Finally, in our explorations of travel and the arts, we come to music. We’ve covered films and books, so now it’s the turn of the tunes to inspire the old wanderlust. Or, simply the best music to listen to when you’re already out there, watching the dramatic scenery whizz by from your front row seat on the train sidecar you’ve just hitched. Music is your soundtrack to life and a soundtrack to your travel adventure. One of the best reasons to listen to music on the road is every time you hear that tune again, it’ll transport you back to that moment. So, even if you’re stuck in an office with a rain-soaked window and a boss yelling at you for that report – you can still be on a beach in South America. Here are some of the best tunes to listen to when traveling.
Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
We doubt there is a better song about escapism and one of the best choices for music on the road – especially if you have access fast car. If listening to Tracy Chapman’s 1988 hit with the wind in your hair as the sun is going down doesn’t have the hairs standing on the back of your neck and goose pimples up your arms – you’re probably dead.
Sail Away – David Gray
Gray’s 1998 offering White Ladder was his last-ditch effort at fame and he threw everything on the line for it. From an entire album full of potential travel tunes, Sail Away encapsulates a desire to leave everything behind and whisk your love literally and figuratively off into the sunset. Being on a boat is an added advantage.
Where the Streets Have No Name – U2
Stadium superband U2 know exactly what they’re inspiring with this number – released in 1987. Who doesn’t want to run through the fields, tear down the walls or feel sunlight on their face? The tune’s slow build-up is best listened to when you’ve just turned the ignition for an epic road trip – and then you can scream out the chorus until your heart’s content with nobody looking at you funny.
The Magnetic Fields – Born on a Train
“One of these days I’m gonna leave you in your sleep” is a melancholic line from a chorus that is – quite simply – brutally honest. It speaks to those of us with an unquenchable wanderlust. “Baby – I was born on a train.” Share this beautiful 1994 tune with all your travel buddies – we guarantee you’ll be wanting to book that rail ticket in seconds.
Follow the Sun – Xavier Rudd
One of the best things to come out of Australia since Vegemite, king hippy Xavier Rudd’s 2012 track is a mellow calling to the road, with particular emphasis on following the sun. The tune’s positive vibes are undeniable – play it at twilight during a beach bonfire and several people are likely to fall in love with you.
Rihanna – We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris
The pop queen’s huge hit might not automatically make you think of travel, but once you’ve listened to it again and again at a particular destination – you’ll fall in love in a hopeless place. Every time you hear it, you’ll be transported right back there. For this reason, we include this dance essential, as it was an anthem for many back in the summer of 2011.
Magnificent – Elbow
Nobody writes lyrics like Elbow’s poetic frontman Guy Garvey, and the band’s 2017 lead single from their Little Fictions album is one of many travel tunes from their extensive back catalogue. Focussing on the child-like wonder a young girl has for the world – you’ll share the same sentiment after one listen. It helps that the video is beautifully shot footage of Myanmar too.
King of the Road – Roger Miller
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better hitchhiking vagabond song than Miller’s stellar 1965 track. Particularly apt for the budget traveller who gets around as a “man of means by no means,” this tune will have you packing little and setting off on an adventure with barely a dime to your name.
Freefallin’ – Tom Petty
We’d have to include the late, great Tom Petty somewhere on this list, and his epic opening track from his 1989 debut solo album is the one that gets the nod. Just ask Jerry Maguire when he turns the tune on in his car in the movie. It’s a sin if you’ve not got this on any road trip playlist.
The Day We Caught the Train – Ocean Color Scene
Britpop legends Ocean Color Scene were certainly channelling the Beatles with this 1996 hit – and it hasn’t aged a day. It’s a stonking anthem of summers spent taking trains up coasts, and best listened to with a cold beer and a load of mates. They don’t make them like they used to!
There’s no accounting for taste, and we know we’ve missed of literally hundreds of classic tunes that will inspire your wanderlust or for you to rock out to during your epic travels. These are the choices we’ve gone for this time though, so give them a listen and get them on your playlists. Be warned though – they’re powerful stuff – so make sure you’ve cleared it with friends and family before disappearing around the world.