Certain songs have a way of pulling you into your travels. They draw you closer to the heart of your journey with tempos that evoke the rolling of wheels and landscapes drifting by. Their melodies and harmonies are ethereal and the voices are brimming with passion. Their lyrics tell tales of relentless wanderers, roads to be traveled, lessons to be learned.
These are seven of those kinds of songs that inevitably work their way onto my playlist as I roam and view the world from window seats and through windshields:
One Road to Freedom by Ben Harper
I recently played a Ben Harper album as I drove up to Muir Woods to spend an afternoon amongst the redwood trees with two friends I made in Oaxaca. One friend commented that Ben Harper’s music is perfect for the road. The pace of his songs and the way he reflects on the world indeed make for great roadtrip music, and this is one of my favorites. The way he sings the opening line never fails to awaken my traveling spirit.
Spotlight by The Waifs
This song is equal parts angst and self awareness and it takes us on a journey through various stages of life — the trials and tribulations of youth, traveling the world, gaining life experience, thinking you’ve gotten it figured out only to realize you don’t, but still finding the spotlight.
Into the Mystic by Van Morrison
Into the Mystic, like many of Van Morrison’s songs, is instant happiness for me and I can listen to it over and over again. It’s a perfect song for a coastal roadtrip, but it’s also just a perfect song.
Everest by Ani DiFranco
This is perhaps one of my earliest staple travel songs and it will forever remind me of the winter trips I used to take to the Sonoma Coast in high school. Ani Difranco was one of the first non-mainstream artists I discovered in my teen years and I loved her folk-punk feminist songs, but also marveled at her quieter tunes like this one. As always, Ani is a master of words and in Everest, her lyrics touch on taking the time to notice human similarities and she tells a tale of encountering beautiful experiences outside of her comfort zone.
All the Wild Horses by Ray LaMontagne
Every time I listen to Ray LaMontagne, I’m happy he emerged from the woods to share his voice with us. In this song, after he inspires you to break away from whatever holds you down, the quiet grace of his voice cuts into you and lets the road seep in.
Wanting Memories by Sweet Honey in the Rock
The gorgeous a cappella harmonies of Sweet Honey in the Rock are revered in the world of choir and I discovered their music through some fellow vocalists in college. Wanting Memories is full of wisdom on loss and healing power. By the time the group reaches the line “I know that I’ve been blessed, again and over again,” no matter where you are in life or on the road, you feel that way wholeheartedly.
Starálfur by Sigur Rós
Several years ago, I heard this song for the first time as I was driving across the Bay Bridge on a misty early morning at a particularly epic moment in life. I was crossing a bridge both literally and symbolically and the whole drive across was choreographed to this luminous piece of music that was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Since then, it has become a theme song of many other epic journeys around the globe.
Note: All the songs are in one music player this time and you can scroll through or listen to them all at once. I couldn’t find all of the songs I wanted to use on YouTube or could only find homemade videos that the creators got a little too creative with. The player I used required 8 songs hence the “bonus song” at the end, Paris Sunrise #7 by Ben Harper.