The Sounds of Travel 6: “Oh My Sweet Carolina”

Here at Gadling we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite sounds from the road and giving you a sample of each — maybe you’ll find the same inspiration that we did, but at the very least, hopefully you’ll think that they’re good songs.

Got a favorite of your own? Leave it in the Comments and we’ll post it at the end of the series.

“Oh My Sweet Carolina” by Ryan Adams

Nick Hornby, a favorite author of mine, first tipped me off to this amazing Ryan Adams song in this essay on the McSweeney’s website. “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” which Hornby describes as “so quiet that you don’t want to breathe throughout its duration,” might seem to be an odd choice for a series celebrating great travel songs. After all, it’s about the unfulfilling, disappointing journeys– to Vegas, Cleveland, San Antonio– that we take because we’re looking for something that we can’t find at home:

Oh my sweet Carolina
What compels me to go
Oh my sweet disposition
May you one day carry me home

This is a lesson many travelers, including myself, have had to learn first-hand: that travel is not a panacea for all your problems. Running away from life is only a quick, temporary fix, and sooner or later everything you fear must be faced head-on.

Another thing the song addresses is this: once we’ve been away from our friends and family for a while, sometimes home starts to look, well, not so bad. In his Pulitzer-prize winning novel American Pastoral, Philip Roth writes that when people die, their imperfections tend to disappear, or even to become appealing: “This can happen when people die– the argument with them drops away and people so flawed while they were drawing breath that at times they were all but unbearable now assert themselves in the most appealing way, and what was least to your liking the day before yesterday becomes in the limousine behind the hearse a cause not only for sympathetic amusement but for admiration.”

In my experience, the same transformation happens to your hometown and your friends and family when you’ve been away for a while.

Lyrics here; awesome Elton John cover here; Nick Hornby essay here. Listen to the song, it’s good.