. Songs from the road - my life through travel and music : Budget Travel Adventures

Songs from the road – my life through travel and music

Molly's Revenge travel and music

When you think of travel and music, what comes to mind?  Many people may think of The Sound of Music, Beethoven, or Mozart.  However, each of us has our own soundtrack that plays in the background of our lives.

Sometimes one of those melodies becomes a featured track during a pivotal moment in the plot of our lives.  We may not notice the music but it’s always playing.  As I thought about the songs on my travel and music journey, I was surprised what was on my life’s soundtrack.

I’ve shared some personal travel confessions before.  Consider this another one as there will be some songs on this list that may shock you.  There are also things you never knew.

Thanks to Erik for sharing his travel and music list and asking me to share mine.  Here’s a closer look at the travel soundtrack of my life.

The travel and music soundtrack of my life

Jeremy Branham Chris Rae Scottish Dancing

When the music plays, you dance – even with men in kilts

Even if you aren’t a fan of music, there always one song that you remember vividly, bringing you back to a place or moment.  You experience it again as the words and music play.  The emotions play on your heart in tune with the melody in your head.

Music has the power to connect spirit, emotions, and experiences together to create powerful memories in our lives.

As I look back on my travel experiences, these songs symbolize those moments in my life.  Some of these songs will surprise you – both the music and the memories.

My first road trip and cassette tape

When I was in middle school, I took two big road trips – the first real road trips with the family.  One trip took us from South Carolina to Maine.  On that trip, I remember driving through northern New York, a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and listening to Billy Joel songs.

However, it was my trip to Chicago where songs became part of my personal soundtrack.  On this trip, I saw the Chicago Cubs play in Wrigley Field and listened to the first cassette tape I ever bought (actually, my mom bought it for me) – Billy Ocean’s Tear Down These Walls.

I remember reading the inside liner and all the words of the songs over and over.  I learned Billy Ocean was from Trinidad and Tobago – probably the most famous person from that country.  I had no idea where that was but I listened to his tape, heard Calypso music for the first time, and enjoyed the most popular song from that tape “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car.”

How many people would have thought Billy Ocean would be the opening soundtrack to my travel and music story?

Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car – Billy Ocean

The only girl I ever dated in high school

When I was in high school, I was a shy, quiet, sensitive kid who had high standards and low confidence.  I had two girlfriends in high school – one lasted two days and the other didn’t even live in the same part of the state.  However, it’s how we met that impacted me.

During my junior year, I was part of a group called Youth in Government.  My friend McKenzie and I proposed a bill to change the legal driving age in the state of South Carolina.  We were chosen to be part of a mock government week at the State Capitol in Columbia.  So off we went – my first trip without my parents.

That week, we were assigned a lobbyist for our bill – Andrea.  During the week, we hung out, talked, watched cartoons, and enjoyed being around each other.  At the end of the week, we danced together to the song “The Dance” by Garth Brooks.

I don’t like country music but that one was special.  Later that year, I took Andrea to my prom.  To this day, the years have passed but we are still friends and keep in touch.

After reading more about the meaning of “The Dance”, it seems like the perfect song for a life of travel – taking chances, living for what you believe, and never regretting the choices you made even when those decisions don’t work out.

The Dance – Garth Brooks

My first international trip and radical new music

travel and music Jeremy Branham Shandon

My college days – memories, my first travel experience, and music

My first trip overseas was to the country of Estonia.  I was there with my college church group as we visited a missionary and talked to people on the streets.

The year was 1995 and our group was taking the bus from Tallinn to Tartu.  Unfortunately, our bus broke down and a few of us in the back were falling sleep due to a carbon monoxide leak.  As we were stranded on the side of a ride in the middle of nowhere, we did what college kids loved to do – we brought out the music.

That year, there was some radical new Christian music – unlike anything ever heard.  Forget gospel hymns, choirs, church music, and soft, easy listening church songs.  This was 1995 – not today.  And this was different than anything anyone had ever heard.

Regardless of how you feel about religion, the song you are about to hear is not the music you would expect from church people in 1995 (or any year).  And definitely not on the side of a highway in Estonia rapping about a “tat…that wiggled around like marmalade jelly.”

Jesus Freak – dc Talk

The best summer I ever had

The year was 2004 and it was a busy summer.  It was also the best summer of my life.

My unofficial start to summer kicked off with a month traveling around Europe – the first time I had been back since 1996.  The trip was an emotional roller coaster.  However, I found my purpose that summer and have been traveling ever since.

The rest of the summer, I hung out with friends, played softball, and fell in love with Lake Tahoe.  That summer was filled with memories and places.  It is so intimate and personal that I can’t share all that happened.  However, there is one person that knows what that summer meant to me.

