Traveling immerses us in the world, but sometimes in the less eventful moments in between destinations, we just need to escape. Today, we’re introducing our new feature: “The Layover” is a weekly roundup of books, music, podcasts, and other forms of entertainment brought to you by your favorite world travelers.

This week, we reached out to Michael George, a freelance travel and portrait photographer from Brooklyn, New York. A self-described “professional adventurer,” Michael has cycled across the United States, and traversed 1,000 miles of the Camino de Santiago through France and Spain. Today, he discusses the entertainment he turns to during travel’s quieter moments.

BOOK

“Call Me By Your Name” by André Aciman

When I was growing up, the only vacation my parents could afford was to the beach 30 minutes from our house. Every year we’d pack our sunscreen and swimsuits and pretend we were off to somewhere exotic, even though the only difference between our house and the hotel room was the amount of sand ground into the carpet.

I recently read Aciman’s “Call Me By Your Name,” a love story set in an idyllic summer villa in Italy. I dove into the book during a long layover in Boston, searching for an escape from the 24-hour news cycle droning in the background. The novel transported me to a summer dreamland far from, but not unlike, the hometown beach trips of my youth. As the story unfolds, it captures not only the magic of first love, but also those moments in travel where life transforms into something ethereal.

ALBUM

“Rivers Arms” by Balmorhea

While traveling, I don’t feel the need to listen to music with words.  

Balmorhea’s instrumentals enhance  the emotional journey enough on their own. The melodies blend piano, strings, and often a dash of melancholy to get you in an introspective mood. I find this album a perfect companion for writing in my journal, staring out the window, or wandering through empty foreign streets. Stories come alive from a single look at a stranger’s face. Empty houses hold rich histories. On my last long train ride, I began with “Divisadero”and immediately found myself in the right headspace.

PODCAST

This American Life: “494: Hit the Road”

When Andrew Forsthoefel lost his job, he decided to walk across America. Along the way, he interviewed the people he met.

In this episode, Andrew shares lessons we all learn from travel: Most people are nice. The world is not that dangerous. Humans are gracious, giving, and willing to share. Everyone wants to be seen (and heard).

Andrew’s positivity and spirit shine through the audio, and encourage the listener to keep an open heart while on the road. If you listen while traveling, take a chance to say “Hello!” to someone new. I discovered this episode while I was biking across the country, and it transformed many of the hardened faces I saw at gas stations and truck stops into the everyday, friendly people just below the surface.

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Michael George is a freelance travel and portrait photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. His images have appeared in publications such as WIRED, Popular Mechanics, American Photo, Runner’s World, and Hello Mr. magazines. He is also a “professional” adventurer. In 2010 he cycled 4,000 miles across the United States to raise money for affordable housing. In 2012/13 he walked over 1,000 miles through southwest France and northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient Christian pilgrimage. Michael’s documentary, “Portrait of a Pilgrim,” will be published as a Photo Journal by National Geographic next year. You can follow his journey on Instagram @migeophoto.

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