I still remember the exact moment when I realized that nothing could ever make me happier than solo traveling – it has been 17 years since that moment and I still did not find anything, which makes me feel more excited, more of full life than solo traveling. I also remember the song it was playing on my discman (yes!) at that exact moment – Summer Rain by U2. I was walking by the Palais des Beaux Arts and it was winter. So the song and the scene had nothing to do with each other but I was very moved and I still get that same happy and also a relieved feeling whenever I listen to Summer Rain by U2. So this post is dedicated to some odd songs that I happened to be listening to in odd places.
#1 A cemetery in Svalbard and Take This Waltz by Leonard Cohen
This is probably the oddest pair in this post. I am a great fan of Leonard Cohen but when he is accompanied by a female local, I love his songs even better. It was my last day in Svalbard (the northernmost human settlement in the World) and I was touring around Longyearbyen (the only place in the island where you can wonder around on your own without carrying a rifle due to the polar bears) and went by the only cemetery in Svalbard hosting the victims of Spanish flu that hit the World in 1918. I have never seen anything as dramatic and as lonely as that one cemetery. The cemetery has been visited by scientists as part of an effort to determine the reasons behind the deadliness of the Spanish flu (they thought the bodies were well preserved due to the permafrost) but it did not work. I happened to be listening to Take This Waltz when I was walking by the cemetery and now I cannot think of anything else but Svalbard and this cemetery when I listen to the song (even though there has been a whole movie based on its lyrics).
#2 Rainy Porto and Think You Can Wait by the National
The National is my favorite band and Think You Can Wait is my favorite the National song. I was traveling in Portugal in 2013 during my year of sabbatical and it was not necessarily one of the happiest periods in my life. I think I was also testing if travel was still as good of a cure for me. Portugal did not help much (I could not really get connected with the country as I kept comparing it to Morocco (which I really love) and Andalucia region in Spain.) The country may not have helped but the song sure did and whenever I listen to Think You Can Wait by the National, I first feel a little dark but then immediately think of how things got substantially better after that trip.
#3 My beloved Lauterbrunnen and Once Upon a Time by the Paper Stars
A place that I keep going back to and dream of going back to when I don’t. Lauterbrunnen and Murren are two exceptional places in Switzerland where you get to hike in very close proximity to hauntingly beautiful Swiss peaks. My 2015 visit to the area was right after the passing of the legendary climber/wingsuit jumper Dean Potter and I heard this amazing song called “Once Upon a Time” by the Paper Stars in a tribute video made in his honor. I really like the part where it says “above the clouds, nothing is loud”. I probably listened to this song at least twenty times during my short visit of 3 days during which I for the first time got to see wingsuit jumpers in action.
#4 An Otherworldly Island Nation and the Distance by Conjure One
It has been too long since I have been to Iceland but the Distance by Conjure One is great at reminding me of all those moments I was glued to the window of the bus in Iceland being in total shock of how one can get to such an otherworldly place with in such 7 seven hours. It was at the time the most otherworldly place that I have been to and here are the lyrics that really match with I at the time thought of Iceland: “This isn’t a place, this isn’t a hunger, this is a state of mind, a state of wonder, this isn’t a place, this isn’t a hunger, this is a state of mind, a state of wonder, so marry the distance.”
#5 Kyoto Walks and Hold On by Tom Waits
This due makes me feel fortunate enough that I could never grow out of my teenage years in the sense that the music still helps me to overcome some worries. During my latest trip to Japan, I was hit with some unfortunate news coming from home in the middle of my trip and this beautiful song – “Hold On” by Tom Waits and the safe streets of Kyoto where I walked probably for at least ten hours a day helped me to walk away my worries.