Music creates the soundtrack to each and every one of my trips abroad. So much so that when I hear the same songs years later, it takes me back to that place. It evokes the foreign soil smells, sounds and sights of what I was experiencing when those particular beats caressed my ears.
I travel nowhere without music, not even when I travel to work let alone across oceans. The only time I have ever forgotten my Apple iPod was when I went to India. As it turns out, music isn’t a necessity in India as there is enough for your senses to feast on without creating a diversion.
I remember one overnight bus ride in Turkey from Cappadocia out east; I was listening to Jeff Buckley and worked my way through the entire back catalogue, including live recordings. I was coming to the end of my musical medley just as the sun came up, and was greeted by open plains and a backdrop of towering snow-capped mountains. With that, Mr Buckley had officially become the musical artist I always think of when I see images of Turkey. The same can be said about so many countries I’ve travelled to.
You see; some people buy postcards, some pictures and wall masks; I collect memories through music!
When I see people listening to headphones, I always wonder what they’re listening to and it got me thinking; if music was your personality what would it sound like?
Classifying peoples personality by music
Can we categorise travellers by the music they listen to? Obviously they have selected their own style of music as their travel soundtrack, but is it fair to say that all travellers who listen to the same genre would travel well together, or in a similar fashion? Certainly there are some laid back beach destinations where reggae is the only music you will hear, and full moons in Asia are typically accompanied by furious psychedelic trance beats so in these instances I think so.
Below is a list of the ‘stereotypical’ travellers I’ve encountered on the dusty trails. See if you can pick out which one you are. Of course these are generalisations from 17 years of skipping across borders on a world map.
The Reggae Hippy
There was a time when Bob Marley was not just ‘the’ music to listen to when travelling, it was the ‘only’ music to be heard pumping out from street cafes. So are you a Bob Marley with a Jack Johnson/Ben Harper infusion? This would naturally require you tying colourful woven string around your wrists and ankles, perhaps an Om symbol tattoo, a necklace is essential and if you can find them a pair of fisherman trousers. You’ll spend your day sauntering along the streets, stopping at cafes for a chai latte and roll-your-own cigarette, but always to the melodic beats of Bob Marley and co.
The Electro-Freak is by far my favourite traveller. They can without doubt be found on the Thai islands and in southern India for full moon parties. They’ll be dressed in fisherman trousers, dreadlocks and dancing wildly to pounding beats, under the influence of whichever drugs are available. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a full moon, just as long as there is repetitive music and sand between their toes. The electro-Freak has spent many moons compiling an iPod full of electronic music, knows all the DJ’s by name, and events by the drugs he/she was on at the time. They like to be identified by their choice in music through the clothes they wear, which I believe is a strange mating ritual to attract members of the opposite sex.
The Bird Song Watcher
These travellers are a strange bunch and like to watch…birds mainly. Yes, during the day they can be found stationary on hiking trails with a pair of binoculars, eyes transfixed on a Spotted Thrush, or any other species of birdlife. They are easily recognisable in Gortex jackets, zip-off trousers and when travelling as a pair will typically wear his and hers matching jackets. During the day they prefer the solitude of peace and quiet and the chance to observe birds, but in the evening they seek refuge in the orchestrated symphonies of opera or purist jazz sounds. When travelling in groups, the Bird Song Watcher will never be chosen, nor offer to play their own music for fear of ridicule, yet in the safety of their hotel room it will blast like they were king or queen over their empire.
The BPM Traveller
This breed of militant traveller journeys from place to place to the sound of predetermined alarm bells reminding them to be somewhere? By this I mean they have a very set plan and time allocated in each place. BPM Travellers (typically Europeans) can often be found wearing quick drying short-shorts (always khaki or jungle green) and marching down busy roads to fit in a couple more temples before sunset. They will be in bed by 10pm, for an early morning alarm to tick off the next travel item on the agenda. A BPM traveller can never be accused of not seeing as much as they can and will live by the travel guide book bible, only deviating from the plan through sheer necessity.
