Two recommendations today for global explorations away from music. I just finished reading The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles to Timbuktu by Kira Salak. It's an account of Salak's solo kayak adventure on the Niger River, from Old Segou to Timbuktu. Along the way she meets with danger, goats, a village where everyone shouts, and the ever-present ghost of explorer Mungo Park, who attempted a similar voyage 206 years earlier (and perished on the river). I've read a fair amount of adventure travel writing, and Salak's is a shining example of how to do it right - with a strong story, a healthy dose of introspection, and enough detail of pain, fear, and doubt that most readers will be happy to be reading it instead of living it.
A thumbs up also to the Iranian movie Baran. It's almost disturbingly slow and quiet, with little dialogue and no simple labels for its complex characters. The story centers on a young Afghan named Rahmat who is forced to replace his injured father at a construction site to support his family. A teenaged Kurd named Lateef is obsessed with Rahmat, first out of anger and jealousy for being forced from an easier job, then for more complex reasons as he discovers Rahmat's closely held secret. Baran is infused with humanity, and will reveal a side of Iran (and Afghanistan) that's not part of the inflated rhetoric of its government, or ours.