Melodies and travel memories

My travel blogging buddy Leah of Leah Travels came up with this idea of sharing songs that, when she hears them, take her to different places in the world she’s traveled to. It was such an incredible idea and so fun to share her travel memories that she decided to tag others to participate. Thanks for tagging me, Leah!

The following are just a handful of songs that take me back to places I’ve visited in years past.

Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

Sydney, Australia – 1995

It’s not just the song that takes me back, but the whole album. The year was 1995; I was 20, on the cusp of my 21st birthday, and I was headed to Australia for a semester-long study abroad program. It was an exciting time for me. Not only was I traveling solo, but it also was my first time traveling abroad (aside from going to Canada). It was during those months in Australia that I was first bitten by the travel bug and I haven’t been the same since. I had this Mazzy Star album on repeat in my Sony Discman (remember those?) the whole time, including the day after my 21st birthday when I was so hungover and sick that I could get out of bed only to vomit, while the rest of my classmates were on a day trip to a sheep station. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Lack of Water by The Why Store

Eagle Lake, Ontario – 1998

My dad took me fishing all the time when I was a little girl. But then I got older, went away to college, and we didn’t get to go fishing together as much. My dad must have been missing our fishing excursions as much as I was because, in 1998 when I was 24, he asked me to go with him on a week-long fishing trip to Eagle Lake, Ontario, Canada. I was so excited; of course I said yes! I love all things Canada, I hadn’t been fishing in a couple of years, and I was getting to go someplace new. It was one of those organized bus trips: everyone met at a restaurant in suburban Chicago to board the charter bus for the 16-hour ride to Eagle Lake. My excitement dwindled a bit when I realized I’d be the only female on the bus. I was nervous that the men (some who were not much older than I, others my dad’s age and beyond) would, you know, do guy things on the bus, or play questionable movies on the bus TVs. In order to save myself from discomfort and embarrassment, I “slept” most of the ride, listening on a Walkman (again, remember those?) to a mix tape I’d made. “Lack of Water” was on that tape and I could not get enough of it. I also played it a bunch of times on the boat when fishing with Dad and laughed at the irony of it all. There I was on a serene lake, no stretch of land in sight, listening to a song titled “Lack of Water”. Today, it still makes me think of the great time Dad and I had on Eagle Lake, even if he did get mad with jealousy because I caught a muskie on my very first cast of the trip!

Tear Stained Eye by Son Volt

Ste. Genevieve, Missouri by kshuyler

My most favorite band in the whole world is Son Volt. Tear Stained Eye, written by frontman Jay Farrar, is one of my favorite songs from the band’s first album, Trace. Because I loved the song so much, I researched the meaning of the song and learned it was written about Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, a small town about an hour south of St. Louis. I did a little more research and became fascinated by the town’s history: Ste. Genevieve was founded in 1735, and settled in the late 1740s by French-Canadians. It was the first permanent European settlement in what is now Missouri, and also a stop for Lewis & Clark in 1803-04. Many of the original homes and buildings in the town have been preserved and still remain some of the most significant eighteenth-century architecture in the nation. In 2004, I had planned a weekend trip to St. Louis with my mom to see my beloved Chicago Cubs play against the Cardinals. When I realized how close we’d be to Ste. Genevieve, I told my mother – I didn’t give her a choice – that we’d be making a stop there. Jay Farrar is my musical god and if he thought a town was important enough to write and record a song about, then it was important for me to see it. Tear Stained Eye first brought me to Ste. Genevieve in 2004, and it still takes me there today every time I listen to it.

Just A Lil Bit by 50 Cent

Gazelle seeking shade in the Serengeti

It was 2005 and I was preparing for an epic (solo) adventure to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and go on a five-day camping safari. My office mates (at the time) were big fans of 50 Cent so I can thank them for the introduction. I really wasn’t familiar with the artist or his music, but thought the tunes were catchy (ignoring the sexual overtones and vulgar language). So when I was loading up my MP3 player with music for the trip, I included some of 50’s more popular songs, one being “Just A Lil Bit”. Fast forward to about day 3 of safari. My guide/driver that day had a pair of battery-operated speakers but no device from which to play music. I offered up my MP3 player so we could have some tunes as we drove from one spot to another. My driver wasn’t too thrilled with my musical tastes until 50 Cent came up on shuffle. I think I made his day, maybe his year. He asked if I had “Just A Lil Bit” and if I could play it. Of course I obliged and I’m pretty sure we listened to nothing else the rest of the day. Driving through the Serengeti, 50 Cent comin’ out my stereo (not really; just portable speakers), and I’m thinking, “Is this real life?” It was a fun, almost unbelievable time, and 50 Cent can always take me back to that day in the Serengeti.

Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show

Hubs on stage at Grand Ole Opry in Nashville

My husband and I rarely get to take trips together, due to conflicting work schedules and, in years past, my school schedule. So when we do get to take a trip together, I try very hard to make the most of it. One such trip was to Nashville in November 2010 with another couple (my husband’s best friend and his now wife). It was a Saturday night and we were in one of the honky tonks on Broadway. I can’t remember the name of it but what’s more important is that we were having a blast. The band was playing songs that most of us were familiar with and the whole crowd was drinking and singing along. The last song the band played was “Wagon Wheel” and I just remember dancing with my husband and singing along, “rock me mama like a wagon wheel / rock me mama any way you feel…” Then just about a month ago, we took our daughter to a bluegrass festival closer to home. Bubbly Creek Bluegrass Band was the last act and for their last song, they also played “Wagon Wheel”. My husband and I danced and sang along again, but this time our daughter was there to dance with us. This song fills me with nothing but happy memories of good times, fun places, and family.

