If travel is a state of mind, then wanderlust is a state of bliss. And, though booking a trip may not be a possibility at the current moment, there are other ways to activate your inner globe-trotter—no passport required. If social-distancing has you growing increasingly restless, we’ve got you covered. We’ve already explored the books to read and virtual journeys to take, and now we’re highlighting the music to download to add a little bit of wanderlust into the monotonous quarantine of your daily life.
To that end, we consulted ten professional travelers for their favorite musical recommendations. Though some of the travel memories shared may be personal, the sentiment, more often than not, is universal. Whether it’s Jimmy Buffett’s mile-high shenanigans—“Awakened by a stewardess / With Spain somewhere below. / On the threshold of adventure”—or FC Kahuna’s gospel of mindfulness—“Don’t think about all those things you fear / Just be glad to be here”—there’s something to satisfy every would-be traveler.
From the classic rock of the Rolling Stones to the Soca hits of Too Sweet, this is your guide to the ultimate auditory wanderlust. (And you can listen to the whole playlist here.) So, tune in, read on, and prepare to drift off into a state of mental (if not physical) vacation. In the words of the Beach Boys—also featured on this list, of course—“We’ll get there fast, and then we’ll take it slow.” Happy travels!
Elton John—“Tiny Dancer”
Destination: South Island, New Zealand
Chosen by: Lee Abbamonte, Travel Entrepreneur & Adventurer
“Tiny Dancer” reminds me of road tripping in New Zealand and always makes me smile and think of good times. My first time in New Zealand was in 2003, and I had Elton John’s Greatest Hits CD for my Discman. Yes, Discman! Almost Famous had just come out, and “Tiny Dancer” was the main song in that movie. So when I was staring out the window driving through the incredible South Island countryside, I’d listen to the song on repeat. I’ve never forgotten it!
Listen to “Tiny Dancer” on Spotify
Holla Bak—“Too Sweet”
Chosen by: Chelsea Davis, Travel Writer
This song always brings me back to my first (and only so far!) carnival in Barbados! I had a ridiculous amount of fun at Crop Over—an event I thought I might have been uncomfortable at, given the bedazzled bra and pantie ensemble I was sporting. (Complete with feathered wings, a bejeweled headpiece and more outrageous jewel-encrusted pieces adorning my body!) But I broke out of my comfort zone, danced a ton to Soca music (this song is one of the hits of the year!) and had the time of my life! 10/10 would go back!
Listen to “Too Sweet” on Spotify.
The Beach Boys—“Kokomo”
Destination: The Florida Keys, USA
Chosen by: Krista Gray, Travel & Lifestyle Writer
“Kokomo” by the Beach Boys, of course! My last trip was to the Florida Keys, and we jammed out to this song on repeat in the car. It holds special memories of spending time in a beautiful place with someone I love. I love the Keys for many reasons; gorgeous scenery, so much to see and do (snorkeling, botanical gardens, beaches, boat trips, sunsets), and of course, some of the most excellent key lime pie and Pina Coladas in the world!
Listen to “Kokomo” on Spotify.
Destination: South Island, New Zealand
Chosen by: Todd Kingston Plummer, Travel Writer
“Africa” by Toto is my top choice, obviously. It brings to mind many game drives sitting atop a Range Rover under the hot African sun. And I remember solo road-tripping all of New Zealand’s South Island on the day that Kygo’s album “Kids In Love” came out, so that’s a special one for me as well. “Sunrise,” in particular, is a perfect song for a solo drive.
Listen to “Africa” on Spotify.
Destination: London, England
Chosen by: Valerie Stimac, Travel & Space Tourism Writer
London is my favorite destination on earth, and when I lived there, I went through a stressful time. One song helped me through – and it always reminds me of London whenever I hear it. The song is “Hayling” by FC Kahuna; the main lyric of the song is “Don’t think about all those things you fear / Just be glad to be here…” Pretty timely as we go through a stressful time as a global community!
Listen to “Hayling” on Spotify.
The Rolling Stones—“Worried About You”
Destination: Berlin, Germany
Chosen by: Brian Cicioni, Travel Writer & Tour Guide
“Worried About You” by The Rolling Stones. I don’t plan it this way, but I end up listening to their Tattoo You album (on my iPhone nowadays) a lot when I travel. And when I hear that song in particular, it takes me back to November of 2006, when I was waiting for the Berlin metro after a long day of exploring. That song was playing on my old iPod while I waited for the train. I never forgot about it.
Listen to “Worried About You” on Spotify.
Nelly Furtado—“Manos al Aire”
Destination: Lake Garda, Italy
Chosen by: Claudia LaRoye, Travel Writer
Nelly Furtado’s “Manos al Aire” brings me back to a long hot summer in Italy’s stunning Lake of Garda region. We were staying in the Dolomites but had driven down to the lake area for a day-trip and a gelato hunt. I don’t understand Portuguese, but Furtado’s song was the perfect accompaniment to our little family road trip. Cruising in our rental car with the windows down and the sun shining, I can almost smell the air.
Listen to “Manos al Aire” on Spotify.
Rosana—“Si Tu No Estas Aqui”
Destination: Barcelona, Spain
Chosen by: Karen Loftus, Adventuress in Chief at Women’s Adventure Travels
I hear Rosana’s “Si Tu No Estas Aqui” and I almost burst into tears. It takes me right back to Barcelona. I lived there for a year right after September 11th. It was one of the most amazing windows of my life. I was turned onto her while there as she is a national treasure in Spain. This song is so emotional and raw; it takes you to your knees. I listened to it on a loop my final few months living there. I was dog-sitting in this big house in the hills of Sarria, a local neighborhood high above the city of Barcelona. My days in Sarria consisted of walking a lab, writing a book, and belting out Rosana. It was pure bliss!
Listen to “Si Tu No Estas Aqui” on Spotify.
Jimmy Buffett— “Far Side Of The World”
Destination: Somewhere Above Spain
Chosen by: Becca Blond, Travel Writer
I’ve been listening to “Far Side Of The World” by Jimmy Buffet on repeat (alternating with“It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” by REM, but that is more about coronavirus than travel). But “Far Side Of The World” is the song I always have queued up when I get on long-haul flights. I have been listening to it since I switched from political journalism to writing Lonely Planet travel guides back in the day, and these lyrics especially speak to me: “I ran away from politics, / It’s too bizarre at home. / Away I flew, tuned into Blue /‘Maybe Amsterdam or Rome’/ Awakened by a stewardess / With Spain somewhere below. / On the threshold of adventure, / God I do love this job so.”
Listen to “Far Side Of The World” On Spotify.
John Denver— “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
Destination: Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia
Chosen by: Olivia Balsinger, Professional Explorer & Content Creator
I wouldn’t exactly consider myself the quintessential “American country girl”—I’ve never owned cowboy boots, am pretty abysmal at driving cars— let alone pickup trucks, and I left the states for the chic sophistication of Copenhagen, Denmark. Therefore you may be surprised that John Denver’s classic, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” strikes a real chord with me, instantly bringing me back to the quaint, bucolic towns enveloped by the rugged Appalachian Mountains. The song perfectly captures the generosity and unwavering kindness of all those I’ve had the pleasure of meeting throughout my teenage summers volunteering with the Appalachian Service Project in West Virginia. Life is undoubtedly old there, and even though we know the chaotic world outside these mountains exists, the pristine beauty of this region allows me to surrender my thoughts temporarily. And sometimes, only sometimes, when the song unexpectedly plays, I can ever so briefly remember the misty taste the moonshine, as a teardrop hits my eye.
Listen to “Take Me Home, Country Roads” on Spotify.