Disclaimer: This is an extremely biased list, written in hope that my biasness will match yours. And that somewhere down the road, on your personal journey, you can recall a song from this list and maybe recall me? So if you are one of those who like to hit the road too often and a pair of headphones or speaker is your constant companion then this list of Top 10 Travel Songs is for you. A lot of songs from my personal playlist have missed the cut. But if you think there is a song that absolutely should be in the Top 10, do let me know in the comments. Until then, here are my two cents. Happy listening!
Into the Wild Original Soundtrack | Eddie Vedder
The over-obsession with ‘Into the Wild’ within the travel community and the values it represents dictates that it should not be number one. But its greatness demands that it shouldn’t be, it can’t be, anywhere else on the list. It’s hard to tell at what point it all stops being music and becomes healing instead. Such is the magic of Vedder’s soulful solo outing that manages to resonate beautifully with the sorrowful solo journey of another – Christopher McCandless. And lyrics that pull some incredibly uncomfortable strings, tackling multiple themes at once: society at large, materialism, greed, freedom, grief, loss, and redemption. Gently taking our hand and guiding us, if I may say so, into the wild.
Sure as I’m leaving, sure as I’m sad.
I’ll keep this wisdom in my flesh.
I leave here believing more than I had.
This love has got No Ceiling.
What a Wonderful World | Louis Armstrong
The very definition of a ‘Truly Happy Song’, What a Wonderful World will put a smile on your face every time, no matter how many times you have heard it. As it has been doing so for millions, over the years since 1967. My playlist can’t do without it. It’s not only among the best travel songs out there but, hands down, one of the best songs ever written and sung. And just how relevant does this seem now, now that the whole of humanity has been pushed to the wall because of the Coronavirus pandemic? While our planet takes a breather, and maybe heals itself, there’s hope. But there’s also an eerie sort of nostalgia that was our present until a few days ago. Consider the lyrics: “I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do? They are really saying – I Love you!” Hang in there…
I see skies of blue.
And clouds of white,
The bright blessed day.
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world!
I am Mine | Pearl Jam
Eddie Vedder once said that I Am Mine is a song about “what’s inside you”. A very fundamental feeling you get when you travel, as well as throughout the duration of this song. And a very positive reaffirmation about who you are underneath and how you want to lead your life in the time you’ve been given. Penned and lead by Vedder, I Am Mine has all those elements Pearl Jam is known and loved for: strong melody, strong lyrics, and a tremendous repeat-value. But deep down, I always thought this song is more Vedder than Pearl Jam and I love that. If you thought Vedder’s genius in Into the Wild was off the charts then wait till you listen to this. Undoubtedly, one of the best travel songs out there!
North is to south what the clock is to time.
There’s east and there’s west and there’s everywhere life.
I know I was born and I know that I’ll die.
The in-between is mine.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond | Pink Floyd
Blessed are those who are patient and thirst for the transcendental, for they shall be filled. Because, to be fair, despite having achieved a cult status this one is not for the fidgety. But be still and give yourself to this nine-part musical sorcery by David Gilmour, Roger Waters, and Rick Wright. And it will take you places you’ve never been. Homage to a fallen friend and former co-founding member, Syd Barrett, it may not be counted among the travel songs in a traditional sense of the term. But it deserves a place in your playlist nonetheless for being able to conjure up a plethora of emotions including melancholy, tragedy and hope, the forever and the unsaid goodbye. Shine on… you crazy diamond!
Come on, you target for faraway laughter.
Come on, you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine.
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on, you crazy diamond!
Immigrant Song | Led Zeppelin
Trust me; I have spent a good amount of time and energy weighing Immigrant Song in one hand and Stairway to Heaven in the other. The latter has long been my absolute favourite by this legendary band. It was a tormenting experience to part with it, even if for the sake of this article. Because what good is travel song if it’s not embedded in Norse Mythology. With lyrics that speak of the land of ice and snow, and midnight sun where the hot springs flow. By drawing up mind-images of Thor and Thunder, who, now has become a poster boy for it. No wonder then, one of the most iconic releases by Led Zeppelin deserves a spot among the top travel songs. On we sweep, with threshing oar; our only goal will be the western shore.
