The first travel playlist I ever made was when I visited Colombia in late 2010. As the plane took off, Tabaco y Chanel by Bacilos played in my headphones. To this day, hearing a specific line that talks about lingering memories – “no se va, no se olvida (does not go away, is not forgotten)” – takes me back to the moment when I said goodbye to that trip. Since then, associating music with my travel memories is a unique way of revisiting those places whenever I miss them, and building these playlists has become quite the process for me.
My Madrid playlist from when I studied abroad there for a year continues to be one of my favorites. Given that I spent quite some time there, it never fails to comfort me when I miss Madrid (which is quite often!).
I always begin by adding 2-3 songs that will make packing less miserable. Usually, these are songs that I am enjoying at the moment. DJ Snake’s Taki Taki and Bomba Stereo’s To My Love were the first songs added to my Madrid playlist.
Then, I use Spotify’s Top 50 charts by country to begin to feel more connected to the place I’m visiting. It’s also useful if you’re out and they play a song you don’t recognize but the crowd goes wild and you’re wondering what just happened (true story, it’s happened many times). Thanks to Spotify’s Top 50 in Spain I discovered Alvaro Soler’s La Cintura and Aitana & Ana Guerra’s Lo Malo. Both of these songs were hits when I arrived, so it was fun to sing along with everyone every time they played them.
Shazam became an essential during my trips as I continue to add songs. Maybe it’s that one song at the club everyone loved (and yes, I will Shazam at the club), or perhaps a song that catches my attention when I’m walking around a store. Lola Indigo’s Ya No Quiero Na and Don Patricio’s Contando Lunares were my first ‘Shazam in the club’ songs. Zazo y Gxurmet’s Te Miro was my first ‘vibing at the store’ song.
I added C. Tangana & Rosalia’s Antes de Morirme after I heard it while watching season 1 of Elite, which was really popular while I lived in Spain and helped me learn lots of Spanish slang. And of course, Rosalia’s Malamente and Pienso en Tu Mira were added because my friends and I loved singing along. I added Pegate by Power Peralta because it was the first dance I successfully learned from the urban dance class I went to every week. Ketama’s Vengo de Borrachera is an older song, but my host parents often played it while they cooked, and it grew on me, so I added it to the list. Lastly, Baby Girl by Mario Bautista and Lalo Ebratt was usually the ‘’cool down’’ song that my bi-weekly Zumba classes ended on, so of course, it made the list.
My love for travel playlists stems from the fact that months or even years after a trip, playing those songs will remind me of what it felt like to be there. They also serve as a fun time capsule that reminds me of popular songs at that time and what I was constantly listening to. I know travel is quite limited for now, but next time you get to explore a new place, I recommend you give travel playlists a try.