Like so many people, music has always been a huge part of my life. In addition of spending infinite amounts of time listening to a large spectrum of genres, I also wanted to help out musicians and founded a crowdfunding platform for musician in 2011.

On the playing part, I started learning cello when I was 6 years old, switched to guitar 10 years later and got into the quiet habit of kindly playing & singing a few tunes every other day in my room. Yes, we’re talking “Wonderwall” and all, and yes, I can see your eyes rolling! 😛

Having squeezed my life into a 37L backpack to travel around Latin America, I left my guitar in France.

I missed it.

So I bought a small one. For $25. And it’s been a blast. Here’s why!

Full work-out for your brain

Traveling is a deep learning experience in itself. New places, new people, new culture, the brain is constantly turned on ‘learning’ mode, and in a way, feels more malleable. This new-found plasticity is the perfect configuration to insert new things to learn, a new language for example!

How come? Because playing a music instrument is amazing for the brain. It’s the equivalent of a brain’s full-body workout, engaging practically every area of the brain at once. In addition of improving memory it also enhance the brain’s search function, a skill you could use when having to remember 30 new words of Spanish everyday.

The best thing about it? One hour of practice per week is enough to enjoy the benefits.

And for your heart!

Meeting so many people everyday while traveling could be exhausting, especially if you’re an introvert. Sometimes finding a tangible excuse to get some time alone is tough, and checking out your Facebook feed doesn’t count.

Having a guitar is the perfect excuse to go get some time alone and truly rewire.

As a matter of fact, music increases the volume and activity in the brain’s bridge between the two hemispheres, which results in more creativity in social settings. It comes pretty handy when you meet so many new people on the road.

Let it be an excuse for new encounters

This little piece of wood has magic powers! It’s an amazing conversation starter, because everyone plays guitar (~300M players in the world). It naturally creates empathy, connection & let the people you meet show you their super-powers.

And because you get to spend quality time with super-heroes while you travel, you’ll be able to learn quite faster with them showing you time-saving tips than you struggling with a poor 240p YouTube video to learn a cool riff!

Connect on different levels with others

I’ve found that music lets you connect with others on a totally different level. I don’t know if it’s deeper, better, stronger. It’s just different. There’s this beauty of an universal connection that transcends culture and any other illusion of separation or difference.

Even after having known someone for an hour, when you start to sing a song together, that you happen to both really love, magic happens. It goes beyond words, and you’re filled with this “I get you” feeling.

I know where you are right now, with this song, because I’ve been there too!

When that happens with 5–6 people at the same time, it’s a timeless experience.

And that makes sense because literally EVERYONE responds to music! Even deep Alzheimer’s reacts to music when they almost don’t react to anything else anymore.

Accelerator of curiosity and open-mindedness

Just like you would learn a few words of different languages depending on who you encounter, you’ll do the same with music. Everyone knows a few words in lots of languages, and these little chunks of empathy, when shared, create a instant special connection.

It’s light, but it’s there.

The same is exponentially true with music: A few Argentinians around the table? Play a classic tune from Fernando Cabral and watch the first notes give birth to a thousand stars in their eyes.

Music acts like a highway to cultural roots. It’s a cheat code, use it!

“No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” — Billy Joel

Balance both the introversion & extraversion

Playing guitar is a tricky social activity. It puts you on the spot and trains your introvert self to get used to be the center of attention, which is a great exercise for self-confidence. On the other side of the equation, it helps to tame this unbalanced need for attention than our extraverted self sometimes have.

You know, play some tunes, but don’t be that guy.

Especially if there’s other people playing, and you’re trying to jam. Jamming is like a conversation, it needs to be balanced, to have flow. But again, exponentially (I like this word). Conversations without flow are annoying, but they’re quite common and socially accepted. A jam without flow is irritating, and can tell more about ego imbalances in 10 minutes than a 2-hours conversation!

I’ve met the most extraordinary people wandering around with my guitar in a couple of months, it’s definitely worth the extra-luggages!

If you’ve gave it a try or if you have tried it, I would love to hear your stories/feelings/tips!

I hope you enjoyed the story, feel free to share/recommend it and ping anyone who might be up for trying that out!