Traveling immerses us in the world, but sometimes in the less eventful moments in 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 Oliver Skywolf, a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area with a passion for reading and travel. In his free time, Oliver is often reading, exploring, and coffee shop hopping across California. Today, he discusses the entertainment he turns to during travel’s quieter moments.
“The Beach” by Alex Garland
Flights provide ample time for reading. Most of the time, the environment is quiet and conducive for introspective leisure. During my vacations, I often bring casual reads that provide mental escapes to accompany my physical ones, establishing an overall sweeping sense of exploration.
During a five-hour flight from Oakland to Hawaii, I packed “The Beach” by Alex Garland.
The story follows a young man named Richard, a traveler from England who embarks on a solo backpacking trip in Thailand. He encounters a disturbing man in a cheap hotel who rambles about a secret beach and, later that night, the same man drops off a mysterious map — a drawing of the hidden paradise and where to find it.
Although Hawaii isn’t a foreign country, the book’s themes of exploration and escape made for a relatable story.
Richard finds the island and encounters a community of backpackers from across the globe. Separated from electricity, news, and outsiders, they are disconnected from the world and able to find a unique happiness in their lives.
During my vacation, I was involved in my own deviation from everyday life. While not as dramatic, the trip often gave me the feeling that I was experiencing a moment from the book.
This novel was originally released in 1996, but the idea of an isolated island becomes a more thought-provoking concept when introduced in the modern era. In a world reliant upon and addicted to the Internet and other forms of technology, an escape to a minimalist lifestyle arouses much more curiosity than it did in the 90s.
“Just Give In / Never Going Home” by Hazel English
This was my go-to album for a 10+ hour road trip from California to Washington. Listening to Hazel English’s remedying voice over atmospheric instruments ignited synergy within my senses as I absorbed nature’s scenic surroundings.
The Pacific Northwest is beautiful, and any road trip in the area is best accompanied by the right music. As I drove up the coast, the towering emerald-green trees moved eloquently with Hazel’s songs. Each turn on the winding road synchronized with the sway of the beats, and each long straightaway glided with the smooth breeze of English’s soothing vocals.
Before I heard her music, I met English at a bookshop in Oakland. Originally from Australia, she moved to San Francisco while studying abroad, ultimately deciding to stay permanently when she fell in love with the Bay Area.
English’s experiences of relocating across the globe is felt in her music, making her album a fitting travel soundtrack as it emanates feelings of both wanderlust and uncertainty, and perpetuates themes of discovering oneself while experiencing new places. As I made my way across the alluring landscapes of Oregon and Washington, the breathtaking feeling I had felt one with Hazel’s effluence of exploration in her music.
“A Thousand Mornings” by Mary Oliver
Poetry’s quick and passionate impact makes it the quintessential reading material for any traveler. Poems are fleeting moments that spark rumination. Their concise essence is perfect for swift and emotional perusing, often igniting feelings that last a lifetime.
“A Thousand Mornings” is a book of poems by Mary Oliver, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer with an affinity for nature that coincides with my love for travel. Oliver’s words awaken an awareness of the world, oriented toward the value of simplicity and encouraging readers to absorb life’s moments with an inner purpose.
I found this book ideal for day trips near my Bay Area home. Oliver’s emphasis on the beauty and significance of everyday moments allows me to appreciate simple excursions, understanding that I don’t always need to journey far to have a breathtaking experience.
Northern California settings like Monterey or Point Reyes — coastal locales a mere two hours from my home — have become some of my favorite destinations. Oliver’s poetry encourages open minds, making for detail-oriented trips that allow nature to receive the recognition it deserves.