Music and Travel: How Music Eased My Transition to Living Abroad

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 01/20/10 •  6 min read

This post was originally published in January 2010 just weeks after quitting my job and moving to Thailand. Music has always been a huge part of my life and this post reflects that. 

Despite not being relevant to freelance writing or building a lifestyle business, this was a foundational time in the Location Rebel journey, so I’ve left it published, in it’s mostly untouched form. You can find more posts here from my time living in Thailand.

If there is one thing that has remained constant through my transformation over the last year, it’s my love of music.  It has played such a strong role in my life that I sometimes wonder where I would be without it.

Regardless of how you are feeling, there is a song or artist out there that can make you feel better. If you need motivation, commiseration, energy, whatever it is, music will always be there to help.  Just today I found myself wearing down a little, and all I had to do was put in my headphones and everything was better.

There have also been specific songs in my life that have helped me down the path I’m on for various reasons.  They span all different genres, but there are certain songs that I listen(ed) to on a daily basis that just make me feel good, and help the cause.

Here are a few of the songs I’ve listened to the most frequently over the past few months:

Note: I was going to provide links to all of these songs, but I think you’re better off just listening to them on Spotify.

  • Square One Here I Come – The Hives. If there were ever a song to get you pumped up for anything, this has got to be it. And while I may not be nearly as broke as this guy is, it certainly makes you want to make some money.  Or become a rockstar.  It’s one or the other
  • Boa Sorte (Good Luck) – Vanessa de Mata y Ben Harper. Ben Harper has long been one of my favorite artists.  So you can imagine my excitement when I’m driving up to Buzios from Rio last year, and I hear this song come on the radio.  Half Portuguese, half English and completely beautiful, it has become a laid back travel anthem of mine of sorts.  Although, I still don’t know what it all means.  Regardless, a great song to fall asleep to.  Another Ben Harper I have listened to A LOT is Keep It Together. Definitely worth checking out.
  • Back on the Road – Madcon.  I don’t even know how I came across this group, but with this song, and entire album, they strike a great balance between hip hop and rock, with some really cool beats and a catchy chorus.
  • Treetop Flier – Stephen Stills. Over 40 years since this song was written, I still have yet to find many people that can tell a story better.  You can just picture him cruising around in his plane among the canopy of a jungle.  Very chill, and one of my all time favorite songs.  Now that I am sitting in the middle of a jungle, I’m half expecting him to fly over.
  • Blink – Blue Scholars. For the past few years I’ve had a bit of an obsession with the Blue Scholars.  Conscious hip-hop out of Seattle, their beats are second to none, and for once a hip hop act has something interesting to say.  Check out all of their albums, its all good. Really good.
  • Remedy – The Black Crowes.  I remember on my lunch breaks at my old job I would listen to this song while running around the river front on my lunch breaks.  Everyone needs a remedy of some sort.  I think I’ve found mine in Thailand.
  • Ain’t No Reason – Brett Dennen. “People walk around pushing back their debts, Wearing pay checks like necklaces and bracelets”.  There is a lot of that going on, but I think Brett had it wrong, as where I am now, it doesn’t matter how many necklaces and bracelets you have.  Its the journey that is worth investing in.

Now that I’ve been traveling for the last few weeks, it’s been interesting to see what kind of music I hear around Thailand.  Generally it’s one of two things: you hear either an islandy mix of Jack Johnson/Ben Harper-esque tunes, OR the exact same rap songs over and over again.  I swear ALL of the bars in Ao Nang all of the exact same CD on repeat.  If I have to hear “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” one more time, I might kill some one.  But I digress..

One of my biggest passions in life is playing the guitar.  I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember, and it was one of the things I’ve missed most since being here.  I even missed it so much that at 2:30 in the morning the other day I asked a local Thai kid if I could borrow his to jam on.  Well I did, and some pretty hilarious video ensued.  I thought about posting it here, but I couldn’t bring that kind of self-humiliation upon myself.

The best $30 guitar I've ever bought...

The best $30 guitar I’ve ever bought…

Ok, or at least it was the best $30 guitar I’d ever bought until this whole debacle.

However, IF (and I honestly don’t expect this to happen) this post gets 100 comments, I will post the video of me busting out in song in the middle of Ao Nang the other night.

Dan and I had such a good time that night that we even hopped on a bus to Krabi Town the next day to find ourselves a pair of guitars.  $30 still doesn’t get you much in the way of a guitar, even in Thailand, but they have definitely got the job done.

