There are many simple hacks to make long-haul travel more enjoyable. Upgrading to Business or First is an easy (if expensive) win, of course. Some people swear by travel pillows for some shut-eye, and – I won’t lie – I’m a big fan of changing into flight pyjamas for any sector over four hours.
But easily the best cash I’ve spent on travel accessories is my Philips noise-cancelling headphones. They were bought on a whim, but have become the first thing that goes into my Lowepro camera bag when I head off on assignment. With one click of the ‘NC’ button the ceaseless rumble of the engines (almost) disappears and I’m free to sink into a quiet world of my own entertainment.
They connect easily into the plane’s entertainment system, but most often you’ll find me rather tapping into my ever-growing collection of travel podcasts. Whether it’s researching the trip ahead, or finding inspiration for a future one, the world of aural entertainment is rarely far away.
Of course, you don’t have to listen to them in-flight, and I find they’re also the perfect way to while away lazy Sundays, or stay entertained on a run. But, for me, nothing beats gazing out the windows at 35 000 feet as a world of discovery streams through my headphones. These are my four favourite listens right now…
Some of my favourite travel memories involve chance encounters with complete strangers, and the adventures that followed. Like the time I ended up on the outskirts of Prague at 1am, jamming with a group of Roma musicians at a restaurant’s private closing party. My guide from the museum had invited me (the chef was a friend), and his English was worse than my Czech. But, we got on famously.
It’s adventures like these that are the heart of Brendan Francis Newnam’s podcast, Not Lost. The premise is simple: go some place, and learn more about it by getting invited to a stranger’s house for dinner. From New Orleans to Mexico City, it’s a way to get under the skin of a city, one dish at a time. Also look out for his ‘Not Lost Chats’ with well-known travellers.
Lost Cultures: Living Legacies
This new podcast from the team at leading American travel magazine Travel+Leisure takes a suitably sideways look at some of the most interesting pockets of human culture around the world. It’s hosted by the wonderful Alisha Prakash, who brings a gentle curiosity to each episode. From the Ainu of Japan to the Maya of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, expect an immersive journey into far-flung cultures. Look out for the deep dive into New York City’s colourful Lower East Side, which has been a hotbed of immigrant culture for more than a century.
Wild Ideas Worth Living
I think we all dream about leading a life of adventure, but so often that gets lost amid careers and family and everyday commitments. So Wild Ideas Worth Living is especially inspiring. Host Shelby Stanger talks to everyone from those living out their #vanlife fantasies, to conservationists working to preserve the earth’s wild places. A particular favourite is hearing climber Alex Honnold – of ‘Free Solo’ fame – muse about life and death. Regardless of the where, what and who, it’s about taking a leap of faith into leading a life of adventure. It’s impossible not to be inspired by these very human tales.
Women Who Travel
From the diaries of colonial explorers to modern-day authors (hello Paul Theroux), the travel narrative has long been a male-dominated space. With Women Who Travel Condé Nast Traveler editor Lale Arikoglu aims to change that by celebrating female-identifying guests and their travels. Without too much philosophising the array of entertaining travellers take us along on their journeys to watch birds around the world, explore Europe on foot and run the peaks of Bhutan. It’s entertaining, easy-going and a gentle reminder that there’s a wide world out there to explore. Look out for the chat with South Africa’s own Zandile Ndhlovu, founder of the Black Mermaid Foundation.