Musical memories from the road

Backpackers on the Trans-Siberian. Definitely needs a playlist!

Music and travel go together. From the earliest days of family road trips around my native South Africa, my trusty Walkman played non-stop until either the feeble AA batteries reduced the audio to warbled garbage as the tape slowed down, or my ears began to ache from my low-quality headphones.

Raiding my dad’s record collection, I put endless mix tapes together for our long car journeys. This carried on through adolescence, when I had amassed my own record collection, and road trips ceased to be family affairs and became something a little bit more fun. Heading off to the coast with the band to play shows, breaking out for a weekend break with friends at the beach or in the mountains, driving to Cape Town to get tattoos, each trip had its own playlist. Each landmark now reminds me of some song or other.

As a child, the six hours of driving time from Johannesburg to my grandmother’s homes in the Drakensburg and Warner Beach respectively meant that I could fit in at least six albums each way. Various South African landmarks have now been indelibly married to a range of artists – the Drakensburg Mountains in all their ragged African splendour will forever remind me of Led Zeppelin. The hilly midlands of Natal remind me of Brand New. The long straight roads out of Johannesburg remind me of Eels. And the long drive to Cape Town is all about The Eagles of Death Metal and Jimmy Eat World.

Dashboard Confessional – yeesh we’re getting into serious emo territory now! – reminds me of getting on the plane to London, the Beastie Boys remind me of snowboarding the French Alps, Neon Indian reminds me of driving through Beijing, and Beck reminds me of cruising peacefully on the Nile in a felucca. I often find myself listening to something and then suddenly realise that my mind has been wondering back to those places I’ve visited.

What are some of your favourite travel tunes? Take a look at my playlist on, add yours and share it with us.

Leave a Reply