Many times when I travel I like to listen to music related to the destination where I’m heading. For example, I’ll listen to New York State of Mind on the way to the Big Apple or Viva Las Vegas when I’m going to Sin City. It’s fun to put together a compilation to get me in the mood for a trip.
I didn’t put together a soundtrack before The Big Trip, instead these are the songs that found me. Some of these songs remind me of a specific day/time/moment and others remind me of an overall feeling or place. All of them transport me somewhere else when I hear them.
(Note: NSFW lyrics in some of the videos)
Feels by Calvin Harris, Pharrell, Big Sean, and Katy Perry is a grooveable, upbeat song that reminds me of being in Italy. I heard it various places but first saw the video while in Rome. The somewhat hazy quality of the video also reminds me of the heat and haze of July in the Eternal City.
2. Tra Le Granite E Le Granate
Tra Le Granite E Le Granate by Italian singer Francesco Gabbani seemed like the song of the summer while I was in Italy. The fun, sunny, sing out loud quality of the chorus captured how I felt during The Big Trip. Estate (which for a long time I thought was the name of the song) means summer in Italian. Although my trip spanned three seasons I was abroad for the entirety of summer. The song reminds me of estate in Italia: sitting on a beach in Monterosso, listening to a barista sing along on a steamy morning in Rome, and even hiding out from the heat in Sorrento.
This song also reminds me of a tough lesson I had to learn. While chatting with Sara, who works at Hotel Birillo in La Spezia I was informed that Italian ice is NOT, in fact, Italian. She had never even heard of it. Add that to the list of lies I’ve been told my whole life (like Australians don’t actually like Foster’s). Granita is the slushy Italian treat that closest to Italian ice, which gets tossed around in the video and is part of the name of the song.
3. Mask Off
Oslo probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of Future, but I now associate Mask Off with the Norwegian capital. On my first full day in Oslo I went to the park and beach at Huk. On the city bus back to Aker Brygge I sat next to two girls who looked to be around high school age and were playing music on a Bluetooth speaker. I was surprised when they played Mask Off and even more surprised that they knew every single word and were doing moves that looked like they were straight out of Atlanta. It was such a clear reinforcement of the impact of one of America’s biggest exports, hip hop and black culture. And so amazing to see that what comes out of Atlanta makes its way to Scandinavia. I also saw no less than three dabs that day.
If I had to pick a title track for my trip soundtrack it would be Chocolat by French-Moroccan artist Lartiste. I was in Morocco for almost three months, and Chocolat was a constant the whole time. I don’t know the actual national anthem of Morocco, but given the fact that I heard this song EVERYWHERE Chocolat may as well be it. Now when I hear Chocolat I’m back on a rooftop in Essaouira, riding in a cab in Marrakech, or watching Momo cook in Tamraght. This song means everything to me and reminds me of some of the best times in my life.
5. Les Menottes
For the longest time I had no idea what song this was. While in Morocco I’d hear it at the beach, in the car, and just generally in the air. Whenever I’d try to figure out what it was I could never quite describe it. Finally through a lot of back and forth with Oumaima at the surf camp I finally figured out that it was Les Menottes by French-Algerian singer L’Algérino.
Spanish-language music is pretty popular in Morocco, so I heard Chantaje by Shakira a good bit. Specifically it reminds me of riding back to Tamraght from the souk in Agadir. It also just reminds me of being hot. Summer in Morocco is no joke.
Symphony by Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson reminds me of being in Croatia. When I hear it I think about the music playing in my hostel in Split while everyone was getting ready for Ultra Europe (not me though; the tickets were sold out). It also reminds me of taking a few days to chill out in Trogir and the beauty of the town.
8. Mi Gente
Mi Gente by J Balvin and Willy William reminds me mainly of Italy and eating outside (in the shade) in Sorrento. Yes, I know there’s a version with Beyoncé, but the original is the one I heard most on my trip.
Unforgettable by French Montana and Swae Lee reminds me of Morocco. I heard this song a lot riding from beach to beach looking for a good surf spot, especially riding past the fishermen’s houses in Tamraght. It’s also music to accompany the ride to the fishing/surfing village Imssouane. The fact that French Montana is from Morocco helped to sear this so vividly into my Moroccan memories. I honestly teared up the first time I heard it on the radio back in the US. I missed Morocco so much.
10. Wild Thoughts
Wild Thoughts by DJ Khaled, Rihanna, and Bryson Tiller was playing in the car on the way to the beach on my first day in Morocco, so it forever reminds me of Imourane Plage. It also reminds me of my surf instructor saying, “Another one” when it was time to catch the next wave.
Despacito…this song. If this was a list of my favorite songs Despacito would not be on it. But if I’m being honest about the songs that formed the backdrop of my trip then it’s in there ten times over. I heard Despacito in every single country I visited. From Spain to Croatia, Sweden to Morocco. I came to loathe it because it was so inescapable, but it eventually became comical.
Some particularly memorable Despacito moments: Hearing another peregrino sing it while walking the Camino de Santiago; a salsa version played at Latin night at my hostel in Copenhagen; riding in an Uber in Dubrovnik; and an instrumental guitar version played during dinner on a terrace in Marrakech. I give up, Luis Fonsi, you win.