‘Round the World Music (The List)

Once traveling has been completed, there are few things more precious than the memories of the experience. I am always giddy when something unexpected triggers a magical moment of Delicious Travel Recall. It can be something as little as sitting outside on a breezy warm night grasping a cup of hot beverage that takes me back to Jose’s front porch in Merida; or the smell of a hookah wafting in the night air that takes me back to Granada; or the meowing of street cats outside my window that takes me back Turkey; or catching a futbol game on television that takes me back to Morocco …

But, more consistently, it is the music.

Within the first few bars, I am whisked away to the moment in time I heard the song … wistfully taken back to the thoughts, the feelings, the warm in the pit of my stomach that quickly takes over my entire body in this brief and amazing bliss.

Now, whenever a song comes on that triggers these fantastical moments of travel joy, I tell my little memory to whomever is in within yelling-at-the-top-of-my-lungs distance.

And, now … a sampling of my RTW soundtrack and little stories to illustrate why each song “rocks” in it’s own little way.  I’ve included links so you can check out the tunes. Enjoy!

1. O.A.R.

This band has longevity with me. It came with me on my first backpacking adventure to Europe in 2002; it returned when I was in Croatia for my 30th; and (so as not to break tradition), they were also loaded onto my iPod for this past Adventure. The band got plenty of play time when I walked about in London.

2. Dropkick Murphys – “I’m Shipping Up to Boston

This is my Ireland Experience in a song. It takes me back to being driven by Abbey through Ireland’s stunning countryside, dotted with old stone castles and vast expanses of farmland, B-Lee, Emily and I intow, headed to Galway to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

3. Milow – “Ayo Technology

The first time I heard this song was the morning after I fell in love with Madrid. Standing in a little store on the outskirts of Plaza de Mayor. This tune came on and I fell in love with it. After a week in Spain, I downloaded the song and, the version I had clocking in at 8 minutes, was the perfect metro song. I would listen to it on repeat as I walked from Anthony’s to the train, on the train, and then walking to my next destination.

4. Rocky Horror – Time Warp

Madrid. With Anthony and Emma. Sitting in her living room and finding videoes on You Tube that took us to other moments in time. We found this, and damnit, we did the Time Warp.

5. Lil Wayne – “Knockout” 

Before I left on my trip, a friend in Atlanta made me a mix for my Walk Abouts. When I took my little walking tour of Berlin (taking the subway to a stop outside the main part of the city and walking back to my hostel in the city), this little ditty came up. I imagine walking down a little side street speckled with naked, spiny-branched trees, and marveling at the Communist-era buildings mixed in with very geometric and artistic, more modern architecture. And eating a pretzel. I was in Germany.

6. Rihanna – “Rude Boy

I don’t know how Bryan, Nicole and I got on the topic of popular music in the US while in Amsterdam [insert comment here], but somehow this song came up. I had never heard of it so Nicole sang it to me. Later, we heard it while sipping hot chocolate in a coffee shop.

7. Shakira – “Waka Waka

While attending World Environment Day and gorilla naming ceremony, one of the babies was bestowed with the name “Waka Waka.” I hear this song and close my eyes to remember driving down bumpy, barely paved roads,  Anna at my side, staring out at the huts and shards of glass lining fence walls.

8. Ani DiFranco – “Every State Line

I had just left Peter in Granada and was on a bus to Tarifa. I was feeling so lonely, so anxious about departing for Morocco in two days time … I leaned my head against the window of the bus with my eyes fixed to the gorgeous green hills and let myself soak into Ani’s lyrics.

9. David Berkley – “Hurricane

I was really nervous the night before I was taking the ferry over to Tangier. I needed to get some sleep and wanted to listen to something to lull me into dreams. This song was the first one that came to mind. I hear this and I remember being on the bottom bunk, head nestled into my pillow, trying to fall asleep while knowing the other roommates had been downing shots of tequila and were sure to wake me … soon.

10. Cee Lo Green – “What Part of Forever

When I was “working” at the hostel in Kusadasi, Turkey, I downloaded the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” soundtrack. This song’s upbeat (and uplifting) everything took me out of the fear I was feeling … and later stood for the relief that encompassed my body when I boarded the Fez Bus and got the hell out of town.

11. Yolanda Be Cool and D-Cup – “We No Speak Americano

I heard it for the first time while dancing around a fire pit, flips flung into a pile at the outdoor nightclub in Olympos. Then, again it popped up while standing outside another “nightclub” in Goreme. And, again in Bulgaria. And more, and more, and more. I became obsessed and started to crave its infectious little beat.

12. Stromae –  “Alors on Dance” 

This debuted the same time in Turkey, but it wasn’t until hanging with a bunch of backpackers in Budva, Montenegro that this song took over. We sang it on the bus. We listened to it at the hostel. We talked about it always being in our heads.

13. Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With a Fist

Post-iPod, I had to download new music. I downloaded this and the first time I heard it, I was sitting on a bus, deep in the mountains of  Serbia, en route to Sarajevo. It instantly took my attention while immigration examined my passport.

14. Glee Cast – “Defying Gravity

This song is beautiful and bittersweet. When I first really began to accept my grandma was dying, I sat on the decaying Olympic stairs outside Hostel SA in Sarajevo, put in my headphones (thankful for my new iTouch), turned on this song, buried my head in my legs, and cried buckets of tears.

15. Jon Lejoie – “Show Me Your Genitals

I was lucky to have a travel friend like Katie. She knew I was sad after we left Mostar. While we were on the bus, driving through the Bosnian mountains on the way to Brela, Croatia, she played me this song to cheer me up. It produced the best laugh I had in a while. Note: These lyrics are NSFW or for anyone who is easily offended.

16. MGMT – “Kids

I’m sitting in Fiesta Siesta’s cavernous stone bar, talking with Simon. This song comes on. I always feel so uplifted and happy when I hear this now.

17. Jonell Mosser – “Stop in the Name of Love

Towards the end of my trip, Katie, David and I headed to Solta. The first night there, Katie gifted me with some of her music library. For hours, she and I sat outside, drinking red wine and taking in the Adriatic’s light wind, and listened to some of her favorite music, one ear bud each. This was one of the songs she played — a truly beautiful take on the classic.

18. Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man

Zadar was one of my last stops on my trip. I met up with Katie in Trogir and together we traveled up to Zadar. The first night in our dorm, I was laying in bed trying to sleep and this jam perked up my ears. Immediately, I fell in love with the band. Now, any song by them makes me think of Croatia. And summer. And hope.

19. Eminem and Rihanna – “Love the Way You Lie

After Katie and I parted, I had a few more days until my flight home. I didn’t want to stay in Zadar, so I took the bus back to Trogir to go and explore. On the way, our bus broke down. For an hour, I sat on a hot bench at a bus stop while we waited for a new bus to pick us up. A French girl, with headphones on, sang this. To this day, I remember feeling so gross, dripping sweat, and looking over in disbelief at the girl, bopping around on the side of the road, caught up in the music.

20. Citizen Cope – “Sideways

I had never heard this song in my life, but Katie had put it on my iTouch. When I found out my grandma was doing worse, I struggled to find a song to allow me to go numb and cathartic. Each song that came on, I quickly skipped. And, then this song came on. And the guitar, the voice, all of it, instantly spoke to me. When Grandma passed away, it became the only song on my playlist. Until I arrived back in America, it was the only song I would listen to.

What about you? What songs take you back to memories … and what are those memories?

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Sleeping in airports — part two

I knew spending the night at Frankfurt’s airport was likely my only option. I couldn’t be bothered with the logistics of getting into town, finding a hostel or hotel, getting back to the airport … it just was not something I had any desire to put myself through.

I was so close to being home.

I wandered through the terminal, eyeing possible places to sleep. In the middle of the terminal was a large area of leather lounge chairs, each one filled with the body of a sleeping or near-sleeping soon-to-be passenger.

I hit the Samsung stand (thank you sleepinginairports.com for the advice) to check my e-mail. For free. Then, I took myself to dinner.

For two hours, I sat in the restaurant, eating slowly, drinking slowly, wishing for 10 a.m. and to be sitting on my flight back to America. Not because I had any desire to go back to America — I didn’t — but because all I wanted was to see my mom and dad.

A wave of exhaustion hit me.

I would pay good money to sleep in a posh hotel bed.

Across the terminal was an airport hotel, and I grabbed my belongings and walked over there to see if there were any rooms.

Entierly sold-out. Damn.

I walked back to the terminal and began to do my own interpretation of Goldilocks.

First, I parked myself in a lounge chair. I grabbed my black scarf and draped it over my eyes to block out the bright florescent lights.

Nope.Too public.

Then, I went and laid down on the cold tile floor.

Nope. Too loud.

Then, I wandered down the terminal to a hall in the shopping area with a few metal benches.

There was only one free bench. The others were occupied with people who were sleeping already.

I had ditched most of my belongings in Trogir, so the towel I had used the first time in Belgium’s airport was no longer in my bag.

Hmmm.

I grabbed my sundress I had purchased in Bulgaria and threw it over me, resting my head of my not-so-comfortable messenger bag.

It was hard to sleep there. It was painful. It was cold. But, it was where I decided to pass out.

My mind took me home … filling me with images of happy and sad and fear.
Happy to be home. Sad for my loss. Fear of being back in America.

The next morning, I was up at 5 a.m. Starbucks had just opened. I grabbed a coffee and a snack and sat there for an hour, just staring into space.

Still feeling numb. Still feeling sad. Still feeling like a zombie.

Then, I went to go get breakfast a few hours later.

