Every time I listen to Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond, I think back to the Makgadi-kgadi Pans in Botswana. These pans cover 6 177.6 square miles, and from the middle, you can see the curvature of the Earth.
Once, I drove my Land Rover over the pans and decided to stop in the middle and sleep under the stars. Pink Floyd played on the CD player and it made the whole experience surreal.
When I listen to Joan Baez I’m taken back to a surfing trip and a remote beach down the East Coast of Africa. I can smell the freshly caught crayfish crackling over the coals and hear the waves whooshing in the dark.
Music reminds us of our travels, just as much as it inspires us to travel. It urges us to unfold the maps, pack the backpack and hit the road.
Here are 8 reasons we love music on the journey:
1. Music is a universal language
Local music breaks down the barriers of language and ethnicity. Music is a universal language, which uplifts the spirit and helps to make friends.
People all over the world identify with music. The essence of ancient cultures lies in music, and if we are lucky, we can experience a bit of it.
I was one of very few Westerners to have been invited to a traditional Ghule-whankulu dance in Malawi. These dancers belong to a secret society, their true identities are known only by themselves, and no one in the village knows who is behind the masks.
Their energetic dancing accompanied by awe-inspiring drum rhythms will always be a part of my memories.
2. Music reminds you of the people
Music reminds you of the people you met along the journey. Like a little romance I had with the girl from Holland captured perfectly by Natalie Imbruglia while we were waiting for the bus. It was a bittersweet farewell.
She promised to phone me, lying naked on the floor. (It never happened…)
3. Music can make the world yours
Music shortens those long hot and smelly journeys in the back of a crowded bus. Music can drown out the noise of a big city. Listening to your favorite tracks can enhance the experience of seeing a natural or man-made wonder for the first time.
Make that “touristy” spot, a piece of your own travel memories without the camera-toting holidaymakers. For me it was Moby at Victoria Falls in Zambia.
4. Music can ignite your imagination
Recently, I boarded a plane at the start of a new journey. As the plane hurtled down the runway on take-off, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird was reminding me that I was free as a bird, and that I would never change.
Too many places to see. Music fueled the excitement. The promise of new adventure. It made the farewell to my family easier.
5. Music can enhance the present
Music makes the world a little more interesting. It helps your thoughts and imagination to be a little bit more creative.
I was sitting at the Stockholm train-station, and I was listening to Vaya Con Dios’s Don’t cry for Louie. I saw this shady guy with a trench coat and dark glasses, and he had two tarty looking women with him.
Pimp and prostitutes. I saw Louie. I had the urge to walk over to one of the women and ask her to sing for me, in that lovely low and sexy voice. The fear of a slap in the face, and possible arrest for public disturbance stopped me.
And Louie would have been pissed off.
6. Music can scar you
Sometimes, music can have a negative impact as well. Malawi has cured me of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley forever.
I was staying at a backpackers in Inkhatha Bayand, and couldn’t help but notice some other “beach boys” that spoke with overdone Jamaican accents. The local Rastas.
7. Music can be a useful
I have once used music as a weapon. I arrived at this nice little campsite at the Drakensberg in South Africa, on the Lesotho border.
I set up camp away from the rest of the crowd when a noisy family decided to come and disturb my peace. They settled right next to me, and the kids proceeded to kick up a lot of noise.
I put Tom Wait’s Bone Machine on at top volume and took a few sips of Rum straight out the bottle while I gave the mother the evil eye.
Needless to say, they packed up and left me in peace. I always reserve old Tom for warding off witchdoctors and noisy kids.
8. Music is travel
Mostly, I have fond memories of my travels when I am listening to music at home and working towards the next trip. It is like a form of traveling on its own. Traveling without moving.
How has music enhanced your journeys? Share your stories in the comments!