The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

THE DISPLACED Q: What’s the most delightful sound you’ve heard on your travels?

Have you ever just stopped and listened — really listened, I mean? Yes, of course you have! Because you’re Displaced Nation readers, which automatically means you’re closely in touch with all five senses. After all, that’s what travel is all about!

But just in case those ears of yours have been missing some vital input — of the kind that would help you to appreciate life’s sweetness — let’s do an exercise in aural comprehension and memory.

Yes, it’s time to pay some attention to those great big flappy things on the sides of your head — you know, the ones that help cartoon elephants to fly? Yes, friends (Romans and countrymen), I’m asking you to lend me your ears. Don’t worry — I’ll give them back. And, by the time I do, you will understand why there’s a photo of wet grapes on this page!

Today, in the service of living a fuller Dolce Vita, our question is: What is the dreamiest, most beautiful sound you’ve heard in the course of your travels?

Beauty in serendipity

Now, because La Dolce Vita is all about finding beauty in unexpected things, I won’t wax lyrical about waves lapping on foreign shores, morning birdsong in uninhabited fields, or other somewhat clichéd ideas of a “dreamy sounds.”

True, it was incredibly sweet to hear my girlfriend say “yes” when I asked her to marry me; I’m sure the same is true for everyone who’s been through this stage in their life. In fact, I hardly heard her at all because she was crying so much. (I was crying too as it happens, but that was because I was kneeling in an ants’ nest at the time and Australian ants really hurt when they bite! Damn them!)

Now, I’m the sort of person who takes great delight in discovering life’s hidden treasures in the moments you’d least expect them. And I take even greater delight in pointing them out to everyone else, which apparently is one of the most annoying qualities a person can have. Especially if you’re having a bad day.

So, what’s the most delightful sound you’ve heard recently? Is it some gentle-voiced stranger, mentioning how bright and sunny the day is, even though the train is making you horribly late for work? Or is it the sound of someone telling that well-spring of positivity to shut the f@&8 up and p*$$ off?!

I apologize in advance for being that guy. I should try to keep my happy-happy joy-joy observations to myself more often!

But in terms of the most wondrous sounds I have come across, I’ve decided not to opt for the obvious — the soft harp music at my wedding in England; the sound my footstep makes in deep, fresh snow at 10,000 feet; or the poignant jingling of a Spanish music box, dearly remembered from my childhood, which I inherited from my granddad when he passed last month.

Instead I’ll go for the unexpected: the sound of rain on my tent.

Raindrops are falling on my tent!

After three months of living under canvas, doing agricultural work in the hope of extending my Australian Working Holiday visa, hearing that particular sound would fill my entire being with joy. Why did it have such an effect on me, you may ask? Was I looking forward to soggy clothes on the washing line or to a cold, wet sprint to the block of toilets? No, even a cheerful person like me isn’t that much of a glutton for punishment.

For me, the sound of raindrops simply meant…FREEDOM!

Because as any budding grape-picker knows, you can’t pick ’em when they’re wet — so any downpour of sufficient strength to wake me meant a day off work, for sure! No hours of bending over in the scorching summer sun; no cuts and prickles of delicate fingertips; no hauling of endless buckets, boredom, drudgery and indelible purple juice on everything. (Trust me, there are parts of you that just shouldn’t be purple — ever.)

Most of all it meant 6:00 a.m. was not the time to be wriggling out of bed, out of a nice warm sleeping bag into the miserable grey dawn — and into a set of filthy work clothes. No! 6:00 a.m., when the rain fell, rattling the flysheet and threatening to overwhelm its scant moisture resistance, meant only one thing: time to go back to sleep.

For me, that hard, driving rain was the world’s most blissful lullaby!

So there you have it. No magnificent concertos, no first cries of your first-born baby — even though no one will dispute the loveliness of those sounds.

My challenge to you today is to think of a sound that holds an interesting story about your travels abroad. What’s a sound that struck you as the dreamiest and most beautiful, but that’s unique to your own wanderings?

Let me know in the comments! And if you have a photo that accompanies that sound, send it to me at As mentioned in last week’s post, I hope to be staging a “la dolce vita slideshow” before too long!

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post — a contrarian view of La Dolce Vita by none other than Anthony Windram!

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22 responses to “THE DISPLACED Q: What’s the most delightful sound you’ve heard on your travels?

  1. ML Awanohara May 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    At first I was overthinking this, but then I thought it best just to go with one’s first thoughts. My most delightful sound is the tinkle of laughter coming from the hostess of a pensione in Florence where my husband and I were staying to attend the wedding of his niece. I heard the Italian landlady’s laughter before I actually met her or heard her speak, and it struck me as being nothing like American laughter — it had this musical quality, echoed in Italian speech. Right away I thought to myself: 1) I’m truly on vacation; 2) I’m going to have fun here; and 3) I feel at “home” in a place where the landlady laughs like this (my “roots,” after all, are half Italian!).

