If you’re hitting the road, you’re going to need a good soundtrack. Here are some starters to make your legs a bit more restless, and get you thinking a bit more about rolled down windows and an open road in front of you.
1. “King of the Road” by Roger Miller
Roger Miller’s 1965 classic is the ultimate anthem for vagabonds — low-budget or no-budget travelers who scrape by working menial jobs here and there, and by hopping trains or hitchhiking.
2. “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Home doesn’t have to be a place. It can be a person. And if this song isn’t great, then why would it be in every indie movie trailer for the past decade?
3. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
The best song about travel period. The best song in rock ‘n’ roll period. Don’t agree? Let’s fight about it.
4. “Going Up the Country” by Canned Heat
Canned Heat is one of the best summer road trip bands — see “On the Road Again” and “Let’s Work Together” — and this is one of the best road trip songs ever made. “I’m going to some place that I never been before.”
5. “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart
This hits all of the homesickness and nostalgia sweet-spots. Travel isn’t just away from home. Sometimes it’s towards home.
6. “Have Love, Will Travel” by the Sonics
You can’t go wrong with any cover of Richard Berry’s song — Springsteen and the Black Keys do a solid job, too — but the Sonics’ anarchic, punky sound is just killer.
7. “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks
Even if country isn’t your thing, the Dixie Chicks’ 1998 jam about teenage wanderlust is pretty great.
8. “One More Cup of Coffee” by the White Stripes
It’s rare that a cover of a Dylan song is actually better than the original — as far as I know, the only other instance is the Hendrix cover of “All Along the Watchtower,” — but Jack White singing about sipping a coffee while looking at his lover in bed before leaving on a journey is flat-out amazing.
9. “Goin’ Out West” by Tom Waits
It’s hard to pick a best Tom Waits travel song, but it’s hard to beat the swaggering confidence of this line:
“They got some money out there
They’re giving it away,
I’m gonna do what I want
And I’m gonna get paid.”
10. “Train Song” by Vashti Bunyan
English singer Vashti Bunyan has one of the most haunting voices you’ve ever heard — her song about sitting on a train on the way back to surprise an old flame is eerie and amazing.
11. “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” by Bob Dylan
Dylan’s surreal classic was the anthem of my restless early 20’s, when all of the places I settled seemed inadequate and incomplete, and when the next place always seemed brighter and full of promise. “Oh, mama, can this really be the end? To be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again?”
12. “Lust for Life” by Iggy Pop
It could be because of its association with the frenetic beginning to the classic movie Trainspotting, but few songs feel more manic and exhilarating when you’re behind the wheel of a car.
13. “Hard Sun” by Eddie Vedder
Chris McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) has, in death, become one of the most iconic travelers of his generation. Sean Penn’s movie adaptation of Into the Wild, which covers McCandless’s journeys, is not quite as good as Jon Krakauer’s book, but it’s worth watching just for Eddie Vedder’s brilliant, liberating soundtrack.
14. “Ain’t No Grave” by Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash’s late classic has the repeated badass line: “Ain’t no grave can hold my body down.” That’s the country equivalent of Kanye’s “Who gon stop me, ah?”
15. “Into the Great Wide Open” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
R.I.P., Tom. The sky was the limit.