There is no shortage of songs about traveling. Sometimes it’s literal travel involving trains, planes, and automobiles.
Other times, travel is metaphorical, moving from an emotional state or to a new tomorrow. Travel can be a helpful vehicle for discussing everything from death to human connection. There’s something about that sense of movement that translates perfectly into music.
With that in mind, we have searched far and wide for songs that perfectly capture moving from one place to another. Here, we compiled 21 of the best songs about traveling. Enjoy reading!
1. “500 Miles” By Peter, Paul, And Mary
First on this list is “500 Miles.” Though it came out in 1962, it’s impossible to discuss traveling songs without mentioning this one. This recording was sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary.
In the lyrics, we find the singer boarding a train going somewhere. He tells the listener that if you miss his train, then he’s already gone. As the song progresses, the speaker gets farther and farther from home. He has nothing on him, not even a lot of money.
But the travel here isn’t the adventurous kind. As the lyrics make clear, a home is a place the singer cannot go back to. So, he must travel onward with no end in sight.
2. “Leaving On A Jet Plane” By John Denver
Another well-known song about traveling is “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” This song has been covered throughout the years but John Denver wrote and recorded it in 1966.
Like “500 Miles” earlier, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” explores the poignancy of traveling. The speaker doesn’t want to wake his lover to say goodbye. That would make the separation irrevocably difficult.
Despite the sadness the lyrics evoke, there’s a hint of a far-off reunion. He’s looking forward to the day he returns when he’s ready to wear his wedding ring.
3. “Come Fly With Me” By Frank Sinatra
Here’s a song about traveling where people successfully go away together. With its zippy melody and playful lyrics, Frank Sinatra rattles off many exotic destinations to escape to in “Come Fly with Me.”
The lyrics characterize each destination as somewhere fascinating. The singer plans to take his lover to Bombay, Peru, and Acapulco Bay. After all, “it’s such a cool, cool day” to fly and travel.
But, as the bridge makes clear, all that pales in comparison to the lover’s company. Sometimes it isn’t where you go or even how you get there that matters. “Come Fly With Me” is an affectionate reminder that it’s who you make the journey with that counts.
4. “America” By Neil Diamond
Our next track, “America” by Neil Diamond, is a song with “traveling” in the lyrics. It reflects the optimism of the American dream at its best.
The lyrics reflect the history of immigration in the United States. People from all parts of the world “have been traveling far without a home.” For them, America is the land of freedom and opportunities they haven’t found elsewhere.
These people want a home, and America is just within reach. They take their dreams with them, dreams that would take root on American soil.
Toward the end of the song, the promise of freedom segues elegantly into lines from “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”
5. “On The Road Again” By Willie Nelson
American singer-songwriter Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” was a country and western success. It earned a Grammy Award for Best Country Song and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Nelson got the idea for the song while on tour, and that’s where the title comes from. It’s an ode to the nomadic life of musicians everywhere.
Far from being frustrated with the constant moving, the singer talks about the thrill of traveling. The experience is filled with excitement. There’s always a new place to visit and strangers to befriend.
What also comes across is the familial atmosphere uniting the singer with his fellow musical travelers. They may not stay anywhere long enough to establish roots, but they are family to each other.
6. “San Francisco” By Scott McKenzie
Up next is “San Francisco.” John Phillips wrote it in 20 minutes and Scott McKenzie sang and released it in 1967. Its composition was in response to local unease about so many hippies traveling to San Francisco for an upcoming festival.
Phillips intended the song to soothe their anxieties. It became one of the country’s best-loved anthems of peace and free love.
The song addresses people who are traveling to San Francisco and advises them “to wear some flowers in your hair.” It’s an ode to traveling and about not worrying too much about what happens once you arrive at your destination.
7. “Midnight Train To Georgia” By Gladys Knight And The Pips
We started by talking about traveling by airplane. In “Midnight Train to Georgia,” the main character makes his trip by train. Gladys Knight & the Pips released this song in 1973 from their Imagination album.
The more old-fashioned mode of travel is appropriate for an inherently nostalgic song. As the singer recounts, things haven’t worked out for the man living in L.A. and now he’s rethinking his life. To do that, he travels back home, taking the midnight train to Georgia.
It’s a prescient reminder that dreams are important, but not at the cost of who you are. If you have to sacrifice values and principles at the altar of some higher purpose, it may not be worth it after all. And you, like the singer, may find yourself traveling home again.
