When I was getting ready to hop a one-way flight to Europe, I created a playlist. I knew I would need something to listen to on those 8-hour bus rides. But to quote the great Florence Welch, “You can’t choose what stays in what fades away.” So I barely remember anything on that playlist, but the songs that have stuck with me are a good musical representation of what it’s been like to travel Europe for the past couple of months.
This is without a doubt, one of the greatest songs of all time. And it travels well. It’s a great song to listen to while you’re sitting on a train watching the lush Croatian countryside fly past your window. It’s an even better song to blast when you get up at 10 am and open the blinds to reveal a gorgeous view out your window. Honorable mention goes to the Michael Buble version of the song, which is surprisingly good for being Michael Buble.
It was our first night in Berlin and my friend’s friend took us out for dinner, drinks, and an extensive walking tour of the city. My feet were killing me but I was excited to go out. We eventually ended up in a hole in the wall in a long strip of bars and night clubs in Friedrichschain. We sat down to have a beer and enjoy the fantastic selection of 80’s music on deck. There was a large group of rowdy men in the middle of the room dancing their night away. When Freedom came on, those boys bust out into such a zealous song and dance, that it was impossible not to be moved by their energy. So I forgot all about how much my feet hurt and starting dancing, too.
I’m a very casual Garbage fan so when I saw them in concert in Milan, I only knew a handful of songs from their 90’s era reign of rock. But then this song came on, and I listened to the lyrics about a cheating liar that might as well have been written about the cheating liar I had just left a couple of months back. And for the first time since leaving him, I laughed about it. Not a Beyonce bat-to-the-windshield laugh, but a real laugh, like I was watching kittens punch babies on YouTube. Because once you’ve spent a month traveling, you ain’t even mad anymore. He can have Becky with the good hair.
The Amsterdam sex show experience was not as outrageous or tantalizing as I expected, with one notable exception. And that was the dominatrix that came out and did an insane pole dance to this song. I don’t really care for strip clubs or sex workers of any kind, but this girl was an acrobat. So on top of being pleasantly surprised that anyone even remembered this Manson cover, my jaw was on the floor when she defied gravity with her pole-dancing moves.
This is the only song on this list that I absolutely hate but I can’t deny that it was a big part of my travel summer. See, I spent three weeks of my tour of Europe with a wonderful, ridiculous girl who has the musical taste of a 90’s teenager. For three weeks, she played this song at least once a day – in the shower, while she cooked, when we were taking a break from walking. I didn’t even realize this horribly obnoxious song sampled a line from one of my favorite movies. When I’m missing her flamboyant antics, I think of this song.
The second I discovered this song, I put it on repeat at least 100 times for two days straight. There is something about the rhythmic chanting and the monotonous tambourine that evokes a feeling of chains. And naturally, that makes me think of freedom… and what we choose to do with that freedom. And it makes me realize how transient freedom can be, how abstract, and how easily it can be cut short by a terrorist with a suicide vest. So as somber as the song is, it also fills me with incredible hope and joy. Because at this moment in my life, I am so free. And I appreciate and make the very best of that freedom every single day.
When I saw Paul McCartney, one of my biggest bucket list accomplishments ever, I was excited to hear all The Beatles covers, and he made good on that. I teared up for “Eleanor Rigby” and “Let it Be” and sang along to “Hard Day’s Night” and “Back in the USSR” but for whatever reason, the song I wasn’t able to get out of my head after the concert was “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five.” Maybe it’s because he looked like he was having such a good time on that piano when he played it or because I feel like I could learn it myself if my keyboard wasn’t in storage in Miami. Whatever it was, that song made an undeniable mark on my entire summer.
No travel playlist is complete without a good song to walk to. And what better literal “walking” song than one about the horrendous capitalist lifestyle that I’ve been desperate to leave behind. I will not be Sisyphus and spend my life living a hair above poverty to make someone else rich. So I took a walk. And I have to say, it’s a much nicer walk down the cobbled streets of Prague.
This is one of the hottest dance jams of the year so I’m fairly certain I’ve heard it in a few different cities, but I associate it with Brussels and Belgian Pride, which I happened to be in town to celebrate. And if I’m honest, I had to Shazam it to find out what it was. After the massacre in Orlando, this song took on a bit of a dark context for me. My heart still aches for my LGBT brothers and sisters, because I know it takes courage to be yourself in a world that is hostile to your kind. And I can’t imagine how horrible it must be for a safe haven to become a war zone. But even if it was your time to go, at least you stole the show.
I didn’t want to end on a sad note, so I left this one for last. Because life shouldn’t be a dirge; it should be a celebration. Now, I don’t often strut. But with its twangy guitar and its hard hook riff, this song just makes me wanna strut. So for the past couple of months, no matter where I am when I hear this, I walk down the street like I own the entire fucking world.