Music for travelling: Songs that remind me of great holidays
Do you have a song that transports you back to another world?
I have so many of these songs. Some of them remind me of a holiday I took almost a decade ago – my first without parents! Others, I’m able to time travel to being a child in Rome’s dead summer heat. Some are more recent; they remind me of dancing barefoot in the sand in Thailand and 13 hour bus rides through Laos.
I’ve been making a list on my phone every time I thought of a new one and so far, it’s amounted to far too many to list all of them here. So in chronological order, here’s the songs that remind me of the best holidays of my life…
Alessia Cara – Wild Things
Phi Phi Island, Thailand
This song was THE song of my last trip to Thailand. Island hopping from Phuket, to Phi Phi to Koh Lanta and back, this song was an anthem for my best friend Claire and I. We danced barefoot to it on the beach, we played it in our hostel dorm, we listened to it in between naps on the boat crossings. Plus, that’s exactly where we wanted to be, where the wild things are.
Sean Paul – She Doesn’t Mind
Mai Khao, Thailand
I know, Sean Paul in Thailand, and little, rural beach town Mai Khao too…but it was there, blaring out loud every day for a week. I was lucky enough to be nominated by the company that I work for to go on a Habitat for Humanity build trip to Thailand. Over the course of the week, my group of 50 strong colleagues built three homes for the families in the community that needed it most. Every morning, the speakers were set up on our building site, but of course without wifi we had one playlist to work from…and Sean Paul stuck in all our heads as we laid bricks, dug septic tanks, lay foundations and mixed cement. I even danced on top of scaffolding to this absolute tune…
Taylor Swift – Shake it off
I’m not sure how this became a song for Phuket, but it did. Whenever I hear Tay-Tay now, I think of holding a Chang beer in one hand, the bottom of my maxi skirt in the other and shaking it all off with the guys on my trip. In this memory, I’m always standing near the pool bar of the hotel for some strange reason…
Mumford & Sons – Tompkins Square Park
Driving through Laos
When I set off on the Indochina Discovery trip, I had a Spotify full of amazing playlists, knowing that we’d be on long buses and night trains. But by the time we got to Laos, I took so many photos on my phone that I soon ran out of memory so I had to choose only one album that could be played on offline mode. Mumford & Sons Wilder Mind made the cut. And as the first song on the album, this song always reminded me of settling down on the bus and looking out the window to the beautiful Laos countryside. Album on repeat for 13 hours…
DJ Snake, Lil Jon – Turn Down for What
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Milky Chance – Stolen Dance
Oh Ios, what an absolute dreamland you are. This song is for all the days spent on sun loungers, evenings in hammocks and walks home at dawn after epic nights out. This little Greek island delivered on so many levels and whenever I hear this song I itch to book a flight back.
Robyn – Dancing On My Own
This was the song that was pumping through my ears as I took my first steps of the Paris Half Marathon. My housemate Lizzie, who was running it with me, was in another starting pen for a faster finishing time, so when I pressed play, I thought I couldn’t have asked for a for a more fitting song. Running on my own, through the streets of Paris, absolutely terrified I wouldn’t make it to the end. I did, but it was horrific.
Bastille – Laura Palmer
The summer of 2013, two of my best friends and I set off on a three week inter-rail trip from Amsterdam to Croatia. At the time, Bastille was hitting radios in London, and we were hooked on the album. One night in a ruin bar in Budapest, we made friends with the DJ (mainly because we created the dance floor right in front of him!) and requested Bastille. He didn’t know it, so Claire hooked her iPhone up to the system and he played it. We went wild…it only took the crowd to the first chorus to get involved and before we knew it, the DJ was on his table, everyone in the bar was going wild for it and one crazy Italian was dancing on a stool. Bastille, Budapest loved you.
Beyoncé – Run the World (Girls)
I’m starting to see a pattern where my songs of holidays are usually linked to nights out and bars…oh well! In Split, we discovered a bar that seemed to play only Beyonce. So of course, we stayed, we danced like we’ve never danced before. For one night only, we were Beyonce.
Snow Patrol – Open Your Eyes
Somewhere on Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Summiting Kilimanjaro involved 5 solid days of climbing, sometimes with terrible altitude sickness, sometimes in agony, but most of the time giddy with joy. But when the going got tough, the old iPod had to come out. This song reminds me of the decent, we’d climbed to the summit the night before and I’d had a tough hike with dodgy hip and altitude sickness that wouldn’t quit. But we made it! This song was playing as I descended on the 14 hour day hike through a dried river bed that seemed to never end. But I literally opened my eyes and realised it was the most beautiful view I’d ever seen, I just gritted my teeth and bared the pain after that.
Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way
When Sarah and I were in Tanzania, we finished our Kilimanjaro climb and were headed to the town of Arusha to start a safari. After hiking Kilimanjaro, we opted for a bit of comfort and hired a taxi for the hour long trip. Now this taxi was pimped – I wish I had a photo of it! It had armchairs for seats and fold down TVs for the ride. But instead of movies, the driver asked us if we liked Backstreet Boys. Who doesn’t right? So on goes the stereo and we kareoked our way (with the driver joining in – he knew all the words!) to Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, Britney and so many other great pop tunes. We arrived with our throats a little sore, but totally pumped!
Working 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
Here me out. Did you go on a holiday as soon as you left secondary school? I did with four of my closest school friends to Zakynthos. The Ayia Napa of Greece. There was one bar called Cocktails and Dreams, which i remember vividly…and they played this song every night. Possibly even multiple times a night. That was one lazy, but epic DJ.
Calle 13 – Suave
Copan Ruinas, Honduras
Do I know what the lyrics mean? Not a chance. Was I able to sing along? Of course! After 6 weeks living in Honduras, this was the song pumping out of every pickup truck, every cafe and bar, and even the kids in the school I was teaching in were singing it to us (even though it’s probably very rude). But it’s one catchy tune.
Beyoncé – Baby Boy ft. Sean Paul
New York, USA
More Sean Paul and more Beyonce…yup, these root run deep. This brings be back to a snowy winter in New York City with my relatives. Before the times of the iPod, this beaut of an album was on my discman. Oh yeah…
Coldplay – Yellow
Co. Clare, Ireland
This whole album really reminds me of a road trip my family took to Spanish Point in Co. Clare. The west coast of Ireland has some incredible scenery to drive through, and even as a bored teenager, I loved the drive listening to this album on repeat, but the whole family joined in (even my five year old brother) to sing this song.
Gipsy Kings – Bamboleo
Sometime in the early 90s
I’m half-Italian on my mother’s side, so when I was young we would spend summers in Rome. The weather would be sweltering, we would live on the balcony or drive to the beach for some fresh sea air. One of my favourite memories, I must have been five or six, is of my Nonna (grandmother in Italian) cleaning the house, all the windows of the apartment open, the fans on at full spin and this song soaring through the house. When it felt too hot to even lift a finger, we took to the sitting room and danced, we clapped our hands and stamped our feet like flamenco dancers and we twirled til we got dizzy. It will always remind me of her.
Do you have songs that remind you of great times travelling? Whether it was your go-to album for long haul flights, or your favourite remix at Ibiza, let us know in the comment box below!