The last time we put the music on

Alex Tran
5 min readMar 15, 2021

There’s no rule around what a man and a woman should do when they go on road trips together. Being locked in a car with no escape for several hours a day, several days a row can end badly, but it could be tons of fun. When it comes to entertainment, you can listen to the music and sing your heart out, listen to the Radio/Audible/Podcast — you name it. Or you could also talk, call your friends/family members and hope that they would entertain you, play Zitch dog, hold hands and enjoy each other’s silent company, talk some more, maybe even argue, fight, and cry. We’ve done all of that.

The weird thing is, it didn’t occur to me until our last road trip back home that we haven’t listened to music at all in the car for the past 9 months. 9 months, we made so many trips out to Manitoulin Island, Quebec, Franklin Island, Prince Edward County, and back, plus several weekend rides to the forest to hike. Not once did we put the music on. The one and the only way we’ve been entertaining ourselves is by listening to Audible. 9 months, around one hundred books were completed, and maybe tens of them were listened to in the car together. We’ve officially turned into book nerds.

Photo by Elyse Turton on Unsplash

I don’t know any popular artists nowadays, or any song that got to Top 40, but I remember the last time we put the music on in the car. It was July, the air was sweaty and hot, we were on a 10-day road trip around Gaspésie Peninsula in Quebec. We had everything planned out down to the hour, otherwise, it would be impossible to visit the entire peninsula. When it was halfway into the trip, one day we visited Perce Rock, had a huge brunch at a popular spot in town, went biking, showered outdoor, and hit the road again. We had a big dinner with lobsters and when it was time to find our camp spot, it was already 9pm, our bedtime. But that day, we didn’t feel sleepy, so we started driving toward the next destination, Bonaventure Island. The plan was that we would drive until we wanted to sleep, then we’d find a campground on the way and call it a day. I put on a pick-me-up playlist on Spotify featuring Throwback 00’s and it hit us differently. We were singing along to Brittany Spears, Ke$ha, Shakira, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Bruno Mars like there was no tomorrow. The road was empty and dark, but our hearts were light. Music helped us leave behind the frustration and tiredness that comes with road-tripping, for once we stayed in the moment and enjoyed it fully. We drove past several potential campgrounds on the way since we didn’t want to stop the fun. We kept on driving and driving until it was midnight.

Midnight, I found a campground for us to check out. The moment we turned into a side road, somehow lots of cars came toward us from the opposite side of the road, one after another. ‘Where are they going?’, I wondered. The road got lit up with cars’ headlights. It was strange seeing so many cars coming out from our destination because one, it was Covid and we were all supposed to stay home, and two, this was in the middle of nowhere. The music kept on blasting until we got to the campground, and realized that it was not at all where we wanted to stay for the night. It was next to the main road with no privacy, no ocean view, no amenities. We got back into the car, I clumsily pulled out Google Maps to find another spot, and my finger touched on a ‘destination’ that was a minute driving away. The location called Nova Lumina, and the photos looked like a light and music festival. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and we decided to check it out.

We had no clue where we were driving into, but we passed the forest entrance, and the parking lot was lit up with so many lights. There were banners and posters everywhere, ‘Welcome to Nova Lumina’, and there were people — lots of people. And not just people, they were people holding light sticks — the kind of sticks that glow white light from one end. Our jaws dropped. Did we just accidentally end up at a party without an invitation? What cult is it? We were sleepy, confused but excited, and were more than ready to crash the party.

Soon enough, we found out that the light stick was the ‘light of a fallen star’, and the ‘festival’ we were going to was a musical night walk by the sea called Nova Lumina. There were interactive lights that move with the music, there were stories of the universe. We blended into the crowd and followed the people holding light sticks and started our quest. The night was completely dark but the lights were guiding our way, from one story to another, from one setting to another one, leading us deep into the forest. The night was breathtaking and magical, and somewhat unreal. We were half asleep and for the entire experience, we thought we were dreaming, in a dream that we didn’t want to wake up from.

The walk ended after an hour, we returned to the car and still in disbelief. I didn’t remember where we ended up sleeping at that day, but I remembered waking up hearing the ocean waves with morning sunshine kissing my forehead. I remember being more free and spontaneous than I ever was, and I remember being in love with life. So many times we stick to ‘the plan’, the itinerary, the agenda, the structure and forget that sometimes all we need to do is to put some music on and just start driving. Forget the destination, and believe that life is full of surprises that are waiting to be discovered.

Just like today, when I’m tired, defeated, exhausted, feeling everything and nothing in between, when I have no reason to show up, I sit here and tell myself the story of Nova Lumina. Because I need to believe in miracles, believe in the fallen stars from the sky, in the ocean, and the summer that day. I need to feel alive again. So take me back to Nova Lumina, would you?