A few years back, I was really into podcasts. I had a handful of programs I was pretty devoted to and would listen to during my one hour commute on Chicago transit to and from work. Over time I gradually lost interest in the medium though, and eventually the podcasts were removed from my phone all together.
I'm not sure what changed, but at the beginning of the year I started thinking about reviving my interes. I was particularly keen to find programs related to travel. I tend to think of myself as an experienced hand when it comes to exploring the globe, but the reality is there's always something to learn from others. I was interested in bringing new ideas, new voices, and new opinions to my mind and I thought podcasts could do that for me.
I have to say, after two months of exploring the world of travel podcasts ... there's a lot of creative, interesting, talented individuals out there sharing their prospective with the world! I've been fascinated by the quality of information and programming I've been able to get my hands on. I'm not sure if I changed or podcasts did, but I don't remember them being as good a few years ago as they are now. Of course many podcasts now have corporate sponsors, so it's much easier to produce a high quality product when there's money coming in to help.
And that's likely the only downside that I've found so far with my return to podcasts - the sponsorship and product plugging can be a bit annoying at times. I get why it's needed and I genuinely don't blame anyone for monetizing their efforts in this area. As someone who writes a blog (quite poorly at times), I know how much time and effort it takes and how getting some cash for that time can be inticing. And yes, I will admit, there are times when the products or services being pitched do sound interesting (they're almost always travel related) and I end up looking into them. A bit of a dual-edged sword, but I'd still vote no to the advertising in a perfect world.
While eventually I was able to piece together information on some travel podcasts that were out there, it wasn't without a struggle. After Googling for ages, I even went so far as to send out a call on Twitter for people to suggest programs they thought were of a high quality.
I got a decent response from people suggesting a variety of programs, many of which ended up not really being travel or aviation-focused. I ended up needing to do some good old fashioned leg work and just scroll through various podcasts and look for ones that stuck out as travel and aviation-related. With this struggle in mind, I decided I should create a post detailing my current five favorite travel podcasts in the hopes that someone looking online might be able to find the information a bit quicker in the future.
So that being said, keep in mind the following:
This list is simply my opinion. I'm a human being with his own unique ideas on what constitutes good and bad. If you disagree, God bless. I'm not bothered by it.
These are definitely not the only travel podcasts I am listening to on the regular. I have quite a few others that I enjoy. I wanted to keep things simply though, so I narrowed it down to the five I find most informative and entertaining.
I'm also going to do a second list detailing some non-travel related podcasts that I think make quality programming that are interesting to listen to WHILE you are traveling, though not necessarily travel-related. If you happen to find yourself on a long flight with shitty movies or God forbid no entertainment system at all, why not plug in a podcast? That list will likely come sometimes in the near future.
So without further ado .... the list!
5. ZERO TO TRAVEL (LINK)
Twitter: ZeroToTravel (LINK)
This is perhaps an odd selection for me because I feel like a lot of this podcast's content can focuses on creating a location-independent business. The creator, Jason, has a separate podcast with the producer of another podcast that will be listed later on that focuses entirely on this concept (it's called Location Indie if you're interested). Despite having two shows, there's still a bit of overlap in the content department between the programs at times. While I enjoy traveling, I'm not really looking to create a business that allows me the flexibility to be location-independent. I enjoy being a resident of Chicago and plan on remaining so for the foreseeable future. Plus, if I became location independent, I'd have to change the name of this blog and that's just too much hassle for someone as lazy as me.
Regardless! Zero to Travel isn't all about entrepreneurship. Jason often has guests on the program that discuss their experiences traveling the world. He does a really good job of bringing on interesting people to discuss their unique modes, methods, and experiences on the road. One good example - one a recent episode he interviewed Sarah Marquis, a woman who has taken multiple trips on foot across the globe. And when I say on foot I don't mean doing a long hike through the mountains. I'm talking about the "I started in Siberia and walked my way down to Australia over the course of three years" kind of 'on foot' traveling. That isn't something I would ever do but you better believe Sarah had a wealth of commentary on the experience of travel that were fresh and different from anything I had heard before. And that's exactly what I want from a podcast.
And I have to admit - even though I'm not particularly interested in starting a location-independent business, the information and conversations Jason brings to the table on these topics are still very interesting because at the end of the day it's still about travel and there's value in that. Whether he's interviewing someone who rode across Mongolia on horseback or speaking with a financial planner about budgeting for travel, I always find the content interesting and the conversation flowing naturally.
