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How A Perfect Travel Playlist Turns Your Holiday Into An Odyssey

How A Perfect Travel Playlist Turns Your Holiday Into An Odyssey

Headphone Wearing Man

A well-curated travel playlist made with your destination in mind has many uses while travelling. It can help calm you when you’re stressed, enhance a picturesque view, and can connect you deeper to the place you are in. With such worldly treasures at stake, an expertly curated travel playlist can feel just as important as your passport. 

Of course, nothing this essential ever comes easy. Like the mixtapes of the days of yore, an impactful travel playlist is a beautiful balancing act that demands planning, effort, and attention. Here are my guidelines on how to make the perfect travel playlist:

Start It Before You Leave 

Starting your playlist before your trip gives you several advantages, the first being that it’s the most surefire way to ensure you’ll actually make one. The beginning of a trip involves lots of waiting: at airports and train stations and a pre-prepared playlist is the best accompaniment for those moments..

Best of all, your research into the resident sounds will also give you something to talk about with locals. Chatting about the music of their homeland could even lead to people you meet recommending more homegrown tunes during your stay. It could even lead to a new friendship and who doesn’t love a free place to stay next time you’re abroad?

Your Destination Is Your Inspiration

While planning your trip, set aside some time to research the music tastes of your destination, as you would the cuisine and culture. Discover the history of the region’s music, notable styles, and the revered artists that are the pride of their community. Check out some popular tracks from notable musicians, find the ones you connect with, and add them to your playlist.

Think of your playlist as being a love letter to where you are going. If you are hitting up a few countries or cities with distinctive musical tastes you might want to make separate playlists so as not to flippantly jump from classical to reggae.

Keep Adding To It As You Travel

Preparing your playlist pays dividends but no amount of planning can make a travel playlist truly complete. If you hear a tune you like while you’re away, make sure to Shazam that track and add it to your playlist. 

Ideally, you want this playlist to be looooong, so you don’t get sick of any of the songs. By continuing to add to your playlist during your trip you will ensure it stays fresh. Plus, you’ll be making little audio memory triggers that you can use as a ‘take me back’ treat after your trip.

It doesn’t even have to be local songs that you add either. If you and a taxi driver bond over a P!nk song coming on the radio, go ahead and add that too!

Add A Few Tracks Just For You

As mentioned before, a travel playlist is a great way to initiate and immerse yourself in the culture of your destination. A trip to Lisbon would feel incomplete without developing an appreciation of the longing and mournful sounds of fado and you’d be remiss to leave Senegal without gyrating to the postcolonial rhythm of mbalax. 

However, culture shock does happen while travelling. Feeling alienated is one of the reasons we travel but it can leave you feeling scared, homesick, and desperate for a plain salad sandwich with mayo. 

Since you’ll be absorbing a new culture just by being abroad, it doesn’t hurt to add a few of your off-theme pet tracks that make you feel relaxed and at home. While you’re moving about listening to your (nearly perfect) playlist, a little unexpected hit of home might be just what you need to appreciate where you are and where you’re going.

And Finally, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Sound Of Silence

Never be afraid to switch off your playlist while you’re travelling. I know, I know, I just spent a whole 600+ words advocating for a custom travel playlist that was one moustache twirl away from using the word ‘bespoke’. I am aware of that, but I don’t care – sometimes you need to go sans playlist and that’s alright.

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Wandering around the cobbled Paris streets to the tunes of an accordion is a quintessential experience, but with headphones on you could walk right past an old sailor playing the real deal and never notice. Sometimes the streets are the best soundtrack. 

Stop to listen to a busker, tune in to local radio, and for the love of Anthony Bourdain, see some live bloody music. Finding new material for your playlist is just a sweet audible bonus. 

But Why Do All This?

So much of what we do through travel involves seeking unique sights and tastes. What we hear while we’re away is sometimes just a symptom of merely being there – rarely is the overseas audio considered the main course.

A custom travel playlist is a dedication to exploring a country, place, or city with a sense that is not often prioritised. It can unlock a side of your destination that might have gone unnoticed otherwise and may continue to go unnoticed by others. 

Photos, sketches, and fridge magnets are great ways to remember what you saw but only a travel playlist has the power to transport the soles of your feet back to that warm sandy beach or that dark and sticky dance floor. And that’s a trip you definitely don’t need a passport for.

Lead image: Henry Be/unsplash

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