During the entirety of the month of July of 2017, I embarked upon a journey through nine European countries that will surely be the inspiration for many stories and essays throughout my life. In the course of my travels, I found comfort and peace the only way I’ve known how: by the touch of fine liquor and music.
Perhaps my most important source for inspiration, music in Europe was a critical part of the experience. Everywhere I went I was followed by the pervasive sounds and rhythms of artists that have been with me through the good and bad times. There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t feel their power, their transformative guidance in tough times. Here, it is my intention to thoroughly capture in detail five songs that were part of transcendental moments in the midst of all the surroundings, moments that have come to mean much more as the conclusion of my travels passes on through the sands of time.
Summer of ’69 (Bryan Adams): An emotional song remembering better days, it was the catalyst for one of my most cherished moments. It occurred me to play this song as I was brushing along the Church of Saint Francis on the small mediaeval town of Assisi. The message invoked by Bryan Adams are of similar nature to those I was experiencing. The most peculiar thought came to mind: I was feeling nostalgia while the moment itself is happening. It was as if during those four minutes I could already picture myself 20 years from now remembering such moment as a defining memory of my short existence on this planet. It’s a feeling I can’t quite shake. Even after all this time, I am still moved with how it all happened. It’s the most spiritual experience I’ve ever had in a church.
Rock and Roll Star (Oasis): Once, when I was 13, my father bought me a BBC documentary series that chronicled the history of rock and roll, and the intro to such series is this song. For years, I’d forgotten how much I used to love the exaltation that the chorus exemplifies, until the song found itself in my conscious through a dream I had on my first day in Athens. I searched the song on Spotify, and was immediately bombarded by its energy. I was particularly moved by the lyrics “In my mind, my dreams are real”. They resonated with my emotional state, where my dream of seeing Greece once again was becoming a reality right before my very eyes. I listened to the song while walking the streets of Athens all day long. Its bombastic fury of accelerated happiness brings me back to those streets on nights were I am completely consumed by nostalgia.
White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane): I had two memorable moments with this song. One of such moments took place while I was in Florence. I had just finished reading Gonzo Republic, a book analyzing one of my literary influences, Hunter S. Thompson. The mention of this song in the book triggered my curiosity enough look it up and listened to it on my way back to the hotel. I enjoyed it, but my surroundings did not matched its furious and escalating thunderous power. However, this did not stop me from trying to find another opportunity. The second moment occurred in the confines of my rustic, cabin-like, antique hotel room while on my way to Rome. Perhaps my favorite hotel in the entire trip, it was far away from any point of reference, up on the Roman hills. The place was quiet, but with a touch of mystery to the air. It was the first time in all my journey that I had a room all to myself, a pattern that was to be repeated until the end of the trip. I remember being drunk the night I played the song again. The sweet psychedelic sounds made their way into the scramble madness that was inside my head. As the song got louder and more oblique, thoughts of terrorizing nature consumed my psyche. The strong regurgitation of sound and fury formed a hollow sensation unbeknownst to my sense. The room itself was a factor in such sentiments, the lighting being qute dim. It was eerie, even grim, but I won’t deny its memorability.
Beautiful Day (U2): It was a staple through many tracks of land. The one instance where it resonated the most was during a long, dwindling traffic jam on my way to a German salt mine. It lasted for more than three hours. The delay cost us a visit to Salzburg, a place I looked forward to seeing. Tension within the group was running amok. I did my best to control my frustration, taking comfort in the idea that at the very least it’s a traffic jam in Germany, and not in some repetitive task of a dull life. I was half asleep when this song appeared through the vibrations of my earphones. The exaltation of beauty, peace, and reflection the song invoked was powerful enough to diminish my bad mood and made me appreciate everything that was happening around me. It made me feel free. Out of all the moments I had, I look back on that moment as the first time I became overwhelmed with the whole notion that the wonders I’ve seen throughout belong to the rich history of survival in this cold, desolate universe.
When I Was Younger (SOJA): There were only three days left on my journey. Twenty eight days of non-stop sight-seeing and memories were completed. For a few days this thought made me feel angry and uncomfortable. I was tired, and wanted to stay a nomad forever. Soon, it was back to reality, the same reality that keeps me away from my dreams. While this mix bag of emotion was tumbling down the precipice of my soul, the cruise ship in which I was a passenger on was disembarking on the island of Mykonos, a place I was visiting for a second time. Searching through lost memories, I came to remember that on my first visit to this place I was also feeling down. Same place, same emotions, six years apart. The only difference came at the top of their iconic windmills. I was listening to music along the tracks, drinking a bottle of Corona along the way. The song began to play just in time for the sunset. It speaks of nostalgia and melancholy, invocating a similar chant to that of “Summer of ‘69”, but it was… different. It was calmer, more reflective, better in-tuned with the surroundings. The sun was setting, the Corona was cold, and a feeling of hope was in the air. I couldn’t have asked for a better moment. It was everything I needed to let me know everything was going to be alright. I was determined to change my perceptions and fears, to fix my problems through meditation, and to seek a happier life every chance I get. That moment of surrender will stay with me ‘till my last breath.
Surely there are more than five songs of meaning during the entirety of the trip. Nevertheless, these were the ones with the biggest impact, the ones that reassured me to always seek a good story out of every encounter I have, no matter how minuscule it may be. Until then, I am left with nothing but memories worth keeping, an honorable task to bear.