Even better, I fulfilled the first piece of goal #67 which is sit down and write a song in a foreign music shop.   Sadly however,  we were kicked out before we got a chance to take a video, but just know that it did happen!  Now we are piecing together some ideas for how to go about setting up shop on a local street corner for an afternoon.  I’m convinced we can make more than Oregon’s minimum wage of about $9 over the course of an hour.  I’ll let you know if the experiment actually goes down.

Until then what type of music do you listen to?  What motivates you?  Remember, each comment goes a long way towards me making a fool of myself 🙂

Tomorrow I’ll be headed to Koh Phi Phi for the next week or so, and I have no idea how reliable internet and wifi will be.  So if I don’t respond to your email or comment, don’t despair! I will be back in Ao Nang by the end of next week.

I also apologize for the crappy photo of the guitar on the front page.  I needed something, and surprisingly, didn’t have any better ones lying around.  I’ll make it up with better photos next time!

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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57 comments on "Music and Travel: How Music Eased My Transition to Living Abroad"

  1. Dan says:

    “Square One Here I Come” is awesome, in fact I’ll employ it tonight as I attempt to pump out a newsletter. Nice axe!

  2. Sarah says:

    A most excellent choice in tunes, my friend. And consider this one post closer toward your humiliation!

  3. NomadicNeil says:

    I’ll have to check out those songs, out of that list I only know the Hives, Ben Harper and the Crows.

    I thought the music was more diverse than Koh Lanta, here it’s either Bob Marley or 90’s trance (I wish Electro had made it here), plus ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night’.

    Not sure if there’s particular music I’m listening to, right now I’m streaming some Jimi Hendrix on YouTube, later it could be some Avril Lavigne that my friend plays from his lap-top.

    Have fun in Phi Phi!

  4. Shaun says:

    Let’s see it!

    I share your passion for music and playing guitar – easily the best and most rewarding thing I’ve ever learned to do. I’m hitting the road in April and have been looking at travel guitars but hate the idea of having to carry it around. Picking up a cheapy locally seems like a pretty good plan – maybe give it away on the way out.

    Some good tunes up there. I just made a Spotify playlist for those of us lucky enough to use it. Lately I’ve been listening to Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack for Into the Wild – well worth checking out.

    1. Sean says:

      The into the wild soundtrack is fantastic, really dig that album. And yeah I figured for 30 bucks, even if I give it away on the way out it isnt the end of the world.

      @Neil I actually havent heard nearly as much Bob Marley as I was expecting, sure there is some, but it hasn’t been as much as others have made it sound. Good hanging out the other night!

      @Dan Thought you might like that! I think it needs a name…

  5. amen! the constant repeat of songs in thailand is jarring. i couldn’t tell you how many times i stumbled into a place for coffee and pancakes and am greeted with blaring house/trance tracks. oi… not the way to start a day.

    on the other hand, sitting on a thai beach watching a sunset, beer in hand, i gained a new appreciation for reggae.

  6. David says:

    Oh baby, I’m definitely commenting on this one – I gotta see this vid.

    Hope you made it down to Krabitown night market… Just don’t walk down by the water unless you want to get harassed into taking a boat ride to see the mangroves (unless it’s cool? I don’t know, we didn’t go).

    At that krabitown nightmarket, you have to get yourself some papaya salad – totally worth the 90 cents. I have a picture of that night market here –

    Have a great time, where are you headed next?

    PS – there are a million internet cafes on Phi Phi.

  7. One more vote for internet humiliation. Did I say that? I meant, what a great learning experience.

  8. Lauren says:

    I really…REALLY want to see the performance! I was at the YaYa resort a few weeks ago (Railay East? or West? I dunno, the swampy side!) and there was this young, funny American guy who was trying to impress the ladies by playing the guitar in the courtyard. That’s what I’m picturing… 😉

  9. Josh Sager says:

    I missed my guitar immensely when I was in Thailand. One of my ultimate fantasies would be to join a Thai hard rock band. I don’t even care if they write all of the songs making fun of me, I think it would be great. You should check into the Martin Backpacker or Taylor travel guitars. Very small, sturdy, and inexpensive.

    Hey Sean, if you don’t mind the pseudo-spam, check out my new guitar blog – It doesn’t exactly compliment my Thai learning blog, but it’s nice to know that you are also a guitar player.

