Top 20 Travel Songs

I love music-everybody loves music. For me, music is best when I associate it with a certain place, time in my life or person. The same goes with travel. Some songs just elicit thoughts of being on the road. Perhaps the song reminds you of a place, a bar, a road trip or someone you met along the way. Any way you slice it-music and travel go hand in hand. Especially nowadays with iPods, iTunes, YouTube and every other way you can get or listen to music.

Picking a top 10 travel songs list was a really difficult task for me as music is a very personal thing. It obviously turned into a top 20 travel songs list. There were probably a hundred songs that I could have selected. There are a few of these that I deem as no brainers. However, my no brainer may be completely different than someone else’s. So here are my top 20 travel songs-feel free to comment with yours.

1. Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Southern Cross is such a classic song that evokes memories for me of sailing the South Pacific and camping in the Outback of Australia and in the bush of Africa’s biggest game parks. The words are iconic to me talking about the Marquesas and the chorus is simple and perfect…”I have been around the world”

2. Africa by Toto
Africa for me is the quintessential song when traveling almost anywhere and yes of course in Africa itself. My best memory of this song was when my friend Jake and I flew in Kilimanjaro Airport right before our climb. We looked out the window and saw the massive peak while listening to Africa as we shared the headphones. It was hard to believe that a week later we would stand at that very spot, conquering Africa’s highest peak.

3. Tiny Dancer by Elton John
Maybe it’s the great movie ‘Almost Famous’ that turned me onto this song as a great road trip song but Tiny Dancer is right at the top of my list for road trip songs. Aside from being one of the best sing-along songs of all time, it just puts you in a good chill mood and is a great song to have on your iPod while just staring out the window and pondering life.

4. Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane
Life is a Highway rocks and has to be the best chorus of a song to scream out with friends while doing a road trip anywhere. I just picture my buddies and I listening to this while doing 120mph on some desert highway in Arizona somewhere. It also has some great travel lines like, “From Mozambique to those Memphis nights, from California to Vancouver’s lights”.

5. Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty
Free Fallin’ is another awesome road trip song. It makes me think of cruising down the highways of California with all the Los Angeles references and the chorus makes you scream while driving like Tom Cruise in the movies. Tom Petty has a lot of great traveling type songs but this has to be the best travel song he’s got.

6. Wavin’ Flag by K’naan
Wavin’ Flag reminds me of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. K’naan is a Somali born artist who crushed it with this tune. I first heard it a few weeks before the World Cup 2010 when I was on a small party island in Fiji called Beachcomber. I couldn’t get enough of it because it is just such a happy, uplifting song that talks of soccer and unity amongst nations.

7. Take it Easy by The Eagles
This is one of my all time favorite songs period but another great road trip song. I have done a ton of road trips around the Western US and this always reminds me of a specific trip where three friends of mine and I headed out to the Painted Desert in Arizona. We drove through Winslow, Arizona and had to blast this song with the iconic lyrics, “I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona…Such a fine sight to see…It’s a girl my lord in a flat bed Ford…She’s slowing down to take a look at me”. I still love that and always will!

8. Against the Wind by Bob Seger
Bob Seger is another one of these artists who could have 10 songs on this list by himself. He has so many great traveling tunes but I went with ‘Against the Wind’ because it’s perfect. Lyrics, melody, tone and rhythm all just mesh together for an awesome road tripping song! The appearance in Forrest Gump probably helped nudge it ahead of ‘Hollywood Nights’ in my book.

9. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley
There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t love ‘Three Little Birds”. It is the best song I know for just chilling on a beach or an island somewhere with a beer or cocktail with some good friends and just relaxing. The words are pretty much an anthem in and of themself, “Don’t worry…about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be alright”. Perfection.

10. Changes in Latitudes by Jimmy Buffett
In my view, Jimmy Buffett is the most quotable artist I know for amazing travel type quotes. This song epitomizes the best quotes in one song and always makes me want to go somewhere. Here are a few…”Ran into a chum with a bottle of run and we wound up drinking all night”; “With all of our running and all of our cunning, if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”; “Reading departure signs in some big airport, reminds me of the places I’ve been”; “I dream of Paris when I’m high on red wine-makes me want to jump on a plane”. The man is a poet!

11. Live Forever by Oasis
I love Oasis, not because they sound like the Beatles but because they write great songs with great lyrics and catchy, visceral melodies. ‘Live Forever’ reminds me of living in London which is what kick started my traveling odyssey. This song just touches me for whatever reason and makes me want to go to Europe whenever I hear it. The ending is classic and if we never get another tune from Oasis, this is their masterpiece in my view.

12. Sloop John B. by The Beach Boys
This is a classic Beach Boys tune but possibly a surprise to make this list over some others. The song has some classic lines in it and a great beat but the line, “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on”, reminds me of a specific trip I took in 2004 to Eastern Europe with someone who drove me absolutely insane. I just remember counting down the days until he went home and I would constantly sing that line over and over. I still love the song but it will forever remind me of that bad trip!

