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10 Modern Travel Songs to Inspire Wanderlust

If I knew half the stuff I used to know about music when I was a DJ in college, I’d be one really cool 30-year-old. My tastes are somewhat stuck in the early 2000s, but those are where my first real memories of adventure and began. I used to write this travel blog with a song at the end of every post in the early days. These are all travel songs that mean something profound, whether they literally talk about skipping town or simply remind me of a favorite place to roam.

Rodrigo y Gabriela by Florian Stangl via Flickr

Diablo Rojo – Rodrigo y Gabriela

Mexico, play it to me baby. This sibling duo has some of the craziest acoustic guitar skills I’ve ever heard. When I’m trying to make my ‘chilaquiles’ en la mañana I love to throw these guys on Pandora and rock out. getting the day started with some passionate, heart-beating-fast music is always going to get you going on the right foot. Their beats take me right back to Mexico, toes in the sand, mezcal sippers and street food galore. Watch some of their live performances too – I’ve never seen a more chill duo with fingers flying over the strings.

Destination – Nickel Creek

Bluegrass? What? These guys came sneaky-sneaky-like into my playlist because they are mad talented. Hands down. Nickle Creek has been around since the 80s too but continue to put out fast and spirited albums. This is one of their newest singles and it’s one of the more literal ones on the list. It’s also a nice ‘go stuff yourself’ song for jilted lovers, which is always good to have on the back burner when you need a glass of wine and something other than Alanis Morissette after a breakup.

Runaways – The Killers

I wanted this to be our wedding song, but it’s kind of about teenage pregnancy and skipping town. So maybe mildly inappropriate. It will stay my favorite road trip song though at least, as its infectious beat and makes me think of driving with the top down along the Pacific Coast Highway. The Killers are also my ideal festival band and bring through fond memories of dancing around in some field for the weekend – of course, after I’ve driven 12 hours to get there. Crank the volume, rev your engine and get going with this song.

Yeah yeah yeahs by Chris Goldberg via Flickr

Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

This song encourages you to pack up and get going. It’s another one about moving on thinly veiled under loving and letting go lyrics, but it can mean much more than that below the surface. Back in 2006 this was my jam and reminds me of sitting on a bench overlooking Spanish mountains with an old friend. It later was an anthem sung throughout my 20s (sung badly, it’s a tough one) to signify freedom.

Bob Dylan: Man in the Long Black Coat

I miss the U.S. sometimes a lot. So when a born-and-bred American songwriter sings sweet music to my ears, I immediately think of the states fondly. While this Dylan song isn’t exactly about travel, it does resonate. Last weekend, I spent some time at the SONOS Studio in London to test out the new Play:5 speaker. It has some crazy technology, including Trueplay, which allows the speaker to correct its sound even if you do something silly like place it under your couch.  For one of the demos, the team played ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’. Chirping crickets filled the room and it felt like night fell upon us. It reminded me of my trips down south to Mississippi and Arkansas, as stars would fill the sky and someone always strummed slowly on a guitar. Because this speaker can elevate music to an incredibly rich and all-encompassing level, I was transported to another time and place through this song.

Postcards from Italy – Beirut

I’ve loved this song for a decade. If there was a song that inspired me to travel for the first time on my own, this would be it. From what I know, this band started because a 17-year-old Zach Condon dropped out of school and traveled Europe with his brother. Born in New Mexico, his sound is influenced by Mexican mariachi bands and World music for his travels. The nostalgic and longing message of ‘Postcards from Italy’ is what gets me. I haven’t even been to Italy yet, but this song is magic.

Varúð & Glósóli – Sigur Rós

With already a lot of meaning tied to simpler times in college and past crushes, songs by this Icelandic band have taken root in my heart. In fact I turned on this song to soundtrack my writing and got goosebumps all over again. They often only sing in their native language so you can truly focus on the sound. Sigur Rós often pokes fun at their own English-speaking audience and actually put out a full album in made up nonsense words – not many new the difference.  I mentioned their documentary in my travel movie list too. When I head to Iceland in January, I plan to embrace the cliché and have these guys in the headphones the whole trip. I really hope I catch the northern lights while listening to Glósóli and have my life come full circle.

Devotchka by sushiesque via Flickr

All the Sand in the Sea – Devotchka

This is a crooner and a looker. Lead singer Nick Urata has a large library of soul, sad and beautiful songs that melts your heart and makes you want to wander. This song is newer and a bit faster than the band’s normal tempo, but anything that reminds me of the coastline is a winner in my book. I also got to enjoy seeing them live in Boston in a tiny bar right before the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack came out with their score. I don’t think they every played intimate venues like that again

Bonus – Meiple by Robin Thicke & Jay-Z

This is totally gross. It’s a super weird song with rapping and that sleazeball Robin Thicke, with some woman in the background who sounds like she’s having a VERY good time in French. When I was briefly living in Spain though, this song was always in my head. It was 2010 and I was too far from the music scene to know what was good for me. But it has a great beat and motivated me to walk around in the sunshine when I had two seconds away from my au pair family.

What’s the one song that instantly transports you back to your favorite destination?

EileenCotterWright

Author EileenCotterWright

Eileen Cotter Wright is a Boston, MA expat living in London, UK. She is a freelance writer and owner of group travel site PureWander.com. Despite losing her passport the first day she left her home country, she's continued to roam the earth with gusto for about a decade. You can keep up with her hot mess adventures on Twitter @Crooked_Flight.

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