  10. unbjames says:

    Posted to see Sean singing on the internet for posterity …. gogogogogogo!

    To add to the discussion, laid-back songs from the Dave Matthews Band help me relax, while stuff from the Prodigy or songs like “Stockholm Syndrome” by Muse helps me get pumped up!

  11. Sam says:

    I vote for the video humiliation also. You’ll have no trouble getting internet in Koh Phi Phi, so there’ll be no excuse to post the video!

  12. Dena says:

    I am commenting simply because I want to see the video… ;o) Good luck getting to 100!


  13. Rob says:

    How have I never heard “Square One Here I Come”?! Great tune, thanks for the tip. And how embarrassing can this early morning jam session ACTUALLY be?

  14. Ton says:

    Let us see that video humiliation! Who knows it might reach 100 quite quickly with it.

    Just wondering, Sean, where will you be settling down in Thailand? Bangkok? South or North of Thailand?

  15. Beth says:

    Hey Sean! I too, would love to see the mad guitar skills…

    I’m into pretty chill music right now, but one I feel like everyone should hear is Beautiful Life by Gui Boratto – 😀 Pure bliss with headphones on. 😀 very textured minimal techno w/ vocals…

  16. Kevin M says:

    Well said, Sean. I was just thinking to myself the other day (while painting my kitchen, actually repainting what I screwed up the first time) that with good music on I could probably handle doing any crappy job temporarily. It really does help. One thing on my life list is to learn the guitar, I tried it as a teen but didn’t stick with it.

  17. Derek says:

    Thanks a lot Sean, now I really regret not bringing a guitar with me to Mexico.

    It’s funny… I think there a lot of ‘lifestyle designers’ who got into it because they wanted more time to play music. We should all start a band like Postal Service. Share tracks with each other wherever we might be in the world.

  18. tate says:

    I think you should also throw in a picture of the ankle bracelet!I mean, you might as well go all out and lets be honest, it can’t be much worse the the dork gloves!

  19. Nate says:

    Dude! Blue Scholars are my favorite group ever, was glad to see them get a mention. I got to catch one of their shows and it just blew my mind, I’ve been a huge fan ever since. Blink is a great song my favorite album of theirs is their first.

  20. G says:

    helping the cause to 100…

  21. Kala says:

    Two songs that I currently keep in a playlist on my ipod for motivation during runs are “Sweet Disposition” by the Temper Trap and “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. The first includes infamous epic, U2-sounding guitar riffs while the second is inarguably upbeat and this motivates me to run harder, even at the tired end of a long run. I think if you haven’t heard the first, it might sound inspiring sitting on a little cliff, watching the sunset in Thailand. Try it out!

  22. Awesome, Dude!

    I can’t wait to see the vid.

    I bet you do better than 9 bucks an hour even with the difference in currency. And if you don’t, the EXPERIENCE will be worth a whole lot more than that.

    You go, man.


  23. unbjames says:

    bumped to help Sean reach 100 … let’s see you jam bro!

  24. I love my acoustic guitar as well! Have a perfect condition Martin D-16, solid top. It’s the best $1,000 I ever spent :

  25. Bry says:

    Definetly commenting to see the video!

    As for music…I am Buffett all the way. Whenever I want to escape thats what I want. Interestingly enough, he covered treetop flyer. Great song.

  26. Alan says:

    Comment #27…let’s see you wail!

  27. Jaime says:

    Great song recommendations! (And commenting to see the video!)

  28. Jessica says:

    If I am having the kind of day in which I seem to be “out of sorts” & unable to find direction, I can change it all by simply pushing PLAY.

    We will get to 100 yet.

  29. Greg Rollett says:

    Wicked sweet music selection man. Wanted to let you know you an use to link directly to tracks in Grooveshark (I’m a bit of a Grooveshark nerd – they are like an hour north of me and we get to kick it a bunch).

    Sounds dope that you are making songs overseas, that is truly creative and mindfilling.

  30. Josh Sager says:

    If you guys want to be thoroughly depressed about guitar playing, check out “Andy McKee” on YouTube, particuarly his song Rylynn. Awesome stuff!

