Traveling immerses us in the world, but sometimes in the less eventful moments between destinations, we just need to escape. “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 Helin Bereket, a photographer and visual content creator currently living and working in Berlin, Germany. Today, Helin discusses the entertainment she turns to during travel’s quieter moments.
When I travel, I try to listen to local music as often as possible. Music is an important part of any culture, and I think it’s a great way to tune in to a country’s atmosphere. In Ethiopia, for example, I listened to Mulatu Astatke, an Ethio-jazz musician who I first heard in Berlin back in 2009, and who was a good introduction to the world of Ethiopian music. Though it was occupied by Italy between 1936 and 1941, Ethiopia was never fully colonized by a European country, so the country’s music was prevalent everywhere. I must admit that, like anything heard over and over, it can sometimes be kind of exhausting to listen to (especially if the bus you take at 6 a.m. has a TV playing the very loud music channel for the entire ride), but Ethiopian music was definitely an important part of my trip. For this reason, I recommend discovering local music wherever you go.
If you travel as fast as I do, which means not spending too much time in a single place, magazines are great way to spend the erratic moments in between destinations. Since articles are shorter than full-length books, you never have to worry about being interrupted at the most exciting chapter.
For me, it’s tradition to buy the latest issue of National Geographic at the airport before embarking on my trip. Every issue is filled with inspiring short stories and amazing articles, which are fun and informative at the same time. Reading it always motivates me to plan my next trip — even if my current one hasn’t technically started yet. For instance, when I saw a photo of Kolmanskop, the famous ghost town in Namibia, in National Geographic a couple of years ago, I set my mind on visiting it. I tried to imagine the feeling you get when hanging around those sand-filled abandoned houses, and when the time eventually came, I was surprised at what I discovered.
My friend Alina Rudya and I traveled to Namibia in March of this year, and we went to Kolmanskop twice to shoot it in different light situations. The second visit was right before sunset. The whole town was empty — there was literally no other living creature around — and at some point, I lost Alina. I was alone. The wind was blowing all over the town, causing the doors and windows of the abandoned houses to shake loudly. I felt like a victim in a horror movie.
Luckily I found Alina after a short time and felt better. Kolmanskop was just as amazing as I had expected after seeing it in Nat Geo, though in a different way than I’d imagined. It was creepier, more chilling, but just as exhilarating as I could have hoped for, and I never would have thought to visit had I not picked up that magazine in the first place.
If you travel with one person for a long time, you may have moments that you simply don’t know how to spend. Let’s say you visit a place where there isn’t much to do at night and you feel a bit bored. You’re not in the mood to read or journal, but you also don’t know what to talk about with your travel mate. Spit can save you. It’s a two-person card game based on physical speed and alertness, the goal being to get rid of all your cards as quickly as possible.
I learned Spit when I was traveling with a friend in Italy. We arrived at Isola del Giglio, a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Spit was our only night activity since there were no signs of life after 9 p.m. on the island. We had several hours to pass before we went to bed, but they flew by as we played over and over again.
Need more entertainment recommendations for your travels? Check out our archives here!