Sensory Travel – Engaging Your Ears Abroad

Go back twenty years and travel wasn’t the multifaceted experience that it is today. What was it that people did on holidays back then? Sightseeing mostly. You’d see tourists flocking to historical landmarks, with cameras strapped round their necks, taking in a visual feast but that is only a small part of travel today.

The next stage of development in tourism came when people not only wanted to see a destinations but physically feel it too. The adventure travel boom grew out of that desire and saw travellers get involved in varying levels of activities that involve physical application, proprioception and interoception. These range from soft activities like meditating and yoga, through mid-range activities like diving or hiking and up to high-octane activities like cycling, or even jumping out of a plane with a parachute on. And it makes perfect sense – you would feel like you’ve conquered African after climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro, for example. These activities were an essential component in travellers engaging physically with their destination, yet there was still a craving for more.

The most recent travel boom and latest way to engage your senses whilst abroad, has been to indulge in culinary culture. In the last decade, with the help of food/travel champions like Anthony Bourdain, we’ve seen tourists become internationally adventurous with food and drink. Alongside sightseeing and adventure travel, millions have engaged their senses of taste and smell to better understand the culture they’re visiting.

We only have five core senses with which to interpret the world – sight, touch, taste, smell and last but not least, hearing. If we choose to only use two or three of these aspects, then it would be safe to say that we will only perceive a limited amount. To engage all our senses is to fully understand. If we were to visit Italy, eat their world-famous food, see historic buildings and renaissance art, drink the floral wines of Burgundy, maybe trek the Cinque Terre and listen to opera music, then we would stimulate a full complement of our senses and be more engaged with Italian culture on the trip.

As the most underused sense for absorbing foreign culture, it stands to reason that the next stage in tourism, is to better engage our ears. It is time to switch off what you listen to at home whilst you are travelling and listen to something local. Would you go to Italy, stay in your hotel room all week, order burger and chips from room service and watch Hollywood films on TV? Of course not, so here at Resfeber, we have curated lots of international music playlists to help get you started.

Of course, listening to Spotify playlists is by no means the limit – we’ve barely scratched the surface. So, what could audio-travel involve? It can be as simple as dropping into a music bar to hear the local amateurs play a song or two. When people come to visit me in Glasgow, I take them to the Ben Nevis pub in Finnieston, to watch the local folk musicians jam whilst we sip a whiskey or too. My girlfriends father, visiting from Australia, went crazy for this.

It could be visiting the source location for a music genre you love. You could visit Berlin and their amazing nightclubs if you love techno, head to Mail in Africa to visit the thriving emerging afrobeat scene, New Orleans’ late night bars for jazz or Andalusia in Spain as the historic birthplace of the acoustic guitar and Flamenco music. For inspiration, check out the list of UNESCO Cities Of Music over on their website.

When I travel to places that are vastly different from home, using music to understand the culture is one of the simplest methods. Music transcends language barriers and enables communication between those without a shared tongue. I would argue that an expressive song says more than it is possible to communicate using solely words. Even when there is shared language, it remains a key component of understanding a place. For me personally, I’m a big fan of Australian band Tame Impala. I’d love to see them play live anywhere but a homecoming gig would be the ultimate. To see a band play in their own back yard and within the environment that inspired their sun-kissed psychedelic sound, is the pinnacle of live music. This can be applied to any band.

To travel half-way round the world to see a band might seem quite an extravagance but audio-travel doesn’t always need to be. It can be as simple as plugging in your headphones and playing something local, whilst you wander round sightseeing and tasting. But remember, if you haven’t seen, felt, tasted, smelt and heard a destination, you haven’t experienced it fully yet.



5 thoughts on “Sensory Travel – Engaging Your Ears Abroad

Add yours

  1. Thank you for the tip with the UNESCO list. I know what music I’ll play tonight 😀
    I love when travel includes culture, and not only sightseeing and relaxing. I also find it fascinating how music is part of every culture – and how different it can be from one culture to another.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really interesting because I’m researching sensory design at the moment and it is so true. If ones culture is depicted in a complete sensual experience then feeding just the ocular is void of a majority inclusion.


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