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 Zach Murphy, creator of the Faces of Places project, which tackles the topic of basic humanity through portraits of people around the world. No matter what form of travel he uses, Zach is always spends his journeys introducing himself to people. Today, he discusses the entertainment he turns to during travel’s quieter moments.


“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

This year I decided to move to Africa for six months to experience and photograph some of the unique cultures around the Sahara desert. Knowing I was embarking on this journey and looking for a deeper purpose, my friend made me read “The Alchemist.” The relatively short, allegorical story deeply impacted me, and I finished it cover to cover in just one sitting.

In the story, a young shepherd boy departs his comfortable homeland in search of a treasure that he discerns, from a dream, is somewhere under the Egyptian pyramids. It wasn’t easy for him to leave, but once he begins his adventure, he meets people that continually confirm his pursuit. Along the way, he discovers his own “Personal Legend” as a result of going outside his comfort zone and expanding his world view. The North African setting, and my own journey to pursue my calling in life, made this a timely read and still impacts my life and inspires my wanderlust.


“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

I first watched “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” on my 20-hour plane ride back to America after living in Australia for 10 months in 2013. Having just spent a year pursuing photography in a foreign country and hoping to continue this lifelong adventure, I connected with Mitty’s discovery of the thrill of an adventurous life.

In the film, a 9-5 worker named Walter Mitty finds himself hunting down a travel photographer using only the clues found in his last few pictures. Desiring to be a travel photographer myself, I was instantly attracted to the atypical lifestyle that the photographer adopted. He didn’t sit in an office all day, but rode airplanes over volcanoes, lived on remote fishing boats, and climbed beautiful Himalayan mountains in search of wildlife. Over the last few years, I have found myself in similar situations: flying over Mount Everest, going on safari in Kenya, living with remote African tribes in Uganda, joining a chinese monk’s pilgrimage, riding camels through the Sahara, and riding bareback alongside shepherds in Kyrgyzstan — all for the purpose of documenting unique cultures around the world.

Every few months I watch this movie to reignite my passion and to remind myself to enjoy every moment — even if it means stepping away from the camera for a minute.


“Faces of Places”

This is a shameless plug for my own work, but it’s honestly the thing that inspires me the most. Over the past few years, I have traveled to over 65 countries documenting the people I meet. Whether I pass by them on the street briefly or am invited into their house for a couple hours to share in the intimate moments of their life, every portrait I take reminds me of that moment in time I shared with another human being.

Despite some of the major in differences our cultures and upbringings, I started to notice the things we all share as a part of the human race. We breathe the same air, think with the same brains, pump blood with the same hearts, and have similar souls. I learned the universal language of a warm smile and a hearty handshake. I saw the impact that giving a few minutes of your time to really see someone can make.

Look past the color of their skin, past the clothing they wear, past their religion, past a language barrier. Realize they have a family, a job, fears, celebrations. Every time I flip through one of these books, I am reminded of every single one of their stories and inspired to continue my work. There are two (soon to be three) books in this series so far, and I hope to continue producing content that shares the story of our shared humanity for a long time to come.