When I travel, I like to pick a song as that trip’s theme song. Almost always it is a song that has a connection to the place I am visiting (rather than something like “Country Roads Take Me Home”), and that connection is usually that a lyric or the song title includes the city or country. And I am always curious to find out if my view of that place matches the song. Following is the top five of my travel theme songs, with them getting more personal as the numbers rise.
5. Amsterdam by Guster / Amsterdam
I wanna see how it looks
From way up on your cloud
Where you’ve been hiding out
Are you getting somewhere?
Or did you get lost in Amsterdam?
This song is a bit angsty, about someone upset with his rock star idol. I did have a few moments of angst while there, perhaps inspired by the song, but to answer the question asked in the song, I did not get lost in Amsterdam.
4. The songs of Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and Mamma Mia! the musical by ABBA / Greece
Grease is the word, is the word, is the word that you heard
Feel the beat from the tambourine
You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life
Authentic Greek music didn’t come to mind for this trip, but Grease the musical did, along with Mamma Mia! taking place on a Greek island.
3. The Sound of Music (and all the other SOM songs) by Rogers and Hammerstein / Salzburg
I couldn’t go anywhere in Salzburg without thinking about one of the songs from the musical. The movie was filmed there, so any time I would see a sight, I would think of the song that goes with it. For three weeks during my first stay in Salzburg, I splashed in the “I Have Confidence” fountain every day on the way to school. It was under construction the year I was there, but it was ready for splashing when I was there in May. The music, the mountains, the magic of the show abound in Salzburg, and I love both the city and the music so much that both will always remind me of memories of the other.
2. Home by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros / Pacific Coast Highway
Moats and boats and waterfalls, alleyways and payphone calls
I been everywhere with you
Laugh until we think we’ll die, barefoot on a summer night
never could be sweeter than with you
Jon, my boyfriend and co-participant in driving the Pacific Coast Highway, introduced this song to me at the end of September. It was one of his current favorites and soon became one of mine. It was constantly replayed throughout the trip, although I can’t remember the location where we first sang all the words together. Rather than remind me of a specific place, it reminds me of a wonderful time.
1. Vienna by Billy Joel / Vienna
Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It’s alright you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you
I would listen to this song every time I pulled into the Westbahnhof train station in Vienna from Salzburg (about 10 trips during my year abroad). After a few times of this, and really understanding the song, I realized that I should listen to it as I departed, rather than as I arrived. Billy Joel sings about being too busy, about giving time a chance, about understanding that patience is better than rushing and not learning or benefiting from what you are doing. I came to realize that everything Joel was singing about what my exact experience with Vienna. One would think that in 10 trips there, I got to know the city well and I got to see all the sights. Truth be told, I still have a list a mile long of things I’d like to do in Vienna because I spent my time there with friends, whether it was a girls night out or bonding with my Austrian friends from the band Cardiac Move. And what I learned from this song is that Vienna will always be waiting for me and when I have the chance, I can see the sights. But what is important is the other things I did there, and I have enough wonderful memories from all of that, that I don’t need the sights.