In the past year, I’ve become a traveling ukelady.
To be honest, it wasn’t me who coined the phrase “ukelady,” though it was someone very close to me and the word stuck in my mind ever since. Some people grow up to be fashion ladies, or water aerobics ladies, or cooking ladies, but I am definitely a traveling ukelady, without a doubt. If you ever see a small Filipina walking around with a ukulele sticking out of her bag, come hang out. We’ll jam.
My ukulele’s name is Snapdragon and she’s of the Kala species. During a week of intense finals and not a lot of sunlight, I decided to splurge for myself and buy something that could easily relieve my stress, yet was a constructive and productive activity. Of course, my first instinct was to learn something – and as a classically-trained violinist for over 10 years, I have an affinity for stringed instruments over any others. So, I hopped onto Amazon and bought her as an early birthday present to myself.
Now, It’s been one year and six months since she came into my life, and she has served as my travel companion, jam session partner, and my photographic subject ever since. She’s traveled to 13 countries on 4 different continents and is probably one of the best-traveled ukuleles in the world (second to Pam‘s ukes from A Nerd’s Eye View). Play a song on ukulele, and you’ll feel instantly happier and more relaxed. Jam with friends and it’s even better.
Snapdragon And Friends
Many of my friends think I am a solo traveler. In principle, I am, but to be honest I never really think about it because I always have the companionship of my dear ukulele. On midnight rooftops she sits in the middle of a circle of newly-made friends, singing and laughing like old ones between a few clinking bottles. On long layovers we learn new music together and attract passers-by who are also stranded on the deserted island of airport boredom. When I meet people who I cannot communicate with using spoken language, we can still have an amazing time with Snapdragon in tow. Why? Because music is universal, and transcends the boundaries of language and nationality.
“Is that a guitar?” People young and old will ask me as I’m sitting in the train station or the bus terminal with her. Here in Brazil they’ll ask if she’s a cavaquinho, the samba music instrument which is similar to a uke but stylistically different. I always chuckle quietly and explain, no, it’s not a guitar, but it’s similar. A ukulele is like a four-stringed version of the guitar, I tell them. And much littler and cuter. The perfect size for me, I say, motioning to my tiny 5-foot-tall figure. They laugh. I laugh too. Out friendship has been forged as the once passers-by sit next to me, asking me to play song after song and singing along as I strum.
Why did I decide to travel with a ukulele? The answer, my friends, is simple: Snapdragon helps me connect with people throughout my travels. Of course, there is plenty of intrinsic value in traveling alongside ukulele – learning an instrument, always having something to do, a diversion from airplane delays and sucky weather. But why I’ve continued to travel with her is a reason much stronger and much more important to me: I want to learn about and meet people. When I’m exploring with her people always approach me. During my Europe trip I did a project where everyone I met took a photograph with her. She has friends from all 7 continents.
Will You Take a Photo With My Ukulele?
Because of her amazing journeys, I’ve had to learn how to say “Will you take a photo with my ukulele?” in several languages. Here are a few:
- Puedo sacar una foto de usted con mi ukulele? (Spanish)
- Posso tirar uma foto com meu ukulele? (Portuguese)
- Kann ich ein Bild von Ihnen mit meiner Ukulele? (German)
- Je peux prendre une photo de vous avec mon ukulele? (French)
- And the list grows…
Admittedly, Snapdragon is even more popular in the world than I am. People probably aren’t going to remember my name, if they even knew to begin with, but having a young-looking girl walk up to them out of the blue, or pop in during the middle of a conversation to ask, “Will you take a picture with my ukulele?” in the local language… That part will hopefully stick with them. And when I can use her quirkiness and uniqueness to connect with others, I feel like my travel goals are completely fulfilled.
So thank you, Snapdragon, for helping me connect with people all over the world. You’ll always be my #1 travel companion.
Do you travel with something (or someone) special? Why? Tell me stories about your travel companions in the comments!