Airports in Europe aren’t like airports in America. Typically, the departure screens don’t tell you what gate your flight leaves from until two hours before. I lucked out. And, three hours before my flight was leaving, the gate appeared on the screen.

Overjoyed, I quickly cleared passport control and took over a cushioned bench and passed  out for an hour.

When they made the announcement it was time to board the flight back to America, it hit me.

D, your trip is over. You are going home.

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Berlin – the other love

I may love Madrid, but Berlin … man, it comes in a close second.

Seriously.

It may have been really cold … and windy … and rainy in Berlin, but after escaping Borris‘, I was hit smack in the face with all of its awesomeness.

First, it was Hostel Aloha. It didn’t even bother me I had to climb countless flights of stairs each time (it’s all about building endurance, right?). The hostel was awesome. The people there were awesome. The breakfast was … you guessed it … awesome. (I’m talking fresh bread, Nutella, bananas, PEANUT BUTTER!!!!)

Then, it was the New Europe free tours. I took the East Berlin tour with Paul (an Israeli I had met in Prague) my first day in the city and it was fascinating. I am not one for countless churches or museums, but the minute you start talking about World War II and Hitler, I get really into it. At one point, we stood where Hitler’s bunker was, the place where he killed himself. Now, it is a parking lot surrounded by some nicer Communist apartment buildings. (Quite fitting cars now park where Hitler took his last breath, if you ask me.)

Later on the tour, we stood where a vicious gun battle had broken out once Communism had taken hold. I looked from a mural depicting everyone smiling because of living a Communist lifestyle to the reality — columns and walls riddled with bullet holes only recently covered up. And then, the Wall. Well, the remnants. And then … Checkpoint Charlie. Reconstructed, but still Checkpoint Charlie.

The next day, I fell deeper in love with the city. Armed with my 48-hour train pass and my iPod, I took the Sbahn to the Zoo (home of Knut, the once adorable baby polar bear who morphed into a moody grownup) and walked back to Alexanderplaz. A hefty walk. But, beautiful. The sun  had come out for the day (!!!) and the weather was mild, so walking through Tiergarten was perfect.

That evening, Berlin got even better with Chris (@TheAussieNomad) arriving from Amsterdam and joining me for a pub crawl. The pub crawl, not so great, but Chris’ company was.

The next morning, he checked into Aloha and we headed to another walking tour — this time of the colorful graffiti and squatter haunts of Berlin. Even in the pouring rain and cold, it was fascinating. We walked around “beach” bars, went to a warehouse riddled with colorful graffiti and artists’ studios, and learned about the sub-culture that makes Berlin really interesting and different from … oh, most places.

We even went to an indoor skate park near an old train depot that was bombed during the war.

And then, there was Chris’ and my search for the perfect kebab. We found it at Mustafa’s. A delicious combo of chicken, fried veggies and potatoes topped with spicy goodness. Loved it.

Even that night, just making pasta and hanging out with everyone in the hostel was a good time.

Sadly, the only day with sun was my first real day in the city. It was hard for me to leave — I wanted to experience more of the sub-culture of Berlin — the graffiti laden beach bars, the markets — but the sun never came out enough to make it possible.

My first day in the city, I had met two Aussies who were planning to be there for a week.

“That’s a long time,” I had said.

“This city is absolutely amazing,” they replied.

At the time, I hadn’t felt it. But, by the time my train to Amsterdam was pulling up at the station, I knew precisely what they meant.

Berlin, I will be back. Promise.

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I’ll always remember my first time … Couch Surfing

Up until Berlin, I was a couch surfing virgin. Yup. Never had I slept on anyone’s couch via the very cool CouchSurfing.

I had planned on surfing during my travels, not just to save a little cash, but because I have heard nothing but raves about the experiences people have had … the insight into cultures they receive … the friends they made.

I should have known better when I agreed to couch surf with Borris* (yes, I am changing his name, this is a rare case) in Berlin.

Why?

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A BRIEF intermission: Chasing spring … two months in

Today, May 7, is my two month anniversary of traveling. It is the longest time I have been away from home. The longest time I have been away from family. The longest …

For two months now, I have chased spring. It started in Spain, with the first buds on the trees, the first field of little yellow flowers, and has followed me since then.

Spring is an amazing time of year. It is about birth. About starting new. And, it signifies a lot to me, since this trip is a birth of sorts for me. I have literally taken my entire life’s work, my dreams, my desires, and washed them from my mind and here, have begun to reconstruct the wheel, to re-identify what my dreams and desires could be/are.

A year ago, when I lived in Atlanta, I remember marveling at the city’s sheer gorgeousness with the changing of the season. The pink flowers that would sprout from the winding trees. The bright green grass that would pop up overnight. The light wind that would gently blow during days spent at Piedmont Park, taking in the South’s spring.

I would never in a million years have imagined spending my spring 365 days later in Europe, living in a prolonged (and amazing) spring for nearly two months.

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