I was taking a selfie outside Jon Bon Jovi’s childhood home in New Jersey. The place looked like all the other houses nearby, except Jon had grown up there, learned to play the guitar and had later given the house away in a rock and roll contest. I felt a little like George Carlin’s character in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure when he pops in to check on the progress of Wyld Stallyns. Many of the greats come from humble beginnings.
My rental car stereo was playing Livin’ on a Prayer while we finished our quick photo session. We’d been listening to Best of Bon Jovi for nearly half an hour as we navigated the turnpikes to find the rockstar’s home on the way back to Newark. What better way to get in the mood? I create a soundtrack for all my travel adventures. It makes the drive so much more meaningful and really gets me pumped for my next stop. It’s like wine pairing. Put two great things together that compliment each other.
Besides famous people’s homes I also visit notable graves and going to see Jim Morrison’s in Paris was amazing. The cemetery Père Lachaise is a necropolis of magnificent monuments, ivy covered trails and statues unlike anywhere else. The soundtrack? There was only one choice really: The End… “This is the end…beautiful friend”. It’s the perfect anthem. I even used it on my YouTube video
My soundtracks don’t always pair perfectly with the location. I had visited Walt Whitman’s grave on this same trip in New Jersey the day before. His most famous poem Leaves of Grass, read aloud by someone with an English accent on YouTube just didn’t have the wow factor of Bon Jovi.
We were enroute to Philadelphia, so as soon as we left the cemetery we picked up the groove with Philadelphia Freedom by Elton John. We then followed up the music with New Jersey songs from Springsteen and Sinatra.
I try to eat local and listen local. In other words, rather than eat what i would at home, I get more invested into the culture by eating the local delicacies. I do the same with music. You can tell a lot about a place by just turning on the radio. I discovered I like a lot of the pop music from France and with the Shazam app on my phone, I could identify the songs I like and listen to them when I get home. I love the music from Ibiza. I also learned I don’t particularly like Chinese music unless I’m practicing tai chi.
Sometimes I might overdo the theme a little. As I drove through immigration at the Canadian border from Seattle, I started playing the Canadian national anthem just slightly below an obnoxious volume level. The officer tried not to crack a smile, but was clearly amused. Canadians can be ridiculously patriotic.
I’ve also traveled to places because a song stirred my curiosity. My trip to Kathmandu was totally the result of my favorite Bob Seger song.. My first trip to Africa was decided while listening to the song from the Toto V album. I’m currently planning a trip to Kashmir because of the Led Zeppelin hit. Music can definitely influence our decisions and inspire us to try new things.
I recently visited Joshua Tree National Park while listening to the U2 album of the same name. I discovered that Bono was fascinated with deserts and his travel experience in the American west had prompted him to shoot his album cover and name the album after one of his favorite places. When we think of travel, we normally focus on three senses, visual,tactile and taste. We go places because we saw beautiful pictures from there, the weather is warm or we want to eat great food. No one ever said “let’s go to Japan because it smells good”. However smell and hearing are essential for the full experience.
Our travel soundtrack doesn’t have to be music. It could be a language class for example . When you’re driving through Italy and learning Italian from a phone app, you’re much more likely to retain what you’ve heard. Can’t sleep? Ocean waves, binaural beats and sleep hypnosis tracks can help you get over jet lag or relax you on a night bus.
So next time you’re traveling, think of what songs pair with the experience and find your soundtrack. We live in a world where you can bring a million songs with you without having to pay for overweight luggage. Imagine trying that with vinyl records 30 years ago.