Tag: “Another Travelin’ Song”

“Another Travelin’ Song” – a perfect narrative of The Road’s duality by Jenelle M Janci


While it may be painfully obvious, a song that has always captured the spirit of The Road for me is “Another Travelin’ Song” by Bright Eyes. The song’s bumping country bassline propels you through the song, and I can’t help but to see tires spinning while I listen to it. Bright Eyes’ frontman (and my lifelong obsession) Conor Oberst makes his intention clear from the song’s first stanza.

“Well I’m changing all my strings/

I’m gonna write another traveling song/

About all the billion highways and the cities at the break of dawn/

Well I guess the best that I can do now is pretend that I’ve done nothing wrong/

And to dream about a train that’s gonna take me back where I belong”

In this, Oberst sees the road as both a way to a destination and a destination itself, a duality J.B. Jackson notes in “Roads Belong in the Landscape.” Andrew F. Wood speaks to this too, but specifically in relation to Route 66. In that particular case, The Road itself has become a tourist attraction.

Oberst alludes to some mistakes he’s made, and hints that perhaps The Road could be an escape from them. However, there’s still a purpose of returning home.

 The next two lines echo the problems Oberst just introduced us to.

 “Well now the ocean speaks and spits and I can hear it from the interstate/

And I’m screaming at my brother on a cell phone he’s far away”

Oberst sets the scene here – we can clearly see the type of road he is traveling on. I always loved the image of him yelling at his brother, perhaps because I can relate, having three older ones myself. However, after reading Jackson’s piece and seeing the road as a destination itself, this line has new meaning for me. Oberst was trying to use the road to get away from his problems, but modern technology makes it impossible for him to fully escape them. Even on the road, he’s not away from his issues.

 Fast forward to the end of the song, and Oberst realizes this.

 “So I will find my fears and face them/

Or I will cower like a dog/

I will kick and scream or kneel and plead/

I’ll fight like hell to hide that I’ve given up”

Just like how the road offers two options – taking you to a destination or being the destination itself – Oberst sees that he too has “two paths diverged in the yellow wood”: to face his problems, or to run away from them.

 While our in-class discussions have given new depth to this song, my history with it goes way back. I’ve put this on nearly every traveling playlist I can remember. Most memorably, I remember driving home from Ohio on I-80 during Spring Break 2014. My boyfriend and I went to visit my brother, and as with any road trip, it’s a big step to see if you can handle being in each other’s vicinity for that long of a time.

On our way there, my boyfriend got a speeding ticket – our first ever – and he was pretty sour about it for a bit. However, like Oberst had to in the song, he made the choice to let it not ruin our trip and to deal with it when we got home.

I-80 is a straight shot through Pennsylvania, and is pretty monotonous. However, on our way back, we drove through a mountainous area with a beautiful view. I remember putting on this song as we entered that stretch. While we were definitely headed home, in that moment, The Road was its own destination.