Travelling Songs

For a recent Palantir event, I was asked to state a song that I enjoy listening to whilst travelling. I had a few candidates in mind, but went with This Town by Niall Horan. I didn’t have to justify my choice – but I had several reasons in mind.

Most of my travel for work is done solo. This makes sense for going on-site, but even for larger company events and conventions I find that I end up travelling on my own fairly often. Also, quite a lot of my travel requires flying; even when it is not long-haul, the overhead of going through airports and ensuring that I am on time already adds quite a bit of travel time. I thus find that I have a fair chunk of time where I spend time thinking and reflecting on how things have been going. I thus picked a quieter, more downbeat song which gives me enough space to maintain a thread of reflective thought. That said, interestingly the other songs I had in mind were unlikely to be as conducive to that!

I should count myself fortunate to have travelled quite a fair amount for work (that said I’m sure there must be people who are sick of excessive travel). One “class” of songs that might be relevant for some would be a sense of adventure and anticipation; for me personally on work trips that is a bit less relevant. Many trips are to places I’ve already been to (I guess the company only has a few major offices) – in the past three years I think I have visited Palo Alto about eight times. Of course, that may change with university on-site recruiting picking up; I first visited both Denmark and Croatia on these trips, and I did enjoy those travels a fair bit.

I think of myself as fairly ambitious. There are often more things I like to do than have the time to execute on (and hence metaphorically “words I never got to say the first time around”). In some ways, this is especially true of my travels to Singapore, as I’m there only about three to four weeks a year out of 52. Separately, work trips often involve very intense iteration (that tends to be what motivates the trip in the first place), leaving little time to explore the place I’m in.

Thinking about it, the song does also mention the act of travelling (“drive highways and byways to be there with you”). I didn’t pick the song for that reason, though – identifying work as the thing one is always chasing is dangerous.

The other songs I had in mind included Fury of the Storm by DragonForce; that follows the “sense of adventure” theme. That song also brings back memories of my first internship at Palantir, which involved a decent amount of travel. I’m not sure I could imagine listening to metal for ten straight hours or so, though. I also considered James Arthur’s Back from the Edge which I featured in a review about a year and a half ago; travel certainly doesn’t provide a clean or blank slate, but it does provide a temporal boundary for how I categorise things, I think.

During the event, nine other engineers volunteered their choices. There was a fairly broad range of picks, ranging from rather bubbly dance pop (Elastic Heart by Sia) to harder rock picks, and a couple of alternative choices I was completely unfamiliar with. It was nice to see this variety, though.

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