    • Tony James Slater May 12, 2012 at 8:32 am

      All the best sounds are the ones that tell you you’re on holiday – or the ones that tell you it’s okay to relax! And laughter of course, is infectious as well as delightful!

  2. Jolea M. Harrison May 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    The curl of waves against the shore. It doesn’t matter what shore, or what time of day. It can be a violent cracking noise or the gentle lap of a calm sea. I hear it and am at peace with the world.

    • ML Awanohara May 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      I find that fascinating! Is it because you’re in love w/ the idea of being “over seas”– rather literally?!

      • Jolea M. Harrison May 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm

        I just love the ocean, the beach – any shoreline. I think I’m half fish. There’s something just completely calm inducing when I’m near a body of water. I think clearer. I’m not stressed, even on the most hectic of family vacations. Ack! Now I want to go! 🙂

        • Tony James Slater May 12, 2012 at 8:45 am

          Water noises… ahhh!!! Love them all, from trickling of fountains to furious storm surges. We’ve got so many extra words for the sounds water makes, like ‘babbling’. Tranquility, thy name is still pond! It’s all vey feng shui…

    • Spinster May 13, 2012 at 7:05 am

      Agreed re: waves. So peaceful.

  3. Barb Hautanen May 12, 2012 at 4:27 am

    Two of my favorite travel adventure sounds have occurred at the opposite ends of the day, waking up to gibbons whooping in Thailand & at dusk the almost deafening sound of cicadas near Angkor Watt in Cambodia.

    • Tony James Slater May 12, 2012 at 8:48 am

      I have a cicada living behind my fridge. He must be very lonely, but by God he can’t half drum up a racket! Especially at night, when I nip down to sneak something from the fridge – in the silence, he’s deafening! I love the way he reminds me, though, even in the middle of the night, that I’m in Australia!

  4. Spinster May 12, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Volunteering in Uganda: waking up every morning, sitting outside of the house before heading off to do volunteer work, and listening to the bird calls. To this day, the sound stays with me.

    • Tony James Slater May 13, 2012 at 2:19 am

      I know what you mean – I had a similar thing in Ecuador, only I was awakened by the screaming of a rooster! Damn thing came seriously close to being eaten :0)
      But an hour later, when the parrots and the monkeys started clamouring for their breakfast, it sounded like I’d woken up in The Jungle Book. Magnificent!

  5. expatlogue May 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this ever since I first read this post yesterday. This wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I LOVE the sound of a thunderstorm – the ear-splitting cracks of thunder we get here in Canada cause the house to vibrate and are ten times louder than what we were used to in England. It’s just like in the horror movies!!! Then comes the torrential rain. I love to open the window so I can hear it. It all makes me feel alive, right to the core of my being – and also lucky to be so safe and secure in my dry, sheltered comfort.

    • Jolea M. Harrison May 12, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Yes! And along with thunder and torrential rain, there is wind, sometimes roaring around the hill I live on and sometimes a gentle breeze making the leaves hiss. Elementals.

      • Tony James Slater May 13, 2012 at 2:21 am

        Thunderstorms in Oz are pretty epic too, shaking windows in their frames! I nearly crapped myself the first time I heard it – I thought we were having an earthquake! Back in England, they just don’t appreciate what a REAL thunderstorm is like! Nature’s power at its most intimidating… and yet we can still hide inside and get that delicious feeling of safety and warmth while the storm rages outside… love it! One of my favourite experiences!

  6. magpiedays May 13, 2012 at 3:31 am

    The sound of an alphorn coming from across the lake while on a hike in the Swiss Alps. Well, an alphorn will melt my heart anywhere, but they sound even better in the Bernese Oberland.

    • Tony James Slater May 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Is an alphorn a bird? The way you describe it makes it sound delightful! Or maybe it’s just the thought of being in the Swiss Alps – that would make anything delightful!!

      • magpiedays May 19, 2012 at 5:28 am

        Tony, an alphorn is a traditional Swiss musical wind instrument – it’s longer than a grown man is tall and plays deep resonate notes. You can see a picture here:

        • Tony James Slater May 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm

          No WAY!! That is an awesome, and crazy, instrument! I can just imagine the trouble you’d face at the airport…
          “Yes, it’s my souvenir Alphorn. What do you mean, excess baggage…?”

  7. ML Awanohara May 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Hmmm… Has anyone noticed that I’m the only who picked a HUMAN sound: ie, the delightful peals of Italian laughter? Are “delightful” sounds usually natural ones? Apart from the cry of a new-born baby, which doesn’t usually figure into travel in any case?

    Just sayin’!

    • Tony James Slater May 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      Well, most of the sounds people make I classify as noise, and spend much of my travels trying to get away from it! The invention of language, eh? It’d be on my list of 50 worst inventions, if I didn’t rely on it for making a living… but then, making a living is also on my list of 50 wort inventions… :0)

    • magpiedays May 19, 2012 at 5:29 am

      The alphorn is at least partly a human sound, since it’s played by people.

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