We come from the land of the ice and snow.
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.
Hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new land.
To fight the hordes, and sing and cry.
Valhalla, I am coming!
I Want to Break Free | Queen
Stuck in a rut? What’s the first thought that comes, swinging by, into your head? Are you singing it in your head right now? Then the Queen has got you too. Released in 1984, I Want to Break Free made its way into the hearts and more than its fair share of controversies because of the video. Close to four decades after, fans are still arguing about what Queen meant by it all. And whether or not it was Freddie Mercury’s notorious doing. Many, however, including the travelling community, have simply taken the lyrics at their face value: to break away from the shackles, whatever they may be. And I’m sure you’d agree too that it is Queen’s most enduring song and among the best travel songs.
But I have to be sure,
When I walk out that door,
Oh, how I want to be free, baby.
Oh, how I want to break free.
Blowin’ in the Wind | Bob Dylan
“There ain’t too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain’t in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group. Man, it’s in the wind – and it’s blowing in the wind.” said Bob Dylan in an interview. Haven’t we all, at some point or the other, tried looking for answers without really searching for them? And then it came to us like a piece of paper blowing in the wind and some of us were lucky enough to grab it? Well, in case you are still looking, roll down your life’s window, hit the road, and turn on this beautiful, beautiful song because the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
How many years can a mountain exist?
Before it is washed to the sea?
How many years can some people exist?
Before they’re allowed to be free?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind!
Dream On | Aerosmith
A song that existed long before Aerosmith came into its, Dream On easily stands among the band’s best works, my favourite of the lot, and of course, one the best travel songs. Steven Tyler began writing it when he was a mere teenager and finished it in the basement where he lived along with the rest of the members back in the 70s. It’s a poignant take on how to live your life to the fullest. It’s about untainted ambitions, to be something more than we are. A better version, if you may. Never being afraid to dream big and keep on dreaming until the dreams come true. And it’s about carefree celebrations, come joys or sorrows. Before we all return to the dust.
Sing with me, sing for the years.
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears.
Sing with me, just for today.
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away.
Riders on the Storm | The Doors
The last song the Rock Star Jim Morrison recorded before he rode out of the world. And quite fittingly, the song ends with the storm slowly fading away. But the storm before is one hell of a kind, exploring the depths of the sphere of rock and roll with a touch of classic noir. And reminiscent of all that made Jim Morrison, the Feature Lyricist and Lead Vocalist of The Doors, who he was and how he came to be known and loved. Fair warning though, you might want to zone out of the disturbing ‘Killer on the Road’ lyrical part; nobody wants to listen to that when you’re out on the road. I have a dark sense of humour and even I get strangely jittery. That being said, enjoy the song for what it is: a slow-burning swansong from a legend.
Riders on the storm.
Into this house we’re born.
Into this world we’re thrown.
Like a dog without a bone, an actor out on loan.
Highway to Hell | AC/DC
One of AC/DC’s most loved tracks, Highway to Hell is surprisingly easy on the ears despite that heavy-duty riff. Thanks to the easygoing lyrics that appeal to the traveller in us. It’s probably the only song I love from this band, and has been a part of my playlist of the top travel songs. And to all the people who think Highway to Hell shares an odd similarity with Stairway to Heaven, you know where the ‘Highway’ leads to. Don’t stop until you reach there. You just cannot compare a Ballad (Stairway) to a High-on-energy rock song (Highway). That being said, the latter is pretty good in its own right. Let’s just leave it at that.
Living easy, living free.
Season ticket on a one way ride.
Asking nothing, leave me be.
Taking everything in my stride.