I wish every season of my life was like that summer (but not quite that busy).  Throughout the summer, there was one CD I played over and over – Switchfoot.  And there is one song that stirs my soul with strong memories and feelings that I want to have again.

Dare You To Move – Switchfoot

Close to home, music from a foreign land

A few years ago, I realized something really important about travel – I didn’t need to go far to experience the world.

In 2011, I went to the Sacramento Scottish Highlands Games and Festival.  I’ve spent the day hanging out with Scottish Games professional athletes.  I’ve learned about the history of some Scottish clans.  And I’ve enjoyed some of my favorite music from a Celtic band.

Travel is a state of mind and attitude – whether close to home or halfway around the world, explore with an open mind and heart.

Molly’s Revenge

New or familiar places, Foreign and loved faces

In 1988, a new song came on the radio that blended piano, guitar, cello, and a raspy voiced singer.  During my depressed teenage years, this was my anthem.  Today, it’s one of my favorite songs of all time.

What does this have to do with travel?

Since 2004, this song has been my alarm clock.  Whether I am at home or discovering a new city in a foreign country, this song wakes me up and starts my day.  This song has traveled with me to almost every country I have visited.

For every trip that I take and new place that I see, Cinderella will join me.

Don’t Know What You Got Til It’s Gone – Cinderella

Travel and music – the soundtrack of my life.

Do you love photos as well as music?  Check out my amazing photo series on Yosemite in Winter to see one of the most beautiful places on earth covered in snow!

What is your favorite song from your travel experiences?

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Filed Under: Traveling Thoughts


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  1. Laurence says:

    I love how listening to certain music can take me right back to a time and place. Way back when i was travelling with a cassette walkman around Europe, I only had two tapes with me, one of which was U2’s Achtung Baby. Whenever I listen to that album now, I’m instantly 15 again, road tripping around Italy with my parents.

    I also have an iPod that I listened to all the way round Australia. Certain parts of it remind me intensely of parts of that voyage – to the point where I don’t think I’ll ever be able to change the music on it – it is like a box of recorded memories.

    • I know what you mean. Most of my memories from music aren’t really about travel. However, it’s great to hear a song and immediately you are taken back in time and remember how you felt and what you were experiencing. I can’t say I really have a specific song for a country of city but I do remember moments and love the power and impact that music has on our lives.

  2. Interesting post going through memorable points in your life through travel.

    • Our music tastes seem to vary a bit but in all your travels, is there a particular song that reminds you of a specific place or memory? I know I’ve seen you post some videos and music in your posts so just curious what song(s) you remember.

      • I did a similar post where I reminisced about songs I remember from traveling when I was younger. Van Morrison’s great Astral Weeks album makes me think of Florida and John Mellancamp’s Scarecrow album reminds me of driving back and forth between Illinois and Tennessee in college as I had to drive through Indiana.

        • I do remember that post. That was the one I was referencing when I said I knew you had posted some songs and videos. You’re a bit old school rock while I am all over the place! However, you hit on the point of this post – music and travel go together and create some great memories!

          • I am pretty all over the place too. I do like old school stuff, but I feel I am somewhat hip to newer groups like Mumford & Sons, Dawes, My Morning Jacket, and Band of Horses to name a few. I also have a thing for Bluegrass and older country. Pedal steel guitar, banjos, mandolins, and fiddles rock my world.

  3. If you picked those songs out of any other sort of line up they would be completely random. Nice to see how they all have a special meaning for you. My favourites will always be Queen, the Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen. All from road trips with the family when we were little. Good times.

    • Yes, that was part of the fun picking these songs. They have no connections to each other whatsoever! Different styles of music, different decades, and quite a variety of travel memories.

      With so much music out there, the choices for songs are going to vary a lot. I don’t listen to music that much these days as I am out of touch with what is on the radio (I haven’t had a stereo in my car for nearly a year and a half) but it’s great I can pull out some favorites when I travel. Also really enjoy Spotify which lets me check out new music and listen to my favorites. That’s starting to replace my iPod.

  4. Great post idea, Jeremy! I loved “Caribbean Queen” by Billy Ocean when I was young, and for some reason always imagined he was singing it about Sade (another favorite of mine from that era). I love Scottish music as well, and have quite a few CDs of it ranging from The Battlefield Band to various well-known pipers. As for my favorite song from my travel experiences, not sure that I have one, but Peter Gabriel’s Passion (soundtrack to Last Temptation of Christ) was very influential on my early interest in travel.

