Non-stop sunshine. Cut throat driving. Countless street art at every turn. Child pop stars in training who can play the accordion. Famous Asian celebrities in bright pink Hummer limos. Legendary chicken and waffles at Roscoe’s in Inglewood. All of this must mean one thing; I’m currently vacationing in Los Angeles.
As I sit on my friend Alison’s couch in West Hollywood surrounded by her roommate’s two adorable pugs (Mashti and Piglette), I replay the past few wonderful days of wandering around Beverly Hills, The Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Hollywood, The Griffith Observatory, and elsewhere while I gear up for all the wild, crazy fun that Austin, Texas has in store for me for five days for their music festival called Chaos in Tejas. After somewhat of a rough start to the year, there’s nothing like an adventure to get away from what’s familiar and make up for that rough start.
Now you might be wondering a few things by now; is he just going to keep babbling about his trip for the whole time? Where is he going with this whole spiel? Usually I’d give you some numerical list (like my last article) about songs that would add up to the ultimate trip soundtrack or something along the lines of how some song served as some kind of revelation to me during this trip and deeply impacted me throughout this trip.
It would be easy to go that route, but I would be completely full of shit. To be perfectly honest, ever since I entered the sliding glass doors of San Francisco International Airport, there hasn’t been a single time where one consistent song has played over and over again or where I desperately needed to scan my iPod for some fulfillment while embarking on my adventure.
Now this might strike you as a bit odd for those who thrive off the pleasure that music can bring on a day to day basis. This is odd for me too, but it’s not as if my ears have been filled with silence; they have just given way to the tune of a different sort — the sound of everyday life in a totally different environment.
Now I know that comes off a bit pretentious and real corny (I cringed a little bit just writing that last sentence), but the statement stands nonetheless. Whenever I travel to a completely new place, short distance or not, even if it’s some podunk redneck town of around 100 people, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I gawk at everything in sight in total awe and probably look like I belong in an insane asylum.
It hasn’t been until now that I’ve realized that there’s a soundtrack to that mad curiosity that doesn’t come from a car stereo, TV or an MP3. It comes from the sound of planes landing at LAX, the pedaling of bikes along the beach bike paths of Santa Monica, the frenzy from street performers doing their thing in the heart of Venice Beach, the choir of foreign tourists culture-shocked by California, the wailing of sirens,, and the swearing of a driver who got cut off by some asshole flying over three lanes of traffic on the 405 without a turn signal. Yes, these are all the kind of common sounds you can find anywhere, but in an entirely new place, they seem fresh, exciting, and reborn, providing that clarity and reflection that you so desperately seek out on a vacation.
At this point you may be worried that I’ve gone a little bit off the deep end. Does he think that the sound of cars passing can replace Billie Jean? Does he really think that the grunting of pugs beats out Bohemian Rhapsody? Hear me out, there’s a lot more to this, I promise.
While it’s a blessing to have music readily available — especially when you’re having the worst day imaginable, are pumped up on life, want to check out new bands/musicians, or just want to shimmy and party your ass off — but it can also be a curse. Having music so readily at your fingertips has a tendency to cheapen its significance at times, leaving you burnt out on even some of your most favorite tunes. You start to lose sight of why you are so passionate about the music you love in the first place.
Simple, everyday sounds, and even silence can help break us from that mode of thought, as well as other dilemmas that surround our lives. They help bring us back to life in ways that family, friends, and music just can’t do at times. Whether they’re sounds within your own city, a different state, or a different country, sometimes it just takes your own personal vacation to get that spark going in your life again.
So ditch the stereo and leave behind your headphones, they won’t be going anywhere. Go on your own adventure to a place you have never been before. Take your own vacation from the rest of the entire world and let the soothing, eerie, and loud sounds of your surroundings take you by surprise. It just might be the kind of thing you’ve been waiting for.