Tech is invaluable for travel directions, reviews and reservations, but it can also help us better navigate and connect with the spaces we move through in niche ways. That might mean finding the quietest cities, small titbits of interesting local history, or songs and books that were written about the areas we’re passing through—all of which help to enrich our travel experience.
Anyone who has ever wondered why something is the way it is when they’re exploring a place, and then turned to their phone to look it up, might love NearbyWiki. You can either search for a place or geolocalize, and you’ll access all the Wikipedia entries that are listed for that location—offering a more historically in-depth way of moving through the streets you explore.
For travelers looking for food-related information, pantryandlarder do various maps of food costs and spots across the planet. Take the map of the cost of a Big Mac across the U.S.—a Big Mac is cheapest in Stigler, Oklahoma ($3.49) and most expensive in Lee, Massachusetts ($8.09). Better yet, travelers could do worse than checking out the interactive food hygiene map showing failing food establishments across the U.K. or the map of pint inflation across the country.
There is practical advice to be had on noise pollution by earth.fm who have curated this guide to the ‘noisiest’ cities across the U.S., U.K., and mainland Europe, including the places within them to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
If you’re in the U.S. and you want to pair your journey with stories of the places you’re traveling through, try the Autio listening app which has over 11,000 stories paired to local neighborhoods and people. If reading books are more your thing, Destination Reads or TripFiction will help you find novels set in the places you’re going, as will this tool, Books Around America, developed by Crossword Solver using Goodreads data, helping pair traveling book lovers with U.S. geography.
We associate lots of places we travel to by the music we hear and sometimes it’s the songs we have in our heads that inspire us to visit. The Beatles put Penny Lane on the map and Camila Cabello’s Havana and Duran Duran’s Rio, help cement these places into our brains as we sing the chorus on loop.
Most people are familiar with Spotify Wrapped, which sends users their most played songs at the end of every year, but there is also a global list of Spotify Wrapped that analysed all Spotify users in 2023, meaning that you can click on anywhere in the globe that you’re traveling through and see what the most listened to song was last year in that place—it’s another way of engaging with the local culture. In France, for instance, the most streamed song was Bolide Allemand by SDM, in Nigeria, it was Lonely At The Top by Asake and in Mexico City, it was Ella Baila Sola by Eslabon Armado and Peso Pluma (it was the top song in San Diego too).
Celebrity Cruises put together a map of the most sung-about places in the world, scanning over 200,000 songs that had made the Top 40 in the U.K. and the U.S. since the 1960s, to find mentions of neighborhoods, cities and towns. It’s good news for anyone visiting New York, London, and LA, California and Hollywood, the top five. In New York alone, there are 161 tracks but you can also find two tracks mentioning Versailles, if you’re visiting the chateau while in Paris or, for instance, 11 songs mentioning Mumbai.
The U.S. Library of Congress has a project called Mapping The Songs Of America where you can click on any state and find songs about that state, songs recorded in the state or songs composed by an artist associated with that state. There is a recording of The Byrds singing Amazing Grace in New York and it also includes sheet music, so you can actually play the songs if you travel with your guitar.
You can also add songs inspired by places that might not be instantly recognisable by their titles. David Bowie famously wrote Heroes while he was in Berlin, Crowded House wrote Four Seasons In One Day about Melbourne and Kate Bush wrote Wuthering Heights about the Yorkshire Moors, and Emily Brontë’s book of the same name.
For fans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, there is even a map of places mentioned in their songs—unfortunately you cannot yet travel to all of them. Mars has one mention and some, like Atlantis are mythical.
While sometimes small, open sourced or niche, these sites offer a lovingly curated selection of information providing a different snapshot for travelers of the places they pass through.