What songs take you back to certain moments or to places you’ve traveled?

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19 Responses to Melodies and travel memories

  1. Raul (@ilivetotravel) July 14, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    Wow, lots of good stuff though I don’t know all the songs! The Tanzania story is a classic! As usual, I learn again more about the Midwest when I read your writings – who knew something like Ste. Genevieve still stood. Neat!

    • Francesca July 16, 2012 at 10:51 am #

      That’s a total compliment, Raul, that you continue to learn about the Midwest through my blog posts. It wasn’t one of my intentions from the beginning, but I do like the idea of trying to prove that the Midwest isn’t just fly-over country.

  2. D.J. - The World of Deej July 15, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    Great list of songs, although most were also new to me:)

    • Francesca July 16, 2012 at 10:54 am #

      Awesome, thanks!

  3. lola July 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    you learn so much about someone through these types of posts. i love it that 50 Cent bonded you and the driver in the Serengeti. not only can music transport you somewhere but it can be the tie that bonds in certain situations as this little part of your story shows. and Kilimanjaro, Francesca?! YOU ROCK!!!!

    • Francesca July 16, 2012 at 10:57 am #

      Yeah, I kinda do rock, don’t I Lola? lol I’m so modest. Seriously, thanks for the props. Kilimanjaro was a challenge and an opportunity of a lifetime. You’re totally right about music being a bonding agent. I still keep in touch with that Serengeti guide; he’s even come to visit me in Chicago, and we listened to 50 Cent again 🙂

      • lola July 22, 2012 at 10:08 am #

        NO WAY! that is incredible and makes me love this story even more!!! i truly love meeting new friends while traveling. they often become some of my favorite people in my life. just like you!! 🙂

        • Francesca July 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

          Aww, Lola, that is so sweet! I hope you know it’s mutual. xoxo

  4. Pola (@jettingaround) July 16, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    I’m so glad Leah tagged you! What a fun posts – I’m still giggling at the 50 Cent story. 😀 I was happy to read about honky tonk bars – there’s nothing quite like them. I don’t look at country music the same way after visiting Nashville.

    • Francesca July 16, 2012 at 11:02 am #

      I knew that 50 Cent bit would get lots of people talking, or at least giggling. It’s just so… RANDOM. I totally heart Nashville and loved all the opportunities to listen to live music. My favorite spots were where artists played traditional country music, not that crap that’s played on modern “country” radio – ya know, the stuff that’s nothing more than pop music with a banjo or slide guitar thrown in so they can warrant calling it “country”. *Francesca now steps down from her soapbox.*

  5. Ted Nelson (@travelingted) July 16, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    That is awesome you like Son Volt. They are one of my favorites as well. I have seen Jay solo once and the band five times. I took and awesome trip down to Little Rock, Arkansas to see them there and then saw them again in Columbia, Missouri. Tear Stained Eye and the whole Trace album is one of the best all time albums in my opinion.

    • Francesca July 16, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      I had a feeling you liked Son Volt, based on the music discussion we had at the Windy City Tweetup. I agree, Trace is Son Volt’s best album and one of the best albums ever. How awesome that you’ve traveled to see Son Volt live! I’ve seen them I don’t know how many times – I’ve lost count – as well as Jay’s solo shows. I even got to meet Jay a few years ago in Milwaukee. I happened to be at the same bar as he and the band. I spotted him and nearly passed out. I had to go get my sister and do a shot of Jameson before I could muster up the nerve to talk to him.

      • Ted Nelson (@travelingted) July 17, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

        I came across Son Volt rather late, so I never saw the original line up. That is something I wished I had seen, but I am happy that I have seen them a bunch with the reincarnation. When I saw them in Arkansas and Missouri, they played a great selection of old and new. I have also seen them at Bonnaroo and Lolapalooza, but the best time was down in Arkansas. Something about seeing them down in the area of their roots was really cool.

  6. the lazy travelers July 16, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    the image of you driving through the serengeti listening to 50 cent is amazing. songs can definitely take you back to a time (and place!). any kings of leon song reminds me of the year i spent in ireland. great post! xo, the wino

    • Francesca July 16, 2012 at 11:08 am #

      Thanks, wino! A year in Ireland?? Lucky. Kings of Leon conjure up some fun memories for me, too 😉

  7. Kieu ~ GQ trippin July 16, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    LOL, 50 Cent brings you back to the Serengeti. How random is that?! Haha. That’s high on my bucket list and now I think I’ll download the song to bring with me for when I go. 😉

    • Francesca July 18, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

      For sure, Kieu! It’s not a proper Serengeti safari without 50.

  8. Tawny- Captain and Clark July 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    I love how certain songs evoke a sense of nostalgia. My favorite would be your Kilimanjaro song. I didn’t even THINK about bringing music with me on the trip. I feel like it would have gone a lot faster. Instead, everyone in our group would sing camp songs (we were all adults) and make up random stories. You do what you’ve got to do, I guess. 🙂

    • Francesca July 18, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      Exactly. I brought the MP3 player more for the plane rides and times I’d be alone. It just happened to be in my pack the day our guide had the speakers in his car. Totally random!

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