Do you have songs that instantly transport you to a special (good or bad) moment in your life the moment you hear them? Here are some of mine.

Uprising—Muse

Greenland is probably one of the most exotic places I have ever traveled to. In all of its ice-covered starkness, it captured my heart. My son and I traveled together, in itself ultra-special. It was my son’s 16th birthday and his wish was to go to Greenland, to witness that crashing reality of climate change at its most tangible: the shrinking ice cap. Twelve days in Greenland, off the grit (literally: connectivity was often zero), and in one of the most unusual landscapes on earth, with him, was easily one of the best trips of my life (ok, so I have a long list of those). Leaving Greenland in a small plane, the ice cap so near it felt I could touch it, and then have Muse come in they will not control us, we will be victorious on your headset: that is historic.

Under The Bridge— Red Hot Chili Peppers

Although the song came out years later, when I first heard the lyrics sung, ‘I don’t ever wanna feel like I did that day’ it took me straight back to that moment when my dad embraced me and told me my mom was gone. It’s more than 30 years ago and I had ‘put away’ that moment, but for some reason, those lyrics opened the floodgates. It doesn’t anymore—I can listen to it dry-eyed—but still, I close my eyes and hear the words and feel my dads arms around me. And since he is now gone too, that is actually a good thing.

Sea of Love—Tom Waits

My ultimate love-hurt song is Sea of Love by Tom Waits. But then, any song by Tom Waits stirs a melancholic feeling. I was a big fan in my student days and loved crashing on the floor, usually in the midnight hours and not entirely sober, listening to his gravelly voice and drift away to wherever it took me. When Down By Law played in our local film house, the Jim Jarmusch film where he stars alongside John Lurie and Roberto Benigni, I must’ve seen it at least three times.

Feeling Good—Nina Simone

The ultimate travel to a new destination song. House packed up, stuff in a container somewhere in a harbor heading to an oversees new destination, farewells said. The plane makes for the runway… speeds up… and takes off. There is a sobbing sigh realizing that part of my heart will stay behind. Yet there’s the smile of excitement too, knowing I’m off to a new adventure. Life as an expat brings that contradiction of sorrow and excitement whenever your time in one place is ‘up’ and a new adventure awaits. Played on the radio in the days just before I left my home country the Netherlands (and my family and friends in it) to begin a nomadic life abroad. The song — its lyrics and Simone’s deep almost gloomy voice —  stuck with me (yes I cried to the point of howling at the time).

Save Tonight—Eagle Eye Cherry

For about a year, in 1997, my husband and I were separated by the Atlantic Ocean and half a continent: I was still in the Netherlands; he had moved to New Orleans for a great job opportunity. I had just started a job I absolutely loved. We were young(ish), no kids, and so, for about a year, we did the best of both: I flew in whenever I could, had a fun and more fun packed short week, and flew back. It was the year when Eagle Eye Cherry had a major hit with Save Tonight. It played on the radio on the way to MSY airport one time, and it convinced me of what I had already decided: this is it. I am coming back to stay.

Love Generation—Bobby Sinclar

It is an upbeat song and puts me in a happy mood any time. It was a hit song when we lived in Cairo, and my son was about 3 or 4. One morning, en route to somewhere on Cairo’s Ring Road, the song played and via the rearview mirror I could see his little cheeky smile as he swung his head to the music. He saw me looking, smiled and, on cue with the music, whistled along with Bobby Sinclar. So what is the big deal? He’d been practicing to whistle for weeks but just couldn’t get it right. That morning, in the car, to the tune of The Love Generation, (not quite in tune but who cares) he did it. He whistled!