Here's a list of the podcast's last three episodes to give you an idea of what types of things are discussed on the program:
Biking Through Europe With A Pet and Post-Travel "Reality"
Travel Tactics Part 6 - How to Travel Indefinitely
The Hostel Experience - An Interview with HK Austin Owner Brent Underwood
4. LAYOVERS (LINK)
Twitter: Lay_overs (LINK)
Twitter: Attache_Travel (LINK)
Twitter: Cubedweller - Alex Hunter (LINK)
Twitter: Papadmitriou - Paul Papadimitriou (LINK)
Alex Hunter and Paul Papadimitriou host the Layovers podcast, a program that does a really good job going over the major talking points within the airline and aviation industries on a bi-monthly (I think) basis. And let me be honest for a second - even if this podcast was simply Paul reading a phone book, I'd tune in every episode just to hear his awesome baritone with that European lilt. His voice is entirely hypnotic and I find myself drawn in as soon as he starts going over the episode's topics.
Layovers is a program tailored more towards your typical "avgeek" than a standard "traveler". There's much less discussion of the best noodle stalls in Bangkok and much more discussion on All Nippon Airways' Star Wars planes. Your first hint that the content is more niche is that every episode is named after an airport's IATA code. While both of the hosts do travel quite often, the destinations themselves and the process of affording traveling aren't often on the discussion list. Instead you get to hear two engaging, knowledgeable people discuss topics such as the newest Airbus deliveries or which airline has the best customer website interface.
Avgeeks will appreciate recent episodes where the slow death of the Boeing 747 is discussed with reverence. Or perhaps get mildly concerned over Air India's inability to afford spare parts for their 787s. Part of the fun of this program is the bond Alex and Paul have clearly built and listening to their easy rapport on topics they obviously care about and have a deep passion for.
On a semi-related note, Alex is also the face of a web travel series (a visual podcast, if you will) that you can find on YouTube. It's called "Attaché" (LINK) and episodes generally run between ten and 15 minutes. Each episode focuses on exploring a different city across the globe and has segments devoted to transportation into the city from the airport, local transit, food culture, and money matters. This seems to be his outlet for discussing destination-specific information vs. the aviation headlines that dominate Layovers. It's another quality piece of travel media that is being produced by someone involved with this podcast that you should consider checking out.
Here's Layovers' last three podcasts:
OAK - Rimowa suggests electronic luggage tags, American sues GoGo in-flight wifi, Airbus' A340 woes, the plan to eliminate time zones across the globe.
MAN - Turkish Airlines's Gotham City advert, JetBlue's venture arm, British Airways' "pants on women" issue, OK GO films zero gravity music video, Daallo Airlines bombing.
HND - In-flight experience with Japan Airlines and ANA, New Airbus A380 orders, IranAir's new fleet, best Star Alliance business class seat.
3. EXTRA PACK OF PEANUTS (LINK)
Twitter: PackOfPeanuts - Travis Sherry (LINK)
Affectionately shortened as E-POP, the Extra Pack of Peanuts podcast is hosted by Travis Sherry. E-POP focuses a lot of its content on what I would consider "travel inspiration". There's a lot of discussion by Travis and his crew (he's frequently joined by his wife Heather and some travel junkie friends) that feature discussions of favorite cities, food destinations, and travel experiences in the hopes that the listener will find something to yearn for. Travis himself has a bright, engaging personality and that lends itself to opening up dialogue with his guests. This makes for enthusiastic commentary that's often insightful and always fun to drop in on.
The remainder of EPOP's content is largely interviews of various travelers with a focus on topics such as traveling solo or teaching English overseas. These discussions go into more specific details related to the whos, whats, whens, wheres, and whys of various travel topics, which means it can often times venture into the educational realm. I find this educational element very handy - a little dash of inspiration and a little sprinkle of information on how to achieve the new goal.
I really look forward to new E-POP episodes because everyone on there seems genuinely excited about their travel experiences. It feels much less like a news report or a classroom and much more like a bunch of people sitting around a table sipping coffee and having a little chit chat. The feeling of a forced environment was something I disliked about the podcasts I would listen to back in the day, so this is a welcome improvement.
Travis is also the "other host" of the Location Indie podcast that was mentioned above.
