TRAVEL THURSDAY: Five songs with travel memories


Another week, another Thursday. This week, AJ’s doing a topic I suggested to him a couple of months ago. Keep reading to discover the songs which evoke strong travel memories in his mind.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a massive music junkie. Initially only into emo, punk and hard rock, over the years my music playlist has evolved to feature almost all genres. I love how much music and travel go hand in hand as well! On a plane listening to tunes, or on a bus travelling, it’s incredibly relaxing for me (assuming the pressure in the cabin of the plane is right, and not killing my ears).

Here are five songs that take me straight back to somewhere else!

1) Paramore – Feeling Sorry (Wellington, New Zealand)

My first proper concert! I had just turned 17, and for my birthday present my mother thought, “Y’know what? This kid needs to get outside sometime.” She paid for my ferry tickets, accommodation, and the concert itself.

It was 2010 and Paramore were touring the country. You have to understand, musical acts rarely come to New Zealand. We’re a small, out of the way, island nation surrounded by big fuck-off stretches of water. If you miss out on a concert, that band might not visit again for five years.

Paramore toured with a local band called Jury & the Saints, and the much bigger Reliant K. It was during the latter’s set that I realized how inexperienced I was for concerts. I went dressed in a large heavy coat and sweatpants, and I moshed too hard too soon. By the time Paramore got on stage, I was already exhausted (and my feet hurt from the people in front of me jumping on them).

After the concert finished, my mother was waiting for me outside. I could barely hear her over the sound of both my ears ringing, ‘Feeling Sorry’ playing on repeat in my head. On the way back to the hostel, Mum stopped for a cigarette break. Wellington is a very LGBT-friendly community, and if I’d known that then what happened next wouldn’t have been a shock.

A man in drag came up to me and automatically started flirting with me, in front of my mother. I was introduced to a whole new world in the most awkward way possible! Mum finished her fag after a couple of minutes talking to the man and we went on our way, but since then I can’t hear ‘Feeling Sorry’ without feeling some lack of comfort.

2) Foo Fighters – Wheels (Christchurch, New Zealand)

My first proper outdoors concert was to see mega-rock stars Foo Fighters in Christchurch, at the start of their Sonic Highways tour (a tour famous for a little incident in Norway involving Dave Grohl’s leg breaking).

The entire bus ride down there I was deep in conversation with a French backpacker also heading to the concert, and we became instant friends. He went on quite proudly about going home to get in his van with his girlfriend to explore the French coast, before heading to New Caledonia. I was invited to stay at my friend’s house, on his floor, and in doing so made friends with his flatmates as well (all six of them!). We were all gearing up to watch the Foos.

‘Wheels’ already evoked memories for me, having sung the “look for something beautiful” line to a girlfriend in a car before our first kiss together. However, its rendition at AMI Stadium will stick in my mind for good. Christchurch had been leveled by an earthquake a few years earlier, and Foos were one of the first big acts to get a concert going. Dave spoke quite highly of his experiences earlier in the day. Biking past houses waiting to be rebuilt, seeing men fix a bridge, all the way out to sea where there was substantial damage. “Thank God for your beautiful fucking city,” he cooed to the crowd.

I thought it was mostly all words, until he made us sing along to ‘Wheels’. To be a part of that crowd shouting “When the wheels come down” was fantastic. Especially as later on it made the rounds worldwide, as Dave Grohl promised a free show. “It might be 2028 when we come back, but the next one’s on us!”. Once again, Dave proved himself to be the nicest man in rock.

3) Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (Innisfail, Australia/Sydney, Australia)

I never expected to meet internet friends, and I certainly never expected to be involved in a four-way car singalong of this ever popular tune. We were driving up to my flat in Innisfail when on shuffle, out pops ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. There’s no way we can park up and turn that song off midway, so we decided – for good measure – to do a few drives around the block. Volume all the way up, headbanging at the best parts, everyone trying to hit the falsetto notes. The usual story. I distinctly remember pinching myself; I had finally found my own family, in another country entirely.

The second memory with this song comes from my trip to Sydney.  I was studying my bartending books, wanting to make sure I fully understood the six cocktails we had to learn for the night, when suddenly – from the main room of the hostel – I could hear singing. I ignored Bieber, I ignored Bon Jovi, but when ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ came on me and half of the hostel came out of our rooms to join the singing crowd. All of us, arm in arm, strangers until a week ago, belted out this classic. There’s a video of us singing it floating around: it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

4) Ed Sheeran – Tenerife Sea (Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand)

New Zealand is a medieval looking country. It’s little wonder Sir Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed here. This next artist fits right into that scene, as the performer of the theme to The Hobbit’s finale (‘I See Fire’).

This was my first ever road trip and we had just left Christchurch, so the rest of this journey was untraveled roads. We were on our way to the West Coast, heading towards a town called Barrytown (slightly north of Greymouth) but to get there we had to go through Arthur’s Pass.

It was the height of Ed Sheeran’s second album’s popularity. ‘Thinking out Loud’ had just become a global sensation. You couldn’t enter a shop without hearing Mr. Sheeran. Of course, we chucked ‘X’ on the car speakers right at the perfect time. We had just left the town of Springfield – where we stopped to take a photo of ourselves by a statue of the donut from The Simpsons – and Fall Out Boy’s newest album had just finished playing.

We sang along to ‘Don’t’ and ‘Sing’, pretending to know the words, and slowly we could see more and more of the snowcapped mountain range. As we drove through it, one lyric caught my attention. You look so beautiful in this light. True, it was written for a girl, but in that moment it was being sung about the beautiful scenery. Every road trip since I’ve always made a point to listen to an Ed Sheeran album, attempting to recapture that magic.

5) What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction (Seals Rock, Australia)

But AJ, you’re not a teenage girl! What gives?

To be honest, I despise this song. I consider it the ultimate paradox. If the girl doesn’t think that she’s beautiful and that’s the quality that makes her beautiful, surely telling her she’s beautiful will backfire? She’ll become aware of her beauty. She will no longer be beautiful. She’s only beautiful when she doesn’t know she’s beautiful.

It’s a chorus that has always, and will forever be, tarnished by that fact.

This is my Stockholm Syndrome song. Like all good stories, this one started while drunk after a day of school (in which we tested 12 different cocktails, as well as two bonus super heavy bartender-made drinks). A couple of the English lads on my course decided, on the way to a secret bar in the city, that we were in dire need of a singalong. The little jokers sang ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, and it stuck as our theme song. Every chance we got, someone shouted, “Baby you light up my world like nobody else”. Within seconds everyone would be singing along.

One particular memory comes from our surf weekend out of town, paid for by the course. We were on the bus to Seals Rock, and our instructor put some music on. Cue a two-hour singalong. None of the songs, however, were sung as loudly as this dire track. Arm in arm with strangers, a regular bus turned into a party bus. One of my favourite memories.

A huge thank you to AJ, for sharing these travel memories. Do any songs bring back strong memories for you?