    • Very interesting choice of music Bret! Glad I am not the only one who loves a little 80s R&B! I can’t believe Billy Ocean was my first tape. However, I have to admit that my mom bought it for me. I have no idea why but I’ll always remember it. As for Scottish music, that is something I am just starting to get into with my experiences at the Scottish Games and Festival. I really love that song by Molly’s Revenge. I play that one a lot. Strangely, I’ve never been able to find the name of it!

      I will have to check out that Peter Gabriel song!

  5. Jaime says:

    Love this post… i love love love MUSIC and is why I have a MUSIC MONDAY segment on my blog. I love sharing songs that have a meaning, but I also love that a song has the power to take you back to one moment in time or several. The Dance is one of my favorite country songs ever and I’ve always associated it with life but for some reason not travel and now I get it. I may be featuring it soon. Oh and I love I dare you to Move… great song about life and making new choices to bring happiness into it. Ahh music how I love the. You have a good sound track going on for you life… as for mine I have many songs but my main one is BREAKAWAY by Kelly Clarkson and well is why I named my blog after that song. Love the meaning of the song… I went through that and love it.

    • Seems we have a lot of similar tastes in music. I grew up on country music but don’t like it now. I didn’t really have a choice then but there are still a few country songs from my childhood that I like. The Dance is one of those. Honestly, it wasn’t until this post that I looked into the meaning of the song. Goes with travel very well!

      As for Dare You to Move, that one is very personal. I can’t even go into what that CD meant to me. As for Breakaway, I will have to check that one out. I am sure I have heard it but don’t recognize the name.

      I’ve gotten out of touch with music recently. I am one of those people that thinks that music today isn’t as good as it was when I was growing up. :)

  6. Billy Ocean, eh? You’ve got courage to admit that one.

    Music is important to me, and I was lucky enough to have a local take me to a huge music festival in Quito, Ecuador. I discovered some great Latin American artists and just enjoyed being there with the locals just like I would do at home.

    • I have to admit I know little about South American/Latin American artists. Obviously, I’ve heard some of the popular artists on the radio.

      Yes, my music choices are all over the place. Back in the 80s, Billy Ocean was very popular :)

  7. Oh my goodness I don’t know any of these songs!!!

    • LOL, I would say that you are so young but you are now 30 so you’re not that much younger! :)

      Yes, I can understand why you haven’t heard of most of these. Two of these were popular in the 80s, 2 of them are a genre you probably don’t listen to, the the last one no one but me a few others have heard that one! :)

  8. While our musical taste may differ, we whole-heartedly agree that music is a powerful memory trigger AND a major part of travel. And who knew Billy Ocean was from Trinidad and Tobago???

    • OK so now that you’ve put that out there, I want to know what some of your favorite songs are. Maybe our tastes aren’t quite as different as you think. They may be but I am curious what songs you connect with on the road and in life.

      And yes, Billy Ocean was born in T&T. However, he grew up in England from a young age so that’s where most people know him. However, he can hear his T&T roots in his music.

  9. Iain Mallory says:

    Cool post Jeremy, ggreat to hear how the music has influenced your life and brings back memories of experiences important to you. I only recognised the Billy Ocean track, guess our musical preferences are soimewhat different!

    • I don’t think they are as different as you think. My favorite music is the 80s hair bands. I love lots of popular and rock music. I don’t really like country at all. However, these do have very specific memories for me so it definitely doesn’t represent all the different types of music I enjoy. Maybe I could share my Spotify list with you so you can see the variety. I actually have an 80s list with 1/4 of them are R&B songs. :)

      After your comment, I want to know some of your favorite songs now to see if our taste in music really is different.

  10. Erik says:

    Great list, Jeremy, made even beter by the vivid pictures you paint with your writing!

  11. Gina says:

    British pop songs from the early 2000s always put me a happy, traveling mood. I studied there then and England’s pop music – love it or hate it – sticks with you! Pretty sure hardcore music lovers probably like your travel song choices better. 😉

    • I have to admit I love British pop music. I have to agree with you – you can love it or hate it but it is catchy. One of my favorite bands is from England, Def Leppard, and I have a strong attachment to England. I enjoy the culture there. It’s different from the US but I have a lot of cultural ties so I know exactly what you mean. My taste is music is quite varied – beyond this list :)

  12. I Know what you mean either…
    Music tells us a story about our country and traditions,for exam.I’m Turkish and turkish classical songs tell about my country:)

    • I don’t know anything about Turkish music. I do like classical music though so it would be interesting to listen to classical Turkish music. Probably not the same as the classical music I know – Beethoven, Bach, etc. However, there is something so engaging and relaxing about that type of music. Music does tell a great story but also does a great job of touching all of our senses.

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