When you travel, do you come with your own background music?

Music is such a deeply personal thing that, let me say straight away, I will not be advertising any particular genre or artist as being the “best for travel”. The aim of this will be to start you thinking in terms of creating your own ‘soundtrack’.

Soundtracks are incredibly important. In any movie, the chosen music should heighten what is happening on screen, and represent that moment forever.

Who, for instance, will ever be able to hear the ‘Chariots of Fire’ theme, and not immediately think of victorious, slow-motion running? Who will hear the Darth Vader theme and not feel just a little bit of a thrill?

Music turns moments into memories, and gives those memories significance, reaching the more primal part of our brains. It’s an emotional connection we make with those moments, and subsequently the stories they belong to.


Bearing that in mind, I think that it is interesting how little thought we put into creating our own soundtracks. We absorb whatever’s playing on the radio, or listen to what our friend tells us is the “best song you’ll ever hear in your LIFE omg”; Passively, we have already started creating our own soundtracks.

Without meaning to, we attach music to all sorts of significant moments in our lives – the day you met your wife; the day you got dumped; the first day of work; the last day you spent with your friends before you moved… Whether the music was on the radio at the time, or you had one earphone in while you were getting ready, or whether it was intruding over a loudspeaker into the moments leading to your first kiss, that music will forever call to mind those events when you hear it again.

We realize the significance of the music attached to those moments only when planning weddings, funerals, and other high-emotion events. The soundtrack of these major occasions will be selected from the soundtrack of the lives they are celebrating. I think we should put more time into deciding what we want those soundtracks to be.

Musical soundtracks

I remember when I went to Venice. It was 8 years ago, and it lasted for a day and a half, But I remember almost everything that happened in Venice whenever I listen to the ‘Love Actually’ soundtrack; That was what I was listening to at the time. I had the ‘Glasgow Love Theme’ on repeat as we glided past wintery islands in the water, on our way to Murano. For me, listening to that beautiful little piece of music gave romance and depth to what was essentially a water-based bus ride. It turned an insignificant moment into a treasured one.

Then, of course, you have what happens when you put no thought into your soundtrack at all.

I was in Iceland for a 10-day road trip around the ring road. For some reason, on that holiday, I had started listening to ‘the Lonely Island’ – a comedy rap group. Now, they are hilarious and irreverent, and I have lots of time for their work. I should not, however, have given my Iceland time to them.

Natural soundtrack

The glorious memory of those volcanoes and glaciers and endless fields of lava will, for me, forever come with a background of insincerity and expletives. Hilarious in the right context, but not in this one. Iceland has ruined ‘the Lonely Island’ for me as much as they almost ruined Iceland.

We can’t always choose the music that will hold significance for us. Chance is an annoying, but also magical, part of Life. Sometimes it chooses better than you could. However, when you are planning your holiday – as you consider clothes to pack, routes to take and activities to plan, I advise you to also take a few moments to plan your holiday soundtrack.

What will be your playlist? What do you want to influence how your future experiences will make you feel? Will certain music make you feel more reflective? Or adventurous? Confident? Light-hearted? Romantic? Focused? Think about what you need this trip to be; think about how you want to remember it.

One final piece of advice: Think about the country you are visiting. What kind of music is popular there? It might be some kind of folk, or pop, or classical, or jazz… Listening to the same music that the locals listen to should help you to slot into the literal and figurative rhythm of the country. Some examples: Nuevo Tango in Argentina; Sigur Ros in Iceland; ‘Riverdance’ in Ireland. These are fairly stereotypical ideas, but they might be what you need, or they might just start you thinking. Go on blogs and other sites and try to see what music will fit the environment you’re about to become a part of.

Once you’re done, why not post your playlist on youtube or twitter or whichever social media platform you prefer? It will help other people plan their holidays with the same attention to detail. Travel is so often about shared experiences.

Good luck!

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