8. “Lonesome Traveler” By The Weavers
One of the songs that mention traveling is “Lonesome Traveler” by The Weavers. The quartet released this song in 1955 from their album Hard, Ain’t It Hard.
On the surface, it reflects how lonely traveling can be when you have nowhere to call home. The singer says he’s traveled everywhere, mostly on his own. He’s gone in the mountains and valleys and met the rich and the poor on these travels. He has also experienced traveling hungry and cold.
On further examination, the song is much more than traveling. Pretty sure these travels have afforded him lessons that he wouldn’t find elsewhere. Meeting people from all walks of life will be an eye-opener of the realities of life.
The song ends with the singer reminding himself to stop traveling. He probably means literal traveling, but he will continue learning.
9. “Ramblin’ Man” By Allman Brothers Band
The rock band Allman Brothers Band released “Ramblin’ Man” to astonishing success. The group had flirted with the composition as far back as 1971 when it was a quick tune they could use to warm up their instruments.
Its lyrics, about a nomadic man traveling from town to town and state to state, resonate with the people and stick in the popular consciousness. Perhaps it’s because we, like the singer, strive to do our best that it made such an impression.
In the refrain, the singer repeatedly asks to have his traveling instinct forgiven. It is because it’s human to move on, if not from places, then from jobs and people. It’s how we grow, and there’s nothing to apologize for in that.
10. “Road Trippin’” By Red Hot Chili Peppers
There’s nothing apologetic about this song about traveling. “Road Trippin’” is a tribute to road trips with family and friends. The song appeared on Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Californication album.
There’s an inherent optimism in this song that comes from the decision to indulge in travel. The singer goes with two friends, and along with supplies, they leave town. It doesn’t matter where they go. They can “get lost anywhere in the USA.”
And the rules don’t apply here. All they have to do is enjoy the sun and each other’s company. And from the looks of it, they did just that.
11. “Route 66” By Nat King Cole
The rhythm and blues hit “Route 66” was born out of inspiration from traveling. Lyricist Bobby Troup was on his way to California from Pennsylvania when the idea for this song came up. Nat King Cole debuted it in 1946.
“Route 66” is another song about road trips and the joy they bring. The places that get mentioned in the song are the ones that Troup and his wife passed on their way to California.
There’s St. Louis, then Joplin, Missouri. They also passed by Oklahoma City and several places in New Mexico and Arizona. In a way, the singer is encouraging travelers to pass by these places if they’re going to California.
12. “Four Strong Winds” By Ian & Sylvia
On the other end of the spectrum, “Four Strong Winds” is a more melancholy song about travel. The Canadian folk duo Ian & Sylvia released this song in 1963, and it appeared on their album Four Strong Winds.
At its core, the song is about the end of a romantic relationship. The singer recognizes that their good times are gone, and they have to move on separately. As for him, he plans to travel to Alberta, where the weather is just fine in autumn.
At some point, he expresses his desire to get back with her, wishing she’d change her mind. But he also recognizes that they’ve talked about it a lot of times before, and there’s no saving their relationship.
13. “Travelin’ All Alone” By Billie Holiday
In a song with “traveling” in the title, Billie Holiday shares many themes with other tracks on this list. “Travelin’ All Alone” talks about the importance of human connectivity and the loneliness of isolation.
In the lyrics, the singer laments about being all alone. She feels tired and weary without anyone to lean on. No one seems to care for her.
She tries praying about her “burdens, woes and love.” But it doesn’t seem to lighten her load. And her supposed friends were only there when all was well. But now that she’s old, they’re nowhere around.
14. “Jane Austen Tango” By Talis Kimberley
English folk singer-songwriter Talis Kimberley’s “Jane Austen Tango” is another unlikely song on this list. In the song, the titular Jane Austen travels not spacially but temporally.
As Jane travels through time, she meets witty and innovative women whose first name is the same as hers. Some are fictional, some are historical, and all are clever.
It’s a tribute to literary listeners everywhere. The music is fast-paced, and the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek. Playful and whimsical, it’s a song designed to transport you alongside those women in their time-traveling carriage.
15. “I’ll Fly Away” By Gillian Welch And Allison Krauss
Up next, “I’ll Fly Away” is best known as one of the songs in the soundtrack of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. Gillian Welch does the lead vocals, while Alison Krauss does the harmony.