  31. Shaun says:

    Oh man, I remember watching everything I could find by Andy McKee. Awe inspiring indeed. What do you think… 10 hours a day for 5 years? Better get this passive income thing down…

    Another one worth checking out is Tommy Emmanuel – try Mombasa or his bass/chords/melody at-the-same-time cover of Day Tripper/Lady Madonna…


  32. Nomadic Matt says:

    I couldn’t live without my ipod….music is very important to me

  33. Tonja says:

    I was actually thinking about music and its power today as well. Work has been pretty rough lately, and my only means of escape during the 8 to 5 has been my iPod. To be more exact, “Full Steam” by David Gray featuring Annie Lennox. I actually had it on repeat (yes, that song alone) for about 4 hours straight on Monday. I just kept pushing myself, focusing, even though everything seemed to be stabbing my already open wound, that song really got me through it.

    I also wanted to post to add my “count” towards the 100 – dying to see that video!! Hooray for letting it all hang out, so to speak. 🙂

  34. Moon Hussain says:

    Welp, maybe that’s why I don’t care for radio here, but there are some stations that’ll play some good stuff.

    I mentioned your blog on my post for today 😉

    p.s. I damn well have always hated ‘It’s gonna be a good night’… argh!

  35. Josh Sager says:

    Tommy Emmanual is great, too! Alex De Grassi, Leo Kottke, and of course Michael Hedges! All fantastic players. I thought I was pretty good, but McKee just kills!

    He’s coming to my area next month and I am *SO* going to see him live.

  36. Mary says:

    I pretty much have to have music or I go crazy. On this trip to New Zealand I didn’t have an ipod because it broke before I left so it was a slightly miserable experience. Music is a must for travel!

  37. Beth says:

    This is great! I have been following your travels and simply HAD to comment on your Boa Sorte choice. That is one of my life changing songs. My husband is Mozambican and his native tongue is Portuguese, so this was the song that kind of brought us together.

    Music is really powerful – I love the fact that it can place you in different moments of your life.
    Hope you are enjoying your journey!

  38. Courtney says:

    We could totally rack our way up to 100 comments. Heres my contribution! Hope you’ve managed to stay well and not get sick! As a nursing student (and your sister I suppose) it’s my job to make sure you’re healthy. I can officially pass out oral medications! Next week: SHOTS! Hope you don’t need one. But I’m definitely gonna have to check out some of the listed music, i’ve been looking for some new stuff. Keep up the excellent blogging!

  39. Shaun says:

    My iPod broke a couple of weeks ago after over 5 years loyal service. A sad sad day. Will definitely be needing a new one before I go away…

    Anyone use anything other than an iPod? Is there anything out there with better battery life/storage?

  40. Thought I’d help you on your goal… 25% of the way there. Good job man!

  41. Bob Jones says:

    I’d like to see the video too!

  42. Jamming on foreign streets! Ah what a way to spend my Saturday.

  43. Waiting for the video 😀

  44. Joey says:


  45. Todd Caraway says:

    I’m new to your blog and loving it! I can’t read fast enough. I’m headed to coffee in a few to read over more.
    But I wanted to definitely post on this entry, b/c I’d love to see the video too. I’ve already told a couple of people about your blog and shared a few entries with them. Hopefully they’ll pitch in with the comments and readership. Keep it up man!

    1. Sean says:

      @Todd Thanks man! Really appreciate the comment now we just need about 50 more and the video will surface 😉

      @Erin Me too, I haven’t watched it in months, and as I slowly build up the comments on this post, I’m a little afraid of what actually happened!

  46. Erin says:

    New to this site, and I have an urgent curiosity to see this video 🙂

  47. I’m just here to see the peen.

  48. Bring on the video!

  49. moraima says:

    well, grooveshark didn’t want to work for me..but that’s ok I googled the songs of course 😉
    this is my first comment here.. weeee!! well, i found you not too long ago anyways, through a long chain of people…
    Tim Ferris -4HWW ——–Corbert Barr-Free Pursuits———Chris-AONC——and then you!

    I’m pushing myself to not be ordinary..

  50. I love the idea of playing an instrument, but without lessons I don’t ever see myself learning one. I’ve tried to self-teach a number of times, but don’t seem to get very far before losing interest.

    Just wanted to drop a comment in order to work towards the 100 goal. 😀

  51. Russell says:

    I want to help you make it to 100 so you can mark this off your bucket list. You know you want to post that performance.

  52. Nada H says:

    amazing what turns out when you google “bucket list” :)…Just helping you post that video I would love to see! Great post Sean!

  53. Jan says:

    An old lady who is looking forward to you making 100 posts!

  54. Dan Mitchell says:

    Show us the video!

Comments are closed.