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How I Find My Groove in a New Culture

by Meredith on September 20, 2012

Finding my way in a new culture has been daunting at times, but I have found that discovering music in a new place diminishes my initial unease. My new tunes become the soundtrack to my adventures; an audible scrapbook of sorts.

Music brings depth to my journeys, long or short, where I can discover new identities, uncover history, and find inspiration.

My favourite ways to incorporate music into travel are the following:

Researching my destination.

Before I go anywhere, I research the music scene. I scour blogs, listen to local online radio stations, and look for upcoming concerts in the major cities.

One day, I hope to backpack South America but until then I listen to podcasts, such as NPR’s Alt Latino, and I’ll occasionally check out the nearest salsa night for some impromptu dance lessons. I love preparing for a trip in this way because I meet new people who often have great advice and tips about their home country.

Building playlists of my favourite artists from home to share with others.

Canada has a great independent music scene. When I make a new discovery while traveling, it inspires me to see what Canadians are also creating in that genre.

For me, it took four months of living in Europe to embrace electronic music. Now, I’m going to shows in Belgium and delving in headfirst into the growing Canadian electronic scene with podcasts and albums.

I’m always eager to show off my Canadian electronic discoveries to my Belgian friends when they bring new music to me.

Sharing is caring!

Using music lyrics to learn a new language.

Once my language skills have progressed further than “Hi, how are you? I’m from Canada,” I’m going to figure out the lyrics to all the classic and campy Flemish sing-a-longs like “Ik Hou Van U”, which translates to “I love you”, a phrase that is always good to know.

I’ve seen 40-year-old women dancing on DJ speakers with a beer in hand belting out these classics to a square full of people during street festivities.

By knowing and understanding the words to these songs I will gain some insight to into Flemish traditions, jokes, and slang.

Going to live shows to meet people and check out the scene.

While I am traveling, I try to see as many live shows as I can. This isn’t limited to concerts, but includes jam or open mike nights too.

Most music genres have their own little subculture that is fascinating on its own, not to mention one in a foreign country! I always manage to have a few interesting conversations with other fans, make new friends, while also getting feeling for the social scene.

Make a custom playlist for each destination.

There is a cool way to use iTunes to track what you listen to while you travel. I usually build a “smart playlist” to track what music I’ve added and listened to on my library from the moment I arrive in a new place until my departure.

To do this, I create a “New Smart Playlist” with the following rules:

  • Date Added, is in the range of, and then the arrival and departure dates of my trip
  • Last played, is after, and then the arrival date of my trip
  • Then I save the playlist on a hard drive or burn it on to a disk

When I look back on the playlists I immediately get to relive feelings, thoughts, and moments that I’ve associated with a song. Think of it as a musical scrapbook, which will launch a more vivid flashback than a photo often can.

How does music affect your travels?

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Meredith was bit by travel bug in 2009 and has been on the move since then. Her adventures started in Finland where she visited a Sami reindeer farm in Lapland, dogsled and ran in the forests of Finland, and then backpacked around western Europe. Later, she moved to Kenya for a Communications internship. She took advantage of her good fortune and went on safari in the Maasai Mara as well as explored beach paradise on a motorcycle. No matter where she goes, she never forgets about her home in Canada and greatly enjoys road trips across the Rocky Mountains and along coast of British Columbia. She is currently living in Canada working as a freelance writer and a communications specialist. You can follow her adventures and discoveries on curiousmeredith or get your tweet on with her @MeredithBratlan

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

kelly September 22, 2012 at 12:41 am

I love getting to know the local music scene in countries a bit better! When I was living in New Zealand, I got really, really into the music there. And I still love it! Now when I play it at home or for friends I have nothing but great memories. Awesome post!

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Meredith September 22, 2012 at 1:18 am

Thanks Kelly! Last year, I discovered a New Zealand band in my travels. Do you listen to Fat Freddy’s Drop? I would love to see them live.

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