Here's E-POP's last three episodes:
Traveling Israel Like a Local with Nir & Guy, Co-Founders of Puzzle Israel
Our Top 10 Travel Wishlist for 2016
Destination Diary: Japan
2. DOTS, LINES, & DESTINATIONS (LINK)
Twitter: DotsLinesDestinations (LINK)
Twitter: SSegraves - Stephan Segraves (LINK)
Twitter: FozzM - Fozz Mahmoud (LINK)
Twitter: MundoSurfer - Rolando Veloso (LINK)
Twitter: WandrMe - Seth Miller (LINK)
I feel like we've ping-ponged a little bit between podcasts that are for avgeeks and those that like to discuss travel in general. It's time to break that pattern though, because the guys at Dots, Lines, & Destinations happen to do both! Hosted by the quartet of Stephan Segraves, Fozz Mahmoud, Rolando Veloso, and Seth Miller, the topics each episode almost always include a little bit from each area. As the description on their podcast states, "Dots are airports. Lines are the routes between them. Destinations can be just about anything, from a particular seat in a plane to a city, country or adventure. We’ve got it all."
With up to four hosts and from time to time an additional guest, the podcast can feel rather chaotic at times. But that's not a negative thing! On the contrary, the fast-paced dialogue and varied points of view make this one podcast where I never feel like I might want to skip a segment. It's clear that the guys enjoy each other's company and have relationships outside of the show, often playfully teasing one another or challenging expressed viewpoints with just the right amount of friendly bravado. Each person brings their own unique experience and interests to the table, with a variety of alliances, airlines, and travel methodologies being utilized by the lot of them.
Out of all the podcasts on this list, these guys have the most solid grasp of airline frequent flyer program information, whether it's changes to the programs or how to utilize them to maximize benefits. They also have some pretty good information and stories about destinations across the globe as they seem to constantly be on the go. Seth in particularly seems to find himself in some interesting destinations. How many folks do you know that have dropped in to Bangladesh, for example? Even on the aviation-specific topics, I've been impressed by how well some of them know the mechanics of an airplane or the requirements planes need to meet to do certain types of flights.
This is probably the most fun program on the list because it hits just the right mix of laughter, chaos, and information. The only reason it's number two instead of number one is largely outside of their control.
Here's Dots, Lines & Destinations' last three episdoes:
DLD 105: Berlin, Bankruptcy, and Bathrooms. The embarrassment that is Berlin Brandenburg, another airline bankruptcy and an airport bathroom review. Plus the best ice cream in the world. C’mon in!
DLD 104: A Dash of @JONK. Jon Khoo is our guest this episode, talking about his wanderlusting behavior, exploring the world while still working most of the time. Abandoned buildings, safaris and an almost helicopter recovery are all in there.
DLD 103: The TAAG-on Flight. Long Beach is growing, Eurowings is struggling and TAAG may be coming to Houston. Plus, the deal to open Cuba-US flights is ready to fly.
1. TRAVEL WITH RICK STEVES (LINK)
Twitter: @RickSteves (LINK)
Confession time - I've never really been a huge fan of Rick Steves. Actually, I've never even liked him. His books and TV shows are travel-focused but they never really connected with me on a level that made it seem like his was a voice I needed to hear on the topic. So imagine my skepticism when I was searching for travel podcasts and I ran across Mr. Steves' offering. I wasn't having much luck tracking down quality offerings at the time so I figured I might as well give it a shot.
And I'm so glad I did.
To be clear, this isn't exactly a podcast. Rick has a weekly radio program which is converted into a podcast for folks who cannot be near a radio when it's broadcast. While his books and TV show didn't resonate with me, the radio program does so in spades. There's just something about the element of additional voices upon which Rick can play off of that works so much better for me than when it's just him on his own. He asks the right questions and really devotes the majority of air time to his guests and their commentary. More of a moderator than a participant.
His standing in the travel community is the reason he ended up as number one on this list as it allows him to draw in unique and interesting guests from every corner of the globe that would be difficult for a smaller podcast to secure. Discussing colonial food culture in India with a Bollywood actress or speaking with feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem about how how her travels over the decades have influenced her work is difficult to do if you haven't got the name Rick Steves.
Yet it's not all famous faces though. The program often brings in tour guides or expats living across the globe who give insight into the sights and sounds visitors may be interested in exploring if they drop in to various cities. He's also not afraid to address more controversial issues related to travel either. He recently did a two part series that discussed the impact of the refugee crisis in Europe, discussing how tourism has been impacted by the event and also how visitors might help in small ways if their journeys take them to impacted areas.
With excellent production quality, amazingly interesting topics, cool guests, and an aggressive production schedule, I'm shocked to say that Rick Steves ends up at the top of my list.
So there you have it - my top podcasts. Is there one I missed that you feel like should be on here? Let me know in the comments.