Top 10 travelling songs


With iPods a travel essential these days, Travel + Leisure has compiled the ultimate, and completely subjective, traveller’s playlist. We have avoided destination songs and focussed on music that evokes the spirit of travel: celebratory road trips, the itch to get on a plane or the occasional quiet moment of introspection experienced while on the move. But there are no doubt more songs to add, email us with your music travel essentials.


1. Motel Blues, Loudon Wainwright III
A particular type of travel, the existential angst of the travelling troubadour this perfect sketch of loneliness is one of Wainwright’s most raw and personal songs. The naked desperation in the final stanza, “Come up to my motel room/Save my life” is at once sleazy and heartbreaking, a rare combination.

2. Refuge of the Road, Joni Mitchell
Travel as a place to hide and to renew. And most of all to gain a bit of perspective as to how insignificant we all are: “In a highway service station/Over the month of June/Was a photograph of the earth/Taken coming back from the moon/And you couldn't see a city/On that marbled bowling ball/Or a forest or a highway/Or me here least of all.” A service station stop has never been the same, Joni.

3. Wide Open Road, The Triffids
Another writer to seek solace in the constant movement of the road trip. Spurned lover David McComb takes to the endless expanse of Australia to try and forget that his lover has left him, sporadically taking his rage out on the surrounding countryside. “The sky was big and empty/My chest filled to explode/I yelled my insides out at the sun/At the wide open road.” Not happy travel, but very cathartic.

4. Leaving on a Jet Plane, Peter, Paul and Mary
Capturing the moment when we leave a loved one behind, this mournful classic was penned by John Denver and Kenneth Browder in an airport lounge in Washington, giving it extra travel kudos. Peter, Paul and Mary made the song their own, however.

5. Station Approach, Elbow
The antithesis to the above, this is a song about coming home. Having hit the road, presumably on a lengthy tour, gruff Northern poet Guy Garvey just wants to get back to Manchester since he “hasn’t seen my Mum for weeks”. And who can argue with the quiet mantra: “I never know what I want but I know when I'm low that I/I need to be in the town where they know what I'm like and don't mind.” That’s something to come home to.

6. Traveller’s Tune, Ocean Colour Scene
Raucous Britpop tribute to daydream escapism, this Birmingham-based five-piece band chronicle the frustration of chasing a perennial travel dreamer: “But if you find yourself standing on the corner while you’re thinking of a different world/Then you might see me waiting on the corner staring through you in your different world.”

7. Transit Lounge, Crowded House
The layering on this even suggests the confusion of waiting around in lounges with German boarding announcements and general travel hubub. But travellers will most likely relate to the chorus, which could double as a practical travel tip. “Lying on the floor of a transit lounge/There’ll be no announcements made/You better make sure you don’t sleep too sound/There’ll be no announcements made.” Keep the iPod on low.

8. Every F***ing City, Paul Kelly
A love song played out on the European backpacker trail (“We split up for a while in Barcelona/We met up six days later in Madrid/I was hoping that the break would make things go a little better for us/And for a little while it almost did.”) but as the continental chase continues and the city’s fly by our protagonist finally gets travel weary proclaiming “Every f***ing city looks the same”. Honourable mention also goes to Kelly’s bus travel opus From St Kilda to Kings Cross.

9. Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan
“How does it feel/To be on your own/With no direction home/Like a complete unknown/Like a rolling stone?” Well, sometimes Bob, it feels pretty damn good, thanks for asking. Dylan’s rollicking classic is a perfect paean to aimless wandering.

10. Roam, the B52s
It’s not just the sentiment of roaming ‘round the world or the trip that “beings with a kiss” but the sheer glee with which Kate and Cindy belt out this travellin’ ditty. So hit the road and, who knows, you may wind up at your very own private Idaho.

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