My Expat Music Playlist

By - May 6, 2009 (Updated: December 1, 2014)

Music has always been meaningful to me. My musical preferences are about as wide ranging as they could possibly be. At any given time you can catch me listening to country, rap, classical, pop, salsa, oldies, techno… the list is endless. Although I’m in no way a musical person (I couldn’t carry a tune with a backhoe let alone a bucket) music has always had the ability to touch me more than any other art form.

A song can instantly transport me to a certain time in my life. Some are non specific – give me a Salt n’ Peppa track and I’m right back to the junior high school video dances. Some are exact songs and moments – Rihanna’s Umbrella sends me to the back of a pickup, driving across the Golden Gate Bridge on a Champagne high. One More Time by Daft Punk takes me back to my first trip around Europe on a Contiki Tour bus.

Although the melody is what gets me moving in the moment, it’s the songs with meaningful lyrics that stay with me. Over the past few years, living life as an expat, I’ve found a handful of songs that speak to me of my expat life. They weren’t intended to be about life lived abroad but I think their lyrics can be applied to expat life.

This is my Expat Playlist:

  • Beautyfrom The Bridge by Shaye – This is my anthem and a song that brings tears to my eyes every time. Although the song is about death, it can be applied to any life altering choice. Unfortunately Shaye is no longer together. I was fortunate enough to see them perform live twice and they were both magical experiences. Notable lyrics – “One day you will come back/ With wrinkled hands and grey hair/ And there you will stand on the spot/ And you’ll marvel how the place is still the same/Though you are somebody else now”
  • Taking the Long Wayfrom Taking the Long Way by The Dixie ChicksThere are a few different Dixie Chicks songs that I could add to this list. Wide Open Spaces would certainly qualify, as would Long Time Gone. Taking the Long Way however hits home with me for choosing a life path that none of my other friends did. Notable Lyrics – “My friends from high school/ Married their high school boyfriends/ Moved into houses in the same ZIP codes/ Where their parents live/ But I, I could never follow”
  • The Wood Songfrom Swamp Ophelia by The Indigo Girls – The Indigo Girls are my favourite band for powerful lyrics. I’m tempted to add Get Out The Map to this list however it’s more about travel than life. The Wood Song is an old one, but still on the top of my favourite songs list. Notable Lyrics “But what it takes to cross the great divide/ Seems more than all the courage I can muster up inside/ Although we get to have some answers when we reach the other side/ The prize is always worth the rocky ride.”
  • Thank U – from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie by Alanis MorissetteWhile there are a lot of lines in this song that hit home with me, it’s Alanis’s bridge that really makes this expat track list worthy. Notable Lyrics “The moment I let go of it was / The moment I got more than I could handle/ The moment I jumped off of it was / The moment I touched down”
  • Heads Carolina, Tails California – from Jo Dee Messina by Jo Dee Messina This one is for all the expats who don’t care where it is they are headed, as long as it is somewhere new. Notable Lyrics “Heads, Carolina Tails, California./ Somewhere greener, somewhere warmer./ Up in the mountains, down by the ocean./ Where? It don’t matter, as long as we’re goin’/ Somewhere together. I’ve got a quarter./ Heads, Carolina Tails, California.
  • Home For a Restfrom Save This House by Spirit of the WestOk, this isn’t really a song about expat life. It does however remind me of how I feel when I travel. It reminds me especially of our whirlwind trips home to try and visit everyone. Notable Lyrics “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not at my best/ I’ve been gone for a month/ I’ve been drunk since I left/ And these so-called vacations/ Will soon be my death/ I’m so sick from the drink/ I need home for a rest/ Take me home”

Do you any expat songs to add to the list? What songs have influenced your expat journey? Leave them in the comments or drop me an email. I’d love to add to the playlist!

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
- 2 days ago


  1. Comment by Di

    Di May 7, 2009 at 22:49

    Loved these, thank you.

  2. Comment by Alison

    Alison May 8, 2009 at 14:33

    Hey Di, Glad you enjoyed them.

  3. Comment by Alison

    Alison May 13, 2009 at 13:57

    Danie: Yes! That is a great expat anthem. Well, at least for those of us who know we won’t be staying put forever 🙂

  4. Pingback: The 7 Link Challenge | CheeseWeb: Travel, Photography and Expat Life in Belgium Blog

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