Since I have now watched ‘Love Actually’ a grand total of one time, and spent… far more of my life then I am comfortable admitting in airports, I feel like I am able to decisively say that the opening monologue, where the Prime Minister explains that “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.” is complete and total malarkey. But, somehow, airports and airplanes and travel in general still seem to hold a sort of magical spell over people. I’ve seen more road trip movies then I could comfortably count, and been trapped with my dad on seemingly endless car-rides as he plays me all the songs he can think of that even mention cars. Travel has been romanticized, it’s been turned in to ridiculous plot devices and movie clichés, and sometimes- it’s even harmonized.
Which is why, as I prepare myself to travel home on a short and hopefully uneventful plane ride, I present to you my top 10 traveling songs. These are in no particular order, and I am almost certain that I will very shortly remember more songs that should have had a place on this list. It happens every time.
A Thousand Miles- Vanessa Carlton
This song is perfect for nostalgic alone time listening or group sing-alongs. It’s fun and it’s sweet and it makes me feel like I’m 17 and anxious for everything to come. Like many great travel songs, it’s more about the destination (and the people at the destination) then the travel itself.
Route 66- Chuck Berry
One of the all-time classics, and for a reason, Route 66 is a song about the most iconic highway in America. The Route itself is long, but this song is short and sweet. It’s a guilt free jam, and perfect to blast in any situation
Leaving On A Jet Plane- John Denver
I guess it’s time this list took a turn for the massively depressing. I learned this song at summer camp, because what screams “outdoor summer fun and adventure” like breakups and separations and massive distance from people you care about? Also, John Denver, who wrote this song, died in a plane crash. In case you needed to feel any sadder.
I Can Go The Distance- Hercules
Depressing to Disney seems like a good transition. Hercules’s journey is personal and metaphorical and really really well animated. Plus he hikes through like all of Greece, which is way more hiking then I could ever pull off. And he does it all in sandals!
I’ve Been Everywhere- Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash is much more well-traveled then I am. I guess that’s what being a touring musician means. While I haven’t been everywhere there are places where I feel like I know every single back road and alley way and rundown convenience store, every museum and gallery and Chinese restaurant that offers cheap takeout. Sometimes my little slice of the world is exciting. Some times I want to go everywhere.
See America Right- the Mountain Goats
The first time I heard this song I was 18 and on a plane and in a car headed to Chicago, where I was getting ready to start a life away from home. I was young and hopeful, and ready for everything that was going to come. I was a mess of feelings and emotions. The Mountain Goats understand that emotional inbetweeness better than any other band I know. Plus, who else romanticizes Greyhound buses?
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea- Neutral Milk Hotel
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea has the advantage of having possibly my favorite song lyric of all time- “But for now we are young let us lay in the sun, and count every beautiful thing we can see.” It’s a song I put on all my travel playlists, because of course I have a bunch of travel playlists. It’s beautiful and haunting and strangely optimistic, plus it’s fun to listen to while literally in an aeroplane over the sea.
Wagon Wheel- Old Crow Medicine Show
Some people will tell you that the Darius Rucker version of this song is better, and those people are wrong. I’m all about the classics. At least in this case. This song is about a trucker who just wants to find his way back home to the lady he loves, and is perfect for heading home from any trip. Also people like to get drunk and sing this in bars, and I’m not saying I’ve done that but I’m also not not saying I’ve done that.
Life is a Highway- Rascal Flatts
This is the only song on this list to have been in the animated feature film ‘Cars’ and that has got to mean something, right? That movie was pretty good, but this song is fairly great. It’s the kind of song you can’t help singing along to, which means maybe you shouldn’t listen to it while stuck between two strangers on a Megabus. Or maybe it means you should listen to it while trapped between two strangers on a Megabus, in hopes they will be weirded out and move and you get a row to yourself.
On The Road Again- Willie Nelson
I think that like 50% of Willie Nelson’s discography is about traveling and moving and I am 100% ok with that. But none of his travel songs are as iconic as the all-time classic ‘On The Road Again.’ Willie sings about “Goin’ places that I’ve never been, Seein’ things that I may never see again” and that’s what I want to do when I travel. Go new places, see cool things and get chances to explore.
So there you have it. In no particular order, my top ten favorite travel songs. Did I miss any of your favorites? Want to tell me how lame my choices are or how much you agree with them? Leave a comment and we can discuss!