Top 7 Travel Songs: My Soundtrack Of Movement

What is music if not the stories of our human existence? We all find connection to music in different ways. Rhythm and sound reflect culture and history. Stories are passed down through generations and over eons of time. Music can be a defiant, revolutionary act as in the improvised and forbidden rhythms made by slaves throughout the Americas that have become our modern day genres of Blues and R&B and Soul. For me, music evokes passions and places me in moments of my life. When it comes to my travel-sounds there are certain songs that transport me to places I will never forget. This is so important and so valuable for me. Below you’ll find my top 7 travel songs, with my favorite lyric in italics below the description.

“Cactus Tree”
Joni Mitchell

I have to say first that I think Joni Mitchell is one of the best song writers that has ever lived and her lyrics really move me in profound ways. This song in particular, though I think it is about not wanting to settle down with one man, evokes a sense of longing for freedom and movement that speaks to me about travel. She looks around at the faces in the city and sees unhappiness, while she is out in the world, “busy being free.” The melody is simple and haunting and the feeling of longing is so deep. Much like many of her songs, “Cactus Tree” leaves me deep in contemplation about my own life and what I see before me in the world.

Now she rallies her defenses
For she fears that one will ask her
For eternity
And she’s so busy being free

“Georgia On My Mind”
Ray Charles

There are few singers and even fewer songs that can be so specific while still evoking myriad emotions in the listener in relation to myriad topics. This song is about Georgia, but it is about so much more than that. The deep sense of longing for a place that feels like home is something that people of the nomadic spirit can relate to. Even though, for me, movement is home I still find myself yearning for belonging, for community, for a place I feel comfortable in. This song touches me in that way, fills me with dreams of familiar places and the desire to continue to search far and wide for “home.”

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in the peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you

“Far Behind”
Eddie Vedder

You could put the entire album “Into The Wild (Music For The Motion Picture)” on this list to be honest. Road trips, hiking, traveling, this album is perfect for all scenarios. But, this song in particular really speaks to my traveling soul. It is an ode to the Call to Adventure that those who move hear almost daily. Accompanied by his ever present shadow the traveler strikes out, hellbent on leaving behind a world that he does not fit into. He asks the questions, “Why sleep in discontent / for the price of companionship?” In other words, why trade peace and joy and passion for belonging to some way of life that brings no purpose? This is the very question that leads me to pursue a life of movement and transformative experience through travel.

Subtle voices in the wind,
Hear the truth they’re telling
A world begins where the road ends
Watch me leave it all behind

“Another New World”
Punch Brothers

This is just a good ‘ole fashion adventure song. Exploration in the traditional sense no longer exists in our world of Google Earth and Lonely Planet, but this song helps me cultivate that adventurous spirit within the context of the world I live in. The story starts out with such hope and promise of a grand adventure to discover “another new world at the top of the world…” The sailors wave goodbye and embark. Even as things turn dark and tragic, the song ends with a realization that within any meaningful action there is sacrifice, and that pursuing learning and adventure and meaning is “well worth the burning of mine.” This speaks to the idea that we must take the leap in life, listen to he call of the road and of the world and decide that whatever we must give for a life of truth is worth the sacrifice.

After all that I’d found, in my travels around the world, was there anything left?
“Gentlemen, ” I said, “I’ve studied the charts, and if what I am thinking is right,
There’s another new world, at the top of the world, for the first one to break through the ice, “

“Aqueous Transmission”

The draw of this song, besides the message of pure freedom and release of control, is the dream-like melody. The sound of the music and the almost fleeting voice really transport you into a dream of “floating down a river.” To me, this song speaks of freedom and living in the moment, something that travelers crave and that travel provides to those who choose to go. As I float down the river of life I let go of the “oars” and allow the universe to reveal to me my true purpose. Transformative travel experiences truly take us beyond our known world and into something higher, something deeper than we can find in our daily life.

I’m floating down a river
Oars freed from their homes long ago
Lying face up on the floor
Of my vessel
I marvel at the stars
And feel my heart overflow

“Your Rocky Spine”
Great Lake Swimmers

A love song to mountains and nature. This song is thick in metaphor and personification, but in the end, to me, is an ode to the human connection with the natural world. The line between Earth and human, between person and mountain is blurred and you almost forget what the words are saying. Connecting with landscape and being in nature is probably the most profound way I connect with a place when I travel. There is so much to discover about history and future, about people and place when you step out of the city and into the wildlands of the places you visit. When I hear this song I can almost smell the trees and feel the cool wind blow over a glacier or alpine lake.

And the mountains said I will find you here
They whispered the snow and the leaves in my ear
I traced my finger along your trails
And your body was the map, I was lost in it

“Blowin’ In The Wind”
Bob Dylan

Another artist up there with Joni Mitchell as one of the greatest storytellers in music. Though this song in particular isn’t necessarily about travel or adventure, it speaks to something that runs deep in my need to move. It is the idea of questions. This whole song is just questions. Questions about himself, about others, about the world. Then the answer comes… It blows in the wind. To me that is the quintessence of why I travel. I seek knowledge and connection and answers to my deepest questions and the only way to find them is to chase them down on the winds of the Earth. There is something soothing, something beautiful in the resignation that I will never find them. I will never catch the wind.

Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

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