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 Katie Diederichs who, along with her husband, Ben Zweber, manages the Two Wandering Soles travel blog. From their early days teaching English in South Korea to their recent campervan adventures throughout the U.S. the two have enjoyed a life exploring countries and cultures around the world and have demonstrated a commitment to ethical travel. Today, she discusses the entertainment she turns to during travel’s quieter moments.
“Marching Powder” by Rusty Young
While backpacking in South America, I kept hearing one book mentioned among other travelers. It was as if reading it had made them members of some secret society. After someone asked me if I’d read “Marching Powder” for the umpteenth time, I finally downloaded the book onto my Kindle and told myself I’d read a few chapters on the overnight bus I was taking that evening.
I was immediately immersed in the true story of Thomas McFadden, a British man who was imprisoned in the infamous San Pedro prison in La Paz, Bolivia. Caught smuggling cocaine onto a plane bound for the U.K., McFadden was sentenced to six years and eight months in jail. His candid and bizarre tales are unlike anything you’d ever imagine could take place inside prison walls. Needless to say, I don’t think I slept that night— and it wasn’t because I was on an uncomfortable bus puttering through the Peruvian countryside.
“Marching Powder” gives the reader an interesting glimpse into the corruption and inner workings of Bolivian society in the late 1990s. As I crossed the border into Bolivia, I felt like I understood a bit about the country’s past— certainly more than I ever knew before! Later, when I walked the streets of La Paz and actually saw the San Pedro prison right in front of me, I couldn’t help but picture what was on the other side of that concrete wall, just feet from where I stood.
“Rather Be” by Clean Bandit
I have a habit of downloading a huge playlist of songs right before a big trip. Not surprisingly, I associate those songs with that particular destination for years afterward. Just before moving to South Korea, where I was planning to teach English for a year, I downloaded a handful of sappy songs about leaving home.
As it turns out, that’s not the best idea when you’re already feeling weepy and have at least 20 hours of travel ahead of you. I can’t remember most of the songs I put in that playlist, but one in particular sticks with me. The plane taxied to the runway, paused, and then gave a startling lurch forward. It accelerated faster and faster until the tires parted with the ground. At that very same moment, “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit rang in my ears with an instrumental intro. The lyrics were uncannily fitting and comforted me as I looked out of the tiny window to get a last glimpse of my hometown.
“We’re a thousand miles from comfort, we’ve traveled land and sea; but as long as you are with me, there’s no place I’d rather be.”
As I sat next to my husband on that plane, I suddenly knew everything was going to be okay. To this day, when I hear that song, I’m brought back to that moment of excitement and nervousness that accompanied our big move.
“Science Vs,” Gimlet Media
It’s safe to say that my husband, Ben, and I spend a lot of time on the road. While living and traveling in a campervan for the past three months, we’ve discovered that long drives are great for deep conversations, music, and audiobooks. After a while, though, we found ourselves craving something different and, before long, we’d fallen in love with podcasts.
I have quite a few lined up in my queue — from true crime mysteries to trivia shows to news. But one of my all-time favorites is “Science Vs.” This 40-minute podcast tackles big issues or trends, debunks the myths, and separates fact from fiction.
The host, Wendy Zuckerman, makes time fly by with her Australian accent, charming personality, and quirky sense of humor. She talks to experts on both sides of debatable issues and makes them easy to understand — even if you’re not a scientist. Some of the big topics this podcast has covered include artificial sweeteners, fracking, organic farming, nuclear power, immigration, and gun laws. “Science Vs.” helps you stay informed on some of society’s most contentious issues and trends — plus, it’s super entertaining. Coming from someone with no scientific background whatsoever, that’s definitely saying something!