The Soundtrack of Nostalgia

Hi. Although Belfast was an externally challenging city, I was able to enjoy the hotel and explore memories through music

We were in Belfast for the weekend and stayed in the Malone Lodge, by far the fanciest place we’ve stayed. This place has felt more like home than any other, which has been incredibly comforting but also made me miss my real home even more

I went down to the Knife and Fork restaurant for dinner on Friday and found it was completely empty. It was definitely a shock but it was also the best evening of solitude I’ve had in quite a few weeks. I ordered a burger, enjoyed the playlist of 80s American classics, and had some lovely conversation with Susie the bartender. There’s something so comforting about chatting up strangers. The obligations and shared history are gone and it’s a chance to build an entirely new connection.

Breakfast on Saturday was a similar experience, but the playlist made me more emotional. I ate with our main leader, who I’ve taken quite a shining to. She reminds me of my mother in a lot of ways and has been serving as a stand-in for me on this trip. “Put Your Records On” played when I walked in and I knew I was in for a good time. When Howie Day’s acoustic rendition of “Collide” played, I felt like I was back in my home kitchen or dorm room, just having a quiet breakfast. I nearly started crying when James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” came on, because that song took me back even further. When I was about five, James Blunt was an indie radio staple and I liked his music without understanding a word of it. I just thought he had a pretty voice. I laughed a little when I realized they didn’t censor the curse word, but the Irish are known for their coarseness. Later in the lobby I heard Ray Lamontagne’s “You Are the Best Thing” and basked in the memories the song brought back of special times with my family when I was about 14.

As I spent more time in the restaurant and heard more of the playlist, I became convinced the creator took the entire 2005 track list off my local indie radio station back home and organized it on Spotify for my personal enjoyment. A lot of my favorite alternative or pop songs are from 2000-2010, when our local station played more indie music and I was too little to understand the emotional lyrics. It is a strange feeling to be so reminded of home and yet to know I am not at home. I am comforted by the reminder but it also makes me homesick.

During a normal school year, we have the same classes from week to week and follow the same patterns so they’re cemented in our memories. Here, we move every 3-5 days, so just as we get used to a new place, we’re off again. This makes organizing and retaining specific memories of the trip all the more difficult. But I am awestruck at the strength of my memories that are attached to music. A few intro chords from a song I know well and I’m back in the memories.

Last night, I had a random flashback to the first few days in Edinburgh and I could feel just how much has changed. Traveling changes a person, if they really embrace the experience. It’s wonderful to explore new versions of myself while remaining grounded in my memories of family and home.

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