But as with “Jane Austen Tango,” the traveling here isn’t of the road trip variety. It’s much more metaphorical. The singer dreams of flying, not to foreign climes, but to a celestial hereafter. She dreams of a free and happier life, away from things that shackle her.
Although the lyrics flirt with bleak concepts like death, the song has a jaunty and hopeful feel. Death might be the place whose borders no one returns from. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and that’s the message of “I’ll Fly Away.”
16. “Passing Through” By Pete Seeger
Here’s another song about traveling through time and space. “Passing Through” was written by Dick Blakeslee and sung by Pete Seeger.
The song’s refrain and title explore themes of traveling. In the lyrics, traveling is a metaphor for our time on earth. We are not here to stay forever because we’re just passing through.
The singer runs through several notable people in the song. He comes across Adam as he leaves the Garden of Eden. He also has a brief conversation with Jesus on the cross. Then he meets George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt. In all of these encounters, they remind him that they’re just passing through.
17. “We Open In Venice” By Sammy Davis Junior, Frank Sinatra, And Dean Martin
No one wrote lyrics as playful, frivolous, and fun as Cole Porter. “We Open In Venice” is part of the musical Kiss Me Kate, which modernizes The Taming of the Shrew. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior, and Dean Martin collaborated to record the song.
In the lyrics, a wandering acting troupe “roams about the land” of Italy. They aim to provide distraction and not be a “Theatre Guild attraction.” In the chorus, they sing, “We open in Venice,” and then plan to open in Verona and Cremona as well. They also have their eyes on Parma, Menace, and Padua.
At every turn, the singers jibe and joke about their destinations. It’s impossible to listen to Porter’s spectacular rhymes without laughing.
18. “Jennifer’s Rabbit” By Tom Paxton
Literature is full of references to sleep as somewhere people travel. In Tom Paxton‘s “Jennifer’s Rabbit,” that’s exactly what happens.
In the song, Jennifer falls asleep and dreams of the adventures of her rabbit. It’s whimsical and fantastical in the way dreams can be, full of talking animals. Her rabbit travels to town with a turtle, a kangaroo, and 17 monkeys. The rabbit finds a dress and a blue ribbon for Jennifer.
“Jennifer’s Rabbit” is such a catchy song that it’s hard not to wish you could join her and the animals on their improbable journey through dreamland.
19. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” By John Denver
Popularly dubbed “Country Roads,” this piece by John Denver marks a return to more obvious songs about traveling. The song is such a big success as it reached #2 on Billboard‘s US Hot 100 Singles.
Like others on this list, the song has a nostalgic feel to it. The singer longs to return home after years of living away and calls for country roads to lead the way to West Virginia.
His memories of his home are what he always goes back to. Of her blue waters and mountains. West Virginia is calling for him, and as he travels back home, he realizes that he should have come home sooner.
20. “Ain’t It A Pretty Night” By Patricia Racette
Next, we have “Ain’t It a Pretty Night,” sung by operatic soprano Patricia Racette. It appears in Susannah, an operatic retelling of The Book of Daniel.
In the song, Susannah is full of dreams for the future and confesses how much she wants to travel. She tells her brother of her aspirations for big, gentrified cities. She wonders what it’s like in cities beyond the mountains.
But more than that, Susannah wants to experience one of those nice folks in the city. She wants to see for herself and dress nicely. But even as she makes travel plans, she concedes she might miss the comforts of home.
21. “End Of The Line” by Traveling Wilburys
Finally, “End of the Line” is a song about traveling that takes its title from a conductor’s final announcement. It’s how many conductors still call out the terminus stop, and that sets the context for this song. The British-American supergroup Traveling Wilburys recorded the song in 1988.
In “The End of the Line,” they explore what happens when the metaphorical journey is over. They stress the importance of human connection. Without people, having time on your hands can be lonely.
Appropriately, it was the last song on Traveling Wilbury’s 1988 album. It became a eulogy for Roy Orbison when he died the same year.
Summing Up Our List Of Traveling Songs
Songs about traveling are popular with singers, songwriters, and listeners. It’s a theme that lends itself to compelling narratives. That’s true whether the traveling is literal or metaphorical.
For every song about a physical journey, there are two more about a more metaphorical one. But all of them agree that for traveling to be worthwhile, you need people to share the experience. It’s people, after all, that make the world go round and who give us reasons to keep on traveling.