There and Back Again: The Perfect Travel Playlist

Artboard 1
Artboard 3

By Kenneth Cox

Since coming to college, I have been doing much more traveling than I had ever done in my life. From catching trains home for winter break to riding the bus to see friends at their schools, this past year has given me the opportunity to go places both familiar and new like never before. All this traveling has given me the opportunity to become reacquainted with some of my favorite music. Here are five of my favorites for traveling.

Dreams - The Cranberries

“Dreams” is a song that I almost always find playing on some radio station driving along the highway. It feels like the quintessential road trip anthem, a song that makes one excited about the possibilities of what lies ahead. Blending together the billowing drums that fill the song, the rich guitar riffs throughout, and the unforgettable voice of Dolores O'Riordan, “Dreams” becomes what the title suggests — a song that feels, quite literally, like a dream. It’s a song I always come back to, and that continues to make me want to seek out new places and experiences.

Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Arcade Fire

Is there any more incredible of a sight than seeing the mountains rise from the horizon? I always find myself in awe seeing snow-capped summits in the distance from my car window. I feel those same tinges of amazement every time I hit play on Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II”. Over five minutes, Arcade Fire reaches for the infinite and achieves it, with massive choruses of voices joining together with glittering synths and distorted guitars to create an utterly anthemic track. Sprawl II” makes any traveling, whether it be a walk across town or an international flight, feel like a journey.

10 Mile Stereo - Beach House

Throughout the years, Beach House has been a band that soundtracked visits of mine to numerous different places. The band’s signature combination of expansive production, swelling synths, and singer Victoria Legrand’s vocals make any of their songs travel contenders. But “10 Mile Stereo” is different in that is captures the expansiveness of traveling like none other. Starting from a simple kick drum and guitar, the song grows and morphs into a wall of sound that seemingly never stops growing. “They say we can go far/but they don’t know how far we go” sings Legrand in the song’s verse, and that line rings ever the more true out on the open road.

Heaven or Las Vegas - Cocteau Twins

One thing that Cocteau Twins aren’t known for is being grounded. Their music is ethereal, otherworldly, and unlike any other. “Heaven or Las Vegas” is no exception. The song immediately draws its listener into the world of the song — swirling keyboards and guitars pair with the beguiling voice of Elizabeth Fraser to create an astonishing atmosphere. The track feels like looking out from the window seat of a plane, glancing down on the minuscule world below while floating amongst the clouds. The song’s name too evokes traveling, with its dual destinations converging at one choice. “Heaven or Las Vegas” is a fantastic choice to listen to traveling anywhere from a few miles to another galaxy.

This Flight Tonight - Joni Mitchell

When I travel, I typically choose to listen to a full album over playlists. Naturally, Joni Mitchell’s 1971 classic Blue usually ends up playing through my headphones. The seventh track on that album, “This Flight Tonight” becomes even more honest on the way back from one's travels. Mitchell perfectly captures the flipside to traveling, the melancholy of having to leave the places and people that you love. With just her voice and acoustic guitar, Mitchell describes the regret she feels about having to leave a loved one behind as she flies away. Being literally about travel, but also discussing the true emotions surrounding it, I think that the track is one of the best songs about traveling.

Traveling for me is something that evokes wonder, amazement, and makes me feel truly alive. It is one of my favorite activities, and I hope to be able to do it more in the future. 

Uncommon Newsletter

Music reviews, ticket giveaways, live performances & member specials.

We'll never sell your email, be boring or try to sell you on bad music.

CONNECT WITH WERS