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The Passenger: The Best Songs About Travel

Whether it is the samba beats you hear on vacation while you laze by the beach, or the futuristic soundtrack as it captures your journey on a bullet train, there are so many songs about travel that seem to capture a place and a time. In popular music, travel has been one of the themes that the greatest songwriters keep coming back to. And there are songs that evoke a feeling, and sometimes the lyrics can be literally about travel, but sometimes it is something that you feel when you are hundreds of miles up in the air, feeling like you’re going home, or going on an adventure. Here are some of the best songs about travel, in our humble opinion.

“Bamboleo” by The Gypsy Kings

This is probably the song that has soundtracked many a cocktail fuelled night on the beach. And despite its flamenco origins, it seems to make its way into every vacation, all over the world. Whether it is booming from the Emporis Kota Damansara condos in Malaysia or roaring out from the corner of a heated carnival atmosphere, it seems to be one of the songs that follow you whenever you go on vacation to sunny climates!

“I’m Gonna Be” (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers

Probably best known to the younger generations as that song from How I Met Your Mother, this classic from the 80s is one of those that you can never really escape, especially when you are backpacking hundreds of miles deep into the Scottish Highlands! While some people may prefer the ideals of their cover of “King of the Road,” The Proclaimers’ most famous song is this ode to travel.

“Homeward Bound” by Simon and Garfunkel

It is right there in the title. Everybody has felt that they’ve been on the road for weeks at a time and just want to go home. When we feel a million miles away from home, and we need some solace in the fact that other people are feeling the same as us, this is the song that you need to put on and remember that home is never that far away.

“Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor

Home is wherever we want it to be. Sometimes we need to remember that home is actually right there, in the back of our minds. And whenever you feel that it is all too much, you need to go back home in your mind. And this classic song about life being too tough perfectly captures what home is for him. 

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver

Songs about travel are sometimes songs about specific destinations. And when you look at the most popular songs about specific destinations, this one is always top of the pile. You might have never been to West Virginia, or even know anything about the place, but it is such a stirring anthem, that it easily rivals “Sweet Home Alabama,” or even perhaps overtakes it as the greatest song about a specific place.

“The Passenger” by Iggy Pop

it is about being a passenger, but it is such a left hook of a song, that it can set you off on the wrong foot. While it evokes some aspects of travel, it is the quirky rhythm of the song that brings to mind the up-and-down nature of travel. it is a song that, in many ways seems like a classic country and western type tune, but with Iggy Pop’s weird, languid voice, it takes you into a whole new dimension. Think of it as going on vacation to Mars for a day or so!

“Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin

Another left-field choice. This classic is more associated with United Airlines than anything else to a traveller. And for those people who are looking to explore a big city with a backpack full of dreams, or looking to break into the arts, or thinking that they are a folk musician from the early 1960s, Rhapsody in Blue conjures that smoky atmosphere of suburbs like Manhattan.

“Take Me Home” by Phil Collins

While the song is not actually about going home but is more to do with a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-type scenario, it is something that has nestled in some people’s consciousness as a song about going home. The refrain of “I don’t remember, so take me home” is something that every world-weary traveler has longed for at some point. That they cannot remember what home was because they’ve been away for so long.

About the author

There’s a lot of music out there - good music. At Essentially Pop our remit is that we cover music that deserves to be heard, with a particular focus on independent artists. That doesn't mean we won't cover your old favourites - rather we hope to give you some new favourites as well.

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