audiobooks
Audible.com is probably the largest online retailer of audiobooks; it’s an Amazon company. But there are also many audiobooks in the public domain. Check out librivox.org for a large database of free audiobooks. Otherwise, there’s a large community of loyal audiobook listeners and they can help find the book you want.
Keep in mind that audiobook files can be huge; often bigger than movie files because many audiobooks go for 5, 10 or even 20 hours. This means you need some space on your iPod, iPhone or whatever music device. As someone who can listen to the same music album for a month, I don’t mind purging some songs for a few good audiobooks.
Some audiobooks will also have digital rights management (DRM), which can stop you from moving them between devices (DRM essentially copy protection). It’s a real pain, especially when your intentions are pure. There are ways to circumvent DRM, but it’s much easier to buy audiobooks without copy protection.
Give audiobooks a try if you haven’t and let us know your thoughts.