The ‘Every Penny Counts’ Traveller
The ‘Every Penny is a Prisoner” traveller will have a strict budget which doesn’t allow for luxuries, music being the first one to get the chop. Every Penny Counts travellers will happily sit on long bus rides without music, listening to the television jammed up to maximum volume, staring at the T.V screen trying to understand the terrible overdubbing. They will happily blow the day’s budget on alcohol but are not fussed by what music is playing as long as the beer is cheap. Ironically, they will stay in cheap accommodation which is typically upstairs from late night bars and main tourist drags, where they can hear nothing but music when trying to sleep.
The Oceanic Daydreamer
You all know the type, travellers who have ‘found themselves’ and will only listen to the local music, or chanting whilst they retreat without speaking for 28 days. These soul searchers prefer to make a connection with the world around them and music acts as a catalyst. They will be staying in your hostel or hotel but you won’t find them out late drinking, there will be no loud parties and they will only speak when they have something worthy to contribute. Should you find yourself invited to dinner with an Oceanic Daydreamer, it will most certainly be vegan food, you can expect to hear whale noise coming through the speakers at some point, and you most definitely need to be drunk before the conversation turns to saving the planet.
The ‘It’s not like it Used to be’ Traveller
These long-term wandering souls will be the first to tell you how much things have changed and how “Laos is like how Vietnam was ten years ago”. These old-school backpackers are very well travelled and know the important words in a number of languages. Their iPods are packed full of the music they grew up with such as Led Zeppelin, Joe Sitriani or The Grateful Dead and will happily tell you about the time they went to a Pink Floyd concert in Paris, or how they spent the night in a Mexican Prison, back when Mexico was still cool. The thing I love most about the ‘It’s not like it used to be‘ traveller is they’re good storytellers, house-trained, and you know the words to most of the music on their iPod.
The 5am Party Monster
As they say in Ireland, the 5am Party Monster is travelling for the ‘craic’ (crack). No, not the illegal kind of crack, I mean they’re out for a good time. They are happy to forgo traipsing around new cities looking for lost ruins, or hiking through the jungle. They are about partying all night and sleeping all day. This is repeated night after night but in different cities. The 5am Party Monster loves music whether that be Top 20, Trance, or an 80”s disco classic, just as long as the drinks are flowing and they can capture lots of blurry footage on their GoPro. I have a friend who used to be a 5am Party Monster and chose to stay in bed after a killer night, instead of boarding his flight to see Iguazu Falls from Buenos Aires. Epic fail!!!
The Hipster Traveller
The Hipster Traveller is only backpacking because they thought it was part of the university curriculum and Binky and Mark were going. Fashion and looking like the quintessential traveller, is a big part of being a Hipster Traveller (I’m just jealous really) and they will always be going ‘off the radar’ for a while. This roughly translates to chilling out on Koh Phi Phi Island to smoke herbal substances. The Hipster Traveller is into music groups that haven’t even been invented yet, so chances are you won’t be singing along to their musical selections. Hipster Travellers are good people to befriend because they’ll have a high-speed Wi-Fi dongle, and are easily recognisable in their Motley Crew t-shirts.
The Gothic Rambler
As an ex tour guide, it is fair to say there is one on every tour. Someone who should stay at home and buy the box set of Michael Palin DVD’s, instead of comparing and complaining about every aspect of travel, whilst travelling. I imagine these folks to be have their iPods packed full of morbid music such as The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, or perhaps the second Portishead album which is about as depressing as you can get. Sometimes I feel a strange desire to hijack their iTunes accounts whilst they sleep, and upload bands like Hanson, Justin Bieber and the soundtrack to frozen as an acid test to see if their outlook improves. The Gothic Rambler can always be counted on to find the negative in every experience, but is guaranteed to tell the folks back home what a wonderful time they had apart from “all that foreign food”!
I think I have been a small part of all of these stereotypical travellers with the exception of the Gothic Rambler and the Bird Song Watcher. My musical tastes have changed slightly over the years, as has my preferred standard of travel. I imagine over time I will become the ‘It’s not like it used to be ‘ traveller, and yes I do have about five Led Zeppelin albums on my iPod.
So next time you’re on a long bus ride, ask the person sitting beside you what type of music they are listening to and see how well suited you are as travel soulmates.
Happy travelling folks!