Useful travel items: polarised sunglasses

If there’s one travel item that’s genuinely changed my entire life, it’s the discovery of polarised sunglasses – and specifically that you can get them with prescriptions.

I’ve worn glasses since I was too young to remember, when I was about two and couldn’t see the boats on the sea from the Square & Compass at Worth Matravers. But because I grew up in a family of people with perfectly fine vision, I was never taught that prescription eyewear was a thing. I was well into my twenties before I discovered prescription swimming goggles. I did have prescription sunglasses as a teenager. But they were just normal glasses with a brown tint to them that did absolutely nothing to block out the sun and I didn’t wear them.

I bought my first pair of polarised sunglasses in Zermatt during my year abroad. I don’t remember why. I remember what a revelation they were.

Me in my first polarised sunglasses
So pleased with them that I wore them in the dark.

Since then, I’ve had a couple of pairs of prescription polarised ones. My current ones are actually slightly green-tinted although it’s so subtle I tend to forget about it. I wear them all the time. I wear them on planes. I wear them in winter. If I leave the house, I’m taking them with me. If I’m outside before sundown, I’m almost certainly wearing them.

Why? Because they’re so brilliant. I’m not entirely sure how polarisation works – something to do with filtering, a bit like venetian blinds. Yes, they do interfere with certain screens. I assume the polarising filters match the refresh rate on my camera’s screen which means all I can see through them is black if I have the camera in landscape mode, although it reappears if I turn it portrait. My old phone didn’t display properly in portrait mode. But that’s a small enough problem, I just take all my photos peeking over the top of the sunglasses.

I occasionally watch Molly Burke‘s videos – she’s a blind YouTuber and recently she did a video about why blind people might wear sunglasses and that video introduced me to the word “photophobic” which is not a phobia as in emetophobia but ” an experience of discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light exposure”. That sounds familiar – I’ve always just said “I’m a vampire” but apparently there’s a word for the reason I wear the sunglasses year-round.

Polarising sunglasses are just so good. They’re more expensive than the fashion ones you buy in Primark or the ones my dad keeps buying in M&S because he always sits on them and breaks them after a week or two but they’re a revelation, they’re a game-changer, they’re every kind of brilliant.

Me in my current polarised sunglasses