13. Walk on the Ocean by Toad the Wet Sprocket
‘Walk on the Ocean’ reminds me of being a kid/teenager and going to the beach at Stone Harbor, New Jersey as my family did every summer for a week or two. This was my favorite time of the year. It was also the furthest I would ever get from Connecticut as a kid because I was always playing sports-we never went on vacation. This song just reminds me of my summer friends who I would see once a year. The lyrics make me feel nostalgic and make me yearn for those innocent days as a kid down the shore where a lot of firsts happened.

14. The Downeaster Alexa by Billy Joel
Besides the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, I think Billy Joel has more great songs than just about anybody else. I cannot pick a favorite of his but ‘The Downeaster Alexa’ is definitely the one that makes me want to get on the water and go. I grew up in the area he sings about in the song. Those islands, from Block Island to Martha’s Vineyard, are awesome but the song translates to islands pretty much anywhere. It’s simply an amazing song from an amazing artist.

15. Release by Pearl Jam
Off of ‘Ten’, one of the 5 greatest albums of all time, Release is a seldom played classic. Eddie Vedder nails it in this tune with his authoritative yet soothing voice. This song just makes you want to go surfing and be alone on a beach somewhere in the rain. The way the lines, “I’ll ride the wave where it takes me” and “Release me” are sung just resonate with me and make me want to just go. Pearl Jam is such a great band and Vedder has a masterful voice, I think the best in the last 20 years.

16. Run by Snow Patrol
‘Run’ is a powerful song and just the beat and music make me think of travel. I feel like I should be on a bus in New Zealand staring out at the rain thinking about an amazing life changing experience I just had from a week in Queenstown-drinking with people from all over the world and risking my life on a daily basis. “All I want’s to find an easy way to get out of our little heads” is just one killer line in this song that just sounds so powerful and doesn’t ever get the recognition it deserves.

17. Mr. Jones by Counting Crows
I personally think that Counting Crows is one of the best bands of the past 20 years and they have a bunch of great songs-all of which make me think of travel and nostalgic things. I could have picked 8 different songs to use here but ‘Mr. Jones’ is a standout to me because it reminds me of High School. It reminds me of High School coming to an end, as I was ready to get out of my little hometown and move on to college and bigger things. It reminds me of friends from Trumbull, Connecticut but it also reminds me of having a wanderlust that I never really knew existed. Besides we all “Wanna be Bob Dylan”.

18. City of New Orleans by Willie Nelson
You can’t have a list about travel songs and not have Willie Nelson in there. ‘Good Morning America’ is such a great song and makes me want to hop on a train south and just keep going-doesn’t matter where to. Willie just has such a great way of talking about simple everyday kind of things that really resonate with me. I have always wanted to ride the “Train they call the City of New Orleans”.

19. Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Just the title alone makes you want to travel but this classic song is so much more. I feel like everyone relates something they’ve done in their life to this song. Classic lines and a killer beat and also a great drinking with your friends song. Skynyrd has some great tunes but ‘Free Bird’ is the best for me. It is such a great song to just reflect on what you’ve accomplished and where you’ve been. “I’m as free a bird now and this bird you cannot change”.

20. Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson
Anybody who has ever been to Southeast Asia or Goa has heard Jack Johnson, perhaps exhaustively on at guesthouses and hostels. He does have some great, simple tunes that relate to travelers. ‘Banana Pancakes’ sticks with me most because it reminds me of waking up after a long night of partying in said guesthouse or hostel as a young 20-something. Prior to, I’d hop in the pool or sea as my shower and sit down in my bathing suit for a banana pancake breakfast with a bunch of people I don’t know and talking about the prior nights festivities. I love those memories and I associate Jack Johnson with them.

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  1. Bruce Born to Run
    Boston More than a Feeling
    Anything by Metallica but maybe that’s just me!

  2. I love Omaha or Rain King from Counting Crows but Mr. Jones is great too I suppose

  3. Good list.

    I second William, Wherever I May Roam has to feature. Anytime you are going to SE Asia One Night in Bangkok has to be on the list and if you are going to the Carribean then Kokomo could come along. I’m not sure I can get the image out of my head of you and Jake cuddled next to eachother looking out the window sharing an ipod.

  4. Listen to “The World at Large” by Modest Mouse

  5. Interesting! I just made a similar list myself (similar idea, not necessarily similar music). Have to agree with Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty and I do love a bit of Jack Johnson! Thanks for sharing- like you say, it’s such a personal thing that it’s quite hard to come up with any kind of definitive list.

  6. Great list and great commentary on the songs – well done.

  7. SOOO helpful and awesome!!! Great list. Thank you!

  8. Glad to see Bob Marley and Metallica mentioned by others. I would also add Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” to that list!

  9. These are all great songs. I would like to add some Maroon 5 songs like Must Get Out and a few song in their Overexposed album. They make me feel like I’m on long drives, enjoy the wind. Haha!

  10. Weather with You, Crowded House.

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