(Source: The Times Live)
[...]Some time in the 1980s, my ma gave me a Sony shortwave radio, nine shortwave bands in a box the size of a deck of cards. It was the equivalent of a permanent round-the-world air ticket. Night after night, I hopped frequencies, roaming with the Voice of America, the BBC’s World Service – the mother lode – sometimes the Dutch (when I could find them), and, occasionally, Radio Moscow. So, the Russians were real!
There were no radio plays here, to be sure, but drama – and propaganda – on a grand scale. One night, instead of swotting for the next day’s exam, I listened to the Berlin Wall come down, utterly transported from a summer night in Jo’burg to cheering with Berliners as they helped topple the concrete barrier in an orgy of tearful happiness.
When I started travelling, the radio came with me for entertainment and as an alarm – I figured if there was trouble brewing in whichever dodgy part of the world I was in, it would be the BBC who got wind of it first.
The little radio has been to Vietnam and Kenya, France and Senegal. It filled lonely nights while I roamed America like a freight-hopping bum. It survived a long kayak expedition up Lake Malawi and gave me and my cameraman a passable diversion during an ill-advised summer fortnight in the rotten Hotel Zambeze in Tete, the worst city in Mozambique, if not the world.
Last year, I ditched the radio in favour of a smartphone for a short trip to Poland. The bill for five days of roaming was R2500 without a single moment of entertainment. Never again.
Now the little Sony has fresh batteries and the shortwave frequencies are copied on the back of a business card. No charger, no roaming hassles and free to air. E-mail can wait. I’ll send a couple of postcards instead.[...]
If you’re thinking about buying a shortwave radio for travel, check out our recommendations for the best travel radios.