How Leaving My Headphones at Home Changed My State of Mind

I had never been one to walk around with headphones in, that is, not until I came to college. Walking to class I run out of fingers counting the number of people who walk by me with headphones in their ears. I used to be one of them, but I now take great pleasure in walking around campus and everywhere else in the world sans headphones. 

Music has a huge impact on many people’s moods and I have to admit that it is quite nice to hear it come through my headphones and feel the rest of the world begin to fall away. It’s a great escape, but I found myself thinking about what I was trying to escape from. Human interaction? The sound of my own footsteps? The noise from traffic on the streets? Although I was filling my ears with melodies, I was missing a whole other kind of music that the world was making around me. 

While spending a semester in a foreign country, I was strongly advised not to walk around with headphones in. Walking through streets of a foreign city with headphones in makes one more prone to becoming a victim of theft and other crimes. Wanting to avoid dangerous situations like these, I gave up my habit of taking my headphones with me everywhere I went and began to live life without their comfort. 

Initially I found myself missing the constant flow of music through my ears that made mundane activities like taking public transport a little more bearable. I also found myself feeling a bit more vulnerable and exposed to the world. I also found myself experiencing so much more that I had been missing out on before. The sounds of the wind swishing through the trees, the sound of the rain hitting my umbrella, the click of my heels on the pavement, and so many other sounds that I had been blocking out with my headphones. 

Not to say that I never listen to music in public, because I do. Life can feel utterly boring sometimes and putting in my headphones to listen to my favorite songs undeniably make it more bearable, but I have also found that most days I am surprised at the unexpected and delightful things that cross my path. Hearing a passerby’s infectious laugh or meeting an interesting stranger on the bus has made me realize that I was using my headphones to shield myself from others and feel more comfortable in public. 

With countless wireless headphones on the market, it is easier than ever to walk around with them in our ears almost all day long. For many, a day without headphones sounds like a miserable one, revealing our reliance on headphones in our daily lives. I find my new habit of leaving my headphones at home liberating, as I now have one less material thing on me. It gives me a feeling of being present, connected to my surroundings, and opens my days up to the possibility of hearing something I didn’t know I needed to. I encourage you to explore more days, more walks, and more moments without music flowing through your ears as I have learned that silence can be just as satisfying.