I was walking aimlessly around Paris, thoroughly lost - incidentally, my favorite travel past-time. Although Paris had me feeling a little down; with a heavy feeling of maybe wanting more. I flew right into the Charles De Gaulle earlier that day and took the metro into the heart of city. Paris has to be the #1 city in the world that has the largest expectation for perfection. The City of Light is commonly known as the most romantic place in the world - but I think their idealistic expectations fall short more often than not.
Turning a corner down an alley, out into a street of cafes, I found a cure for what I had been missing. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing - growing up with films or what - but music heavily influences how people feel in places and in certain situations. Whatever it was, I instantly was changed. My mood and perception drastically improved when I heard the sweet sounds of a father-daughter duo, performing on the street terrace. She was dancing around him - in what I imagined being a traditional gypsy dance. He played beautifully and slow, yet upbeat, in a manner only an accordion can produce.
The instant effect was like a dream, where I instantly felt like I was floating. The stars aligned and I felt that rare, beautiful feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be - right at that moment, I was free. I can’t promise every single person - or even one other in the world will feel the way I did, this day in Paris. But the influence of music is immeasurable. Beyond simply inspiring your mood; in travel, music can open your eyes to the culture and quite possibly, spur your understanding of the spirit and how history has shaped it.
I think Europe specifically has such a long history, playing the main role through many eras of our world’s growth - their cultural influence is second to none. What other country influenced romance and soul most throughout the rest of the world? Where were all the fairytales and mythical stories of magic and wonder from? Many of the movies from growing up are based on such tales.
I think, with the help of film, the relationship between film and soundtrack inherently influences our imaginations, which thoughtlessly provoke various feelings in people - like me, in Paris. So it’s no wonder why, for example that traditional European music, arouses such a tremendous response, emotionally. We can connect to it, somewhere deep down within us all.
As the night began to fall and the stars began to peak, a new sorrowful tune reached my ears. A local cafe was featuring an Italian violinist - at this point, I had a full day of exploration on a high (per say). Not entirely due to this man’s soulful tunes, I became sad. After hours of experiencing Venice, the real Venice - through the residential alleyways, ‘through the backdoor,’ you could say; it made me sad to see the naked town that once was great. Venice is dying, the old glory is long gone. At any given time, less than 10% of the people in Venice are actual locals - a dying race of Venetian aboriginals. Gondolas and other keystones of the Venetian culture are symbols exploited for tourism now. Once one of the most powerful navy’s in the world, now an anguished ruin.
I felt the sadness deep down - it was difficult for me to understand exactly why I felt this way, until I heard that man’s sorrow expressed through his performance. I was frozen, immoveable, captivated and overwhelmed with feeling and thought.
Traveling the world and visiting new cultures unlike your own is not about seeing as much as you can, as fast as you can - and unfortunately that isn’t always possible for me. And it’s also not about lounging on a beach and having locals wait on you. If you disagree, you should probably never visit my blog again. :) Travel is not easy, the experiences you have can be troublesome at times. This is the reason why travel done right is such a dynamic, life-changing and intimate experience. Even in the most developed countries, you can feel despair and witness sorrow - as long as you’re traveling to grow and to learn.
Less than two months ago, I traveled back to Europe - this time, to backpack throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands. I was so very touched by my first experiences with the influence of music and travel, I loaded my iPod with traditional, local music from each area I was visiting - along with softer, mood-driven melodic tunes from around the world. I doubted that I would run into as many street and cafe musicians in the non-peak season of April. I made it a point, when visiting somewhere new or simply just walking around aimlessly, to put in my earbuds and to just lose myself in the music.
Personally, listening to traditional Celtic music while driving the narrow left-sided, hilly paths throughout Ireland was another life-changing experience. I was free - with the wind in my face and the certain death of driving like a maniac throughout the farm strewn Irish terrain. I felt at home and I know now (possibly due to the credit of music) that whenever I visit back in Ireland, I will feel at peace, at home and able to find myself all over again - no matter the reason for the visit. I believe it’ll feel as though I’ve never left.
I employ you to take the time to do the same - connect through music, on your next travel adventure. Don’t force it or expect that your whole world will change immediately, but... Slow down, pop in some local tunes, walk around, look up, look down and take everything in - on a soulful level. It may just change your life, as it has for me - many times, over and again.